Stuff and Nonsense: 2010


Gothic Reading Challenge: The Canterville Ghost

Even though the Gothic Reading Challenge doesn't officially begin until 1 January, I've already started. Oh, I didn't mean to. No, indeed. I was just on Amazon, looking for something short and free to read on my phone, when Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost just leapt off the screen.

The Canterville Ghost is comedy in Gothic trappings -- sensible, modern, forward-thinking Americans buy a haunted English country house. Discovering a mysterious bloodstain, they set to cleaning it with Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent! Confronted by a chain-clanking fiend, they offer him Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator! Oh, you almost have to feel sorry for the foul spectre -- he's only trying to carry out a job he's had for hundreds of years and here are these wretched, modern Americans, not taking things the least bit seriously! It's humiliating and, obviously, he must have his revenge:

The owl beat against the window panes, the raven croaked from the old yew-tree, and the wind wandered moaning round the house like a lost soul; but the Otis family slept unconscious of their doom, and high above the rain and storm he could hear the steady snoring of the Minister for the United States. He stepped stealthily out of the wainscoting, with an evil smile on his cruel, wrinkled mouth, and the moon hid her face in a cloud as he stole past the great oriel window, where his own arms and those of his murdered wife were blazoned in azure and gold. On and on he glided, like an evil shadow, the very darkness seeming to loathe him as he passed. Once he thought he heard something call, and stopped; but it was only the baying of a dog from the Red Farm, and he went on, muttering strange sixteenth-century curses, and ever and anon brandishing the rusty dagger in the midnight air.

Woooo ...

One of my local libraries has The Canterville Ghost in audio and I'm hoping to get my hands on it before Christmas, as I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to listen to!


Feel A Little Bit Like Christmas

This year, my usual warm, fuzzy Christmastide feelings are struggling and I've yet to attain the snuggle-y, comfortable sort of domestic bliss I crave this time of year. Indeed, I'm feeling a bit restless, stabbity, and ... well ... a little bit "humbug." As such feelings cannot be tolerated, I have been engaging in intense bouts of literary therapy. Basically, I have been re-reading all the Christmas chapters from the Little House books. I started with Little House in the Big Woods and am now as far as By The Shores of Silver Lake and I think my "therapy" is working ... I do feel a bit more Christmas-y.

I am also pretty darn hungry.

We're celebrating Christmas Day at my parents's, so there will be no chance for me to recreate the Christmas feast from Farmer Boy this year, but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm serving for New Year's:
First, there was oyster soup. In all her life Laura had never tasted anything so good as that savory, fragrant, sea-tasting hot milk, with golden dots of melted cream and black specks of pepper on its top, and the little dark canned oysters at its bottom. She sipped slowly, slowly from her spoon to keep that taste going over her tongue for as long as she could.

And with this soup, there were little round oyster crackers. The little oyster crackers were like doll-crackers, and they tasted better because they were so light and small.

When the last of the soup was gone, and the last crackers divided and crunched, there were hot biscuits with honey, and dried-raspberry sauce. And then a big dishpan full of tender salty popcorn, that had been keeping hot on the back of the stove.
(excerpted from By the Shores of Silver Lake)
Oyster soup (or stew) is mentioned in four different Little House books -- On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and Little Town on the Prairie!


Nordic Challenge 2011

Zee from Notes from the North is hosting a Nordic author reading challenge and I've signed up! I blame this on Wallander, I really do. We've been borrowing episodes of the BBC series from Netflix and it has made for interesting watching -- interesting enough that I've been itching to try the novels that inspired them! Now I have the perfect excuse (as if I really needed one).

Dates: January 1, 2011- December 31, 2011

There will be 5 levels. The levels are:

  • Huginn and Muninn: Read 2 books
  • Freya: Read 3-5 books
  • Tor: Read 6-10 books
  • Odin: Read 11-20 books
  • Valhalla: Read 20+ books
There is no need to make a list before hand. Any book by any author born in a Nordic country (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and/or Sweden) or a book set in a Nordic country. They can be from any genre (I will be reading a mixture of classics, children’s books, YA and mystery).
While Zee says there's no need to start a list, I already know I'll be reading several of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels/stories.  I'm also interested in reading Camilla Läckberg's The Ice Princess, but I'd otherwise like to stay away from thrillers. I might try a contemporary young adult novel like Nothing by Janne Teller ...

Can anyone tell me why there so many Nordic crime novels?  Or is it just that a preponderance of Nordic crime novels make it to the American market instead of, say, poetry or science fiction?


GLBT Challenge 2011

I've signed on to participate in the GLBT Challenge in 2011. The idea behind the challenge is simply to read more books by LGBTQ authors or about LGBTQ issues and, obviously, I think that is a very good idea. (But then, you know, I'm a bit biased).

Under the challenge's rules I can read as many (or few) books as I'd like and I think I'll start with two and go on from there. I expect to read far more than a mere two LGBTQ books in 2011, but these two happen to be books I've been wanting to read for some time now:

Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe
As a college sophomore, I read and re-read Bledsoe's Working Parts so often that I pretty much have it memorized. It remains one of my favorite coming of age stories and I will nevernevernever loan my copy to anyone.

Stay by Nicola Griffith
Aud Torvingen returns! *swoon* I loved the first Aud Torvingen book, The Blue Place, and did mean to carry on with Stay ... but the world is full of books and I am so very easily distracted. Anyway, every darn time I see a Stieg Larsson novel go by on interlibrary loan, I am reminded that I still don't know what happened to Aud and I should borrow a copy of Stay. So I have. Finally.



A few weeks ago, I bought an Android OS smartphone. Besides playing too much Angry Birds on it, I have been reading free books using Kindle for Android. Yes, because I don't get enough "free" books from my library.

While prefer physical books to digital ones, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on my phone takes up a lot less room in my handbag than a paperback does and I always remember to stuff my phone in my bag, but I don't always remember to do so with a book.  This means there have been too many occasions lately where I went somewhere hideously dull and, having optimistically misjudged the amount of time I will spend there, neglected to bring a book.  But now I have books on my phone and otherwise mind-numbingly boring hours are guaranteed to fly by!  Seriously. All the hours I've pissed away in the ER these last few weeks?  They would have been utterly unbearable without Understood Betsy.

