Stuff and Nonsense: April 2011


Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

"Sometimes, Mrs. Professionally Pretty, those ornaments men hang on your branches get so heavy they can crush you dead, and in this configuration, death is what I see. I'd say it's either you or your husband."

Ro is married to a Bad Man and while she loves him, she understands just how Bad he can be. Therefore, it comes as no shock to her when an airport "gypsy" tells her she must chose between her husband and herself. Ro tries to do the sensible thing and kill her husband, but flubs it up and ends up on the run. During her flight, she confronts her father, revisits old loves, and finally tracks down the mother who abandoned her all those years ago.

I enjoyed reading this novel -- while Ro's behavior and choices weren't always easy to accept, her story was a compelling one and I found I simply had to hang on to the bitter end. I think, if you enjoyed Stephen King's Rose Madder, Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Pretty, or Sherri S. Tepper's Gibbon's Decline and Fall you might enjoy Backyard Saints. (I know, you're thinking those novels have nothing in common with each other, but I think they do share a common sensibility. I just can't put it into words and, believe me, I've been thinking about it for days now!)

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central Publishing, 2010)


Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss -- and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata

In this fascinating and (dare I say unputdownable?) book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata analyzes the history of popular diets and body-image standards in the United States. She concludes that, while the medical and diet industries are unlikely to cure The Death Fatz, a better understanding of why we're fat can teach us how to find and maintain our natural (versus a socially constructed unlikely “ideal”) weight.

Kolata frames the story of weight-loss in America with a two-year clinical weight-loss study she sat in on at the University of Pennsylvania comparing the low-fat, low-calorie LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, Nutrition) diet with the low-carb Atkins diet. At the study's end in 2006, Kolata reports, the participants demonstrated a standard pattern of weight-loss -- initial success, followed by setbacks, with most participants ending up about as fat as when the program began.

And that is a point that is made over and over again in Rethinking Thin -- despite what the medical and diet industries may claim, most dieters will not lose a significant of weight and/or keep it off for a long time. While diet and exercise are frequently cited as the solution to The Death Fatz, studies discussed in Rethinking Thin show they aren't always effective and that fat people who attain their "ideal" weight frequently can’t maintain it. Not won’t, but can’t.

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss -- and the Myths and Realities of Dieting written by Gina Kolata & read by Ellen Archer (Tantor Audio, 2007)


Wordless Wednesday: Suspicious Cat


Anything that touches the floor becomes rightful property
of the cats. Or so they think.


Cats Hate Read-A-Thon

The butler did it ... now get me fud!

Seriously, my cats are not happy with the way I've neglected them today and I am going to have to give them so many scritches and special treats.


Read-A-Thon: The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Many years ago, Marylou Ahearns life was destroyed by the aftereffects of a government study she unwittingly participated in. Bent on avenging herself upon the doctor who oversaw the study, she has tracked him down to his Tallahassee home. Calling herself "Nancy Archer" after the heroine of "Attack of 50 Foot Woman" she sets out to infiltrate his family and destroy it from within. Much to her chagrin, she finds the good doctor is flirting with dementia and that his family is already tearing itself to pieces without any help from her. What to do? Be their friend!

I have mixed feelings about this novel. Early reviews I read in Booklist and Publishers Weekly led me to expect a zany, madcap adventure whereas The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady actually reads like a slow-paced family problem novel (with backyard nuclear experiments thrown in for color). Oh, the novel was interesting and I never once wanted to stop reading it, but it just wasn't what I expected.

