The MamaT 2017 Book Awards

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Yeah, so 2017 was a year that I read a lot of books. For me, anyway. I have friends who regularly read well over 100 books a year. I don’t know how they do that. Seems like now would be the time – when we are empty nesters, albeit with chicks who live close enough to be a regular part of our lives. Maybe 2018 will be the year? Doubtful, but I’d like to try!

Anyway, I read 85 books this year. Time sitting around a hospital will do that for you. As well as rereading the Chronicles of Narnia, which really don’t take terribly long to read. Looking back over my Goodreads list, I feel like I read a nice selection of books this year. More non-fiction than I usually read. Some fluff, to be sure, but no one *I* know goes a full year without reading something that they think is just for fun. A few classics. Some modern literature (with which I am developing a love/hate relationship. Some is good, some is just so, so, so bad and cynical that I can’t enjoy it.).

So, here are my made up awards (Hey! Aren’t ALL awards made up?)

The Book I Was Most Surprised I Liked: A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer. North Korea is on everyone’s mind these days and this book brought the country to life for me. Next I want to read Nothing to Envy.

Best Modern Fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Liked this 100% better than Rules of Civility, which I liked but didn’t love. It’s on my book club list for 2018 so I’ll get to reread it.

Best Nonfiction: This is a hard one, because I read a lot of really good nonfiction this year. It finally comes down to the fact that the book is about the MOST important thing in life, God. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan. Fascinating story, because his path started in literature and in a appreciation of Western civilization and built from there.

But you certainly wouldn’t go wrong reading: Hillbilly Elegy, Nomadland, Life at the Bottom, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, or The Sound of Gravel.

Best Classic: (Not many this year! Hanging my head in shame a little!) Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac. Oh, how this one made me weep. Poor, silly, unloved Goriot!

New to Me Author I Love: Lois McMaster Bujold. I had read maybe ONE of her books before, but this year I read four without even touching the Vor books. Also read a Terry Pratchett (Wyrd Sisters) and I know there will be more in the future for me.

Book Everyone Else Loved But I Didn’t: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Just proving that every book is not for every person.

Book I’m Still Thinking About: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whittaker. I need to talk to someone about this to clarify my thinking. Interesting question – in our media saturated society, just how much of your story do you have a right to put out there, when it affects other people? And a bunch of others.

Most Loved Character: Well, besides Aslan, of course. Maia in The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. You know you love the character when you keep hoping there will be another book about him.

So, those are the awards for 2017. Here’s to a great 2018 of reading!!!

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MamaT’s Game Closet – Sushi Go

Sushi Go

Are you looking for a stocking stuffer or a fun family game that is easy to teach and fun to play for a wide variety of people? Then here’s good recommendation for this year. And you still have time to get it from Amazon. It’s about $10 and the amount of fun our family has had from this little card game makes it one of our perennial favorites

Sushi Go is a card drafting game. Don’t know what card drafting is? Don’t worry. Its not hard. Each game of Sushi Go takes about 15 minutes total, so it’s a great game when you don’t have a lot of time, or when you are waiting for something to happen (like the turkey or ham to finish or something).

Each game of Sushi Go consists of three rounds, scored individually. So even if you have a bad round, you’re not necessarily out of the game. That’s a big plus for a family game. The object is to collect the right combinations of sushi that will add up to big points at the end of the round. But instead of drawing cards from a pile, the game uses a drafting mechanism. Each player is dealt a hand of cards. You select one of those cards to keep and put it face down on the table. Once everyone has picked their cards, they are turned over so everyone can see.  Then you pass the hand of cards to the right, while the player on your left passes his cards to you. Select again, put the card face down on the table, reveal cards, pass remaining cards, receive cards. Everyone is selecting every time. No one is ever sitting and waiting for other people to play. The round is over when everyone has one card left. That card is turned face up in front of the player, and scoring begins.

