ARC Readathon Update

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Unrelated to anything, I’d just like to mention that this is post #300 on this blog. In case anyone was wondering.

  • Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016) Meh. Predictable. Entertaining enough to finish, but full of pat, somewhat two-dimensional character types and predictable situations.
  • Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16) A meringue of a story. A little oversweet, kind of insubstantial, but if you’re in the right mood, it’s satisfying.
  • IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16) An interesting and rather unconventional take on the young black men in the poor neighborhood type of story.
  • The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016) First of a planned series of YA near-future science fiction. Stars a badass teenage girl.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16) Meh. Started, didn’t finish. Didn’t do it for me.
  • Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16) An excellent continuation of the Old Kingdom series. I really hope there’s a book six, because Nix HAD BETTER NOT LEAVE THE STORY THERE.
  • Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016) Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  • The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016) An interesting concept, but the story dragged.
  • Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  • A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  • Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  • Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  • The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  • The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015) Odd but compelling story about the multigenerational impact family can have and the power of stories and music.
  • Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  • She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

Meditation

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Slow me down, Adonai.

Ease the pounding of my heart

By the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace

With a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amidst the confusion of my day,

The calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tension of my nerves

With the soothing music of the singing streams

That live in my memory.

Help me to know

The magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art

Of taking minute vacations of slowing down

to look at a flower;

to chat with an old friend or make a new one;

to pat a stray dog;

to watch a spider build a web;

to smile at a child;

or to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day

That the race is not always to the swift;

That there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward

Into the branches of the towering oak

And know that it grew great and strong

Because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Adonai;

And inspire me to send my roots deep

Into the soil of life’s enduring values

That I may grow toward the stars

Of my greater destiny.

 

Machzor Mateh Naftali

Rosh Hashanah

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Let us ask ourselves hard questions
For this is the time for truth.

How much time did we waste
In the year that is now gone?

Did we fill our days with life
Or were they dull and empty?

Was there love inside our home
Or was the affectionate word left unsaid?

Was there a real companionship with our children
Or was there a living together and a growing apart?

Were we a help to our mates
Or did we take them for granted?

How was it with our friends:
Were we there when they needed us or not?

The kind deed: did we perform it or postpone it?
The unnecessary gibe: did we say it or hold it back?

Did we live by false values?
Did we deceive others?
Did we deceive ourselves?

Were we sensitive to the rights and feelings
Of those who worked for us?

Did we acquire only possessions
Or did we acquire new insights as well?

Did we fear what the crowd would say
And keep quiet when we should have spoken out?

Did we mind only our own business
Or did we feel the heartbreak of others?

Did we live right,
And if not,
Then have we learned, and will we change?

— An interpretation of Unetaneh Tokef by Jack Riemer

ARC Readathon Update

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  1. Delicious Foods, by James Hannahan
    Totally recommend. Gripping, moving, occasionally a little surreal, and does some mind-bending things with the narration.
  2. Sleepless in Manhattan, by Sarah Morgan
    A fun contemporary romance novel, the start of a set. May have to look up the others – Morgan created a compelling cast of characters.
  3. Anything for You, by Kristin Higgins
    Merely okay – kept reading, and got a few laughs, but mostly a rather predictable romance novel with predictable character types. Middle of a series.
  4. Paradise Lodge, by Nina Stibbe (releases 7/12/16)
    Persistently quirky, but amusing. Imagine the main character from Louise Rennison’s books having an actual brain, a conscience, and living on shaky financial ground in 1970s Leicester.
  5. I’m Still Here (Je Suis La), by Clelie Avit & translated by Lucy Foster (releases 8/23/16)
    LOVED THIS. Finished it in under two hours – couldn’t step away from it for long, and I was so engrossed while reading it on the train home that I almost missed my stop. Simple story, but breathtaking.
  6. The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee (releases 8/30/16)
    It’s GOSSIP GIRL in the 22nd century. Seriously. If you like that show, you’ll like this. Apparently it’s already been optioned for television.
  7. Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff (releases 8/2/16)
    Enjoyed this tremendously. Has “feature film” written all over it, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’d love to see this interpreted onscreen.
  8. The Secrets She Kept, by Brenda Novak (releases 8/2016)
    Okay. Good enough to keep my interest, and they do well with the red herrings for the mystery part, but somehow it seems a little pat. But then, I’m used to Lord Peter Wimsey, so perhaps other mysteries pale in comparison.
  9. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (releases 9/2016  Apparently semi-autobiographical. Gripping and well-told. Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  10. The Life She Wants, by Robyn Carr (releases 9/27/16)
    Meh. Not terribly engaged in this one.
  11. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny O’Colgan (releases 9/2016)
    One of those books in which the end is a bit predictable, but the route to get there is not. Sweet and charming.
  12. Monticello, by Sally Cabot Gunning (releases 9/2016)
    Neither an easy nor a quick read, but an interesting one. Fascinating perspective on familiar historical events and people.
  13. The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst (releases 9/2016)
    THIS IS FABULOUS. Like fantasy? Forests? Magic? Strong women? READ THIS.
  14. Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016)
  15. Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16)
  16. IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16)
  17. The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016)
  18. Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16)
  19. Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16)
  20. Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016) Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  21. The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016)
  22. Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  23. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  24. Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  25. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  26. Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  27. The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  28. The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  29. The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015)
  30. Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  31. She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

