Monday, December 21, 2009
I suffered a badly sprained ankle and come scalp lacerations. Miraculously enough, my husband seems only to be suffering a major bruise from his shoulder strap.
And when we got back to the scene 40 hours later, Wavey was waiting for us at the skid marks we'd left on the road. (This can probably be credited to the tow truck/recovery team who came to pick up the scene--they found our bag of cat food and spread it around to try to keep her in the area.)
Everyone has been so in love with this story! Since we were able to assure everyone (family, friends and acquaintances) that we were okay, they all became concerned about the kitten, and I was even interviewed by a local newspaper and a local news station.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
When she returns to her town, she meets a young nobleman on his way to the king's war and he convinces her to come with him as his sheath--which means exactly what you think it does.
Firethorn (also called Luck) is a frustrating character. As a foundling, she is never sure of her parentage or where she comes from. She remembers almost nothing of her life before her time as the Mistress's drudge, but she never quite fits in the hierarchy--even though she is very aware of the hierarchy and how it works. As a female drudge, she is less valuable than any man on the road to war, in spite of her knowledge as a greenwoman. The only people who value her are the other women she encounters and the nobleman she follows--although his respect is earned on hard terms.
I liked Firethorn, especially in the beginning. Micklem's style reminded me of Robin McKinley's, except that it's not quite as developed (but this is her first book). One of the main elements and plot-movers of this book is sex. It's not particularly descriptive--there are no heaving bosoms or bodices torn asunder--but there's no avoiding it. Firethorn's character is considerably formed by her sexuality and a lot of the plot is dependent on the men in the camp wanting her. Underneath it all, though, it's about Firethorn's journey to a sense of self--which will be continued in the next book, Wildfire.
Days after reading the last page, I still wake up wanting to continue the story. I liked the world Micklem created--the complicated polytheism, the equally complicated caste hierarchy. At no point did I feel like Micklem let the characters do something uncharacteristic just to make the plot easier or to move it along, which would have been easy to do I think. I am looking forward to Wildfire.
Micklem's Firethorn & Wildfire site
Thanks to my library and their participation in interlibrary loans. Now if only there weren't that policy about books released within the year... I can't request Wildfire for another 7 months.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Thanks for the heads up, Kristen!
Friday, December 04, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it. Alyss's relationship with Dodge develops--at an almost painfully slow pace--and all the plot and subplot complications get beefed up; the last book in the trilogy might be an edge-of-my-seat read. Poor Alyss is learning painful lessons about putting her queendom ahead of personal affections. (I love this flaw of Alyss's, because she really resists this.) Hatter Madigan is perhaps the most developed character; he has a lot to do, and it's not all for Wonderland.
But I missed being delighted by surprises. Redd returns (although her return is kind of entertaining) and Arch wants to take over Wonderland--overall, it's pretty predictable. Dodge is still obsessed with The Cat (who has only one life left). Redd still wants to kill her niece and re-take control of Wonderland, which begs the question: Will Redd and Arch gang up against Alyss or will any cooperative relationship between Redd and Arch form fall apart before it can be useful to either of them?
So, the trilogy loses some steam in the second book, but it definitely builds up complexities that will need to be ironed out in the third book. Final verdict of Seeing Redd: Good, but not fantastic.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I'm sure you can tell who was in which group. I (in the leopard print) was Hermia and the guy in the fuzzy sweater was Helena.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
When I was in grad school, a friend told me I would get a kick out of this book she was reading, Sex with Kings. And I really did. It was most edifying. In fact, I want to reread it, and I wouldn't mind owning a copy.
I'd never thought much about royal indiscretions, but I learned a lot about royal life (and loneliness) from Herman's book. And since reading this, I've heard a lot of references to famour mistresses, like Madame Du Barry, who is one of the most famous royal courtesans ever. As I recall, the book only covers some of Europe's kings and their mistresses, and it opens the path to more research for other scholars.*
Because it's a scholarly monograph, it does get a little repetitive; good for researchers who will read only a chapter or two, but not as much fun for casual readers who just sit down and read it cover to cover. The non-chronological jumping around makes it a little harder to keep track of which mistress goes with which king and the time frames of all the reigns, so I highly recommend keeping a little notebook to jot down names and years--it may sound like a little more work than you tend to do when reading, but such notes will be very helpful.
A must-read for you fans of Phillippa Gregory and other royalty-based historical fiction.
*Herman has also written Sex with the Queen, which I'm adding to my wishlist right now.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
As Lord Eon, Eona will form a symbiotic relationship (of not a friendship) with the realm's prince. The politics run hot--the emperor's brother makes no secret of his intent to overtake his brother's role (or nephew's, as the case may be) and the Ascendant Dragon (leader of the Dragoneyes) has his own vicious ambitions, which he puts above all else.
And poor Eon/Eona is just a girl pretending to be a boy, trying to become as much like a boy as she can, to quash everything feminine about herself. But pretending to be a boy only intensifies all the insecurities Eona would have felt as a young woman if she'd been allowed to be one. On top of all her doubt of her skills and her true nature, and how much she's actually faking everything, if she's found out, she (and everyone who may or may not have known about this secret) will be killed. And yet she still manages to be a strong female character. Yes, it's very Mulan-esque--the real story, not the Disnification of it.
