Ursula's Mobile Thread for 2017, Part 4
This is a continuation of the topic Ursula's Mobile Thread for 2017, Part 3.
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Early fresh start from the last thread, again.
Here we all are on the day we got the key to our new house.
Hello, I'm Ursula. I currently live in Fresno, in California's Central Valley, having just moved here at the beginning of June. So far during my time in the 75ers (starting in 2012), my husband and I have lived in Denver, Belgium, California, Italy, Michigan, and now back to another part of California. It's all thanks to his job - he's a mathematician, which I had no idea would be such a roving profession. I'm an artist and photographer - if you're interested in what I do, you can find links to my shops on my profile. We have a dog - a 9-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Penny. I have two children: a son who is at UC Boulder (University of Colorado, Boulder) and a daughter who is in grad school at UGA (University of Georgia in Athens).
I read from the 1001 books list, and I have also been reading more current books in an attempt to balance out the male-female ratio in my reading a bit. I get to a decent amount of non-fiction, often on audio.
The Audacity of Hope
📚📚📚 ... January ... 📚📚📚
Evicted - finished Jan 1 (418 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Wave - finished Jan 2 (audio, 5h 25m) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Waiting - finished Jan 3 (308 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
The Graduate - finished Jan 7 (191 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
March, Book Two - finished Jan 11 (187 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
His Bloody Project - finished Jan 14 (280 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
There Goes Gravity - finished Jan 16 (audio, 12h 17m) ⭐⭐1/2
Tent of Miracles - finished Jan 19 (380 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Half of Man Is Woman - finished Jan 26 (285 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Country of Ice Cream Star - finished Jan 27 (581 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
March, Book Three - finished Jan 28 (246 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
When Breath Becomes Air - finished Jan 31 (audio, 5h 27m) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
Total read in January: 12
📚📚📚 ... February ... 📚📚📚
A Long Way Home - finished Feb 1 (audio, 7h 28m) ⭐⭐⭐
Year of Wonders - finished Feb 8 (308 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
The Unwinding - finished Feb 12 (434 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Interestings - finished Feb 27 (466 pages) ⭐⭐
Total read in February: 4
📚📚📚 ... March ... 📚📚📚
A Bend in the River - finished Mar 1 (278 pages) ⭐
Letters of Note, Volume 2 - finished Mar 6 (368 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Wind / Pinball - finished Mar 6 (234 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty - finished Mar 9 (308 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
Strangers in Their Own Land - finished Mar 26 (351 pages) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
The Sparrow - finished Mar 26 (408 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
Spring Snow - finished Mar 31 (389 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Total read in March: 7
📚📚📚 ... April... 📚📚📚
Hot Milk - finished Apr 3 (221 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Human Acts - finished Apr 7 (218 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
City on Fire - finished Apr 10 (911 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
Ursula, Under - finished Apr 16 (476 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
1984 - finished Apr 20 (326 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Fluent Forever - finished Apr 25 (326 pages) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
The North Water - finished Apr 25 (255 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Things We Lost in the Fire - finished Apr 26 (200 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Total read in April: 8
📚📚📚 ... May... 📚📚📚
Cost - finished May 1 (448 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
A Gentleman in Moscow - finished May 16 (462 pages) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
The Curse of Beauty - finished May 16 (303 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks - finished May 17 (365 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Dark Matter - finished May 19 (340 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Ill Will - finished May 28 ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Total read in May: 6
📚📚📚 ... June... 📚📚📚
Dharma Bums - finished Jun 3 (192 pages) ⭐⭐
The Day of Creation - finished Jun 15 (253 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
Runaway Horses - finished Jun 21 (432 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane ⭐⭐⭐
Fun Home - finished Jun 30 (232 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Total read in June: 5
📚📚📚 ... July... 📚📚📚
A Boy's Own Story - finished Jul 3 (236 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Pyongyang - finished July 6 (176 pages) ⭐⭐
A Fine Balance - finished July 7 (603 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Total pages read: 13395
Total time listened: 30h 37m
If you want to check out my stats and best/worst of 2016, you can see that here on my first thread of the year.
