Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo

spark joySubtitled: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

This is a follow-up to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I read and loved last summer. I spent six months last year doing a giant tidy-festival, and learned a lot in the process. I was really excited about this companion book, because I knew it had a lot of extras and continuations.

In the end, though, I wish I’d gotten it from the library instead of buying it. There was very little in here that was new, and what was new contradicted my own already-established ways of following the KonMari method. Maybe if I’d read it right away, that could have helped me. As it is, I just passed over sections that taught me new ways of what I’d already learned differently through the first book, and in places where I differed, the end of the book approved anyway:

“As long as you acquire a firm grasp of the basics, then go ahead and make your own decisions, guided by what brings you joy.”

On the other hand, there was one part of the whole process last time that I kinda skipped over, and that was the whole “imagining your ideal lifestyle” bit. I did try to do that, but the thing is, my ideal lifestyle is somewhat fluid. I’ve long had in me two contrasting ideas of a perfect lifestyle, and they’ve been in conflict since I reached adulthood. I only recently realized the source of that conflict, and now have a clearer idea of which direction to go, and so I plan to revisit this section more firmly before I do my mini-tidy marathon this fall.

I wish I’d enjoyed this book more. It might have partly been my mood, but I suspect that it was the book itself. A lot of the information, and even stories, were repeats, and I didn’t find the illustrations to be particularly instructive. Ah well.

Posted in 2016, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Books Made Me Do It

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday asks about the things books have made me want to learn or do. Excluding travel-related things (“I really want to see X now”), I have eight that I can think of off the top of my head. Here goes:

natureofjade1. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti – This book made me want to learn all about elephants. Elephants are still my favorite animal.

2. the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – I’d never been interested in learning Latin until reading this series.

3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – I didn’t expect this book to completely turn me off processed food and convince me to try a lot more produce than I ever had in my life.

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I’d decided to quit writing nearly a year before I read this one, and it convinced me to start writing again.

life-changing5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Well, this one’s obvious.

6. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – I started doing yoga after reading this one.

7. Relish by Lucy Knisley – She almost convinced me to cook. She didn’t, but there was a while that I thought I was interesting in learning. That counts, right?

8. Humans of New York (and further editions) by Brandon Stanton – I love how well Stanton captures the spread of humanity and diversity, and his project has made me want to both take up photography and start my own diversity project!

What books have inspired you?

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Home Stretch

IMG_5498This summer has been galloping by. Travel, construction, camps. Funny to realize there are only four weeks left. Four weeks that will be filled with more travel, construction, and camps, heh. My brain is therefore a bit scattered, and today I will discuss various tidbits of life!

House
The bulk of construction is done on our house. In other words, we have walls again, after two months without them. Here’s the deal: With a 45-year old house, you expect to have issues. You expect to fix things. And with a house formerly owned by a disabled, mentally-ill veteran who only used one room of the house, you don’t expect things to be terribly well cared for. We expected all this, and didn’t mind it. What we DIDN’T expect was to discover that whoever was “maintaining” the house for the mentally-ill, disabled vet was scamming him in the most disgusting, unethical way ever. Some of the “repairs” were so dangerous that they could have killed the former occupant or us. (Sewer gas venting into the a/c unit? Seriously?)

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(top left is current: we have walls!)

The good news is that we’ve ripped apart a great majority of this house and have made a lot of repairs. Sure, we wish that we’d discovered the problems in February instead of the summer, because ripping out walls in 100+ degree heat is NO FUN, but all is well, and the guy who worked on our house did a fantastic job. Jason and Ambrose were both involved in the construction, and know how everything stands (the advantages of hiring a friend). There is still stuff to do – caulking, trimming, painting, etc – but we have walls, windows, and a front door again, and our house won’t collapse onto us. I do wish I knew who was scamming the vet, because I think he ought to be dealt with. Unfortunately, this was an estate sale and the vet’s mother sold the house from a distance, so there’s no way of knowing. So I’m letting it go. And it’s a relief knowing that the house is now in much better shape than it was before.

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(And we have bookshelves! Still in progress, of course.)

Family
Yesterday was my sister’s bridal shower. Ambrose turns 14 tomorrow and will have his party later today. Laurence finished his two weeks of musical theatre camp and did a fantastic job in his performances. Ambrose just finished a week of programming camp at St Mary’s University. Morrigan starts band camp this week. Jason will be spending a few days in Nashville for work in the near future. And so the crazy continues.

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turning 13 vs turning 14

Yarn
I think I have a yarn addiction… To be fair to myself, though, most of this yarn was either at really deep discount or given to me. And I’ve been making lots of lovely things! (Post forthcoming.)

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And now, I’ve gotta go get ready for that birthday party!! See y’all later!

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 7 Comments

The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow

scorpionIt’s the future, and AIs rule the world. Talis, one of the first AIs, was charged by the UN to stop the wars sparking all across the globe after too many natural resources disappeared and conflict swelled proportionately. They didn’t expect him to take control of all the satellite systems, start blowing up cities, and lay down a hostage system for the sons and daughters of all world leaders. The rule is simple, Talis says. If you go to war, your children will die.

These “children of peace” are reared away from their families, clustered together in isolated schools where they learn history, obedience, and dignity. They know their lives may be forfeit at any moment, no matter how much their parents love them. They know that if they act out or try to escape, they – and the others of their age at school – will be punished (ie tortured). And if they survive to adulthood, they will rule, and their own children will become hostages in their place.