And Eona's isn't quite the only gender delineation being smudged. Though most of the gender roles in this book are very 18th-century traditional, there is Lady Dela, a transgendered member of the emperor's court (a Contraire, a twin soul) who not only encourages a broadening of readers' minds (you can't help but like her) but provides Eon with a new perspective of gender.
I really liked this book. In spite of how predictable most of it was, I held my breath, I trembled in anticipation and anxiety, and I stopped reading for almost a whole day because I wasn't ready to be done.
Just to clear up any potential confusion if you go in search of this book, it's actually been published under three titles, depending on who published it: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, and Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye. It's also been published in French. And they all have fabulous book covers.
These are all the same book--just so you don't accidentally buy your niece or daughter (or self) two or three different titles because you think they're different books.
I'm waiting to hear about a release date for the sequel.
Monday, November 16, 2009
One time I made this for a friend who was a super-calorie-counter and she got me to switch out the butter and just use some butter-flavored nonstick spray; for those of you who are super-calorie-counters, too, it worked pretty well.
adapted from Eating Light, March 2003
1 bag (25 oz.)
1 T butter*
1 c finely chopped carrot
1 c finely chopped onion
1 c half-and-half**
29 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 c grated Parmesan
- While the ravioli water comes to a boil, melt butter in a saucepan (or skillet) over medium heat. Stir in carrot & onion; cover & cook 8 minutes, till soft but not browned.
- Stir in pumpkin puree, half-and-half, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer five minutes.
- Add the ravioli to the boiling water--cook according to directions. (My ravioli always took 3-5 minutes.)
- Add cheese to sauce, stir until melted. Serve sauce over ravioli.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The story itself may be good, but the style of its telling could have been much, much better, and it's why I stopped. I found myself making the kinds of notes I'd make on a manuscript--e.g. word choice, fact check, this statement is in opposition to position three pages ago, this scene doesn't make sense because..., readers may find rhetorical questions unnecessary and annoying, etc.
Also, I think this book would have been much better written as a memoir. I was thrown by the fact that the book tells the story of one of the authors, but it's not written in the first person. Even with that said, though, I'm starting to shy away from memoirs written by or with the help of journalists. A lot of them just aren't good at creative nonfiction, and based on this book, I'd have to include Relin in that group.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
An undisciplined imagination is worse than no imagination at all. It can do more harm.
Did you know Lewis Carroll's Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum were based on the commander of Wonderland's royal army? That the Mad Hatter was not a milliner who had gone mad from the amount of mercury used to clean top hats, but that he was instead Hatter Madigan, the Queen's personal body guard? Yeah, me either. Indeed, I've never imagined Wonderland anything like this.
In The Looking Glass Wars, Beddor re-imagines Wonderland. Gone are all those movie-version Wonderlands in my head. Also gone are those movie Alices and Red Queens and White Queens and White Rabbit and purple-stripey Cheshire Cat... The Jabberwocky, though, might be pretty much the same.
The story opens on Princess Alyss Heart's seventh birthday (and will span through her adolescence to adulthood), a day which turns out to be a very bad day (to put it mildly) for all the residents of Wonderland, but especially Alyss, whose parents are both killed by her jealous and power-hungry Aunt Redd. To escape her aunt's homicidal intentions, Alyss has to dive into the world we know--the world where she eventually becomes Alice Liddell, who confides her story to Charles Dodgeson, better known these days as Lewis Carroll. (This story sent me to Wikipedia to find out just who Prince Leopold was, whether he was really interested in marrying Alice Liddell, and whether he was about to die in the pages of The Looking Glass Wars. I love books that make me look stuff up.)
Beddor's Wonderland is a place of singing flowers and whispering trees, but also a place of flesh-eating roses and genetically modified card soldiers. Nearly everything can take readers by surprise. But above all, it is a place where imagination reigns supreme. And which queen, Redd or White, has the best power of imagination?
If you're a fantasy reader haven't already enjoyed this ride, I strongly suggest you do so. Tomorrow I intend to be at my library checking out Seeing Redd.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling was one of the books that my friend Jo the Librarian added to my read-a-thon pile. The story is pretty familiar: peer-ridiculed orphan (with a girl's name) finds himself in unexpected situations and eventually discovers that he has a destiny (which may or may not involve a prophecy).
The book looks extremely hefty when it's sitting on a shelf or table, but a third of the book is an Explicarium (appendices, including a very handy glossary). And each chapter is headed with a relevant glossary term, which I greatly appreciated, especially before I discovered that the book was not, in fact, 434 pages.
Though the book got off to a rather slow start, by the time the foundling boards what readers will recognize as the wrong ship, you know everyone's in for one heck of a ride.
I really hope the library gets the second one (Lamplighter) in soon.
Monday, November 09, 2009
A breath of steam trickles out, filled with the sobs of a grown woman breaking into girl-sized pieces.
Laurie Halse Anderson has for years been a favorite YA author amongst both adults and teens alike, and with excellent reason. Her characters are those who teens--especially girls--can understand, girls who are survivors of others' crimes or their own malicious webs, girls who develop their strength through the pages, through their own words.