By Publication Date:
The Dharma Bums
Tent of Miracles
A Bend in the River
A Boy's Own Story
Half of Man Is Woman
The Day of Creation
A Fine Balance
Year of Wonders
The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks
There Goes Gravity
The Country of Ice Cream Star
A Long Way Home
March, Book Two
His Bloody Project
City on Fire
March, Book Three
When Breath Becomes Air
Letters of Note, Vol. 2
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
Strangers in Their Own Land
The North Water
A Gentleman in Moscow
The Curse of Beauty
Things We Lost in the Fire
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Litsy A to Z Challenge
A: Amado, Jorge, Tent of Miracles
B: Ballard, JG, The Day of Creation
H: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
K: Kerouac, Jack, The Dharma Bums
N: Naipaul, VS, A Bend in the River
Z: Zhang Xianliang, Half of Man Is Woman
1001 Books list
Tent of Miracles
Half of Man Is Woman
A Bend in the River
The Day of Creation
A Boy's Own Story
A Fine Balance
I think I accidentally gave myself one too many posts, so I'll just say hi here.
I will go back and look at the messages from the end of my thread before I pulled a disappearing act (I had unread messages even though the last post there was 9 days ago - oops!). I don't know how thoroughly I'm going to answer anything or post about my reading, but the visits are always appreciated!
Good to "see" you, Ursula! Hope you are settling in well to your new home.
Ursula!! Congrats on the new thread. I LOVE your photo up top! Now I actually know what you and your hubby look like. Thanks. : ) How are your new digs working out?
>6 katiekrug:, >7 Berly: I could have sworn I'd posted a picture of myself here sometime in the past, but maybe not. Anyway yes, that's us. :)
Folding in >8 Caroline_McElwee: here too ... Thank you! We are pretty much settled. We have entire rooms that we don't use/that aren't furnished but that's okay. No need to go from 0 to furnishing 8 rooms in a hurry. The street we're on is super quiet, which is nice. We have some dogs in the yard behind us who like to bark at Penny, and we're trying to keep her from charging the fence all the time to antagonize them, but other than that it's nice to have a fenced-in back yard too.
Happy new thread, Ursula. It's nice that you are getting settled. I imagine you are happy not to have to think about moving in a year.
Hallooo, Ursula. Is your nomadic lifestyle on hold? Or will you be moving on after a semester or two? Just nosy...
An article about Murakami meeting Raymond Carver: http://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/a-fateful-literary-meeting-raymo...
I love pretty much everything about that piece.
>10 drneutron: Thanks!
>11 BLBera: Thanks! Well ... we are thinking about moving in a year, since that's how long the lease is and we'll have to see whether we want to stay in this house longer at that point.
>12 weird_O: Nomadic lifestyle is on hold. It's a tenure-track job, so this area may be home base for the foreseeable future.
On the topic of reading...
The Day of Creation
Ballard's weird dreamlike sort of scifi writing put into a kind of Heart of Darkness Africa. Mallory, a WHO doctor, accidentally creates a river in the middle of the African desert and then decides he wants to destroy it. Not my favorite Ballard.
The second book in the Sea of Fertility tetralogy. This one involves a character from the first book who was a teenager there but is now approaching middle age. Topics include reincarnation, filial love, honor, the place of idealism, and seppuku. Just like in the first one, there is a lot of beautiful writing, particularly about nature. I was uncomfortable reading this one a lot of the time, wondering how it all lined up with and reflected Mishima's own ideas about Japan and death (he committed seppuku after a failed coup attempt). Still looking forward to the last two, which were published after posthumously.
Happy new one Ursula.
>1 ursula: May I say that that is an extremely attractive trio!
Hi Ursula!! I fixed my earlier post. : )
You have posted a picture of you before, but this one is even better.
Wishing you happy Friday and a great weekend!