Currently downloaded to my phone:
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton-Porter
  • The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Hillsboro People by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I own a beautiful hardcover edition of A Girl of the Limberlost, but it's too cumbersome to read on my lunch break. Also, I'd worry about smudging the pages with my sandwich-y hands. My smartphone wipes clean, you know!

I also installed the Overdrive Android Audiobook app so I could download digital audiobooks from my library's catalog, but I am less than thrilled with that library service as the selection is very small, the lending period is too darn short, and I can only have three items "checked out" at a time (and can't "return" anything early). When it comes to library audiobooks, I think I'll stick with CD books or Playaways as there are more to select from, they circulate for three weeks, and can be returned at anytime before their due date.


Gothic Reading Challenge 2011

Susan B. Evans is hosting the Gothic Reading Challenge and I, fool that I am, have signed up to read five books in the coming year.

Dates: January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011
There is nothing better than a great Gothic read – crumbling old castles, mysterious legends, shadowy characters, supernatural beings and unexplainable events, make for some of the most haunting and captivating reading imaginable.

There are four levels of participation to choose from:

A Little Madness – Read just 1 novel with Gothic elements.
The Darkness Within – Read 5 novels with Gothic elements.
A Maniacal Frenzy – Read 10 novels with Gothic elements.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know – Read 20 novels with Gothic elements.
I am attempting the Darkness Within level and will be reading:
  • Library of America's Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories
  • Mrs. Gaskell's Tales of Mystery and Horror
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I will be posting reviews as I finish the books -- probably, one every other month.


"What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?"

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

-- excerpted from "
The Pumpkin" by John Greenleaf Whittier


Oh, Laura

The Long Winter & These Happy Golden Years written by Laura Ingalls Wilder & read by Cherry Jones (HarperCollins, 2005)

The Long Winter tells the story of the Ingalls family during their the first winter in De Smet, South Dakota. The winter is a terrible one -- blizzard after blizzard descends upon the town and soon no trains can get through with food or fuel. The Ingalls family makes do as best it can, but the situation is quite desperate by the time spring finally comes.

These Happy Golden Years is set two years after that hard winter (a period covered by Little Town on the Prairie). Laura is a young woman now and teaching school miles away from home. Every weekend, Almanzo Wilder comes to fetch her home across the frozen prairie. When winter turns to spring and Laurie is home again, Almanzo still keeps coming by. Is it possible Laura has a beau?

I have read the Laura books many times over and still I find myself continually astonished by how much I had forgotten and by how well these books are suited to adults as well as children. All the homesteading and daily domestic details are utterly fascinating. And the food! Even in The Long Winter, when everyone is near to starving, Wilder manages to make a dinner of coarse brown bread and boiled potatoes sound pretty darn tasty. But then, as Ma has told us, hunger is the best sauce.

If, like me, you're interested in cooking like Ma, Barbara Walker's Little House Cookbook (HarperCollins, 1989) is a pretty good start as it includes recipes for dishes like fried apples 'n' onions, rye 'n' injun bread, and green pumpkin pie.


Her Perfect Earl

Miss Esmerelda Fortune agrees to act as governess to the Earl of Ashforth's unruly brood of children so that she might search his house for an ancient manuscript she desperately needs in order to establish herself as a True Scholar worthy of some big prize money. While she locates the manuscript quite easily, its appearance annoys her perfect Earl and he becomes very cross with her. Very cross, indeed.

I found Her Perfect Earl at my library a few weeks ago while I was looking for a short, fluffy historical romance. Her Perfect Earl definitely ticked all the boxes -- short and delightfully fluffy. Truly, this is a novel best not pondered too deeply -- I almost ruined my fun by thinking too much about the impropriety (and unlikelihood) of Miss Fortune spending several nights alone in her employer's company, roaming his manor in her nightgown! Surely, she would have put her clothes back on (or not taken them off to begin with) to go prowling for manuscripts?

Her Perfect Earl by Bethany Brooks (Signet, 2005).


Dirge for Two Veterans

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

~ excerpted from "Dirge for Two Veterans" by Walt Whitman


Love to the Harvest Moon

Pumpkin Patch
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
-- excerpted from "Theme in Yellow" by Carl Sandburg


Graphic Novel: The Unwritten, Volume 1

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Idenitity by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC Comics, 2010)

When Tom Taylor was a child, his dad penned a lucrative series of Harry Potter-esque fantasy novels about a boy named Tommy Taylor. All grown up and estranged from is absent father, Tom makes a living capitalizing on his Z-list celebrity status while at the same time clearly resenting that status and wishing it would end.

It looks like Tom might get his wish as evidence comes to light suggesting Tom isn't really Winston Taylor's son.  The police reopen their investigation into Winston Taylor's disappearance, his fans start burning Tom in effigy ...  then Tommy's greatest nemesis, Count Ambrosio, tries to kill Tom and things just get weird.

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity collects the first five issues of The Unwritten and, despite reading it twice now, I am still not sure what is going on.  Who is Lizzie Hexam?  What side is Swope playing on?  Why is a mysterious cabal out to destroy Tom?  Is Tom Tommy?  Do I care enough to read the next two volumes?

I don't know.  I have a feeling that, for every answer they provide, the other volumes will raise more questions and I'm just not in the mood for overly complicated literary philosophies/conspiracies.  At nineteen, I would have eaten this up with a spoon.  Now, it just makes me go "meh."


Read-A-Thon: Book The Ninth

It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics, 2010)

A collection of vignettes portraying the grinding horror of trench warfare. Unfortunately, Tardi tells the same story over and over again (soldier who can no longer stand life in the trenches dies) thus eventually hardening me to the point I felt well removed from the horror of it all.

Only one more war graphic novel to get through -- Mills & Colquhoun's Charley's War: 2 June 1916 to 1 August 1916 -- and then I shall need something light and comforting. Seriously, I've read only one graphic novel today that did not in anyway touch upon a world war. It's too much.