Wintergirls is narrated by Lia, an anorexic girl whose former best friend died as the result of her bulimia. They were a team, Lia and Cassie, who motivated each other's unhealthy obsession with thinness, who had a pact to be the skinniest girls in school, even when they seemed close to realizing how dangerous/stupid it was:
I totally supported her. I looked up the names of docs and clinics. I e-mailed her recovery Web sites.
And I sabotaged her every step.
We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.I love the care Anderson takes with her character's voice. The unconventional ways she clarifies Lia's obsession: "I eat ten raisins (16) and five almonds (35) and a green-bellied pear (121)(=172)." Or: "
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.17.18.19.Of course the main conflict in the book is internal, Lia vs. herself, but there's plenty of other drama in her life, too--her father and mother, long separated, don't get along. She doesn't get along with her mother (although she mostly gets along with her stepmother and loves her half-sister). And then there's Cassie's ghost to contend with (because even if she's just a figment of Lia's demented, starved head or not, she serves as a character in the book all the same).
If I were still teaching, I would have multiple copies of this on my classroom shelves, and I'd expect at least one copy to go missing every year for the first few years.
I'm very excited that my library finally got this on their shelves. (It was in the new arrivals section when I walked by. I think I happy-danced it all the way to the checkout counter.)
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Never before had I known the sudden quiver of understanding that travels from word to brain to heart, the way a new language can move, coil, swim into life under the eyes, the almost savage leap of comprehension, the instantaneous, joyful release of meaning, the way the words shed their printed bodies in a flash of heat and light.The Historian strives to marry the myth of the vampire Dracula with the life of historical figure Vlad the Impaler. The actions kicks off when the narrator, a teenage girl in the 1970's, finds a strange old book in her father's library--a book with blank pages and a woodcut dragon in the center. Everything that has been mysterious and incomplete in her life stems from this book--including the loss of her mother.
In geekish glee I found myself wading through this narrative of research, eager and amazed at the lengths academics--three generations of them in this story--will go to in order to seek complete answers to their questions. Where did this book come from? Who printed it? Where is the real tomb of Dracula? And is he actually in it?
Kostova does a wonderful job blurring the lines of real research with imaginary research. Highly recommended.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Readers expect a lot from a writer like Carlos Ruiz Zafón and The Angel’s Game will disappoint those who were first introduced to this wonderful story tellers magic in The Shadow of the Wind.
The Angel’s Game begins drawing readers into a Barcelona of the early part of the last century and somewhere around the middle, maybe just past halfway point, the threads of the tapestry taking shape become unraveled. Then, as if an attempted restoration takes place, only portions of the remaining work make sense--and not collectively. The characters remain the same but the story each is living in becomes disassociated with the original narrative and some characters drop away completely with unsatisfactory conclusion to their parts. Mostly there is an overuse of morte et motre extremis to prevent re-occurrence of characters.
I read the book to my wife over successive nights, and it wasn’t long before we were both hoping for the end. The tedious story should have ended but instead there is a flurry of minor characters suddenly becoming important.
I wonder if there is something lost in the translation by Lucia Graves. Certainly there would be much gained if a second edit were done to correct the grammatical phrasing that would put the subject, verb and other sentence parts in an order that would not fetter readability. Maybe if all the strands of incomplete characters, incoherent story lines and incompetent grammar are restored to their possible original luster, it will work.
I really wanted to like The Angel’s Game because I had enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind. My disappointment is extreme, yet I would be willing to give Carlos Ruiz Zafón another chance with whatever he produces next.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Real love was dangrous, it got you from the inside and held on tight, and if you didn't let go fast enough you might be willing to do anything for its sake.
Goodness, in their opinion, was not a virtue but merely spinlessness and fear disguised as humility.
I like Practical Magic. A lot. I'm enchanted by lines like, "Ben is so mixed up that he's begun to do magic tricks involuntarily. He reached for his credit card at the gas station and pulled out the queen of hearts." But I cannot unwind the book from the movie. Even knowing from my first reading (in January) that very little from the movie happens in the book, I still picture Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock and Aidan Quinn. And Goran Visnjic (even though we never even see Jimmy alive in the book--just his apparition in the garden).
One of my book group said she loved this book--until about halfway through. Then she was just ready to be done with it. (She hadn't seen the movie, so she had no expectations of the plot.) Halfway through was when I called it quits for the night (I'd begun it as my last book of the read-a-thon), and the second half seemed much slower the next day. I didn't mind the slowness of it, because Hoffman really developed the characters and they were good, interesting characters, but I still wanted more of the aunts.
I wish I'd read the book before I saw the movie (except that I really like the movie, and I don't think I would have liked the movie at all if I'd read the book first).
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Chick Lit this is not.
In the future, women describing the psyche of men will have a new cliché:’ “He's so Bunny Monro.”
Tragically, I myself fall into this category and believe that if left unchecked by spiritual grounding, some situational ethics and acceptable standards of morality, it would take little time for me to find myself thinking along Bunny Monro’s Cligulaian lines.
The Death of Bunny Monro is not a book designed for those who have a hard time looking at the side of themselves they would rather their mother did not know existed.
Bunny Monro is a door-to-door salesman for a product line marketed to women. His career path leads him to the doors of women of all walks of life and often Bunny uses the samples in his product case to massage his way further into the lives of customers and others he comes in contact with. Bunny is almost always bordering on a mindset kind people would simply call depraved.
