Category Archives: Movies & Books

The year in review: Books

According to Goodreads, I read 65 books this year.  I read 69 last year, so I’ve become pretty consistent now that the kids are a bit older.  I’ve loved reading since I was about 6 years old, and it’s just always been something that brings me happiness and peace.  Lately, I’ve really been enjoying trying to share this with L and B, and a few of the books this year were read to the girls, mostly L.

5 star books of 2017:

  • Chemistry by Weike Wang
  • When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi
  • Running With The Buffaloes Chris Lear (best running book ever)
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette? Maria Semple
  • Full Tilt Dervla Murphy

Honorable Mention:

  • Best Running Book: How Bad Do You Want It? Matt Fitzgerald
  • Other best running book: Running: A Love Story Jen A. Miller
  • Best beach read: Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty (I recommend the audio book)
  • Best memoir: Hillbilly Elegy  J.D. Vance (I liked this more than I expected)

Isla’s Books

The best ones:

  • Heidi Johanna Spyri
  • Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • James Herriot’s Treasury For Children James Herriot
  • On The Banks of Plum Creek Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • By The Shores of Silver Lake LIW
  • Little Town on the Prairie LIW
  • These Happy Golden Years LIW

I loved so many of these.  James Herriot was perfect for Bri with beautiful illustrations.  I adore The Secret Garden and Heidi (and they have quite similar stories in a way.  Isla just loves Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We’re currently working on the first of the sequels to The First Four Years.


  • Over Sea, Under Stone Susan Cooper
  • The Boxcar Children  Gertrude Warner
  • The Trumpet of the Swan  E.B.White
  • The Family Under The Bridge Natalie Carlson
  • Betsy-Tacy Maud Lovelace
  • Lots of Little House on the Prairie Books.  Like, really, lots.  Maybe the whole series?  I can’t remember when we started reading it for the third time.
  • The First Four Years LIW

handmaid’s tale

I have to say I am very over the popular and media obsession with The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s a good book. In my opinion, it’s not Atwood’s best; for me, that honor goes to The Blind Assassin.   Whether it’s her second best is probably more debatable, but for me, that honor is also ambiguous (Cat’s Eye wins).  Handmaid’s Tale is original, horrifying and thought-provoking.  I thought it lacked a little in execution and the ending is unsatisfying.  I haven’t seen the TV show because it’s not on Amazon Prime or Netflix.  I expect I’ll watch it eventually.  Or maybe I won’t.  I had my own vision of the protagonist in Handmaid’s Tale, and she has already been replaced in my mind by the actress I’ve seen in trailers.  If I watch the show, the rest of the world I imagined will evaporate, never to be seen again.  Kudos to whoever decided to pick an Atwood for television production, but at the same time, I’m not sure I want to watch it.  (My all-time favorite book is possibly Cloud Atlas –  though Blind Assassin is definitely in the running – and now I can’t think of the former without seeing Halle Berry. Argh!)

I’m continuing to enjoy cycling.  When I don’t have anything else going on, I’ve been going for a long cycle (30+ miles) every weekend.  I’ve moved on from the Cas.cade Preparing for series to CH.EW – climbing hi.lls every winter.  The idea is exactly what you might guess, to get better at climbing hills.  I have a love-hate relationship with hills.  Getting to the top gives me great satisfaction, but wow, it makes things so much harder.  RentonRide

This ride was fairly hilly overall, 2200 ft of elevation gain over 30 miles, but the hardest part by far was one particular hill, 250 feet of elevation gain at average 9% elevation gain with peaks above 10%.  Brutal, in other words.  I’ve found I can handle hills at 5 or 6% without much trouble; I just go slow and pace myself.  But it is really hard to pace yourself on a 10% incline.  I did this route for the second time this weekend (first time last weekend), and I really focused on going slowly and pulling up (rather than just pushing down) on my pedals, and that one hill went much better.  It was still hard, but I knew I wasn’t going to have to get off my bike and walk.