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    Just SOME of the ARCs from ALA Annual 2016 in Orlando.

Birthday 

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Monday’s child is fair of face,

Tuesday’s child is full of grace,

Wednesday’s child is full of woe,

Thursday’s child has far to go,

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

Thirty years ago, September 16 was a Tuesday. I really must try to trip over air less frequently. 

WIP Wednesday

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L’Esperance and the dratted peacock continue (though I haven’t touched the latter in months), and this summer I tossed two new ones into the rotation. One has even been finished!

L’Esperance, based on original artwork by Diogene Maillard, designed by Michele Sayetta of Heaven and Earth Designs:

 

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Ex Libris, based on original artwork by Aimee Stewart, designed by Michele Sayetta of Heaven and Earth Designs. I’m taking a different approach with this one – using a stitch method that goes much faster than the one I’m using for L’Esperance:

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Frederick the Literate, a kit from Dimensions Gold Collection:

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ARC readathon update

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  1. Delicious Foods, by James Hannahan
    Totally recommend. Gripping, moving, occasionally a little surreal, and does some mind-bending things with the narration.
  2. Sleepless in Manhattan, by Sarah Morgan
    A fun contemporary romance novel, the start of a set. May have to look up the others – Morgan created a compelling cast of characters.
  3. Anything for You, by Kristin Higgins
    Merely okay – kept reading, and got a few laughs, but mostly a rather predictable romance novel with predictable character types. Middle of a series.
  4. Paradise Lodge, by Nina Stibbe (releases 7/12/16)
    Persistently quirky, but amusing. Imagine the main character from Louise Rennison’s books having an actual brain, a conscience, and living on shaky financial ground in 1970s Leicester.
  5. I’m Still Here (Je Suis La), by Clelie Avit & translated by Lucy Foster (releases 8/23/16)
    LOVED THIS. Finished it in under two hours – couldn’t step away from it for long, and I was so engrossed while reading it on the train home that I almost missed my stop. Simple story, but breathtaking.
  6. The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee (releases 8/30/16)
  7. Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff (releases 8/2/16)
    Enjoyed this tremendously. Has “feature film” written all over it, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’d love to see this interpreted onscreen.
  8. The Secrets She Kept, by Brenda Novak (releases 8/2016)
  9. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (releases 9/2016)
  10. The Life She Wants, by Robyn Carr (releases 9/27/16)
  11. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny O’Colgan (releases 9/2016)
  12. Monticello, by Sally Cabot Gunning (releases 9/2016)
  13. The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst (releases 9/2016)
  14. Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016)
  15. Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16)
  16. IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16)
  17. The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016)
  18. Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16)
  19. Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16)
  20. Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016)
  21. The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016)
  22. Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  23. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  24. Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  25. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  26. Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  27. The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  28. The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  29. The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015)
  30. Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  31. She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

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    Just SOME of the ARCs from ALA Annual 2016 in Orlando.

See How the Fates Their Gifts Allot

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There is something thrilling about the sound of an orchestra tuning. It’s a sound that announces the beginning of something magical. It draws me in, somehow simultaneously settling my mind and making my heart race.