That his wife kills herself is but one of the first insights readers get into realizing that the depravity of Bunny Monro is going to be paid for--first by those around him and as the title implies, ultimately Bunny Monro.
The introduction of Bunny’s young son, also Bunny Monro, and his sickly and equally perverse father, also Bunny Monro, had me wondering who would be the one who would die. Would it be the young boy, torn from his fathers callous but loving arms. Would it be the aged, sickly oafish prick of a father who would at last expire in a pool of excrement and spittle, while sitting in a chair whose compartments and between seat cushion spaces are filled with stratified food? Bunny Junior is weighted with the childhood responsibility of being the sane voice of reason in a world ruled by adults whose only claim to adultship is that they do not have to dress when someone else tells them to.
Many readers will relate to all aspects of the many manifestations presented and be pleased with the final outcome, as it appears to be just and true.
Women are presented in a variety of modes, sometimes even kindly, yet as a reviewer it is important to remind future readers that the worldview detailed by Bunny Monro is the exclusive domain of Bunny Monro, and the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons or maybe "the person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." (Ezekiel 18:20)
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The story seems to revolve around a middle-aged woman's flirtation/affair with a younger woman from another cultural background. I didn't feel like there was anything particularly new or interesting that was going to come from the story, and the narrator's voice grated on my nerves a little (though I can't remember why it had that effect on me, and I've already returned the book to the library).
At another time, in another place, I might've chosen to finish this book. But, as my friend Jo says, "It's just not a ride I want to take right now."
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
- The Big, Orange Splot
- Harold & the Purple Crayon
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Caps for Sale
- The Velveteen Rabbit
Monster Blood Tattoo was tremendous fun--many thanks to my friend Jo for recommending it.
Post a song that reminds you of the read-a-thon, or that you love to read to, or that makes you think of a particular book. You can either embed a video of the song, or post the lyrics.
I typically listen to classical music when I'm settling in for a good, long reading session. Anything else interrupts my focus--'cause I have to sing along if there are lyrics. And lately I'm finding that even classical music can interrupt my reading when I stop to admire the way the composer figured out how to make me feel a certain way with just a few notes.
So I am going to post a song that, every time I hear it, reminds me of Christopher Pike's Scavenger Hunt. I can't say I was crazy about the book, but it's been 15+ years since I read it--I've only read it once--and this song never fails to make me think of all the creepy craziness in that book. I don't even remember what the craziness was exactly. I think it had to do with monsters/dinosaurs. But it doesn't matter, really, because REM's "Losing My Religion" totally makes me think of that book every time I hear it.
I haven't had too many interruptions. I got up & made some microwave kettle corn. I put a huge sweet potato in the oven for supper. Every now & then my husband provides commentary to whatever he's looking at online. Apparently they closed his elementary school and if he were going to school now, he'd be a dragon. I don't know what he was before. And there's a couple from PEI in the new season of Canada's Worst Driver (which starts Monday night) that apparently caused a stir in their local newspaper--judging by the comments, PEI residents want to know who the tattooed freaks are and some of them seem to believe that PEI will be represented by this pair. I don't think the rest of Canada thinks of the pairs on the show as representative of an area; I certainly don't. (Although some of the drivers do make me want to avoid the towns they're from.)
Thanks to everyone who's stopped to say hi today! I really appreciate your comments!
Maybe I just didn't used to pay such close attention. Also, Anderson's books also cause the scholarly part of my brain to break away and examine her use of literary effects.
But boy does that pile of books I borrowed from the library look a lot taller now...
I figure I'll try to stay off the computer as much as I can today--I'll check e-mail and post updates every couple hours. I won't be twittering, 'cause that's just far too time-consuming. And I should wrap up in the wee hours of the morning--I won't make it to the 24 hour mark, but I'll go as long as I can (I figure about 16-18 hours).
I think the biggest struggle might be keeping my husband from the TV all day--he has a problem with one ear and so the TV tends to get pretty loud and horribly distracting. But for now, he's still in bed and I'm turning on my iTunes classical playlist!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
"Such were the humble beginnings of the end of the world: the absence of dreams."
Magpie Windwitch is a fairy with extraordinary gifts and a mission: Retrap the genies the humans keep releasing. You see, the genies are really demons, who were sealed into those bottles years ago by the Djinn's chosen champions. Except that the era of the Djinn (those who made the world) and their champions is long past.
So with the demons being released, not only do little 'Pie and her crow comrades face the challenge of fighting the demons (especially the nastiest one she's encountered yet, a demon that seems to uncreate the people/faeries/other demons it encounters), but 'Pie must also find and convince the King of the Djinn that this is a fight worth waking up for. His inclination is to let it all fall apart.
And as if that weren't enough, the false queen Vesper has taken reign of Dreamdark, and she knows Magpie recognizes her as a fake. Under other circumstances, you'd think not much could be more dangerous than a fake queen clinging to her claim at any cost.
Taylor imagines for her readers a world, which though literally unraveling, is full of magic, destiny, and courage. Magpie is a brave and determined heroine with more than a few friends to help her along with way. And Taylor's writing style is endearing and humorous. Of one of the imps, Taylor describes, "It was the least ratlike part of him, his nose, flesh while the reset was fur, and quite spectacularly large, with each nostril spacious enough to fit his big toes into--which he frequently did."