Happy new thread. Hope the neighbourhood dogs and Penny work it out. How's the library?
>16 PaulCranswick: Thank you!
>17 LovingLit: Thanks! I love that you are always on the brink of it, that makes me laugh because I can relate only too well to often being "right about to" something.
>18 Berly: Thanks. :) Ah okay, I wasn't sure if I had. I know the picture doesn't show the house at all, but it's just a house after all. ;)
>19 charl08: Thanks! Ugh, Penny is a jerk. She likes to go lay in the yard until the dogs next door notice she's there and start barking, then she'll rush the fence. Unfortunately, one of the dogs on the other side is a large German Shepherd and he throws himself against the fence with enough force to bend the wood. We'll see. The neighbor is in favor of introducing them to each other but I think he underestimates what a beast Penny is.
The library is okay. Small considering the size of the city. And not that many branches, so even the selection from the overall library system is relatively small. But I still use the Denver system for ebooks so that makes up for most deficiencies.
July 4, day of no mail. That's mostly what it means to me. I have been doing a lot of correspondence, both through penpals I made during the month of letter writing I did in February, and also through Postcrossing.
It also means a day of listening to Wimbledon (I have no way to watch it). On that note, I really hate the way the US ties everything to having cable service.
I finished another book, so I now have 3 to comment on.
All 100+ degrees in the 10-day forecast.
Oh no on those temperatures! I imagine it is lovely in the U.P.! lol
Penny sounds like a fun dog. Lucky used to like to antagonize dogs bigger than him, too. He's a Lab and a pretty good size, but German Shepherds were fun to tease. Now he's so old he doesn't care anymore.
I love the family picture!
>22 BLBera: Well, it's what we signed up for, apparently. :)
>23 Donna828: Last I heard it was 61 and pouring in the UP. Is there no happy medium?!
I keep hoping Penny will get to be too old to care anymore! But cattle dogs are not really known for settling down into their old age until they're extremely old, if then. When she was a puppy we always ran into people who said their cattle dog settled down at 7 ... 9 ... 12 ... You get the idea. It was terrifying to hear then and now that she's 9 I just keep looking at her and wondering if she'll ever hit a mellow stage. She met a mastiff through a fence the other day who clearly wanted to be friends with her. For a minute she seemed okay with him, and then she bit him on the nose! There was no real harm done, but the poor mastiff just seemed confused and still wanted to be friends with her even after that! To be honest, she seemed like she wanted to as well - no hackles up, no growling ... I guess she just doesn't know how to be friendly.
Nearly missed that article. Reminds me I must reread some Carver. I read most of his work in the 80s, and reread some in the 90s, so it's been a while. Who's stealing time?
Here's to Fourth of July hooting and hollering and banging and booming, Ursula!
>25 banjo123: Thanks! And I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
>26 Caroline_McElwee: I love, love, love Carver. And I'm not a short story reader at all. Also, definitely know what you mean about stealing time. Sometimes I have to correct myself that something wasn't 15 or 20 years ago but rather 30. How the heck did that happen!?
>27 weird_O: :) Much hooting and hollering and banging and booming was had in the neighborhood, but not by us. We stayed in, watched a movie, and tried to convince the dog that the world would indeed continue to exist.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
I decided to give Lisa See another shot when I saw this book at the library. I had liked Snow Flower and the Secret Fan when I read it, although I wasn't completely blown away by it. The Tea Girl is set in the late part of the 20th century to close to the present in southwestern China, in the Yunnan province. In part, the province is mountainous and several ethnic minorities live and grow tea there. The characters in the book are part of the Akha minority. Although the events take place in roughly the present day, the customs of the Akha are maintained in such a way that you might think you're reading a historical novel at first.
The main character is a child when we meet her, and the story follows the trajectory of her life. She learns to be a midwife for the village, following in the footsteps of her mother. She falls in love with a boy no one seems to approve of, but the will to go with what you want is universal and she has her heart set on him anyway. The village is desperately poor, but it turns out they have something that comes into vogue - pu'er tea. Of course this changes everything for them in good and bad ways.
