30 January 2005

Reads & Listens, January 2005


American Smooth by Rita Dove
Magnificent collection of poems. Makes me want to get up and dance.

Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Finnamore
After finally brow-beating her boyfriend into proposing, our heroine freaks out. While there are many hilarious one-liners, the novel is generally superficial and repetitive.

It's Snowing! written & illus. by Olivier Dunrea
Text, while simple and spare, makes good use of language (lots of mouth pleasing words like "scrunches" and "trundles"). Illustrations are equally pleasing. A great curl-up book for a wintry day.

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
Very charming set of interlinked fairy tales told with (gasp) a lesbian slant. Who hasn't wanted to kiss the witch? Fairytale princes are all such a lot of stuffed shirts and pomade -- who would want to kiss one? Although, I suppose, the thing with traditional fairy tales is it's the prince who is doing the kissing, not the girly chick.

Doing It by Melvin Burgess
Apparently, this novel has generated a bit of flack because of its frank treatment of teenage boys -- they're all led around by their pricks! How shocking! Because, you know, teenage girls are so not sex-driven. No, teenage girls are all about "relationships" and finding the right lippy. Yeh. Anyway, loved Doing It very much. Too bad it wasn't around when I was in high school.

Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter (illus. by Peter H. Reynolds)
Moderately enjoyable story about a girl who lives in an apartment building where strange things are afoot. Reads a bit like a lighter Dahl.

Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby by Natalie Jane Prior (illus. by Janine Dawson)
Lily Quench and the Black Mountains
Lily Quench and the Treasure of Mote Ely
Ahh, Lily Quench is just ripping good fun. How could you not love a plucky red-headed dragon slayer turned dragon friend who likes apple trees and whose liege lord is a librarian/king? Each book is charming and easily devoured.

Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
Reading Bohjalian is always a kick in the gut -- the familiar place names always leave me blind-sided by an emotional reaction I don't quite understand. Yet, I love his books and I mean it as a great compliment when I say that Bohjalian writes so well that I care very much about the happiness of characters I heartily dislike.

Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess by Scott Beatty
While reading this guide all I could think was "wow, look at those breasts!" Shallow, I know, but I doubt she's drawn with readers like me in mind, anyway.

No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers by Barbara Hodgson
Brief studies of adventurous European women from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. A beautiful looking book -- everything from the cover art to the weight of the pages to the illustrations and end papers are just lovely. My only real quibble is that, because the book was arranged geographically rather than by subject, the lives of these women were told in a rather piecemeal fashion that left me unsatisfied. I must know more!

The Glass Virgin by Catherine Cookson
It was only when I looked this title up in Amazon that I realized this terrible novel is not a new (posthumous) publication but a reissue. Explains a lot. Oh, I did enjoy the historical details, but most of the characters and story just pissed me off to no end and I presume that had a lot to do with the novel's age.

Why I am a Muslim: An American Odyssey by Asma Gull Hasan
I found this book to be quite eye-opening and, based upon what Hasan has written, the problem doesn't seem to be Islam so much as the politicization of Islam (which seems true of other faiths, as well).

29 January 2005

Calamari Dominancy!

We were at the mall -- ostensibly because my watch needed a new battery, but really because we desired chocolate and video games.

Ever since we read a review for Katamari Damacy in one of The Husband's twee gamer magazines, we have wanted it. This is a bit of a miracle as I generally would not touch The Husband's games with a long pole. It's all car chases or running around in the dark shooting things. Ick. I believe I was actually supposed to have purchased a copy for The Husband for Christmas, but forgot and then couldn't be bothered to go back to the shops during the Christmas consumer frenzy. (Even if every time I go to the game shops and use my Linux card, the geek boys at the desk get all flirty. If I had only known at nineteen! How easy it could have been! None of this importing of English code monkeys when I could have had a nice domestic model every six months or so!)

What, you may ask, is this calamari dominancy? Katamari Damacy, dahlings, is complete crack. The King of All Cosmos has broken the sky and it's your job to travel to earth and collect things with which to make new stars. You do this by rolling around a sticky ball. The more you attach to the sticky ball, the bigger it gets and the bigger the items you can stick to it. When you start, the ball's only a few centimeters across and you can only pick up things like thumbtacks and matchsticks. Eventually, you work your way up to this like people, trees, and buildings. (People, dude). When you have a big enough sticky ball, the King of All Cosmos makes a star out of it and you start all over again.

And, just to make life even better, there's a sequel coming later this year.

"Oh! I feel it! I feel the cosmos!"

06 January 2005

Dreaming Spring

It's January and you know what that means, don't you? It means the garden pr0n starts showing up on the bedside table. The Burpee catalog arrived earlier this week and damned if I haven't dog-eared half its pages already. I am drunk on fantasies of a successful vegetable garden verdant with heirloom vegetables. How can you resist growing a tomato called "Bloody Butcher?" Or cucumbers that look like lemons?

Realistically, there are very few veggies I've ever grown successfully. The tomatoes always start out well, but seldom ripen and those that do don't taste like much at all. Ditto the radishes. Bland radishes are just pure evil. They look all rosy and brimming with tongue tingling zippiness, but they taste like water. Eww. Beets are beautiful and I love to eat them, but the yard critters seem to love their tender foliage even more. Pesky critters also managed to mow down all the scarlet runner beans in one evening -- leaving nothing but nekkid vines behind.

This year, I swear to cake I will restrain myself. I will only plant the things I know I probably won't kill or neglect. There's two free beds so that's a bed each for cucumbers and sweet peppers with strawberries starting their second year in the third bed ...

Seems rather bland, dinnit? Need some stubby carrots or leeks or some nice bush beans ...

Or, you know, I could just skip the vegetables and put all my money is roses. (How many times do you think I can rip up and replant the front bed before The Husband starts confiscating all my gardening catalogs?)

Deer says "Plant more lettuce! Last year's was really delicious!"