Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

One of our school groups is having a toiletries drive for a local homeless shelter and my students were in charge of bringing shampoo and conditioner. They decided it was too much trouble to bring the supplies themselves and just collected money for me to do it. I have no problem at all doing it, especially since I have to stop off at the store for something during the week anyway, but I just found the whole things amusing.

Sawyer and I are going to Yosemite next week for three nights, as we always do during spring break, but the weather has been really unpredictable. I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and changed our reservations but a few days, but then back to the original ones. All of this changing ended up in some huge changes price wise, which I really debated about paying, but since this might be our last trip out of the area for awhile I decided to just do it. On a whim last night I decided to write their customer service department, explain the issues and they kindly reverted all the charges back to the original ones, saving me a few hundred dollars. It was a good lesson- sometimes you just need to very nicely ask. The Tenaya Lodge is fantastic if anyone ever visits the area.

Sawyer has a performance at his school on Friday and has been practicing the songs for weeks and weeks. He is so excited and his classroom looks amazing, yet I am terrified that my little mischievous social butterfly will go rogue and, like start moshing with his friends to “In the Jungle.” I’ve already planted the seed of ice cream afterwards if it all goes well, so hopefully my subtle bribing (which will probably become less subtle as we get closer) will work.

I’m reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time right now and it’s so different from everything else I’ve read by her. It’s just so… accessible. She’s usually an author I really have to concentrate on, but not this novel. I don’t dislike it, but it’s just such a departure from On Beauty and other essays I’ve read by her.

I tend to listen to more audiobooks than Podcasts, but I’m waiting on my Audible Credit right now (I need to go get a library card so that I can actually just use the library for more audiobooks…), so I finished listening to the Elizabeth Holmes one, The Drop Out (crazy!) and have been listening to the episode of The Armchair Expert with Gwyneth Paltrow. I know people love to hate her, but she’s really intelligent, articulate, and she’s said a lot about things like control, fear, and parenting that have really resonated with me. Sorrynotsorry.

Long ranty story short, I have paid on my federal student loans for twelve years without ever missing a payment, but because of how I consolidated I will not be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. I have no issues with loans or taking them out; I borrowed responsibly, I knew this was part of the process, and I have about 25% of the original balance left. I’m upset by how ridiculous the government is being and how loans that would be eligible under one condition aren’t in a slightly different one.

Over the weekend Sawyer and I went to UCLA to see their last home gymnastics meet of the season and it was EPIC (and I’m not one to overuse that word). There were two girls who received scored of ten on floor exercise, including their viral sensation Kayla Ohashi. The head coach, “Miss Val,” was also celebrating her last home meet as she prepares to retire, so there was a huge celebration in her honor, complete with a dance routine performed by dozens of alumni gymnasts from the school. It was amazing, and, even better, only $12 per ticket! Afterwards we walked into Westwood so I could relive my glory days, getting cheap pizza from Lamonico’s and cookies from Diddy Riese. I can’t wait to go back next year!

When Book FOMO Strikes- Daisy Jones & The Six

Disclaimer: I am not a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan, nor to I dislike her. I have listened to one of two of her books and while entertained while driving around, I wasn't blown away by her writing chops, in terms of the construction of her prose, the development of her characters, or the plot lines. That being said, I think that we're all on the same page that she's not exactly striving for a Pulitzer or Nobel. She has a style and a genre, and she does well for herself. And again, as I said, I was entertained, but not impressed. So, when I first heard of Daisy Jones & The Six several months ago, I figured I'd probably listen to it as well, especially since the subject matter was intriguing. 

And then everyone started reading ARCs and I kept seeing it EVERYWHERE. 

Book FOMO is a real thing, and with the convenience of the Amazon app, badda-bing-badda-boom, that sucker was delivered to my house on release day. Raise your hand if your a big fat sucker.

So, I read it. And I have thoughts. 

First of all, I loved the Behind the Music feel- I adored the series back on VH1 back when I was in high school. They covered all the bands I grew up listening to with my mom- it was an hour of sex, drugs, rock and roll. The book is told in an interview format and has the same confessional tone, which I was a nice approach for Reid to take and I appreciated her originality. I do think this was slightly problematic, though, as it prevented a level of depth to some of the characters that I think could have been achieved with a more complex narrative line. I know, she just can't win. I'm sorry, this is just who I am. 

Something else that I liked was the clear Fleetwood Mac homage- Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham are clearly Billy and Daisy. There's enough originality, though, where it definitely didn't feel like a rip-off or an attempt at a biographic novel or anything. I do think that Reid could have done a better job making it feel more authentic to that time period, though. I just didn't feel a true commitment to dating her story (the format admittedly has something to do with this, though). 

Without giving anything away, I do think there were certain plot points that were pretty predictable and the end "twist" was a little anticlimactic (but still a little endearing). 