There's a lot going on here (a lot, I haven't touched on half of it, including where the title comes from), but it never really came together for me. Parts were affecting and interesting, but as a whole it didn't grab me. The village life was the best part for me. When the story went to farther-flung locations (cities in China, Thailand, the United States), often I wasn't as interested. The book was all right, but it ended up feeling long and I just didn't believe some of the voices.
This weather is absolutely killing my steps. 95% of the steps I get are from my run in the morning at 6 AM. Today when I ran at that time it was already 80 degrees.
I got more steps when it was below freezing and snowing in the Soo.
When my husband did the seven day Veteran's Marathon run every March in Death Valley,
the group would rise around 5 AM to get ahead of the worst of the heat.
Here's my bullet journal layout as it looked halfway through the year, with 42 books on the shelves. Ticking along, I suppose.
>31 m.belljackson: I admit the temperature isn't necessarily the problem for me - it's the sun. Once it really starts coming up, I'm done. I ran at the same time in Italy and it was just as hot, with at least twice the humidity. I see people getting out to get their exercise running or walking at 8 or so and I think they're crazy - the sun is just too high in the sky at that point.
Still, there's a trade-off to be made between avoiding the sun and sleeping. I try to land somewhere in the middle.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Not a whole lot to say about this one, as I know lots of other people have read it already. A really terrific graphic memoir, and the label of "tragicomic" in the subtitle is apt.
A Boy's Own Story
Unintentionally, I found myself reading about Alison Bechdel's experiences as a young lesbian at the same time I was reading Edmund White's novel about a young gay man. White's protagonist is less sure of his orientation than Bechdel, or at least less sure if it's going to go away or change eventually. He engages in a confusing sexual relationship with another teenager who considers himself straight. He goes to a boarding school, where he finds some measure of freedom but no more answers. He starts seeing a psychiatrist, who pays little attention to him and instead talks about himself. And finally, he does something that causes a real loss of innocence - discovering the depths of his own artifice and cruelty.
The writing was really wonderful in this book. Here is a passage I particularly liked:
"For the real movements of life are gradual, then sudden; they resist becoming anecdotes, they pulse like quasars from long-dead stars to reach the vivid planet of the present, they drift like fog over the ship until the spread sails are merely panels of gray in grayer air and surround becomes object, as in those perceptual tests where figure and ground reverse, the kissing couple in profile turn into the outline of the mortuary urn that holds their own ashes."
The July/August issue of WOMAN'S DAY has a really cool article about Naomi Flam who lives in Fresno
and started a California free pet rescue shelter for animals after natural disasters.
>35 ursula: Lovely passage, Ursula.
I know what you mean about the heat; July here can be hot and very humid, which makes it worse. My energy ebbs, and I just want to drink cold drinks and sit in front of the fan.
>29 ursula: It sounds like See doesn't work for you. I have a couple of her books on my shelves. I should try one.
Love the journal.
Well, this Wimbledon is shaping up to be a weird one. The quarterfinals are set and although I'm not sorry to see any of the guys go since Nadal, this final four is definitely something else.
This graphic memoir is written by an illustrator who is sent to North Korea for two months to work on an animation project. This might seem like a strange place to be assigned, but cheap labor is cheap labor. Delisle is rarely without a minder, and he is shuttled around to the sights of the city, such as they are. When he sees people doing any tasks, such as picking up trash on the roads, the explanation is always that the people are doing it "for fun." Clearly, Delisle doesn't have a lot of opportunity to get a sense of what is really going on behind the scenes, but I get the impression he wasn't that interested in it either. And that's the failing of the book - it comes across as Fun and Games with Propaganda rather than How to Starve and Brainwash Your People. It was 2004, so the situation was maybe not as well-known, but on the other hand, Delisle does mention a famine that killed millions in an offhand comment. I don't know if he thought that was all over, or if he just didn't attach sufficient humanity to the blank numbers, but he didn't seem either moved or outraged by it. The rules and restrictions in the country are not exactly played for laughs, but neither are they taken terribly seriously and so I think this one fails to hit the mark simply because it doesn't know what mark it's aiming for.