The only parts of Blackbringer that threatened the enchantment of the story and characters were the occasional pro-green assertions about how much humans mess up the Djinn-created world. (I'm extremely sensitive to environmentalist hype, and there was a fair sprinkling of it in this book. In that sense, it's not unlike Ferngully. Do you remember that movie?)
I really wish my library were getting the Dreamdark trilogy. I borrowed this one through an interlibrary loan, but because the second in this trilogy was so recently released, I have to wait a year to request it from another library.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So you know how I mentioned that I'd be going to the library? Well, I bumped into my friend Jo (a librarian) near the YA section, and I told her what I was up to this Saturday--and within minutes, I was carrying this stack around the library:
For the record, my book stack for Dewey's Read-a-Thon now contains these books:
- Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
- Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish
- An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson*
- The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
- Sima's Undergarments for Women* by Ilana Stanger-Ross
- The Amulet of Samarkand (Book One of The Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)
- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (I still have to find this one)
- Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden
- Wake by Lisa McMann
- The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
*This one was in the new books rack, which I browse every time just before I leave the library.
Monday, October 19, 2009
- The Heretic's Daughter
- Practical Magic (because I have to have that re-read by Sunday night--and I still haven't found which box it's in)
- The Undomestic Goddess (which I'm actually halfway through, but need to have that read for book group next month)
- Hamlet & Ophelia
- Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography
And I know I won't get to them all, 'cause I just don't read as fast as I used to (and I won't even try to stay up all 24-hours), but I'm looking forward to seeing how many I can get through! And I'll have a couple more to the side, in case none of those strike me as particularly appealing when it's time to start something new (and I have to make a trip to the library this week, so I'm sure there'll be some library books to consider, too).
Saturday, October 17, 2009
But I've become fascinated by erotica ever since. (Trivia: Did you know Margaret Mitchell had a substantial erotica collection?) And you know, it's hard to find good erotica. I read some of it online; most of that is horrible, far more pornographic than literary. Usually the best are gems that come from a scene in a book, something unexpectedly delicious and tantalizing.
But The Best American Erotica 2006 didn't do much for me. With Susie Bright's reputation, I'm sorry to say that I found this collection dull. There was an amusing story called "Stalin's Mustache" that I'll probably remember for years, but the rest of them--pretty forgettable.
Maybe 2006 just wasn't a good year for erotica.
Book Source: Personal library
Thursday, October 15, 2009
So after letting all our plans filter onto our Google Calendar, I miraculously have nothing planned for October 24, so I'm going to try to buckle down (hope the weather's not fantastic that weekend) and read as much as I can. This is the day before I host my book group, so I'm sure I'll be rereading Practical Magic. And I'll probably have a pile of YA/teen books to read and next month's book club book.
I have GOT to unpack my books. (It's only been three months since we moved.)
I'm not saying I'm calling it quits for good on this one--I can see that Sethi has a knack for characters and setting--but it's definitely not to my liking at this point in time. (I've been chiseling away at those 70 pages for months.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I know many of you have read Practical Magic (and many of you love it), so I was wondering if you have any snack suggestions. What do you think?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Graceling is a wonderful teen fantasy about a young woman named Katsa with a fighting Grace (Graces are comparable to mutations in X-Men) which allows her to move quickly and aim almost flawlessly--and which her king/uncle uses to his advantage. For a while, anyhow.
When Katsa encounters another Graceling, a prince, who can fight nearly as well as she, her life is turned upside down and she finds herself doing things she never dreamed she'd be able or have to do--starting with defying her uncle outright.
I don't think I would have chosen to read Fire before Catching Fire, if the decision had been mine, but Fire is a companion book and can supposedly stand on its own without reading Graceling first (and I am not a patient person when it comes to books with cliffhangers). But now I must get my hands on a copy of Fire; I want to go back to Katsa's world.
Book source: library
Monday, October 12, 2009
Amy of My Friend Amy has had another scathingly brilliant idea to do a fall recipe exchange. You can click on the icon to go her post with all the participating bloggers in the Mr. Linky list.
I would love to share with you a recipe I found in a magazine years ago: Pumpkin Ravioli (cheese ravioli with a pumpkin sauce). However, I can't. It's been so long since I've made it that I know I couldn't tell you how to do it off the top of my head. (I haven't made it for two reasons: I haven't been able to locate the recipe AND frozen ravioli is impossible to find here--although they have frozen pierogies by the boatload. And fresh ravioli is twice is expensive for half the product.)****
So instead, I'm going to share with you what I made for my Thanksgiving guests last night that had everyone going, "Mmmmm!" with every bite. Seriously, this is my new favorite way to make sweet potatoes.
I made my dish based on the recipe posted over at ZestyCook.com, but because the potatoes were gigantic and we were feeding seven or eight people with varying appetite levels, I changed it up a bit. You can do a good portion of this earlier in the day if you're serving an evening meal.
6 lb. sweet potatoes
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
1/2 c. cream cheese (can use light)
3-4 t. vanilla
1/4 c. butter
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. toasted almond slices/slivers
- Heat oven to 375.