Read-A-Thon: Book The Eighth

The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders Zion by Will Eisner (W.W. Norton, 2005)

Traces the history of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion from its 1903 creation at the behest of the Russian Secret Police to its continuing publication in the present day. Yes, even thought the Protocols have, time and time again, been proven to be nothing but the grossest fabrications, people still want to believe them.

Why? Perhaps Eisner is right -- people believe it "because they need to justify the conduct they may later be ashamed of! And of course, their reaction to social change!"

I'd been meaning to read The Plot for several years now, but kept putting it off because I knew it would be hard going. And it was very hard going, but it is one of those books that must be read.

Read-A-Thon, Hour Thirteen Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenge is a book title word jumble by Sheery @ Sheery's Place which makes me very excited as I love word jumbles (even if I am not always very good at them). Sheery says:
Unscramble the twenty book titles and then leave a link to your post. I will choose two winners to receive bookish favor bags as prizes. Which means, each winner will get one book and other book-related items. I will ship the prizes anywhere. As far as I know, the challenge is open for three hours. If that is not the case, I will find out and pass on the correct information.
  1. yfferil enal (Firefly Lane)
  2. aste fo eend (Taste of Eden)
  3. retwa orf pntshleea (Water for Elephants)
  4. ot lkli a ckomgnrbdii (To Kill a Mockingbird)
  5. het gtaer ysbtag (The Great Gatsby)
  6. yrhra tetrpo dna eth lyhdtea wollsah (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
  7. ht e rat fo nrgcai ni eht nair (The Art of Racing in the Rain)
  8. eth mite reslveart efwi (The Time Traveler's Wife)
  9. eht rlig iehw eht gnodar ooattt (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
  10. ydira fo a mypiw idk (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
  11. a kwrlnei ni emit (A Wrinkle in Time)
  12. het rpoal sxprese  (The Polar Express)
  13. vole dewlak ni (Love Walked In)
  14. reehw eth dwli hingts rea (Where the Wild Things Are)
  15. eht ginnhsi  (The Shining)
  16. dnohogigt oonm  (Goodnight Moon)
  17. vwtienrie hwti a pvmarie (Interview With a Vampire)
  18. eht cretse file fo eesb  (The Secret Life of Bees)
  19. eht raesch  (The Search)
  20. het pelh (The Help)

Read-A-Thon: Books The Sixth & Seventh

Pandora's Box, Volume One: Pride by Pagot & Alcante (Cinebook, 2008)
Pandora's Box, Volume Two: Sloth by Radovanovic & Alcante (Cinebook, 2009)

These two graphic novels are part of an eighth volume series with each novel in the series linked to a deadly sin. There is a poem at the beginning of each volume, forecasting what will follow:
Of Pride, like Narcissus, you will pay the heavy price.
Of Sloth, like Paris, you will succumb to the slow venom.
Of Gluttony, like Theseus, you will know the foul torment.
Of Lust, like Orpheus, you will bite the bitter fruit.
Of Greed, like Prometheus, you will suffer the eternal punishment.
Of Wrath, like Pandora, you will be the fatal instrument.
I presume the eighth volume will tie everything together and explain the mysterious homeless woman who appears in each story?

The first volume, Pride, is about a the fall of a U.S. president. Narcissus Shimmer is running for re-election and is pretty much neck-and-neck in the polls with his opponent. His opponent, wanting to win, hires a private investigator to dig up some really destructive dirt Shimmer. The PI almost immediately strikes pay dirt -- it looks like Shimmer might have an illegitimate child hidden away in a maternity ward somewhere. Of course, the truth turns out to be much more interesting than that.

The second volume, Sloth, tells the story of the fall of a great athlete. Paris Troy is a undefeated sprinter whose record has remained undefeated for nearly a decade. He has never tried performance enhancing drugs before, but after sustaining an injury during training and dogged by the success of a rising (doped) star, he begins injecting himself. There is no doubt he can win the day and retire with full glory, but at what cost?

Overall, I thought these graphic novels were a bit too simple -- many of the characters feel a bit under-developed and the endings, which feel rushed, come as no great surprise. Some of this may be a translation issue (the novels are translated from French) and the brevity of each novel certainly doesn't allow for too much character development or many plot complications. Regardless, I'm not desperate to track down the other six volumes.

Read-A-Thon, Mid-Event Survey

Halfway there! Can I go the distance? Don't know! Have a terrible feeling I'm going to crash around two in the morning.
  1. What are you reading right now?  Nothing right now. I am taking a little break while I wait for The Husband to bring me vegetable lo mein.
  2. How many books have you read so far?  Seven graphic novels so far.
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? The Ask & The Answer and Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, Volumes Two and Three) -- don't expect to get through both of them, but you never know ...
  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? No, today was my day off and my parents are happy to go to the Connecticut Garlic Festival tomorrow, instead.
  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  Oh, The Husband and our cats have engaged in attention-seeking behavior, but kisses and belly rubs don't take up a lot of time. 
  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How much I'm getting read, actually.  Last Read-A-Thon, I took a lot of unscheduled naps and didn't read nearly as much as I'd hoped!
  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No ...
  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Select more varied titles -- many of my graphic novels are about WWI or WWII and, while well done, are grim going when read back-to-back.
  9. Are you getting tired yet?  Yes, but that is what pie and walkies are for.
  10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Don't look at the clock -- take your time and don't rush reading.  

Read-A-Thon, Hour Ten Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenges is being hosted by Lynne @ Lynne's Book Reviews. She says:
  1. Post a picture on your blog of a current or past pet.
  2. Tell us your favorite animal book and then write a sentence using the name of the main character and only the first letter of that name. For example: If my favorite animal book was Wesley the Owl, I could write - Wesley works wildly with witches who wander. You could also use the "O" instead...Owls overestimate overeating. Make it short and sweet or challenge yourself and make it as long as you can.