>41 ursula: That's a shame Ursula. I read his early book about working in China (in the 90s) and similarly he seemed to be so monitored that he didn't have much of a chance to see much - in contrast to the Burma and Israel books where he was with his wife (an MSF worker) who has the contacts to make things more interesting on the page (for me, at least).
>35 ursula: I have long listed this book now. Thanks for the recommendation.
>42 charl08: Yeah, sounds like the China book would be similar then. Interesting about the other books - I had the feeling from this one that he had the potential to write a good one, this just wasn't it. :) And being married to an aid worker would give him much more access - here too, he had more freedom when he was able to slip over to hang out with some MSF or similar workers.
>43 sirfurboy: Nice! :)
A Fine Balance
I'd heard this one was depressing, but I have to say that while lots of things went wrong, and wrong again throughout the book, it didn't really depress me (until ... but I'll get to that in a second). Indian life during the Emergency (when Indira Gandhi had declared a state of emergency in the country) is the subject. Our guides through the experience are an uncle and nephew who are Chamar caste members - they are part of the so-called "untouchables" who work with leather. Except, they're actually tailors. What? Well, the father of the family decided to change their fates by sending them to learn tailoring, which is obviously entirely against the rules of caste. If you could just work your way out of being an untouchable, everyone would want to do it. The other main characters of the book are a widow who employs the tailors and her paying guest, a college student from the mountainous north of the country.
One thing I found really interesting about the structure of the book is the way it sort of went backwards for a lot of the time. You meet the characters and then the next chapter will go backwards to explain some part of their story, and then maybe backwards again to explain something from that chapter, etc. But it's not consistent through the book, sometimes time moves forward too. I didn't find it confusing, more intriguing - like a set of nesting dolls, except you've started with the doll in the middle.
As for the "until..." part up there - the ending was just like a punch in the stomach to me. Some of that is for personal reasons, so I'm not sure if others would feel quite the same as I did, but it is undeniably bleak no matter what.
(And since it's probably not clear from all of that - I liked the book a lot.)
Nice comments on A Fine Balance, Ursula. I've had that one on my shelf for a while. Maybe next year?
Ursula--Hey there! What are you reading now? Like the nesting dolls imagery you used for A Fine Balance.
Thanks for recommending The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks. It is great, although quite horrific.
Just checking in, Ursula! Hope all is well and you haven't melted in the heat!
>45 ursula: that novel has been in the tbr mountain for some time Ursula. Must give it a nudge.
Quiet over here, Ursula. Hope all is well and that A Fine Balance hasn't spoiled your enjoyment for your next reads.
>53 PaulCranswick: Yep, I agree with Paul. Looking forward to seeing your next reads, Ursula.
Catching up with you, Ursula, and I am sorry about the heat. Ugh. Nice review of Pyongyang - you thoughts are very similar to mine when I read it.
And Happy Thingaverary! 12 years is awesome!
Really? Has it been 12 years for you? Awesome!! Any plans for book buying to celebrate the anniversary?
It’s quiet over here lately... just plumping a cushion...
This is a time of year when I as a non-American ponder over what I am thankful for.
I am thankful for this group and its ability to keep me sane during topsy-turvy times.
I am thankful that you are part of this group.
I am thankful for this opportunity to say thank you.
On this day of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things, one of them being my
Thank you for being so wonderful! : )
Wishing you all good things this holiday season and beyond.
Missing you around, Ursula. Hope all is well. xx
Happy Holidays to you and yours! Its such a joy to be a part of this group, and I’m glad to call you friend.
Ursala--I miss you!! Hoping for more of you in 2018. : )
Happy Boxing Day!!
I was thinking of you as the deep freeze settled over the northern states. Fresno definitely sounds better. Happy New Year!
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