Friday, December 31, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 31-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the end of 2021.

I'm not sure I'm really celebrating that because I don't actually believe 2022 is going to be a whole lot better.  I wish I were more optimistic, but all evidence points to the contrary.  So while I'm quite glad to put 2021 behind me, I'm not feeling particularly excited about 2022.

Hopefully that will change.  I'd love the world to prove me wrong.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Books I've Read: My Life as a Rat


I have always meant to read more Joyce Carol Oates because the few times I've picked up one of her books, I've enjoyed them.  But somehow I have never really sought her out.  I think that might change after reading this fascinating and challenging book.

It's about a young girl called Violet Rue Kerrigan.  She's the youngest of seven kids in an Irish Catholic family living close to the poverty line in a small town near the Canadian border.  Much adored by her father and doted on by her mother, she's happy enough, even if life isn't always easy.  

Everything changes when two of her older brothers come home late one night and wake her.  She eavesdrops on their panicked conversation and sees something that changes the story they will later tell everyone else about what happened to the Black boy who was killed on the road that night.

When, sick and terrified, Violet blurts out the truth about what she saw and heard, she is firmly and permanently ejected from the family, branded a 'rat'.  At just twelve years old, she is set adrift and forced to figure out who she is without the family she has never considered life without.

I really liked this book.  It had some deep, moral questions at its core yet never felt like it was preaching one way or the other.  Violet is a wonderful character in that she is very flawed and her choices don't always make sense.  Yet at the same time, in the context of the life she's ben forced into, they make perfect sense.

Her longing to reconnect with the family who cast her out creates tension throughout even as she tries to forge a life for herself away from them.  It speaks volumes to how important those roots can be.

I definitely recommend this one.  It's not always an easy read because Violet's life is anything but easy and some of her experiences are horrific.  But she is resilient enough that each time you think this is the thing that will break her, she comes back for another round.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Which should prevail: loyalty to family or loyalty to the truth? Is telling the truth ever a mistake and is lying for one’s family ever justified? Can one do the right thing, but bitterly regret it?

My Life as a Rat follows Violet Rue Kerrigan, a young woman who looks back upon her life in exile from her family following her testimony, at age twelve, concerning what she knew to be the racist murder of an African-American boy by her older brothers. In a succession of vividly recalled episodes Violet contemplates the circumstances of her life as the initially beloved youngest child of seven Kerrigan children who inadvertently “informs” on her brothers, setting into motion their arrests and convictions and her own long estrangement.

Arresting and poignant, My Life as a Rat traces a life of banishment from a family—banishment from parents, siblings, and the Church—that forces Violet to discover her own identity, to break the powerful spell of family, and to emerge from her long exile as a “rat” into a transformed life.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Weekly Goals 27-12-21

 Now that Christmas is over, it's time to get some real work done before I head to the beach house.  The weather was good yesterday, so I started the deck - did the front and the steps in the back - so now I need to finish it.  The forecast isn't great for tomorrow, so I'm going to try and finish both coats this morning so it has time to dry properly before the rain hits.  

After the deck has been done, I need to do a serious clean of the inside of the house too.  Things like the pantry and the fridge need to be cleaned out properly and I feel like moving furniture to vacuum those hard-to-reach places might be a good idea too.  And there's weeding to be done in the garden too, but I might outsource that to number two son who is trying to earn money for a new camera.

Number one son is leaving for the beach this morning wth his friend and my partner has a small tour over New Year, so it's just going to be the two of us for the rest of the week.  I'm pretty sure we can keep busy.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 24-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the holidays!

I finished work yesterday and am off until 17 January which feels like a really, really long time away.  After not having any holidays all year, apart from the odd 4-day weekend here and there, I need this break.  And I think I've managed just the right balance between time at home to get the house in order for the new year and time away at the beach.  Not to mention time to catch all the fantastic movies that are already on or coming out in the next couple of weeks!  I'm looking forward to seeing The French Dispatch today since I'm not working and have managed to get all my Christmas shopping out of the way.  Then next week I'm planning to see both West Side Story and The House of Gucci.  And there may be time for another one or two too, depending on the weather.

I'm finally going to get the deck stained too.  The weather looks like it's going to be best Sunday and Monday, so that's my priority.  After that, my days will be spent reading, painting (weather dependent) and cleaning up the house until we head to the South Island after New Year.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate it) and enjoy time with family and friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Books I've Read: Not Here to Be Liked


Knowing I might not feel much like doing anything else after surgery, I stocked up on books at the library and this was one of the four I read over the last four or five days.

It's about a super over-achieving girl called Liza.  She's from a Chinese family, but unlike most books with Chinese parents, Liza's aren't over-the-top, super strict tiger parents.  They're involved, often to the point of being interfering, but there is room for Liza to be herself in her family as well.