I have yet to find anyone who agrees with me on this, but I stand by it. The ritual of dimmed lights, applause for the conductor, and then the sound of first the strings finding their A, then the other instruments joining in – it’s beautiful and intoxicating.

On Saturday, I went to the Lamplighters Musical Theatre’s performance of their reworked “Mikado,” titled “The NEW Mikado,” at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. This production makes a valiant and largely successful attempt at retaining the musical and narrative structure of the original operetta while addressing the racial and ethnic aspects of the original that are uncomfortable and distasteful to a modern audience. Their solution? Remove the entire story from the setting of the fictional and highly stylized setting of the Japanese town of Titipu, and place it instead in a fictional and highly stylized town called Tirmisu in the fifteenth-century duchy of Milan.

And you know what? It works. It really, really works. I loved it.

But as I sat in the darkened theater, listening to the orchestra tune and then play the familiar melodies of the late Victorian operetta, my mind couldn’t stop wandering to my own past.

“The Mikado” is incredibly important to me. Every time I have seen it or been involved with a production of it in any way, it leaves ripples of impact in my life.

In 1997 or 1998, my mother took me to see a production of “The Mikado” put on at Stanford University by their Gilbert and Sullivan Society, The Stanford Savoyards. I remember sitting enthralled through it, and still have snapshot memories of the two act finales. After that, we went to several of the Savoyards’ productions until in early 2002, I decided to audition to join the chorus myself. I was fifteen at the time, and the production staff made it clear that I was an exception to their usual rules about the age of participants. But that audition, and then being in the production, introduced me to a new part of myself. It was the most daring thing I had ever done, I felt, and took me to a world of magic and camaraderie that opened my eyes.

I won’t deny that I enjoyed being the petted youngest member of the company. It’s always nice to feel special. But more than that, I was treated as an equal member of the effort to bring the show to the stage. And really, I was only two or three years younger than some of the others, who were freshmen at Stanford.

It’s hard for me to explain the impact of those few months of rehearsal and performance. Desperate for approval and encouragement in my singing attempts, longing to feel like a valued member of a community engaged in a shared endeavor, I really think that joining the Savoyards in 2002 was a pivotal moment for me. The weeks I spent in rehearsal, performance, and social interaction with the Stanford students in the company proved to me that even without a 4.0 GPA, I could keep up with these students I viewed with some awe.

Being in “Mikado” in 2002 (and “The Sorcerer” that fall, and “The Gondoliers” in the spring of 2003) gave me the courage to apply to Stanford.

As I listened to the familiar music on Saturday, my mind kept going back to May of 2002, as I’d wait backstage for the entrance of the women’s chorus. We’d all bustle about, putting finishing touches to wigs, makeup, and costumes, and occasionally pausing to listen intently to the faint strains of music and dialogue coming through the backstage PA system, praying that the tenor and the trumpet were both having good nights as they approached the high notes.

I remember the movements backstage as a sort of dance, as we knew exactly when to step aside for Ed’s manic sprint offstage at one side and re-entrance on the other side for the next verse, or to make our way to the exact spots for our entrance. At times I remember some people quietly dancing in the wings, compelled to move by music and adrenaline.

In 1997, “Mikado” planted a spark of interest in trying the stage for myself. In 2002, it showed me that I could, in fact, belong at Stanford and find a community there. In 2005, it woke me up to the fact that I was no longer enjoying the theater experience.

And now, in 2016? I have only rarely gone near Gilbert & Sullivan in the past eleven years. The memory of the overwhelming and frightening rage and loss I felt as I saw my time with the Savoyards ending has to some extent tainted the memories of the magic and passionate love I had for the experience. I’ve even flinched away from the music itself.

Perhaps it’s been long enough now that I can start reclaiming that music. I feel no desire to get back onstage, and the only thing I regret about my decision to leave the Savoyards is how long it took me to accept the end of the era for me. It was a life lesson in “leave before you hate it.”

Except for those moments when I hear an orchestra tune. During those moments, as the lights dim and the familiar combination of instruments all seek harmony on their A, I find myself briefly in the velvet darkness of the wings, or the yellow light of the cramped, crowded dressing rooms in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. And for a moment, I miss it. But just for a moment. Then I let myself float away into the magic of theater.