- Line a pan with foil (for easy cleanup) and bake sweet potatoes until tender. (Usually about an hour--my gigantic potatoes actually took 2.5.)
- When potatoes have cooled enough to handle, peel them. Discard the skins.*
- In mixing bowl, mash (or whip, if you're using a stand mixer) sweet potatoes. Add cream cheese, vanilla and butter.
- Butter a casserole dish (I used an 8" x 12" dish, approx.) and pour in potatoes. At this point you can cover/refrigerate** it until about 45 minutes before serving.
- Just before baking the second time, sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 30-40 minutes.
- Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.
* The original recipe calls for restuffing the skins in a traditional twice-baked potato fashion.
**It really depends on how long you're waiting before baking it again. And how much room you have in the fridge.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Until the end. Then it all fell apart for me. And even though Fitzpatrick says that the last page has been changed from what we read in ARC's, any changes in that last page wouldn't be enough to make me over-the-moon with the whole book. I don't like saying that, because it has been a long, long time since I've been this enchanted with a bad boy. (Patch is a fallen angel, and throughout, you're not sure whether he's come into our heroine Nora's life as a good bad boy or a bad bad boy.)
Still, Patch was totally worth the reading. And I am a little curious about the sequel that's in the works, in spite of my feelings about the ending.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I don't think there's a book of Crutcher's that hasn't been challenged. And because I seldom come across his books on other book blogs, I'd like to draw some more attention to them.
I was introduced to Chris Crutcher's books through my adolescent lit class when I was in college. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, the book we read, remains one of my favorite YA books. It was certainly the best book the class read. I sought out other books of his afterwards--Whale Talk. Chinese Handcuffs. The Sledding Hill.
And then, joy of joys, I learned that he was going to be talking and reading at Claire's Day 2006. And he was going to be at a local library two night before that. (I, of course, attended both.)
Plenty of adults have a ton of problems with Crutcher's books. They are turned off by the language and frankness of his characters, but his characters are amongst the most real teen protagonists I've encountered. Crutcher's ability to write these kinds of characters stem from his work as a therapist for teens, who inspire his books. Others find his characters to be disrespectful of adult authority, but the adults in his books who earn respect get it. Many find his portrayal of religion to be appalling. Others (and some of the same) are disturbed by the discussions in his books of race, abortion, masturbation, body image, sex, abuse, etc. You know the rigmarole of challenging books. Crutcher doesn't shy away from writing about anything.
Chris Crutcher's website is uniquely concerned with censorship. I love the page on which he answers challenges, be they book challenges in school districts across the US or messages from parents sent to his e-mail address. And in The Sledding Hill, one of his fictitious titles is being challenged by parents in the school system. (He even throws in a cameo appearance at the board meeting scene.)
If you haven't read one of his books, I'd suggest that this would be an especially good week to do so.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So begins a book--a dark memoir that this reviewer was shocked to learn was deemed worthy to be republished (originally published in 1935). I am not alone in my opinion that this book has no redeeming qualities.
As a precautionary measure before plunging in to Bob Moore’s telling of his life as a wayward Scotsman; don’t say I didn’t warn you!
A self-proclaimed thief, liar, and gunrunner (one must add racist, drunk, and murderer to the list!), Don’t Call Me a Crook! is a 245 page slog through the murky waters of violence, corruption, and all else in bad taste.
The book is separated into fourteen chapters but his telling of the story feels disjointed and hardly goes together seamlessly from one part to the next. And as an added insult grammatical errors abound; that Dissident Books (the publisher) purposely left in to illustrate the sparse and saucy language of the time. It does not work in the book’s favour, rather creates a choppy, broken progression that detracts from the prose.
More than once I was ready to throw the book in to the trash. It is painful to read. The author is a despicable character.
Don’t Call Me a Crook! is a work of self-denial. Bob Moore is a crook!
*I couldn't finish it; I read to page 79.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The Walking People is the story of three young Irish who immigrate to America in the 1960's. Michael, from a tinker family, decides he wants to try staying in one place. Johanna and Greta are sisters who have no discernible sustainable future in Ireland, and one of them dreams of the fancier, easier life America offers. And, of course, their lives in America turn out far different from the ideas they'd had.
Keane's writing is virtually flawless. Her scenes are seamless. Her characters and settings are rich, lush. It's kind of writing you want to describe with lists of adjectives.
This book made me miss having a clawfoot bathtub; it deserves that kind of "me time."*
I had one during my first year of teaching, and I'd take a leisurely bath every night, reading for about an hour and forgetting about grading and lesson plans. Plus, I thought it was important for my students to know that I thought reading was important enough to make time for; they knew how much I read because I loved talking books with them.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I was surprised that Eva had stayed so long in a life that was relatively comfortable but which was also making her silently unhappy; then I realized this book was published in the early 1970's and that while divorce wasn't unheard of for younger couples, for a woman who had been married for forty years or so, abandoning her marriage would have been huge. And of course, there are times she considers going back to her husband. Her adult son tries to talk her into going back. She even almost does, but even when she finds her new situation completely depressing, she still thinks it's better than what she left.
And though Eva isn't a particularly social person in her new life, she does, after a while, make some friends--and finds herself with a new lover, the Hungarian who lives upstairs. I liked the Hungarian way more in the beginning of their relationship than I did toward the end of the book; I felt that if she stayed in the relationship, she was in danger of falling into a life similar to the one she had left. (Albeit with a man she at least felt passion for.) But I'm not going to tell you what happens with that.