That is the setup of this book, which is the beginning of a series. I won’t talk about the actual storyline at all, because this is the sort of book that is best going into with minimal information. Bow does a great job at introducing the characters and world through the very narrow viewpoint of Princess Greta of the Pan Polar Confederacy. There is a lot of moral quandary that comes up, and the AIs were a fascinating amoral lot. The story was compelling, and the characters are interesting, though a tad unbelievable at times honestly. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next story.

For me, though, the most interesting thing about this book was the world-building. Of course, it’s impossible to say how one might act if the world was governed this way by machines. However, I can’t imagine acting in some of the ways some characters act. Here are some examples (kept vague and spoiler-free!):

1. Imagine you rule a country and your child will die if you declare war or allow war to be declared on you. You have a bond with your child, because of course the machines wouldn’t just ship your kids off wholesale and let that bond wither. Another country needs something unreasonable from your country, or vice versa. If you can’t reach a reasonable agreement, you have a choice. Either let some of your population die off because you can’t get them what they need, or you go to war knowing your child will die. Notably, you also know that the AIs will not let war last, and there’s a good possibility they will step in, destroy a lot of your country, and force you to make peace anyway. Okay. Here’s the thing: I can’t picture any reason at all that would induce me to go to war. What would it matter if a couple hundred thousand strangers in my country’s population get sick or die, if the child I loved would be safe? Heck, those strangers would probably die anyway if the AIs step in once war started. I see no point in trying to save resources. Maybe that just means I’m a bad leader, but frankly, I doubt most leaders would sacrifice their families for their country…

2. Imagine you’re a hostage, and if you misbehave, you will be tortured, and so will others around you. You have zero chance of escape beyond living to your eighteenth birthday. Nothing you do to defy your situation will change it. It will only hurt you and other people. Would you fight against the system, fruitlessly, at your own and others’ costs? Personally, I can imagine fighting fruitlessly if, for instance, my country went to war and I was being dragged off to my death. In that situation, I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well try to live. Otherwise, thought? No. I’d behave like a good hostage and hope my parents kept me safe. I certainly wouldn’t do anything that would cause my peers to be tortured. Sheesh.

Anyway, there were a few things in the world-building, like those vague examples, that made me wonder about the particular exploration of human ethics. And even though I disagree with some of the things Bow did through her story, I can also see that perhaps my point of view is simply my own. There are many different kinds of people in the world who might have many different kinds of reactions to this kind of world. The exploration itself was fascinating. I’m looking forward to seeing it through new eyes in the sequel.

Posted in 2016, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Shadow Hour, by Melissa Grey (audio)

shadow hourSequel to The Girl At Midnight.

Caveat: I barely remember this book, despite having just listened to it. This is not the book’s fault. This is entirely my fault, as I listened to it while doing about a thousand other things, only half paying attention. So my thoughts on the book are very vague, and are more general impressions than thoughts. This is definitely one I will be revisiting before the final book in the trilogy comes out.

So, my general impressions, bullet-style:

  • I enjoyed the book, though not as much as the first one. Again, this is possibly my own fault.
  • I really ought to have reread the first book before starting this one. I was slowly reintroduced to a lot of things, but there’s still a lot I felt I was missing.
  • I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first, though I couldn’t say why.
  • I felt like there was too much lingering over the love triangle, which I thought, in the first book, was less of a love triangle and more of a shifting set of interests. But maybe I just don’t remember properly.
  • I really loved the introduction of a dark force opposite the light force, and the discussion of light/dark and what influences them.
  • I didn’t like the audio performance as well this time, while I loved it for the first book. I couldn’t say why or how they were different.
  • Jasper’s story was my favorite.

Aaaaaand that’s about it. That’s pathetic. Perhaps when I revisit these books before the next one comes out, I’ll write a full review of this book.

Posted in 2016, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Top Ten Books Set Outside the USA

There are so many great books set outside the US that I had a hard time picking a top ten! I mostly tried to avoid European settings as well, because they are also super common. I also limited this to classics, nonfiction, and near-classics. That helped me to narrow the list to the following ten, and even that was difficult to cull to ten!

  1. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (Russia)
  2. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
  3. The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck (China)
  4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (Cuba)
  5. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa)
  6. Germinal by Emile Zola (France)
  7. The Painted Veil by William Somerset Maugham (Britain, China)
  8. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (Iran)
  9. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Jamaica, Dominica, Britain)
  10. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? What are some of your favorites off this list?

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 8 Comments

Sunday Coffee – I read a thing.

IMG_5447Starting in mid-April, around the time of the Readathon, I succumbed to binge-reading in my stress. I read waaaaaay too much in April, and waaaaaaay too much in May, and continued the pattern in June up until my Wisconsin vacation. At that point, I simply stopped reading. Period.

Once I got home from vacation, I tried a few books, but nothing appealed to me. Maybe it was a slump. Maybe my brain just wasn’t ready for books. I culled a bunch from my list, and have been slowly going through Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. It wasn’t until I downloaded the audio of The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey, sequel to The Girl at Midnight, that I actually finished a book. And honestly, I think I only finished it because I was listening to it as I crocheted like a madwoman. I hardly remember the book, through no fault of its own (as it was really good!), and may have to relisten before I move on to the final book in the series (when it comes out).

So yes, I read a thing, kinda, but I still don’t see that breaking open my slump in any way. I’ve downloaded a few audiobooks. I might listen to a few things. Maybe. In a way, though, I’m enjoying the silence. So much is going on in my life right now (house construction, doctors changing my medicine, heat-induced depression, bandying about the idea of moving next summer, the boys in camps and therefore constantly coming and going…) that my brain seems fit for only the tiniest things. I can focus on my yarn art, but not on the depths of a book (to read OR to write). So I read a thing, but it might be the only thing for the next month or so…

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 4 Comments