For her entire high school career, all Liza has wanted is to be Editor in Chief of the school paper.  It looks like a shoo in as there are no other candidates for the role.  But at the last minute, newcomer to the paper's staff, ex-baseball player Len, decides to run and wins.

Outraged, Liza writes a poisonous article about the vote and how Len won the position based, not on his experience or skill, but on the fact he's male, good looking and popular.  She doesn't mean for it to be published, but it becomes front page news and ignites a feminist movement which threatens to tear the school apart.

To promote unity, Liza and Len are asked to work together for the remainder of the school year, forcing them into close proximity.  Liza expects to hate this, so is surprised that, once she gets to know Len, she actually likes him quite a bit.  In fact, she might even be falling for him.  But how can the leader of a feminist movement fall for the symbol of the patriarchy?

This was a quick, fun read that really played with the idea of what feminism is, isn't and can be.  Liza wasn't always the most likable character - I find these super-driven girls hard to deal with sometimes. They're so single-minded and unwavering about what they are and what they want.  Maybe I've just forgotten how black and white everything seems when you're young and idealistic, how every opportunity feels like the only chance you'll ever get to shine.  I always want to sit these girls down and tell them that even if that one thing doesn't happen, another opportunity will arise.  Maybe an even better one.

But I digress...

I enjoyed seeing how Liza's vendetta against Len played out and liked that even though he seemed laid back and casual about everything, he actually wanted things as much as she did. I enjoyed their sparring.

So if you're looking for something fun to read, with a little bit of bite to it, this is a good choice.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Emergency Contact meets Moxie in this cheeky and searing novel that unpacks just how complicated new love can get…when you fall for your enemy.

Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.

When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.

Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Weekly Goals 20-12-21

 I just realized I missed my Celebrate the Small Things post on Friday!  I guess I have a good excuse in that I had surgery and had to be at the hospital at 7:15 in the morning.  And it wasn't the hospital close to where I live either.

It seems to have gone well.  It took very little time and I was home by early afternoon.  I've been quite tired from the anesthetic, but haven't had much pain.  Which is good.  I have a couple of days off work to recover.  On Saturday I wasn't sure I was going to need them, but now I'm thinking I probably do.

So goals for this week...  Mostly getting ready for Christmas.  I haven't done much yet, so I need to get onto that.  Get wrapping paper and a few gifts I still haven't managed to get yet.  I think that will be a job for tomorrow.

What are your goals this week?

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


This is another one of those books that was a fun read, not groundbreaking at all, but a good way to spend an afternoon.  Obviously I was attracted to it because it's about the movies, but there is actually more to it than that.

Liz's mother died when she was still a little kid, but she keeps her memory alive through watching and re-watching the romantic comedies she and her mother once shared.  Her entire view of romance is coloured by these films, so when the boy she loved as a kid returns for senior year, she's determined he will be her prom date.

But said childhood crush, Michael, picks up his friendship with Liz's neighbor and arch-nemesis, Wes, almost as soon as he hits town.  If Liz wants to get close to Michael, she's going to have to make friends with Wes too.

Using all the tools in her romantic comedy toolbox, Liz fumbles her way toward a relationship with Michael.  But why does she have so much fun with Wes on the way?  As the pair spend more and more time together, Liz begins to realize her Mr. Right might not be the guy she's always regarded as her Happy Ever After.

As I said, there's nothing particularly new or different about this book.  It follows romantic comedy tropes to a T.  Liz is delightfully quirky without being unlikable, and Wes is the perfect foil for her.  The only thing I didn't love was the way Liz treated her best friend throughout the story. I truly felt for the poor girl as Liz ditched her time and time again and repeatedly lied about what she was doing.  No guy is worth ditching your besties for!

But overall, I enjoyed this.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon at all.

But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:

Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not boyfriend material. You would think that her next-door neighbor would be a prince candidate for her romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only proven himself to be a pain in the butt, ever since they were little. Wes was the kid who put a frog in her Barbie Dreamhouse, the monster who hid a lawn gnome's severed head in her little homemade neighborhood book exchange.

Flash forward ten years from the Great Gnome Decapitation. It's Liz's senior year, a time meant to be rife with milestones perfect for any big screen, and she needs Wes's help. See, Liz's forever crush, Michael, has just moved back to town, and—horribly, annoyingly—he's hitting it off with Wes. Meaning that if Liz wants Michael to finally notice her, and hopefully be her prom date, she needs Wes. He's her in.