There are lots of ways to score. Sometimes you score on each individual card, sometimes you score if you have the most of one type of card. For example, if you save Maki rolls, you get 6 points if you have the most, 3 points if you have next most, but nothing if you’re not one of those 2 people! Some, like the various Nigri, count for a certain number of points each (unless you play them on top of a Wasabi card – which triples their value!). And some, like Dumplings, have a sliding scale – 1 point for one card, 3 points for 2 cards, 6 points for 3 cards…..  And then there are those Pudding cards – the only cards that stay on the table for the whole game. The person with the MOST Pudding at the end of the game gets 6 points. But the person with the LEAST pudding gets NEGATIVE 6 points. So just how many puddings DO you have to save?

This sounds complex, but it is not. The scoring is listed on each card, so it is obvious what you’re getting. AND you can also see what other people are getting. So you have to balance what you need vs. what you don’t want to pass to them.

After each round, all the cards (except those darn Puddings!) are picked up, shuffled into the deck, and hands are dealt again. The next round begins, except this time you pass the cards the opposite way. Three rounds equals a game.

Because the game is so short, if the cards don’t fall your way (and it’s bound to happen, you know) it isn’t long before you get to play again.

We have gone through evenings where we played 5 or 6 games of Sushi Go. It’s that fun. The original game plays with 2-5 players (I’ve not tried it at 2 – it has special rules for that), but I can vouch for playing with 3 or 4. There is another version out called Sushi Go Party, which adds more cards (and different types of cards) and can handle up to 8 players, which could be a great thing if you have a bigger play group. We’d like to try it, simply because it adds new combinations of sushi.

Try this one! I think you’ll like it!

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday – 2 week edition

No entry last week as I was working all day, rather than my more regular part time schedule.

What I finished since the last entryWyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. I have long wanted to dip a toe into the Discworld series, but couldn’t decide where to jump in. For some reason this appeared as a recommendation from someone and I borrowed it from the library. Oh, how enjoyable it was! I laughed out loud A LOT. I’m not sure if it should really be called a parody of Macbeth as much as a sort of parallel version. Or something. Whatever. Just read it. Anyway, I loved the witches – and I hope that they all live happily ever after. And I’m looking for my next Discworld book.

Then I finished The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade. Recommended by a Goodreads friend who loves all of Slade’s work. This one was just meh for me – though I realize that I am NOT the target audience. Steampunkish, Victoriana. The hunchback of the title is a young man named Modo, rescued from a traveling freak show by the mysterious Mr. Socrates, who raises Modo and trains him for use as an agent for the mysterious Permanent Association. The PA battles the even more mysterious Clockwork Guild who want to do……….something. Take over the world, I guess? That’s part of the problem – it’s not that clear. That said, I liked the character of Modo – and I especially liked that his conscience is beginning to battle just a bit with his gratitude to Mr. Socrates for saving and educating him. I wouldn’t be adverse to reading the second in the series, but it’s not top of the To Read List.

Currently Reading: Still working on The Sound and the Fury. It’s going slowly. I still think I’m not a Faulkner kind of person. I’m also re-reading The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood for my in real life book club. It’s our December selection.

In the On-deck Circle: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman. I enjoyed his A Man Called Ove very much, so I was happy to get this at the library. I also have several books I’ve requested from the library that will be coming in soon, so I’ll have a lot to choose from. That’s the way I roll, check out a bunch, dip a little into each, pass on the ones I don’t think I’ll like, and move on down the road.

How ’bout y’all?

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

I think I missed a week, but here goes.

Finished since last time:  The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer. This is a reread, per Goodreads, but I remembered exactly NONE of it from the first time. Oh, well. I guess there are some advantages to getting older and forgetting things! This is not my favorite of the Heyer regencies, but it was still delectable fluff. And the last chapter made me absolutely laugh out loud. I so recommend her for a lovely pick-up when you need one.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell. Hmmmmm. For me, just ok. I am coming to see that I don’t share many tastes with the Modern Mrs. Darcy, though I love her blog. This is the third or fourth recommendation of hers that just hasn’t resonated with me. Perhaps I am too old for current fiction?