Lovely scenery in any event.  Below is the Cedar River.  The color is odd in part because we have been having crazy smoke and haze for days now due to forest fires in BC with no end in sight.


The year in review: books

This was a good year for reading.  I had more time to read than any year since I got pregnant with L.  According to Goodreads, I read 69 books, though that number includes a few I read to L and probably doesn’t include a couple I re-read.

5 stars books for 2016:

Euphoria, by Lily King – This was my all-time favorite.  I listened to the Audiobook, and I recommend reading it that way if you have the time.  My Goodreads review:

Nell, her husband Fen, and Bankson and anthropologists in in New Guinea in the 1930s. Nell is passionate and talented and has recently authored a highly successful book. Fen is jealous of his wife and insecure. And Bankson is terribly lonely and struggling with his own demons. The three of them come together in the wilds of New Guinea.

For me, Euphoria is a beautiful love story. I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the two narrators. They are highly likable. The setting of the story itself is fascinating. Not just New Guinea, but the 1930s, and hearing about these old-time anthropologists and what that life must have been like.

I listened to this on MP3, and the narrators were excellent.

A Kim Jong-Il Production – My interest in North Korea continues.  My Goodreads review:

I’m not surprised that I loved this book. I find North Korea generally fascinating, and one of my all-time favorite books is Nothing To Envy, also about the DPRK. A Kim Jong-Il Production describes the abduction of a South Korean producer and director and his ex-wife and former muse in the early 80s. Apparently kidnapping was all too common in the DPRK at this time. Literally thousands of people were kidnapped, and most were never heard from again.

Kim Jong-Il turns out to be a huge film buff. Who would have guessed? Of course, film is very useful to dictators as an instrument of propaganda. Jong-Il, however, is very frustrated by the quality of film in North Korea and contrasts his minions’ efforts negatively with the movies of Hollywood and South Korea. Enter Shin and Choi. North Korea’s filmmakers are severely hampered by never being allowed to view films made outside their nation. Shin can teach them how to make high quality films. Choi is bait and a sweetener.

My Year of Running Dangerously – This was a surprisingly good book on running.  Usually sports books feel a little simplistic.  I couldn’t put this one down.  My Goodreads review:

Tom Foreman is a long-time runner who’s let life and work slow him down. His daughter challenges him to run a marathon with her, and he takes her up on her offer. Later, he decides to take on a 50-mile trail run.

I’m a long-time runner on a running kick, and I just could not put this down. It’s hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed reading it so much. Foreman just has a very approachable writing style and manages not to be annoying or conceited, unlike many memoirists trumpeting their accomplishments. His self-deprecation actually comes of as rather genuine.

I’ve shunned longer runs lately due to the constraints of two small children. This book didn’t exactly tempt me to run an ultra, but I did think perhaps another half marathon is in order.

Four-star books included Taking Flight, This Road I Ride, It’s All About The Bike, The Secret Race, Quiet, The Summer Before the War, Brooklyn, Speak, Our Souls At Night, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Constant Gardener, The Nightingale, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  The books in bold are the ones that stick out for me reviewing the list now.

The worst books this year were A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, The Testament of Mary, and Satin Island.  There were plenty of other mediocre 2-star books mixed in as well.

According to Goodreads, I give books an average rating of 3.3.  I try to horde the 4 and 5 star ratings and to be brutal when I find books really poor, in order to make ratings more meaningful.

L and I got through a fair few chapter books this year.  My favorites were Little House In The Big Woods and Matilda.

I’m looking forward to another great year of books in 2017.


Watching this made me tear up a little.  A mother and child lost and reunited while Nadal holds the tennis match.

My own little munchkin (the larger one) came home with a bloody lip today, sustained after a fall from her scooter.  The poor little thing takes bodily injuries so seriously, much as I do I suppose, except worse.  She has been this way since she was tiny, so I guess it’s genetic.  It’s hard because getting hurt is part of life.  Her little sister is much less sensitive.  I do think life is a bit harder for sensitive types.

