Showing posts from July, 2022

The Keeper

  The Keeper, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall My youngest kid and I both read this fun, spooky middle-grade novel, which claims to be "inspired by a terrifying true story" and enjoyed it.  I found the solution to be strange, though, for very GenX reasons. James and his family are moving from Texas (wide-open spaces, best friends) to Oregon (too many trees, really wet, no best friends) and James is Not Happy about it.  And his beloved abuelita passed away just a few weeks ago; the loss is still fresh for all of them.  Their new neighborhood does seem really nice, though; almost like a village backing onto the woods, but very close to Portland, and everybody is very friendly.  The neighbors invite them to play baseball, bring them cookies, and host a neighborhood BBQ to welcome them. Then James gets a spooky letter, daring him to explore and insinuating that he's not brave enough to live there.  Is it another chapter in the ongoing prank war with his little sister Ava?  Is it a

Summerbook #9: No One Is Talking About This

Hello!  I went to visit a friend for a week, and I had a lovely time.  Now I'm back, and --  No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood I kept hearing about how fantastic and unusual this story is, and so put it on my summer list.  It is unusual, that's true.  I kind of liked it?  The characters remain unnamed, and it seems to (perhaps) be set in a slightly alternative America, where an unnamed dictator rules.  The protagonist is a woman famous for her viral tweets in what she calls 'the portal.'  For some reason, this gets her regular speaking gigs at TED-talk-like events.  The story is told in an endless cascade of short fragments, so that it feels much like scrolling endlessly through a social media feed. In the first half of the novel, she seems to get less and less tethered to reality, spending hours a day on her feeds and convinced that only the portal is important, while real life (which contains a slightly worried husband) isn't quite as real.  She p

The Sandman, Part III

 Sandman: vols 7-9, by Neil Gaiman et al. Volume 7, Brief Lives , is somewhat ironically named, since nearly everyone in it is, if not immortal, kind of close to it.  Delerium -- once Delight -- approaches her siblings, asking them to help her find their lost brother.  Destruction abdicated his post a few centuries ago, and asked to be left alone.  But Delerium misses her brother and is impervious to argument, so Dream agrees to travel with her.  They go on a road trip to track down some of the people who may know where Destruction is, but those people are showing a worrying tendency to turn up dead.  Morpheus ends up having to consult his son, Orpheus.... Volume 8, World's End , uses an old device: it collects many people into an inn to tell stories as they wait out a storm.  But this is no ordinary inn.  The people are from many different times, places, and worlds, and they have all run into a reality storm that tore them from their moorings and deposited them the inn at the end

Germany trip #9: Hallstatt

 Our somewhat diminished group was to spend the last day of the trip at Hallstatt, which is a small town situated on another incredible Alpine lake somewhat farther into Austria.  On the way, we stopped at Mondsee and Wolfgangsee for leg-stretching, sightseeing, and lunch.  St. Wolfgang is, in particular, an extremely picturesque town filled with narrow, winding streets and medieval buildings.  There was even a shop that sold lebkuchen year-round, to the delight of one of our company, and to mine too. Mondsee Uncooperative swan Wolfgangsee Town of St. Wolfgang; a terrible photo but it was extremely picturesque The name Hallstatt rang a bell, but I hadn't really thought about it at all until Felix explained.  Of course -- the Hallstatt culture!  Back in the Bronze Age, Hallstatt was a center of this proto-Celtic culture.  And the reason for the spot's importance is that there is a large salt mine in the mountain above the lake, which has been continually worked for a good 7000 y

Summerbook #8: Threads of Life

 Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, by Clare Hunter We all know I'm a sucker for a book about the history of sewing or textiles.  Clare Hunter is a Scots woman (from Glasgow) and has done a lot of community work around sewing, so she's in a great position to write a book about the history. Hunter divides her book into loosely themed chapters, such as 'Loss,' Protest,' 'Captivity,' etc.  She bounces all over history, discussing embroidery therapy for wounded World War I soldiers and then moving on to the elaborate banners once used in marches -- every community group seems to have had several, and the suffragists' banners were of course embroidered instead of printed.  Then it's off to group projects for urban pride, or the patchwork 'liberation skirts' made by Dutch women after World War II, or Hmong storycloths.  She goes all over the world in this way, just telling stories about how stitching brings people

Germany trip #8: Regensburg!

 I was really looking forward to Regensburg day.  Regensburg is a little far to go for the area we were exploring, but our trip leader had lived there as a young man and wanted to show it off.  This was great with me because way back when I did an exchange trip to Denmark, my host dad was from Regensburg, and we visited Oma a couple of times.  Regensburg is something of an unknown gem and a wonderful little city.  It was hardly bombed during the war and still has its medieval town center.  The Middle Ages was Regensburg's heyday, as it's located on the Danube river at the last navigable spot and was a center of the salt trade.  For a long time it was known in English as Rattisbon. So we walked around the city center.  Regensburg is dotted with a few oddly tall and narrow towers; back in the day, families showed off their wealth by building these towers as their homes, and some still remain -- and are lived in.  There is a massive and ornate Gothic cathedral, and a very famous s