It is not because it jumps from character to character or from time to time. Those are things that I don’t mind at all. And I liked the thought of the compromises and betrayals inherent in long-term relationships and that there are things we do when young that we regret when mature. All that was OK. But I thought Daniel’s redemption arc was truncated – we see him fall into the abyss – but years pass and he is OK. Rehab is mentioned, but it would have been better to let us *see* some of the work he did to get past all the wrong and tragic things. I wanted things to work for him and Claudette, but……

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. This one was a reread for my in real life book club. I think it is a stunning debut novel. I’d like to see what the author does next.  This is a book that you can’t really talk about much without spoiling it. Just say I think it’s worth the read. Liked it the first time I read it. Liked it the second time, even though I knew the plot. Well constructed.

Currently reading: Two books that could not be less alike. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, mostly because I felt like my brain cells were dying a little bit by reading only modern fiction. Well, now they are not dying from not being used but they might be dying from overuse reading this. I’m mushing on. I think I want the like Faulkner more than I actually do.

When my brain hurts, I turn over to my second book in process, The Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. I’ve long wanted to read at least some of the Discworld series, so I jumped in with this one. I am consistently laughing through the book, which is good for me, I think.

In the on deck circle:  I can’t make up my mind. I have several books checked out of the library, but nothing has made it to the top of the pile yet. I might not even need another book if Faulkner keeps on going s-l-o-w-l-y.

How ’bout you?

 

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Finished this week: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. I really enjoyed this. Carpenter brought up some fascinating thoughts about Tolkien’s vivid imagination and his very normal, ordinary-type life. Interesting to read about a great artist who stayed married to the same woman for 50 years, loved gardening, loved his children, practiced his faith, etc, etc, etc rather than a “tortured artiste” type. Recommended for lovers of Tolkien.

Currently reading: The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer. I have this marked as “Read” on Goodreads, so I guess this is technically a reread. However, I DO NOT REMEMBER ONE SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS BOOK. So did I really read it or not? Anyway, I am thoroughly enjoying it. Maybe that’s the advantage of forgetting?

In the on deck circle: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. Again, Goodreads says I have read it. I don’t remember it! I found a copy at Half-Price Books. You almost never find Heyer at HPB. I think everyone who reads her hangs on to the books. Also have Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters on hand, downloaded from the library. I just got a notice that books I requested are in, so I have to go by the library to pick them up. I can’t remember what they are or why I wanted them. This has surely been a week of not remembering things!

How ’bout you?

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Man, it’s been awhile since I have updated. And I’ve had a lot of time to read, what with sitting around in hospitals and at the house waiting on a heart patient hubby.

What I finished since last time: Jacqueline Winspear’s Lesson in Secrets – the eighth in the Maisie Dobbs series. I am still enjoying the series, though I wish Winspear would allow Maisie some personal happiness without attached angst.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I disliked this book. Not a single character to like. Everyone was selfish and shallow. And I am sick unto death of the “twist ending”, which since they advertise it on the cover of the book, can’t really be a twist ending now can it? This book has about convinced me that I hate current literary fiction.

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. An Albert Campion mystery with hardly any Albert Campion in it. Great secondary characters, though, especially Canon Avril and Inspector Luke. Allingham is an acquired taste, I think. Not as immediately loveable as Christie.

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. I like Neville Shute. His writing is not high-falutin’ but given my recent go-rounds with modern fiction, it was ok. The story is actually based on a real story Shute heard, so it rings true. I’d like to see the miniseries/movie, but our library doesn’t have it and neither does Netflix!

Tales from a Village School by Miss Read. Didn’t realize this one was a collection of short pieces. It would have been better to have read these after I knew more about Fairacre.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Second in the Queen’s Thief series. Loved this. Loved the characters. Loved the long con. Turner really gets the relationship between God and worshipper – and that it is not a safe relationship. Like Aslan not being a tame lion, the gods in Turner’s world are not accountable to humans, but humans to them. That is a rare gift in current fiction.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Sort of the other side of Tom Hanks in Castaway, focusing on the one left behind instead of the one who was away. Interesting take, and a brave choice in the end – and one I didn’t expect.

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison. Again another book with no characters to really like. Sigh. Twisty end AGAIN. Come on writers! Enough!