On a side note, I enjoyed watching Streif.  I’m fascinated by downhill ski racing, so naturally, I’ve been interested in this movie for a while.  It’s not perfect – a bit choppy and over-edited in places – but if you’re interested in downhill skiing, it’s a must-watch.

jane austen characters

I have been re-reading an watching the various Austen books and movies.  Not all – but Pride and Prejudice (book, mini-series and movie), Sense and Sensitibility (book, mini-series and movie), Emma (book and mini-series), and Mansfield Park (movie).  I spent some time pondering which of the characters I might be most like . . .


Elizabeth – sensible, clever and witty, and beautiful.  kind of perfect.

Jane – beautiful and good, if a bit boring

Mary – ugly, accomplished, but utterly lacking in tact and taste

Lydia – a hopefully, foolish flirt without any sense


Elinor – emininently sensible, ever observant of decorum to a fault.  ethical.

Marianne – loves without reserve or sense.  not very discrete.


Emma – Mostly oblivious to men and not very perceptive about them in general.  Good-hearted, tasteful, talented, smart.

Jane Fairfax – Excessively reserved and shy.  Talented and diligent.

Harriet Smith – Easily influenced, read to fall in love with any man at a friend’s suggestion or slight indication of interest

I can see a little of myself in a lot of these characters, some good, some bad.  Mary from P&P is a little too close for comfort.  I flatter myself that I have a little Elizabeth, too.  Overall, though, I think I’m most like Marianne.  When I was younger, I loved impetuously and without caution, resulting in many a broken heart.  At the end of the day, I think that lack of caution certainly helped me end up with H.

So which Jane Austen female are you?  I feel I should do a follow-up post for picking the male we’re most like.



ten books

Obviously, I can’t resist Sarah’s book challenge!  From her page: “In your status line, list 10-12 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just ones that have touched you.”

These aren’t the best ten books I’ve ever read, but I stayed true to the meme, and they’re the first ten that jumped to mind.  They cover my favorite themes – feminism, our beautiful planet, foreign lands, immigration, and motherhood.

The Blind AssassinWhere the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing PredatorsNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaEuphoriaThe Poisonwood BibleHistory of the RainCloud AtlasSnow Falling on CedarsPlainsong (Plainsong, #1)The Namesake


sense and sensibility

L had her second soccer practice today.  This time, she was again the other kid, but there were two coaches there.  Two!  I am so amused.

I’m re-reading Sense and Sensibility, and this time through, I’m really struggling with the premise that Marianne, age 16, should fall in love with Colonel Dashwood, age 35, despite his various qualities.  People died younger then, to be sure, and grew up faster.  Life expectancy at the time was less than 40, but this is greatly affected by the fact that perhaps 40% of people died before reaching adulthood.  Also, consider that Colonel Brandon is wealthy, and it’s no unreasonable to suppose he could be expected to reach at least his 50s and perhaps 60 years of age.  Being generous, assuming 60, and scaling the ages by 1.33, one could argue they are equivalently 21 and 47.  Should a 21-year-old consider someone nearing 50?  It is too much for me, even if the elder man is charming and rich.  But, living in poverty in the 1800s would have been a terrible thing, so I guess I would have been willing to put up with a lot to be well-off.  But I don’t find this reality charming or romantic.

I was talking with a (male) friend today at work about how I have a different personality that I show to men and women.  This is due in large part to the fact that I interact with many, many men professionally, whereas most of my friends are women.  Still, even at work, I treat women slightly differently, and I have a different way to trying to form friendships with men.  Do you, fair readers, interact differently with men and women?  I think even now as an old married woman, I am cautious about being too nice or too friendly towards men, lest they get the wrong idea.  It’s the old shyness I’ve carried since childhood about admitting any kind of affection to the opposite sex.