These photos are of my Hedwig kitty. She normally enjoys books a lot -- doesn't read them, obviously, but likes to snuggle up next to or sprawl across them and look fetching. In these pictures, she is a little peeved because not only are all my book piles hogging her afternoon sun spot, but they are also too high to lie on. Given enough time, she will just shove them over and nap on the bed she's made.

My favorite animal book is Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. I guess I might say,"Maurice masterfully manages much mayhem?" (and I wouldn't be lying).

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fifth

Parade (With Fireworks) by Mike Cavallaro (Image Comics, 2008)

From the publisher:
PARADE (WITH FIREWORKS) opens in 1923, as Italy is pulling itself from the wreckage of the first World War while unknowingly plummeting toward another. The nation seemed to be holding its breath, and the slightest perceived transgression could result in violence. On the evening of the Feast of the Epiphany, it did, causing one man to choose between political standing and his very own family. The YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens nomination is in of itself a prestigious accolade for a very deserving title.
Overall, I thought Parade (With Fireworks) was very well done. It's overly talky in places, yes, but it's interesting, relevant talk. The illustrative style is a bit cartoony, but does a good job conveying the action of the story. I especially liked the last four pages, which say everything that needs to be said about Paolo's future without undue explication.

[I think I'm starting to burnout, so I'm going to go for a walkie with my kitties and then I'm going to have some more pie].

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fourth

Legion: Prophets by Scott Stewart and Tom Waltz (IDW Publishing, 2009)

In the film Legion, God has lost His faith in humankind and sent His legions of angels to destroy the world. Our only hope lies with a small group of people trapped at a diner in the Mojave Desert. Amongst them is a woman pregnant with the child whose birth will save the world.

 .... Dun Dun Dun ...

Legion: Prophets runs parallel to the events of the film and is about the awakening and gathering of the "Prophets" -- those special people who will guide and protect the child (presuming it is born) and help create a new world for humanity.

I can't say, having read it, that Legion: Prophets really enhances the film or clarifies its story. Just taken on its own and ignoring its relationship with the film, Legion: Prophets felt like a very weak start to a poorly envisioned series. I was introduced to a whole host of characters who desperately needed better fleshing out and, while there is a lot of angelic mayhem and running about, the story does not progress very far. Basically, unless you really loved Legion, I would not recommend Legion: Prophets.

Read-A-Thon, Hour Seven Mini Challenge

One of this hour's mini challenges is being hosted by Melissa @ One Librarian’s Book Reviews. She says:
For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle. Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.
I've decided to do an old favorite of mine:

Can you guess the title? Highlight to see the answer: lliH nretnaL fo enaJ

Read-A-Thon: Book The Third

X-Men: Magneto Testament by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico (Marvel, 2009)

The are no mutant heroes in Magneto Testament. No capes. No superpowers. No. Instead, Magneto Testament is about Max, an "average" middle-class German Jewish boy coming of age in Nazi-era Germany. It traces Max's story from his student days, when (heady with first love) he forgets be careful (even as his teacher warns him, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down"), through the rise of the Reich, survival in the Warsaw Ghetto, ending at Auschwitz.

This isn't the first graphic novel I've read about the Holocaust, but I would say it is one of the best.  The story is well-crafted, the illustrations are hauntingly beautiful, and the end notes are a fantastic resource. Oh, I definitely recommend this book!

Read-A-Thon, Hour Five Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenge is being hosted by Crystal at My Reading Room. She says:
I'm keeping this one simple - I want a picture of books - show me a book shelf, your tbr pile, your nightstand piled with books, your prized ARCs, whatever, just post a picture of some books during the 12pm - 3pm EST time-slot and link here and you're entered.

All the books I currently have checked out of the library:

My manga and graphic novel collection (plus some oldies):

My fiction collection:

My nonfiction & comfy reading chair:

See, I told you I was a book hoarder!

Read-A-Thon: Book The Second

Sky Doll, Volume 1 by Barbara Canepa & Alessandro Barbucci (Marvel, 2008)

In this sweeping space opera, Noa is a female android owned by the Heaven Spaceship Wash (think: Hooters girls meet car wash). Desiring something more for herself, Noa stowaways aboard one of the ships she washes. Unfortunately, that ship is piloted by missionaries of The Beloved Papess Lodovica and Noa finds herself entangled in a web of religious conspiracy and misadventure.

Reading Sky Doll was a lot of fun. The story is well done with lots of interesting characters and side stories that made me want to read more (unfortunately, this is the only English-language volume currently available). The illustrations are simply charming -- rather amusing, because Sky Doll has even more T&A than Filthy Rich, but I didn't mind it at all in Sky Doll. It's a gentler, more romantic T&A!

Read-A-Thon, Hour Two Mini Challenge

For Hour Two, Miss Wisabus asks:
What were some of your favorite children’s books when you were younger? Do you have any new favorites now that you’re an adult? Have you included any children’s or YA titles in your Read-A-Thon stack this year?
Pretty sure my much wrinkled and worn sets of the Anne and Little House books are a good indicator I was an Anne and Laura girl. I loved their spirit and imagination (and all the little domestic details). I still re-read these series every year or so and it's like revisiting old friends.

I don't think there are many YA or juvenile books that move me as an adult as much as those books moved me back then. I read much more critically as an adult and it's hard to be as completely and utterly satisfied with or intoxicated by a book. I guess The Knife of Never Letting Go comes closest -- which is why The Ask & The Answer and Monsters of Men are in my TBR pile for Read-A-Thon!

Read-A-Thon: Book The First

Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello (Vertigo Crime, 2009)

[Filthy Rich was my first read for October's Read-a-Thon. My feelings for it are still pretty raw, but I reckoned I should review as I read (slapdash as those reviews may be) or it will go down like the last Read-a-Thon where I read a dozen or so books and, at the end, was too overwhelmed to review any of them!]

Junk, a washed-up football star, tries to sell cars and fails. Rather than being fired, he is "promoted" to guarding the boss's daughter, Victoria, a total hotty who gives her dad a lot of bad press thanks to her shenanigans. Cocksure Junk finds himself involved in a scene he thinks he can manipulate to his own advantage (although it was obvious to this reader he was an ass well in over his head) and gets royally screwed over.

