Jan. 31st, 2019

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I have been feeling very meh as of late, for unknown reasons which may involve continuing local stressors (spouse is having round three of medical testing to figure out why various bloodwork numbers are so atypical), or may be due to long-ago trauma anniversaries, or may just be sleep deprivation/not enough sunlight/lack of vitamins or most likely some combination of all three. Today, however, for whatever equally unknown reason, I am feeling pleased with the world and desirous of talking to others, which is a lovely change of pace.

Last night spouse had gamers over, as is the Wednesday routine, and the particular gamer who provided dinner brought Oaxacan food from a local restaurant I hadn't known about before. I had enchiladas with mole negro, which is a long-standing favourite that I had not had in many years, and was very pleased with this version -- very rich mole sauce, soft tortillas, chicken flavourful rather than dry, and the beans and rice on the side were exactly to my taste -- I have a hard time with beans but these were very, very good. And then for appetisers, at my request he got chapulines, which are fried grasshoppers; I'd never had them before but I was very curious to try them, and I knew smol daughter would probably be likewise curious -- she ate crickets a few years back at a school event and enjoyed them a lot. As it turned out, the chapulines were absolutely delicious -- buttery, smoky, spicy, with lime juice to squeeze on, and surprisingly umami and satisfying. I did have a moment of difficulty when we first opened the container because they just do not look like food (yet), but I am glad I overcame it because I enjoyed them much more than I could have imagined and would certainly eat them again. Smol daughter enjoyed them too, and took them as a component of her lunchbox today, which may make for interesting stories to hear at pick-up time.

Tonight spouse is going to dinner and a museum with a friend, which means that once the children are in bed I can loll about watching Netflix -- I am almost done with the most recent season of The Great British Bake-Off, and I am wanting to pick up Terrace House again; I am still early in the most recent series, but already I have become very attached to two of the residents and am hoping they are successful in their goals and keep enjoying each other's company.

I am in a writing mood today, so almost certainly more to come.
alchimie: (Default)
Inspired by [personal profile] enemyofperfect who is a constant source of inspiration and delight.

Top 5 Books of 2018
  1. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell -- this was a pick for the 2018 Tournament of Books and I did not mean to read it, because the one-sentence description I had heard was everything I do not read (children in peril), but then I looked at the first page, and next thing I knew I was racing through it. It is an amazing, amazing book, and I was delighted that it won last year's ToB. I recommend it highly, but I would read it in a well-lit room on a strong day; it is definitely horror, even if not the sort of horror I was previously familiar with.

  2. The Idiot by Elif Batuman -- a big sprawling extremely funny novel in which nothing really happens and that is, for me, very much the point. I have never identified so much with a protagonist as I have with Selin, the Turkish-American young woman whose freshman year in college is the centre of this novel. My favourite sentence: "It felt amazing to eat anything without having to listen, nod, smile, or do anything with my eyebrows" -- this is exactly how I feel when I come home from dropping off my children and am able to sit down and just be by myself without having to make certain my face is animated and conveying my emotions to onlookers -- and for me the entire book was full of those moments where I was like, yes, that is just the words for how I feel about it. This was another ToB book, pleasantly enough; I think 2018 was the only year I got two favourites off of the shortlist, not that I have been following it for very long.

  3. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler -- There is a sort of contemporary novel that I love which seems to get heavily panned by many readers because it is neither deep and serious enough, nor light and frothy enough, and Sweetbitter is a fine example of it. It's about Tess, a young woman working at a restaurant in New York, learning the world in a fragmented, inaccurate way which felt very real to me, and it was intensely pleasurable all through. I loved how Danler wrote about food and cooking and the pleasures of the body, and also how she wrote about the protagonist's infatuation with the lives of others; the prose is overwrought and emotional and perfect for evoking that time in my own life, when working was an adventure and older people were potential models and also potential threats -- there is actually a perfect Carrie Fisher quote about this: "Back then I was always looking ahead to who I wanted to be versus who I didn’t realize I already was, and the wished-for me was most likely based on who other people seemed to be and the desire to have the same effect on others that they had on me." That was absolutely me in my late teens and through my twenties, and that is Tess as well, and Danler illustrates it perfectly without coming down in judgement on any of it.

  4. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee ([personal profile] yhlee) -- I love books that just dive in to their worldbuilding as though all the foreign concepts were already familiar to the reader; I am sure there is a lot of craft going on to make it so that the reader can piece it together, but the feel of it in the moment is that I am reading a text from the world in question -- obviously everyone already knows what calendrical heresy and formation instinct are, why would the narrator spend time explaining? I loved this entire trilogy, but the first one had both a fantastic story, a flavour of multiplicity in one of the plot elements that made me feel represented even though I doubt that was in the author's mind, and that brain-stretching worldbuilding that I adore. I am tempted to reread it but I am giving it more time to settle first; some books I reread so often that I use them up and I would hate for that to happen with this one.

  5. The Man Who Lived by SebastianL (felix_atticus) -- I have already mentioned this amazing 250,000 word Draco/Harry fanfic that made me fall in love with the entire notion of fanfic, the entire notion of rewriting Harry Potter to talk about how cult-like the wizarding world is, and several other things besides. It absolutely deserves to be on this list; it has not only very good & recognisable canon characters but a cast of original characters that I ended up caring deeply about. It was exactly what I needed when it came my way, and I am so grateful that it exists and has given me new ways to think about myself and my past and the world at large.

Honourable Mentions: Circe by Madeline Miller, Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey.

I had planned to do the other four categories in this same post, but I ended up writing so much about books I think I will break them off into their own so that it is not too long of a page. Looking back over my last year of reading and thinking about what I loved was delightful and made me very exicted to dive back into my current TBR in case any of them turn out to be treasures.

April 2019

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