But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz her magical prom moment, she's shocked to discover that she actually likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own perception of what Happily Ever After should really look like.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Weekly Goals 13-12-21

 I have four days this week before my surgery to get everything done at work that needs to be done for the year, plus get all my Christmas shopping done.  I may have a couple of days of work next week to tie up loose ends, but that really depends on how I'm feeling.  

Plus we have our staff Christmas party on Wednesday which takes out a few working hours.


Forecast is for rain all week so I'm resigned now to not getting the deck done until after Christmas now.  I have a week or so here before we go to the beach, so I will do it in that time.  Hopefully it won't get too hot.  I was trying to get it done earlier in the summer because I've heard it isn't a good idea to do it when it's hot.  

And that's about it for goals.  What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 10-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm not sure I am celebrating.  The end of the year seems to be racing toward me at great speed and I'm not prepared at all. I have done virtually no Christmas shopping at all.  I will have to get on that next week because my surgery has been moved to the 17th and I'm not sure how I'll feel afterward.  I may not have any more days to get ready for Christmas.  Eeeekk!

It hasn't helped that I got a cold this week.  I took the day off (sort of - I worked at home for most of it) yesterday, and I feel a lot better today.  Fingers crossed I'll be fine tomorrow because I have a friend coming down from the coast for our annual pre-Xmas lunch.

And that's about it for this week.  Once again the weekend weather is against me staining my deck.  I'm beginning to think I'm cursed or something! 

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Books I've Read: What I Like About You


This is a quick, fun read that I tore through in a weekend.  It has some Jewish representation in it too, something that I don't often see in YA books I read.

When Halle moves in with her grandfather for a year to concentrate on her online life and college applications while her parents head to Israel to make (another) documentary, she can't believe the house is the same one her grandmother once lived in.  All traces of her beloved Gran are gone.  What's more, her grandfather is a shell of the man he once was.

All the more reason to escape into the online world she's built over the years, the one where she isn't socially awkward, book-nerd Halle but smart, savvy and popular book blogger, Kels.  Online Halle has a group of friends including her bestie, Nash, a talented cartoonist with whom she shares a burning desire to get into NYU.

So when Halle runs into Nash at the library in her new hometown, she's flummoxed.  Her online life and her real life aren't supposed to meet.  Not yet, anyway. Maybe in college...  But in this small town, being the new kid makes you conspicuous and Halle is quickly absorbed into Nash's friend group.  And the more time she spends with them, the harder it is to admit that she, super-awkward and shy, is actually Kels.

As her online life becomes more and more successful, it becomes harder and harder for her to keep her secret.  Especially once she and Nash get close in real life.  The only problem is that Nash is secretly in love with Kels...  But how can Halle tell him the truth now?

I loved that this was essentially a love triangle, but the third person was just another side of Halle.  I also really liked the behind-the-scenes look at the book blogging scene.  I know I blog about books, but publicists are not exactly beating down my door to send me ARCs or asking me to do cover reveals for hot new titles.

I also liked that Halle's family were Jewish, but didn't really practice, while her grandfather and new friends did.  Practicing Jews aren't something I see a lot of in YA books, so this was refreshing.  I've actually read more about Muslim and Hindi families than about Jewish ones, to be honest.  Interesting...

I'd recommend this one if you're looking for a light, breezy romance.  It doesn't do anything particularly out of the ordinary, but it is enjoyable.  You may want to make yourself a batch of cupcakes before you start because the descriptions of Halle's cakes made my stomach growl!

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can... but in the real world, it's more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Weekly Goals 6-12-21

Because I was expecting to be off work this week following the surgery, I don't have a lot of plans for this week.  I'm sure there will be work to do, but I was pretty organized about getting stuff done ahead of time.  I guess that means I might have a quiet week at work...

I got all my water blasting done over the weekend, so the goal for this week is to get the deck stained.  It's absolutely hosing down with rain right now and there's a heavy rain warning for most of the day, so I suspect it will be a few days before everything has dried out enough to do it.  Fingers crossed it's fine (ish) over the weekend so I can get it done.  The good thing about the rain is that it will wash off the house and everything else that got splattered with water blasting scum.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 3, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 3-12-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?


A friend lent me a water blaster to de-scum the deck before I stain it, so that's what my weekend has in store.  I did some after work yesterday and it's surprisingly fun.  Not to mention effective.  Unfortunately the forecast is for rain all weekend, so I don't imagine I'm going to get the staining done until next weekend at the earliest.  What is it with bad weather all weekend?  I feel like it's been weeks since it was fine over the weekend.  I have a pile of new canvasses and paints I want to play with too, and the weather is not cooperating.

My surgery has been postponed so I won't be going under the knife on Monday.  Not sure when it will be now.  Probably into next year, which is something of a pain.  I was hoping to get it over with this side of Christmas.  But them's the breaks, right?

What are you celebrating this week?