Overall, the plot's pretty basic (which makes for a mostly quick read), which is to say the story's completely about Eva's character, and though she puts herself in a situation for which many people would judge her, readers never really feel that they're qualified or justified to condemn (or condone) her actions; we must just sit back and watch the outcomes of her decisions.
This is a surprisingly satisfying book. I'm not in love with it, but I enjoyed the crafting of the characters, even when I didn't like them. Not recommended for everyone, but if you enjoy a more literary sort of book (and/or creating feminist critical analysis while you read), go for it.
I read this book months ago, but when book club decided to postpone our meeting till September, I rescheduled the posting of my review. And when I checked the review, it had disappeared. Grr.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Hi, all. Just a reminder that the Literary League: Read 'til YA Drop online book group is discussing Catching Fire in its discussion boards on Facebook. So, if you're on Facebook and have read the book, come join in! If not, read the book and then join in!
(Don't join in if you haven't read it; participants are assumed to have read the book, so spoilers abound.)
Friday, September 18, 2009
Today's challenge: Tell us, in 50 words or less, what you love best about your blog! And then in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW!
Next year, I'd like to have a totally different layout. Definitely an original header. Maybe even my own domain, a whole new blog!--or maybe I'll just switch to Wordpress. And I will try harder to keep my reviews to 200 words or less. Okay, maybe 300 words or less.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Today, we're directed, "...let’s talk about that book you know, the one you discovered only because you read about it on a book blog and then you realized you couldn’t live without it! And then you read it and you loved it so hard! Tell us about it and about the blogger (or bloggers!) that introduced the book to you!"
I admit, I don't often remember who recommended a book to me when I've read about it on a blog. There are just so many bloggers to keep track of all the recommendations. But amongst the books I might not have heard of or come across or bothered reading were it not for other book bloggers' enthusiastic recommendations:
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins--too many book bloggers raved about this YA book and I forget whose review pushed me over the edge.
- Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart--Amy of My Friend Amy encouraged us all to go out & buy this one during its first week of release, and without that recommendation and push from Amy, it would probably still be on my wish list.
- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Today we are answering some questions posted over on the BBAW site about our reading habits. I'll keep them short--which might be hard, if you look at the answers I gave Angie of Angieville in my interview yesterday. But I'll try to keep them short. Really.
Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Sometimes. I like cookies best.Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I have written in margins. Mostly I stick to Post-Its and Post-It flags. (I don't like reading books that are written in, with few exceptions.)How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Whatever scrap of paper is handy. Sometimes with the book of Post-It flags (but those don't stay put well).Laying the book flat open?
Not usually.Hard copy or audiobooks?
Typically, I like to be able to flip the pages, but hubby & I like audiobooks for road trips.If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Hardly ever. That's why, for nearly a decade, I thought "nonplussed" meant "not impressed."What are you currently reading?
Hush, Hush. 4 Poets. A couple other books I haven't officially declared that I'm quitting for good.What is the last book you bought?
Catching FireDo you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
It's easier to read when my husband's out of the house. He's really distracting.Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Deerskin by Robin McKinley. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
Usually, I have a shelf of ARCs and review copies, then under that, two shelves of books I want to read next. Then a shelf of books I wanted to read at one time, but no longer feel a need to read immediately, if ever. Then there are shelves and shelves of books I've already read. And I have a shelf of signed books and books I've had a hand in (I'm even named in a couple of them). Of course right now, somehow, our books are all still in their boxes from our move in July.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Angie of Angieville. How neither Angie nor I have come across each other's book blogs before our interview assignments baffles me--we have so much in common! Getting to know a little bit about Angie has been a joy, and I am, immediately after posting this interview, adding her blog to my favorite book blogs folder.
1. The picture on your blog makes you look like one of those people who might be thirteen or thirty. So: Just how old are you?
*laughs* I actually had to think for a second as I just turned 31 and it still feels a bit weird to say. My husband is a photographer and takes rather a lot of pictures of me and I look different in each one of them. The one on the blog is not a particularly recent one but I sort of liked how it looks like I’m trying to decide which book to read next.
2. What are your family’s reading habits?
Ooh, that’s a loaded question! We’re big readers in this house. We read aloud, silently, alone, or in pairs, trios, or quartets, and at all hours of the day and night. My husband is big into nonfiction, though he dabbles a fair bit in literary fiction. He listens to most of his books on his iPod and has a Kindle he’s quite fond of. He also humors me by allowing me to read my most favorite of favorite books to him aloud, usually in bed at night or on road trips. We’ve read everything from Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum to Ender’s Game and the Alanna books. We just finished The Queen of Attolia and I always look forward to our next read. My boy Will and I are just finishing up the Chronicles of Narnia together. They’ve been our bedtime reads and he always begs for, “Just one more chapter, Mom!” So far his favorite seems to be a tie between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew. My baby girl Piper is a big fan of Dear Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She loves turning the pages and is always very careful not to rip them. Apparently she absorbed some of my reverence for books while in the womb! As for me I read whenever I get a chance and I can’t seem to fall asleep at night, no matter how late it is, unless I’ve read a good chunk of something first.