By the end, I wanted to punch someone in the face. Reading this graphic novel made me angry. Filthy Rich is a rather grim noir and while I like a bit of grimness, I need characters I can empathize with a little even if I don't like them at all. I really didn't like Junk. I might have liked Victoria if I knew more about her. Sadly, there was no point in liking Charlene, Junk's girlfriend, as she just made me hate Junk more.

Frankly, I was so repulsed by Filthy Rich that I have no desire to try any of the other volumes in Vertigo's Crime imprint.

Read-A-Thon, Hour One Meme

It's a beautiful October morning and I'm full of pie -- truly an excellent way to start any day, but most particularly a 24-hour read-a-thon.

Hour One Meme!

Where are you reading from today?
Connecticut (also known as "The Constitution State," "The Nutmeg State," "The Land of Steady Habits")

3 facts about me …
I'm a librarian, I had pie for breakfast (and probably will have for lunch), and can fake being a morning person surprisingly well.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Right now? About twenty, but I have no intention of getting through all of them and some of them I suspect I won't like reading so will replace with something else.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I would really like to get through my embarrassingly large backlog of library books. Bad book-hoarding librarian, bad.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is only my second read-a-thon and I napped thought a lot of the first one, so can give no real advice beyond: "relax and have fun."


The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

In 2006, Erway realized that much of the food she was eating out at NYC restaurants was nothing special (and rather wasteful) so she decided to save money and not eat out, anymore. For two years Erway ate, cooked, and then blogged about the experience at Not Eating Out in NY.

While this book is about not eating out, I wouldn’t say it is anti-restaurant. Erway isn’t saying no-one should eat out and all restaurant should be closed forever, but that we should be mindful of the food choices we make and eat as well as we are able. For many of us, I think, such a lifestyle would require cooking at home.

Anyway, if you’ve ever thought about modifying your eating habits to embrace a more sustainable or greener lifestyle, then this book may appeal. Certainly, I thought it was an inspiring book. I cook a lot , but after reading The Art of Eating In, I’ve been inspired to try new things like home pizza making (so much delicious fun). I’ve even thought about foraging -- I have a request in at my library for Foraging New England and, come spring, I will be dining on purslane and lambs quarters (or not, as I might turn out to be a big coward).

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway (Gotham Books, 2010)


Graphic Novel Round-Up

Borrowed some interesting graphic novels from my library recently ...

Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone & Neil Googe (WildStorm Productions, 2008)

Tranquility is a small, fictional town in California home to retired "Maxis" (retired superheroes and supervillains) and their families. Although Tranquility is largely a peaceful town, when dapper, old-school superhero Mr. Articulate is murdered in front of the sheriff during a brawl at the Chick'N Go it quickly becomes obvious some Tranquility residents still nurse old rivalries and resentments.

While I found Sheriff Lindo's quest to uncover Articulate's murderer only mildly interesting, I was very taken with the "excerpted" comics Simone used to explain her character's back stories. Googe had inked the pages to resemble old-school newsprint comics and I thought they were just hilariously over the top.

Britten & Brülightly by Hannah Berry (Metropolitan Books, 2008)

While investigating an unlikely murder depressed private detective Fernández Britten and his partner/teabag Stewart Brülightly ("brew lightly," get it?) uncover a blackmail-and-murder plot, annoy unscrupulous businessmen, get kidnapped by waiters, and revisit an old case perhaps best forgotten.

This is a beautifully illustrated piece of noir and I took as much pleasure from Berry's paintings as I did her story.

Fell, Volume One: Feral City by Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith (Image Comis, 2007)

A grittier, darker noir than Berry's, Feral City collects the first eight issues of Fell. Detective Richard Fell has been transferred to duty in Snow Town, a blighted urban zone inhabited by people who either have nowhere else to go or who thrive on depravity. Feral City is extremely is an extremely grim read and there's something almost Lovecraftian in the malevolent darkness embracing Snow Town that one can only hope Fell will survive his time in that feral city.

Templesmith's illustrations are extremely atmospheric -- gritty, yet possessing a grotesque sort of beauty -- and complement Ellis's stories very well.


Heart of Stone by C.E. Murphy

Jogging at midnight through Central Park, public defender Margrit Knight encounters a pale, unseasonably dress man whom she dismisses as just another random New York lunatic ... until he turns up on the morning news as a murder suspect.

Her lunatic, Alban, is a gargoyle – a member of the Old Races who have hidden their existence from humans for centuries while living side by side with them. He has been quietly stalking Margrit for years, but now must reveal himself to her as he needs Margrit's help to prove his innocence.

While the Old Races Who Live Hidden Amongst Us shtick is not particularly original, Murphy’s take on it is well done and I like that she focused on lesser know supernaturals like selkies and gargoyles rather than done-to-death vampires and werewolves. I also like that Margrit starts as an ordinary woman and stays an ordinary woman. No superpowers, no fairy gifts – she gets by purely on grit, intelligence, and courage.

Unfortunately, Alban’s stalking of Margit creeped me out as it seemed more like a symptom of his obsession with his long-lost wife and less like an admirable gesture of love.  Of course, I never liked CBS’s Beauty and the Beast much and would not be pleased to discover Edward Cullen watched me while I slept! However, if you like the idea of a Mysterious Protector/Lover, then you will probably have no problem with Alban's behavior ....

Creepy stalking aside, I thought Heart of Stone was an entertaining afternoon read and I do look forward to reading the next book in the Negotiator series.

Heart of Stone (The Negotiator, Book One) by C.E. Murphy (Luna, 2007)


"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
     Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
     And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

            -- excerpted from "To Autumn" by John Keats
Autumn in the Lake District, 2003


Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah

I admit I have a serious crush on Queen Latifah. Such beautiful, savvy woman who carries herself with such grace, style, and evident self-worth -- she's one of the few celebrities I would actually like to meet. Obviously, I was please to borrow her latest book, Put On Your Crown, from my library system.

