30 April 2005

Reads & Listens, April 2005

Reads:

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
Grad student goes to England to work on her thesis about the Pink Carnation -- a spy from the days of the Scarlet Pimpernel whose identity has never been revealed. Meets kindly old biddy with chest full of family papers about Pinkie. Clashes with hunky man who doesn't want her snooping in family histories. Discovers identity of Pinkie. Discovers attraction for hunky man. All lovey, lovey romance novel pretending to be a work of historic fiction. I mean, what's the problem with calling a spade a spade?

Okay ... so I knew who the Pink Carnation was from the get-go. Despite this, the novel was still pretty fun and I've been recommending it to everybody. That means you, too.

The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir by Toni Bentley
Bentley makes anal sex seem like an act of masochism or fetishism and yet also considers it a gateway to paradise? Dude, this book confused me. I expected something more profound, more moving, more smutty. Not the book to read if you're looking for something even vaguely arousing or are just curious about why "normal people" like anal sex.

Weight Loss that Lasts: Break Through the 10 Big Diet Myths by James M. Rippe & Weight Watchers
Was a little leery of this book at first, because I expected it to be all "Weight Watchers! Weight Watchers! Rah! Rah! Rah!," but it turned out to be a pretty straight forward look at the stupid diet myths people (mostly women are discussed in this book) succumb to and how to create a healthy lifestyle by eating more mindfully and getting some exercise.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The monstrous as the mundane. Creepy as all get out and impossible to put down.

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy
Roland has a recurring nightmare about being locked in a magician's box, his teacher wants him to spy on a classmate, and said classmate is one freaky chick. Essentially, a novel about the battle between good and evil with teenage angst thrown in for good measure.

Pride and Prescience, Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris
I selected this book specifically because I was looking for Jane Lite and this novel promised to fit the bill. The novel started out well enough -- there were a few linguistic and cultural anachronisms that irked me, but the book was, at the very least, in keeping with the spirit of Austen. Then, of course, it all went pear-shaped as the bizarre occult nonsense became the driving force of the novel. Gah.

Listens:

Orlando by Virginia Woolf (read by Barbara Rosenblat)
I had tried, several times, to read this book, but found it near impossible to get into. Happily, the audio book was much more approachable.

14 April 2005

Bringing Roses to My Garden

This week I planted six tiny rose bushes in the front bed. I've been wanting roses for what feels like forever and my mother has had really good luck with hers so, over the winter, I finally committed myself to a long term relationship with the Jackson & Perkins catalog. I eventually settled on "Feisty," because I wanted something that would stay short (3.5') and sprawl a bit (2') and wouldn't arrive bare root. Pots I understand, and so pots I stuck with.

I spent some afternoons this week pulling out most of the old vegetation in the front bed. Felt horrible about tossing the black hollyhocks and the lavender cotton in the compost, but had no place to transplant them and they had never really worked out where they were, anyway. The lavender cotton just sort-of sprawled allover its companions and smothered them to death, while the hollyhocks grew at a diagonal, because they didn't get enough sun where they were. After I cleared the bed, I worked in six bags of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Roses, because I'm not taking any chances. It's mostly peat moss, manure, and bone meal, with a "wetting agent" to keep the roses happy. Mmmm, better living through chemistry.

When the plants arrived this afternoon, they were all in really good shape. I've had other plants delivered by UPS that look like they'd been trod on, but these were perfect. Two were in bloom and the rest all had blossoms. I suppose this isn't the best thing -- the roses may be putting all their energies into blooming, rather than rooting, but it gives me that instant gratification I crave.

They are so twee, though. I look at them and think they cannot possibly fill the bed, but I'll keep watering and fertilizing them and we'll see what they look like in a month. I do need to mulch the bed before it gets too warm so that the little darlings don't crispify, but first I need to get some blue or violet calibrachoa (pseudo-petunias) to plant along the front of the bed. Then, of course, I have to make myself not buy any more plants for that bed (except, maybe, some crocus bulbs in the autumn). Usually, I go a bit overboard planting everything that takes my fancy (and I can afford) and then half of it gets smothered by its mates or gets some funny infestation. No, this time, I have a plan and I'm sticking with it.

With that bed, anyway.