I am excited about the series Reese Witherspoon's production company is going to develop eventually for this book. It is definitely one of those stories that I think would translate really well to the big screen or the small screen. 

If you love music from the seventies, the sort of confessional/interview format, or need a break in between heavier books, this is certainly the novel for you. It will probably make everyone's summer reads lists, for good reason. It's not going to be taught in college classes, but it's definitely fun read. 

The Most Awkward Author Event Ever- Ottessa Moshfegh

Last week I went to LA to see Ottessa Moshfegh in conversation with author Amanda Stern through the ALOUD program at the Central Library. I have read two of Moshfegh's novels, My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen, both fascinating. It's always, always, always a treat to be able to sneak away for an evening, especially to see writers speak! 

Typically, I'd recount tidbits of wisdom from the author and how I was inspired, but you guys. This was the weirdest interaction I've ever seen between a writer and interviewer, and I've probably been to like 35 (or more) of these things. It was like watching a bad first date that makes you feel simultaneously uncomfortable and just totally sucks you in. The chemistry was just completely wrong and it felt like Stern didn't know how to compensate and Moshfegh was consciously refusing to do so. Stern would ask a long-winded question and Moshfegh would either answer shortly or bluntly say, "what did you say?" At first I thought it was a microphone issue, but it was just... her. The questions weren't fabulous and the answers were terse and brief. A few times the pauses were so awkward and long that I thought one of them (money on Moshfegh) would walk off stage. The audience Q & A was so much better- the author was much more kind, elaborated, and seemed more relaxed. 

It was a really interesting experience, but, frankly, I was disappointed in Moshfegh. She's done these before! Could she not just take control and offer some anecdotes or just extend her answers by a few sentences? I know that there is likely more to the story- she was having a bad day personally, she was really nervous, she has issues with Stern, she wasn't feeling well, she hates book tours, etc... But, man. I drove over 90 minutes to get there, on a work night, had to battle downtown LA rush hour traffic, and paid to park. I had a hunch she was going to be quirky and intellectual, but cold, quiet and borderline rude I was not prepared for. 

I ran into a man as I was leaving in the parking garage who had also gone, and he said the same thing! It wasn't just me! I don't regret going and am still a fan of her writing, I just wasn't super impressed. I would actually really like to attend another event with her, just to see if the outcome was the same. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. So, I read Daisy Jones and the Six and have some thoughts. I am hoping to get a post up on Friday about it. Spoiler alert: all I want to listen to is Fleetwood Mac now.

2. I try not to go to Starbucks often, but we stopped by the other day and Sawyer was appalled that they didn't write my name correctly on the cup. They actually did, but it was "Christine" not "M-O-M" like he expected. 

3. Speaking of cute kid things, he now calls hugs "llama squeezes" which is basically the most adorable phrase ever. I'm sure it will be short-lived, the term, not the hugs, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

4. I'm a big Strumbellas fan, so I was super psyched to get tickets for a small venue they'll be at in May, for only $25 a pop. I haven't paid that little for concert tickets since seeing Blink-182 when they did the MTV $1 tour in like 2002. 

5. I also picked up panel passes for the LA Times Festival of Books and my friends and I are going to see Tommy Orange, Susan Orlean, Tayari Jones, and a panel with some authors like Janet Fitch. It will be one packed day of bouncing from lecture hall to lecture hall, but it will be totally worth it.

6. Last night I went to the Ottessa Moshfegh event at the LA Public Library and it was.... weird. A post on that soon.

7. Last weekend my mom, brother, Sawyer, and I went to a new-to-us nature preserve for a 5 mile hike. It's only about thirty minute away from my house, so I was pretty mad at myself for not knowing it existed until recently. It was so beautiful, the trails were totally manageable difficulty-wise, and there was plenty of trailhead parking. We also went to an awesome donut place, called Donut Bar, which I have been fantasizing about since then. 

8. This weekend we are off to a UCLA gymnastics meet, a first for me, despite attending the school for four years. Tickets are crazy cheap (I almost feel bad) and the weather is supposed to be amazing, so we'll be able to roam around campus beforehand (this is strategic on my part, it's always nice to see my old-stomping grounds, but it will also be nice to get some of Sawyer's energy out before sitting). 

Super Bloom!

The other day, on a whim, after an incredibly long day, I decided that Sawyer and I would detour twenty minutes south to see the Super Bloom of poppies that certain areas of Southern California are experiencing right now because of all the rain we've gotten this season. I had on my dress clothes for work, plus a pair of very flimsy flats, but we hiked up a pretty big hill and back down to see the amazing little pocket of nature that could disappear within the next few weeks. I wanted to avoid the weekend crowds, since I hear weekends are crazy with thousands of visitors. 

[Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore, CA]