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French (Doubleday, 2011)

Read-A-Thon: Mid-Event Survey

Halfway there! Not going to make it to the end -- we're supposed to meet my parents for breakfast tomorrow and I'll be a total bear if I don't get some sleep so I'm probably going to have to call it quits by one in the morning. Plan on having a lot of fun until then, though!
  1. What are you reading right now? I am trying to finish Joshilyn Jackson's Backyard Saints, a book I borrowed from my public library well over a month ago. I'm out of renewals and must finish it, yet my attention keeps slipping.
  2. How many books have you read so far? I have read six books so far (although they have all be graphic novels so The Husband says they aren't real books!)
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I reallyreally want to read China Mieville's Kraken, but it's such a chunkster that I fear I don't have the stamina.
  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Happily for me, Read-a-Thon coincided with my day off.
  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? The Husband occasionally tries to speak to me and I get a bit shushy. Also, the cats are not feeling the love.
  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I don't know where the day went?
  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Make is 36 hours and we all meet at a resort in the Caribbean?
  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Have a smaller TBR pile. I'm a bit intimidated by how much of my library pile remains unread.
  9. Are you getting tired yet? No, but that will change when the sun goes down.
  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? It's good to have multiple reading areas set up -- whenever my attention starts to wander, I move to a chair in a different room.

Read-A-Thon: Book The Sixth: Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz adapted by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young (Marvel, 2009)

For as long a young Tip can remember, he has lived with old Mombi in Gillikin Country in the north of Oz. Tip doesn't like Mombi much, and one day as she is returning from town, he attempts to frighten her with a pumpkin-man he has made. Mombi is not scared and uses a magic powder to bring Jack Pumpkinhead to life. Later, after Mombi tells Tip she is going to turn him into a marble statue, the boy takes Jack and flees toward the Emerald City ...

Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed The Marvelous Land of Oz! The full color illustrations are just gorgeous and capture the spirit of the story so well. It was tremendously fun to see what had befallen Glinda, Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman since Dorothy left Oz. The women's revolution and the genderbending transformation of Ozma really tickled me, too.

I look forward to reading Ozma of Oz whenever it is released in hardcover.

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fifth

Seven Sons by Alexander Grecian & Riley Rossmo (AiT/Planet Lar, 2006)

In 1850, seven sons immigrate with their mother from China to California to make a better life for themselves. Their homeland has become an uncomfortable place for the sons as their special abilities have attracted unwelcome attention. In California, the sons hope to blend it with all the other immigrants streaming in to make their fortune from the Gold Rush. They build a home for their mother, work their claim, and are largely ignored my their white neighbors until tragedy befalls two small children. Outraged, some of the townspeople turn against the sons ...

Seven Sons is a skillful retelling of a classic folktale and I enjoyed it immensely. Grecian tells well-crafted, compelling story and Rossmo's illustrations are certainly nice to look at.

Unfortunately, I now have REM's "Seven Chinese Brothers" stuck in my head.

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fourth

A Friendly Game by Joe Pimienta, Lindsay Hornsby, & Laurie Affe (SLG, 2010)

A pair of disturbed boys play a secret game in which they torture and kill small animals. They turn this game into a kind-of contest where they each accrue points for their kills. Kevin is ahead of Todd, but Todd has what he thinks is an awesome kill planned. Except Kevin ruins it by refusing to play. Todd, angered and unbalanced, escalates the game by involving some of their classmates ...

The grey scale illustrations are simple and the layout is clean and easy to follow. Despite the violence of the story, the illustrations manage to portray the horror of it all without being gratuitous or exploitative.

However, this graphic novel made me feel unclean. It was dark. Chilling. Creepy. I won't go so far as to say I regret reading it, but I don't know who I could possibly recommend it to. (The Husband read it and he also found it weird and disturbing, but likeable in some ways. That said, he doesn't know who he could recommend it to, either).

Read-A-Thon: Book The Third

Gotham City Sirens: Union (DC Comics, 2010)

In a post-Final Crisis Gotham unsettled by the "death" of Batman, three supervillianesses have banded together for mutual protection. Of course, this attracts some undesired attention and the three have to kick some ass.

Overall, I thought Gotham City Sirens was a fun romp through the seamy underside of Gotham. The graphic novel doesn't take itself too seriously, but the writing is still quite good and the story takes some interesting twists.

But, oh my god, the fan service! Is the fan service in Gotham City Sirens supposed to be tongue in cheek or does DC just think teh boyz won't read a girl-driven comic unless it's full of T&A? The costumes sure deliver it! Is Harley Quinn's sprayed on or does she just walk around with a fantastic wedgie all day?