In Put On Your Crown, Latifah uses significant moments from her life -- her brother's sudden death, going bankrupt, body issues, etc -- as lessons her readers can use to become strong, confident women. Latifah is never preachy, but maintains an honest, sisterly tone as if she were simply making conversation with friends.

I think, if you're looking for a book that will "fix" you, then Put On Your Crown will be a bit of a disappointment as Latifah never explicitly says "this is how you become a Queen." But, if you want to read about how a strong woman coped with hardship and staid true to herself, then this book will probably appeal.

Quotes I found particularly inspiring (ymmv):

The point is to be healthy, feel good in your own skin, and play up your best assets. Whether you’re short or tall, thick or thin, the beauty comes from how you carry yourself, how you care for your appearance, and the inner glow that confidence brings.

We may not have all been born looking like supermodels, but so what? We become beautiful when we do things to take care of ourselves, inside and out. It's not just how how I look, it's about my health and doing things that will let me live longer by keeping down my blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol.

Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah & Samantha Marshall (Grand Central Publishing, 2010)


Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand

Raider's Ransom1 is set more than 200 years in the future, in a Great Britain decimated by flooding and other environmental disasters brought on by climate change. England has been reduced to ten impoverished Counties which struggle by with what appears to be strictly pre-Industrial Revolution technology, while technologically advantaged Greater Scotland holds Wales and most of the rest of the island -- except the eastern marshes, of course, which are strictly Raider territory.

Lilly Melkun wants nothing more than to captain the best fishing boat in her village, crewing it with her best friend, Andy, and her trusty sea cat, Cat. Unfortunately, Lilly's village is struck by Raiders when the Prime Minister's daughter comes to visit, the girl is abducted, and Lilly's Granny is killed in the ruckus. The PM blames Lilly's village and conscripts all its young men, including Andy, into his militia. To stop a war and free her village's men, Lilly steals a mysterious "jewel" and sets off with Cat to find the Raiders and trade for the Prime Minister's daughter ...

I thought Raider's Ransom was an extremely enjoyable read with a fast-paced, well-developed plot that had just enough interesting twists and turns to keep me surprised and looking forward to the final resolution of the novel. Diamand's characters are all fully realized and it's obvious she's had a lot of fun with language while writing this novel -- not only with names, but with the way each character's speech is so individuated. Can't wait to read the sequel to Raider's Ransom, Flood and Fire, whenever it is published in the US.

1 Flood Child elsewhere in the world.

Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand (Scholastic, 2009)


Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It

An emotionally diverse collection of personal essays about women and sex by twenty-six talented writers like Julie Powell, Susan Shapiro, and Ali Liebegott. While some essays are a bit explicit, they ultimately tend more toward candid insight than eroticism. My favorite essays were Deanna Kizis's assertive "Turning the Other Cheek," Valerie Frankel's funny "Ouch, You're Lying on My Hair!," and Hope Edelman's tender "The Sweetest Sex I Never Had." I was so moved by Edelman's essay about falling in love at fifteen while her mother died from cancer that I read it three times.

I imagine -- in the way it's convenient for teachers to reduce students to stereotypes -- that she saw me as the honor student tossing my smarts in the trash for the chance to screw a former outlaw. But she didn't know him, not really, not as the sweet, gentle boy I knew him to be, the one who touched me so carefully, so perfectly, that I needed his hands on me all the time.
(from Edelman's "The Sweetest Sex I Never Had")

Excerpts from selected essays are available on the book's website,

Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It edited by Paula Derrow (Delacorte Press, 2008)


Poetry For Your Pocket

I'm a sucker for prettily-packaged books. Show me a book with French flaps, deckle edges, ribbon markers, and embossed or stamped jackets and I'm bound to lust after it. This is certainly true of Everyman Library's Pocket Poet series -- these perfectly elegant hand-sized volumes with their beautifully illustrated covers, gold embellishments, and woven silk ribbon markers pretty much make me swoon.

Currently, there are more than sixty volumes in this series covering everything from animal poems to Zen poetry. One of my favorite anthologies in this series is Love Speaks Its Name, a beautiful collection of gay and lesbian love poetry, which includes Amy Levy's "At a Dinner Party" and William Meredith's "Tree Marriage" -- two poems which move me very much.

Anyway, being in the mood for poetry, I brought Poems of the Sea and Garden Poems home from the library a few weeks ago:

Poems of the Sea (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) Selected & Edited by J.D. McClatchy (Knopf, 2001)

Grouped around eleven headings ranging from "Sea Fever" to "Wrecks of the Sea" this collection is a good mix of classic and contemporary poetry. Much of it is familiar class-room stuff -- "The Wreck of the Hesperus", "Annabel Lee," "Dover Beach," among others -- but there are also some interesting and unexpected gems such as Merwin's "Leviathan."

Garden Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) Selected & Edited by John Hollander (Knopf, 1996)

Laid out similar to Sea Poems, but around headings ranging from "Paradises" and "Gardens of Love" to "Ruined Gardens." Again, lots of familiar poems and poets, but also some surprises. Certainly, I didn't expect to see anything by Matthew Arnold in a collection of garden poems, but there he is with "Lines Written in Kensington Garden."


Happy Størmer-Heegner-Mills Anniversary

 I love you
   because the earth turns round the sun
   because the North wind blows north
   because the Pope is Catholic
     and most Rabbis Jewish
   because winters flow into springs
     and the air clears after a storm
   because only my love for you
     despite the charms of gravity
     keeps me from falling off this Earth
     into another dimension
I love you
   because it is the natural order of things

            ~ excerpt from "Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni


Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson

I spent a good hour reading interesting bits from Tea with Jane Austen aloud to The Husband -- and there were many interesting bits! For example, did you know there was a tidy black market in tea in Austen's day? And that this "tea" was frequently made from used tea leaves stretched with bits of twigs and sawdust? Or it was brewed from ash tree leaves mixed with sheep's dung and green vitriol (a toxin)?

It certainly paid to be a discerning shopper!

Besides the booming trade in illegal tea, Wilson also covers such diverse topics as tea as a curative/poison (the breakfast ale drinkers were pretty opposed to tea going mainstream) and tea as social entertainment. As someone interested in historical trivia, I was fascinated by Tea with Jane Austen and wished it could have been a bigger book!