Village School by Miss Read. I expected this to be on the saccharine side. It was NOT. Miss Read is clear-eyed about her students’ gifts and faults. It is obvious she loves them, but she doesn’t idealize them – nor does she any of the other villagers. A good look at a rural school post-war. First in the Fairacre series. I loved this and it was just what I needed to read in a stressful time.

Village Diary by Miss Read. Second in the Fairacres series. A year in the village and school with all its highs and lows. Some interesting thoughts about the slower country life and the way it meets human needs in a way that a fast-paced urban life may not. She is aware of the changes that are coming to village and realizes there is often nothing that can be done to stop them, but she doesn’t think they are always without drawbacks. Loved this.

Girls in White Dresses by Alex Gates. I got this on a daily deal. I think it must have been self-published, which is not a bad thing, but I think Gates could have been helped a LOT by a good editor. Told in first person (which I usually don’t care for much), very choppy sentences, too often telling, not showing. But there were some interesting insights and the author did understand that not every cult leader is a cynical bastard who doesn’t believe what he is saying but is just tricking everyone. This go round, the leader was a bad guy, but he was at least a true believer bad guy.  I have Gates’ 2nd book. I will probably read it, but it’s not top of the TBR pile.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Fenollera. So disappointed in this book. GREAT ideas underlying it, but I didn’t think it worked as a book. Perhaps a good discussion starter about the kind of life that is really human and humane.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. A look at those people who are living in RVs, trailers, and vans, not because they are living a wonderful retirement but because they have HAD to do so because of economics. Sobering look at choices that some have made, just to get by. Not sensationalized – no policy measures proposed, just an honest look at a subset of Americans that are largely unknown. Interesting read.

Whew! That was a lot in 2 months!

Currently reading: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. So far it is sort of an “old-fashioned” biography – starting at the beginning and progressing along. It is well-written and I am really enjoying it so far, but I’m only at the point where he begins with the stories that will become The Silmarillion. (Which I have never read, but now want to!)

In the on deck circle: Not sure yet. I’m thinking something off my own shelves. Perhaps Quo Vadis?

Did not finish: The Girls of Atomic City – just couldn’t keep everything straight and I didn’t really care. It is rare for me not to finish. I usually don’t even start, they sit around for awhile, then I take them back to the library. This one I got about 1/3 in and closed it up and donated it to the Little Free Library at our park.

How ’bout y’all?

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

With Craig in the hospital for a few days, I had lots of time to read while I was sitting around. So let’s see what I got finished:

Finished this week:  Finished the last two of Marion Chesney’s Poor Relations series–Colonel Sandhurst to the Rescue and Back in Society. That wraps up this funny, sweet, inconsequential, improbable series. It came at a really good time for me.

Also read the next (to me) in the Maisie Dobbs series — A Lesson in Secrets. I liked this one, it had less of the psychic woo-woo in it than some of the previous ones. Maisie works for the Secret Service by teaching at a small college where there is some concern of ideas “dangerous to the Crown” may be developing. Interesting look at the rise of Hitler from a distance and the initial sympathies of many for him. I will read the next when I come across a copy.

But the best reading was Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. This was a five star book for me and anyone who peruses my Goodreads ratings will see that those are few and far between. I love conversion stories and this one is fascinating because he maintains that the study of literature was what moved him on his way toward faith. He also deals honestly and forthrightly with anti-Semitism and how he reconciled his faith with the strains he saw throughout Western culture. Very interesting. I want a book copy (I had a Kindle copy from a daily deal) so I can highlight better. HIGHLY recommended.

Currently reading: Still stuck on The Girls of Atomic City for book club. It is interesting but it’s not grabbing me.

Also in the midst of He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I will finish, but right now I have some pretty furious thoughts about this book. And I suspect that I will be in the minority of reviewers over at Goodreads. We’ll see.

In the on-deck circle: The Hallowed Hunt, still. Then I think it may be time to pick up a “classic” of some sort and read something that has some age on it. I’m beginning to think that I don’t like literary fiction of the moment very much.

How ’bout y’all?