ALA Annual 2016: Revenge of the ARC

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Okay, I went a little nuts regarding advance reader copies this conference. I’m still in Orlando, and the exhibit hall doesn’t close until tomorrow afternoon, but this is it. No more books for me. Seriously. I mean it. Here’s the haul:

  1. Delicious Foods, by James Hannahan
  2. Sleepless in Manhattan, by Sarah Morgan
  3. Anything for You, by Kristin Higgins
  4. Paradise Lodge, by Nina Stibbe (releases 7/12/16)
  5. I’m Still Here (Je Suis La), by Clelie Avit & translated by Lucy Foster (releases 8/23/16)
  6. The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee (releases 8/30/16)
  7. Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff (releases 8/2/16)
  8. The Secrets She Kept, by Brenda Novak (releases 8/2016)
  9. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (releases 9/2016)
  10. The Life She Wants, by Robyn Carr (releases 9/27/16)
  11. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny O’Colgan (releases 9/2016)
  12. Monticello, by Sally Cabot Gunning (releases 9/2016)
  13. The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst (releases 9/2016)
  14. Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016)
  15. Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16)
  16. IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16)
  17. The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016)
  18. Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16)
  19. Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16)
  20. Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016)
  21. The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016)
  22. Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
  23. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  24. Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
  25. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  26. Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  27. The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  28. The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)

Best Picture Project: Spotlight

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One of the best compliments I can pay any artistic production – film, television, theater, etc. – is to say that I did not once check the time while consuming said artistic production.

When the screen went dark and the concluding text started to appear on the screen, I was startled and disappointed to find that SPOTLIGHT was already over.

The Best Picture winners in recent years have been easily recognizable as technically strong, stand-out productions, but SPOTLIGHT is the first one in a long while that I have found so engrossing on every level. I recognize the value of BIRDMAN and TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE, but it’s really not since THE ARTIST and THE KING’S SPEECH that I could see myself raving about a winning film.

SPOTLIGHT doesn’t explode on the screen so much as it smolders, growing hotter and hotter as the story unfolds. Every performance is tightly wound, from Liev Schreiber’s reticence as editor-in-chief Marty Baron to the face of Eileen Padua, who plays Rachel McAdams’ character’s grandmother, as she reads the final story in the paper. spotlight_28film29_poster

One of the things I loved about it was the way the main characters, the Spotlight crew, were not shown as righteous crusaders, but as flawed and passionate journalists who believe that this kind of truth should be spoken aloud and in public. Though they all believe fully in what they are doing regarding the Church, they each lose something along the way. Sacha (Rachel McAdams) can no longer bring herself even to accompany her grandmother to church because she gets so angry when she thinks of the abuse survivors she’s interviewed. Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) discovers during research that a priest “treatment center” is a block or two away from his house and becomes tortured by the idea of them being so near to neighborhood children. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), a lapsed Catholic, always thought he would return to the Church someday, but now cannot. And Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton, in a performance I much prefer to the one in BIRDMAN) is dealt a double blow by discovering one of the priests in question was a teacher at his high school, and then realizing that all the pieces of the story were already at the Globe and had crossed his desk eight years earlier, but he hadn’t put it all together.

This film walks a delicate line between the hopeful tone of knowing the story dealt a blow to institutional corruption and the despair of realizing the story uncovered by the Spotlight team is a single piece of a much larger picture. Indeed, as Rezendes goes to the office of the lawyer who has helped tremendously with the story to hand-deliver a copy of the paper, he sees an interview room with three children in it, and the lawyer tells him that two were abused in a nearby parish. The satisfaction disappears from Rezendes’ face as he sees this proof that little has yet changed. Indeed, the film ends with text briefly describing the immediate impact of Spotlight’s nearly 600 stories on the subject of child sexual abuse by priests and friars in Boston over the course of 2002, and follows that with a truly disturbing list of other places in the world where major priestly abuse stories have come to light. It takes four screens of double columns to show the entire list.

SPOTLIGHT is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, without a weak spot that I can determine. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly urge you to do so.