3. How did you become a reader?
I come by it honestly. Both my parents are voracious readers. They have quite different tastes in books but the one series they have in common is the Nancy Drew books. So those are some of my first reading memories. The Hidden Staircase scared the crap out of me as a kid, though, so I had to cool it for a bit till I was ready. I remember reading and loving The Witch of Blackbird Pond and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with my mother. When I was ten my aunt sent me a set of the Chronicles of Narnia and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. You’re an editor for an educational publisher. What’s your job description (as you’ve experienced it--which we all know can be very different from how the employer writes it up)?
I spend most of my time researching and writing reports about countries and cultures from around the world. I work in the K-12 department so these reports are geared toward students of all ages. The fun part is I get to correspond with historical experts from all over making sure our information is accurate and current. And from time to time I get sent on trips in which I gather images and video and conduct interviews on life in that particular country. The other fun part is it’s a small office filled with cool people who love to read. It’s a good job and I’m grateful to have it.
5. When you graduated with your MA in literature, what was (and maybe still is) your dream career?
When I started my MA I think my dream career was being a writer. While I worked on my MA I had the opportunity to teach freshman composition and fell in love with teaching writing on the university level. So much so that I continued teaching after I graduated. I’ve missed teaching since I became and editor, though I employ many of the same skills. Now I believe my dream job would be a Young Adult lit editor or a YA librarian. Nothing gives me a high like putting great books into the hands of people who will love them. That’s certainly a big part of why I love blogging.
6. You haven’t posted your review of the ARC of Catching Fire you got at BEA. Have you read it yet?*
I was embarrassingly late in finishing and reviewing my ARC of Catching Fire, it’s true. I had it and Fire by Kristin Cashore in my hands and opted to read Fire first. Interestingly, I actually read Graceling and The Hunger Games back to back last year. Anyway, Fire blew me away so completely that I got thrown off track and didn’t get around to Catching Fire for awhile. Once I did, I was immediately re-immersed in Katniss’ world and the intensity and Utter Peril got to me so much so that I actually set it down and had to take a break. That doesn’t happen to me very often and I was a bit shocked by my response. But when I finally got the nerve to pick it up again I read it through to the end in one sitting. And it was absolutely and comprehensively awesome. Team Gale FTW!
7. When you started your book blog over three years ago, did you know there was such a huge community of book bloggers? How did you find it? (How many book blogs are in your RSS reader?)
I had no idea when I started. I thought it would be fun to keep an online log of my reading each month and perhaps make a few Best Of lists. I was pretty taken with designing the layout and playing around with images and links, etc. I updated it monthly and didn’t really spend a lot of time on it. It didn’t take me too long, though, to have my eyes opened for me. And once I ventured out into the book blogging world I was completely addicted. Bookshelves of Doom was one of the first blogs I stumbled across and I immediately loved the honest, hilarious way Leila went about reviewing books and promoting literacy, combined with the occasional bit of pop culture. Bookshelves of Doom was my gateway book blog. J
I’ve currently got 123 book blogs in my reader.
8. What are your favorite author encounters? What authors would you like to meet?
One of my most memorable author encounters was getting to meet Tamora Pierce and hear her read aloud. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I was twelve years old and discovered a book called Alanna: the First Adventure on the shelves of my local library in San Antonio, TX. She’s a superb presenter and I sat there rapt, clutching my book in delight.
Though it doesn’t qualify as an “encounter,” one of my most prized possessions is a letter I received from Lloyd Alexander in answer to one I sent him thanking him for his wonderful books. It was the first letter I wrote to an author and his response (typed on an actual typewriter and signed in blue ink) hangs on my wall over my desk. It never fails to make me smile.
The list of authors I would love to meet is rapidly getting longer. I would love to sit down at a table with Ellen Emerson White and John Green because I think they’re two of the smartest writers out there and because they don’t underestimate their readers. I would love to meet Juliet Marillier and Sharon Shinn because they write beautiful fantasy novels that I read over and over again. And I would love to talk books while watching Veronica Mars with Diana Peterfreund because…it would be an awesome good time. With the Logan. And the books.
9. Are you a cat or dog person?
Dogs all the way.
10. On your blog, you tell a frustrating story about looking for a bookstore in Orlando. How have you tried to ensure that experience doesn’t repeat itself?
It was a scarring experience, Jena. I still have nightmares. First of all, I make it a rule never to make the same mistake and travel with only the first book in a series. I have to have the first three, at least, depending on the length of the trip. Once I set out on a trip to Italy to visit my parents with the first two Harry Potter books. We were in route to London when I finished the second one and I remember my first priority upon landing was rushing into the nearest bookshop to get my hands on Prisoner of Azkaban. Fortunately they had one. Now I just make sure to carry with me twice as many books as I think I could possibly need and that generally sees me back home. My back suffers but my soul is happy.
11. You want to talk up Ender’s Game to a handful of teen guys you get the feeling would love the book, but you only have 45 seconds or so before they disappear--get on a bus or spaceship or whatever. What do you tell them?
Crotch punch of death!
Thank you, Angie!
And thank you Amy, for pairing us up!
* These questions were asked in August, before the release of Catching Fire and the posting of Angie's review.