Read-A-Thon: Hour Four 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 did this for Jane of Lantern Hill during the last Read-A-Thon and it was a lot of fun!

number 3

Series 4 Musketeer

Can you guess the title? Highlight to see the answer: sreeteksuM eerhT ehT

Read-A-Thon: Book The Second

H-E-R-O: Powers & Abilities by Will Pfeifer & Kano (DC Comics, 2003)

Collects H-E-R-O issues #1-6. H-E-R-O tells the stories of three ordinary people who each come into contact with a mysterious device that, when activated, imbues them with superpowers. Alas, they are a bit slow to realise that super powers cannot fix simple human problems.
  • In the first story, Jerry, a soda jerk in a failed fictional Pennsylvania city, uses the device to impress a co-worker with disastrous results.
  •  In the second story, Matt, a successful young executive from Cleveland, becomes addicted to using the device and loses his family. 
  • In the third story, Matt's young daughter Andrea, must use the device to avert disaster after her new schoolmates have too much fun fooling around with it.
Overall, H-E-R-O was an enjoyable read. The writing is smart and darkly humorous and the art work is excellent -- crisp, yet fluid, and well mapped to the story.

Read-A-Thon: Book The First

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann & Janet Lee (Archaia Comics, 2010)

Time has stopped in Anorev, a world populated only by robots and children under the age of 11. Thanks to the time-stoppage, the children never age, it's always day, and everyone lives in a perpetual present incapable of remembering yesterday or imagining tomorrow. Then along come 314 dapper gentlemen to restart the world's clockwork ...

This graphic novel is beautifully packaged and the illustrations are exquisite -- full of clever little details and a great sense of fun. There are pages I would happily hang on a wall and look at every day.

Alas, the same does not hold true for the story. I had great difficulty following it and, even when I knew what was going on, the story frustrated me. I felt like I was wandering in a thicket of vague metaphor and half-familiar symbols.

Also, I would like to have seen more female characters in the story. All the action characters (aside from bossy, shouty Harmony) are male. The only other female characters we meet are Zoe -- a mute robot who seems to exist to inspire everyone with her beauty -- and the character I thought of as Zoe's Jewish Robot Grandma.

Read-A-Thon: Hour One Meme

It's April and you know what that means, right? It means it's time for another Read-a-thon! I can't believe it's been a year since my first read-a-thon.

Hour One Meme!

Where are you reading from today?
I'm reading from a comfy chair by a sunny window in Connecticut.

3 facts about me …
This is my third consecutive read-a-thon, I own four cats, I am attracted to books the way magpies are attracted to shiny things.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Right now? About twenty-three graphic novels and ten "regular" books. I don't expect to get through all of them, but I tried to make the pile big enough that I would have a lot of variation in what I read.

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)?
Once again, I would really like to get through my embarrassingly ginormous 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?
Don't force yourself to read. If a book can't hold your interest, pick a new book. If your endurance starts fading, go do something else for a little while.


Wordless Wednesday: Naughty Catzilla

Catzilla The Naughty

It's not as if I were planning on hanging that valance ...


Charming, But Not Twee: Miss Read For Christmas

I read No Holly for Miss Quinn in early February and was so taken with it I immediately sought it out as an audiobook. While it's not available on its own, I did find it bundled with The Christmas Mouse.

No Holly For Miss Quinn, if you recall, tells the story of an extremely able career woman who finds herself taking care of her brother's children one Christmas. It was a very gentle story which managed to be tender without also being soppy.

The Christmas Mouse is the story of the adventures that befall a small, impoverished female household one blustery Christmas Eve when it is visited by a mouse and a runaway.

I enjoyed both books as they're both light, feel-good tales that took me out of myself and brought me to a "simpler"(illusionary, I know) time when, while life might not easy, people possessed great moral strength and demonstrated genuine care toward others that the might be nice to see more of now. And of course, everything always turns out right in the end. Not Happy Ever After, mind you, but Right.

Gwen Watford does a beautiful job reading these books and I look forward to listening to her read others!

The Christmas Mouse & No Holly For Miss Quinn written by Miss Read & read by Gwen Watford (BBC Audiobooks America, 1991)