Of course, Wilson could not write a book about tea without including recipes for lovely tea time goodies. In many cases, she has provided the original recipes text with a modern translation. Some recipes, as in the case of "For Captains of Ships to Make Catchup to Keep Twenty Years," do not have a modern translation, because ... well, who would want to make Catchup of Infinite Keeping?

Recipes I would like to try:
  • Barley Water for Henry Austen & King George
  • China Orange Jelly for Mrs. Norris's Maid
  • Solid Syllabubs
  • A Syllabub (Indirectly) from the Cow
(The original recipe for "To Make a Syllabub from the Cow" sounds fascinating, but requires an actual cow!)

Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson (Jones Books, 2004)


Basil Is For Drinking: Basil In My Tea

Last week, while cooking my basilicious scrambled eggs, The Husband made what he no doubt thought was a hilarious remark about me running mad and putting basil in tea. And I thought, why not? Why not add basil to iced tea? Basil lemonade was very delicious, after all.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for "Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea" and it was so very good! Cool and refreshing, with a subtle basil taste and lovely summery aroma.  And the color! Such a lovely strawberry-red -- it reminded me of strawberry cordial.

(Because I am all about doing as little washing up as possible, I tweaked Stewart's directions somewhat to omit the use of a bowl and made everything in the pitcher).

Strawberry Basil Iced Tea
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

8 black tea bags (I used Lipton)
1 lb very ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
5 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh basil

Place strawberries in a glass pitcher. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes. Bring remaining 1 cup water water and sugar to a boil in another saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add basil, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain over strawberries, discarding basil. Let stand until cool. Add tea to pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled.

I would like to try this again -- perhaps replacing the strawberries with blackberries.


♫ na-NAAA-nananana-na-naa-na ♫ Katamari Forever

I haven't touched a book since Tuesday. No. And it's not just because I need to go to the library -- I'm too busy playing Katamari Forever to read.

Katamari Forever is the fourth console game in the Katamari series and the sixth including a version for the PSP and iPhone (another reason to want an iPhone). In this game, you play as the tiny green prince, whose enormous father, the King of All Cosmos, has been knocked on the noggin by a passing meteor and fallen into a coma. You and your intrepid band of cousins build a robo-King to replace him, but it has ... issues ... and destroys all the stars in the sky! In the end, it's up to you to restore the cosmos.

How do you do this? A perilous quest, maybe? Oh, no. That wouldn't be any fun at all! No, you rebuild the cosmos by rolling around a sticky ball. Yes. 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 or earrings. Eventually, you work your way up to things like shopping carts, whales, and buildings. When you have a big enough sticky ball, it becomes a star and you start all over again.

Go on, tell me that doesn't sound like highly addictive fun.


Keys of Gold, Keys of Death

Prince of the Godborn (Seven Gates: Part One) by Geraldine Harris (Greenwillow Books, 1982)

Kerish-lo-Taan, third and most favored son of the Emperor of Galkis, is charged by the High Priest of Zeldin to go forth into the world and discover The Promised One who will deliver Galkis from the gathering darkness. To do so, Kerish will need to win seven keys from seven sorcerers and unlock "the last gates." He is accompanied by his half-brother, Forollkin, who does not quite believe the young Prince is up to the task, but is bound by ties of love and honor to support him.

I remember reading the Seven Gates quartet when I was twelve-ish and being really taken with what struck me as a very moral and mythic ending. As an adult, I can more clearly see the flaws in Prince of the Godborn, but it is still a good read with lots of interesting philosophy and world building.

Will I be going on to the next book, The Children of the Wind? Of course. It's already on hold at my library.


Swooning Over Persuasion: "You pierce my soul."

I finished re-reading Jane Austen's Persuasion yesterday and, even though I've read the novel three times now, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne still makes me feel a bit swoony!

If you don't remember the scene (how could you not?) Anne and Captain Harville have been at the window embrasure, discussing the constancy of love, while Captain Wentworth is seated some little distance behind them, ostensibly writing a letter on behalf of Captain Harville. When the men prepare to leave, Captain Wentworth seems quite eager to be gone, but then suddenly pops back to collect his "forgotten" gloves and present Anne with ...

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.

Who could resist such a letter?


Basil Is For Drinking: Lemonade

I made basil lemonade! Yes, I did! And it tastes good.

I used Real Simple's recipe for "Basil Lemonade" and it took no time at all. Just make a simple syrup, chuck some basil in, let the syrup cool to room temperature, and mix it with your beverage of choice. I mixed mine with lemonade, but the recipe also suggests ginger ale, iced tea, mineral water, or sparkling wine. I bet I could even make a tasty lemon drop with this syrup!

Next up for basil:


My Books, Let Me Tell You About Them

We walled the room off the kitchen with bookshelves when we moved in, so our library is generally the first thing people see when they come through our door. It seems, I think, improbable to some visitors that anyone would own so many books and quite a lot of them say something like "wow, did you read all those books?!" or "you must really love books!"

No, we have not read all those books (TBR Challenge, I need you) but, yes, we really do love books -- whatever that means. If consumption represents degree of desire then I definitely love books more than The Husband does. If dedication to genre represents degree of desire then he probably outstrips me as he tends to read only certain kinds of books while I ping-pong from one delicious read to the next.

Excluding graphic novels and manga, I suspect we own well over a thousand books. Fantasy and science fiction make up a large chunk of our library with the rest being an eclectic mishmash of everything from LGBTQ fiction and childhood favorites to feminist theory and poker manuals.  We could own far more books in far greater variety, but the local library system fulfills most of our bookish needs these days and much of our collection consists of books purchased five or more years ago.

Still, it is a large number of books, and sometimes when people look at our bookshelves, I am embarrassed by the size and variety of our library. It seems downright decadent to own so many books and to own them in so many different genres ... well, that clearly smacks of intellectual fickleness. Proulx next to Pratchett. Tepper cuddled up with Thackeray. Oh, the madness!

But I can't imagine ever being satisfied with only one kind of book. On any given day, I may want to pay Granny Weatherwax a quick visit while reading about how black holes work. Or I might want a little doomed Russian love affair while Pa digs a well in Indian country. Why should I limit myself?

(This started out as a Musing Mondays post, but went off topic and did not get shared there)


Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon

Despite its subtitle (which screamed "fad diet book" at me, but I may just be paranoid), Health at Every Size is not a diet or weight loss book. Instead, it is a commonsensical guidebook for living healthily in the bodies we have. Bacon proposes that anyone, at any size, can be healthy. Rather than focusing on what we think a scale or mirror is telling us, we should instead focus on eating well and living an active life. As long as our health is good (low cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose readings, etc) why should size matter?
Accepting yourself as you are today doesn't mean giving up. It means learning to live in the present with the body you have. It means facing and acknowledging reality. (169)

You know best how to take care of yourself. Trust that. Let go of the rules, the judgements, the "expert" advice. Respect your hunger and appetite, and let them guide you to better health and fulfillment. (263)
Exhausted and infuriated as I am by society's constant, casual assumption that thin = healthy, I found Health at Every Size quite refreshing.

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon (BenBella Books, 2008)


An Alien Music by Annabel and Edgar Johnson

I do remember rain -- that's what winter always meant, warm sheers of rain lashing the hills. Old-timers could talk about snow, it didn't sound all that great to me. My Lord, you'd have to put on two, three sweaters. I never did like heavy clothes. But rain, with the barn all fuzzy from the big drops beating off, the gutterspouts shooting water -- there was a rage about it that I liked. So I missed that, when it didn't come.

Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. Oil spills. Mile after mile of dead forests. Green skies. Relentless heat. It looks like the Earth is dying and Jesse will die with it ... unless she cons her way aboard the space station her brother has been working on.

I must have read An Alien Music a dozen times in junior high and, re-reading it as an adult, I can see why I was so enamored with it. While the plot is full of holes you could pilot a Sky-Lab through and the May-December romance is a little creepy, An Alien Music still remains an amusing little scifi coming-of-age story with a strong, likable protagonist. End of the world or not, Jesse is going to seize her future with both hands. And, while Jesse may not always make the right choices and gets into a lot of scrapes, there can be no doubt she is motivated by a strong sense of Right.

An Alien Music by Annabel and Edgar Johnson (Four Winds Press, 1982)


Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

"We are at war!"
"This is no longer a part of Texas, no longer a part of the United States of America! You are in the buffer zone! You are no longer American citizens! By consenting to remain, you have agreed to this! The town of Santa Olivia no longer exists! You are denizens of Outpost No. 12!"
In the wake of a devastating pandemic, the US puts up another Wall between Mexico and the United States. Residents of Santa Olvidada who stayed between the Walls when the soldiers came lost their US citizenship and became nobodies dependent upon the sufferance of the local US military base. There is only one way out of town and no-one from Outpost has yet managed it.

But Loup Garron might. Born on the Festival of Santa Olivia and raised in her church, Loup possesses unusual physical gifts -- gifts which may be the salvation of Santa Olivia.

Santa Olivia is, I guess, best described as urban dystopian sci-fi coming-of-age story with a bit romance thrown in for color. Really, it's such an interesting mix of genres that I think it could be one of those books that inspires readers to stretch outside their comfort zones. While it's not a perfect read -- some of the back story could be fleshed out more and the ending was a bit of a cliff-hanger -- I presume many issues will be resolved in the sequel, Santitos at Large, which Carey's website indicates will be published in 2011.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (Hachette Book Group, 2009)


The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg

I was looking for something short and funny when I stumbled across Elizabeth Bergs short story collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. As I've been a great fan of Elizabeth Berg's novels since reading Range of Motion, I was pleased to have discovered it. This was an excellent book of short stories about the everyday worries of women -- age, weight, relationships, etc -- and many of the stories resonated with me in an extremely personal way.

The title story, "The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted," it's parallel story, "The Day I Ate Nothing I Even Remotely Wanted," and "Double Diet" are my three favorites from this collection -- as a fat woman who has sometimes dabbled in the land of Weight Watchers, I found them incredibly amusing and very true.

But now I was feeling the shame but also defiance. Like here, I'm carrying the banner for all of you who cut off a little piece wanting a big one, who spend a good third of your waking hours feeling bad about your desires ... we who cannot eat air without gaining, we who eat the asparagus longing for the potatoes au gratin, for the fettuccine Alfredo, for the pecan pie.

The remaining ten stories in the collection are also very good. Indeed, there was not a single story I didn't like!

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg (Random House, 2008)


My TEDxOilSpill Reading List

All day, I've been watching/listening to the TEDxOilSpill stream live from Washington DC where very interesting speakers address issues raised by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. I've been so impressed by some speakers that, just to prove what a dork I am, I've put their books (if they've written/contributed to any held by my library system) on hold at my library:

My co-workers apparently find my book-borrowing habits fairly fascinating so (hopefully) this will give them plenty to talk about.

You can still follow the live streaming video of the event, or, if you're on Twitter, search for the hash tag #TEDxOilSpill or follow TEDxOilSpill. (I presume the talks will be archived and made available at some later point. I'd really like to listen to portions of it, again).

Watch live streaming video from tedxoilspill at


They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer

The morning after his sixtieth birthday party, Silas Kane is found dead at the foot of a cliff. His death, which appears accidental, comes as a relief to both his principle heir and his business partners -- his heir will get the money he so badly needs to keep his selfish, grasping wife happy and the partners will get to go ahead with the Australian scheme Silas had rejected. Then the heir is found shot in his study and his heir is the victim of a series of accidents ... can Superintendent Hannasyde get to the bottom of things before another Kane dies?

Of course he can.

I think I've read too many of Georgette Heyer's mysteries, because they are beginning to lose their charm. Many of Heyer's characters are simply unlikeable and the mysteries are easy enough to solve.  In the case of They Found Him Dead, it was an obvious case of  misdirection and finger pointing.

They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009)