Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Five Foolery - Five Fatties

Thanks to Les, I've been thinking about the "fat books" on my shelves and why I haven't gotten around to reading them. I'm intimidated by longer books, partly because I'm a fairly slow reader, but each book has its own unique excuse - or most do. "Fat", by my definition, is over about 400 pages.

Five Fat Books I've Been Meaning to Read:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - Really, there's just no valid excuse for not reading Gone With the Wind if you live in the Deep South. I have, in fact, picked the book up and started to read it on no less than three separate occasions. The first time, I was young and busy with high school activities; it didn't grab me and I chose not to fight to get through the book. The second time, I had a toddler running around at my feet and couldn't concentrate. The third attempt was during my bookstore-employee days and frequent interruptions thwarted my efforts. I'm hoping 2007 will be the year I finish Gone With the Wind.

2. God Is An Englishman by R. F. Delderfield - This is a fairly new addition to my TBRs, so I don't feel particularly guilty about the fact that I haven't picked it up and begun to read . . . yet. In fact, I've had the second book in this series for quite some time but decided that since it's historical fiction, order is crucial. My copy of God is An Englishman happens to be located in a prominent location, quite near the bed at nearly eye level when I'm reading. And, it's been hollering at me practically since the day it walked in my door. So, if any of my fat books have a crying chance of getting read, this one is probably at the top of the list.

3. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George - 964 pages. What was I thinking? I have no idea, but possibly the words "inexpensive remaindered book" figure into the equation. I know I bought my copy at the outlet store that (sob) just went out of business (we're down to one bookstore, full price and very small - no used bookstores at all). Very seldom does a quick flip of a big book manage to get past my "This is too challenging for me," defense mechanism, so there must have been something intriguing about The Memoirs of Cleopatra or it never would have made the trip to the cash register.

4. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears - Recommended by my childhood friend, Diana, who has never disappointed me with any of her recommendations, I purchased this one and promptly plunked it on a shelf under my computer table. Then, I left it there for something on the order of 5 years. When I moved my computer to a different room and another surface, the book and the shelf both were shifted. I'm confident that God knows where An Instance of the Fingerpost ended up, but as to me . . . I'm completely clueless. I could have put it anywhere. There are books in every room of our house except for the bathrooms, literally.

5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Seriously, I haven't read Great Expectations. Hard to believe, isn't it? My copy is also nowhere near as attractive as the one shown at left, as I purchased a hardback that was missing its jacket, thinking (naturally) that looks didn't matter given the lovely employee discount coupled with the remaindered price. So, yeah, I bought it at the outlet store where I was once employed. That particular store closed about five years ago. We seem to have a bit of difficulty hanging onto our bookstores in this town. I'm also hoping to get to this one, soon. Possibly, 2007 will be a "fat book" challenge year.

Many thanks to Les for the idea of listing some chunksters I desire to read!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Something Upstairs by Avi

Kenny’s spent his entire life in California. So, when his parents announce that they’re moving to Providence, Rhode Island, he’s horrified. School is weeks away when they arrive at the historical, three-story home in which they’ll live. The good news is that his parents have remodeled the attic and Kenny has a tremendous amount of living space all to himself. The bad news is that he doesn’t know anyone at all and the ghost of a slave is living in one of the tiny rooms adjoining his attic space.

When the ghost asks Kenny to determine who killed him, Kenny finds himself not only looking into the past, but trapped in the year 1800. Will he find the murderer? Can he free himself or will he end up haunting the past the way the slave haunted him in his own time?

I found that I wanted to know the answer to the mystery, and yet I was also stricken by the simplistic writing and the fact that the slave sounded more like Kenny in his mode of speech than like someone from another time. Barnes & Noble sets the age range for Something Upstairs at 12 and up; but, it seemed geared more for a 3rd-grader to me. However, that is neither here nor there. The book may not be challenging but it has an interesting storyline. The history of Providence was the most enjoyable and informative aspect of the book, moreso than the suspense storyline, in my opinion. But Something Upstairs was a fast-moving and enthralling story, not wonderful and not awful so I’ve given it an average rating.


And, that does it for the RIP Challenge, for this bookloving chick. I enjoyed reading creepy books, but I'm ready to move on and simply insert a creepy book into my reading schedule, now and then. Variety spices my life and I tend to dip into a lot of different flavors (or genres, as it were), so I found it a little difficult continuing with the atmospheric, suspenseful, creepy thing after the third book. However, I enjoyed the challenge and am glad I joined in. Thanks to Carl for coming up with the challenge.

Wahoo! Wednesday has fallen by the wayside, this week, due to fatigue, and I may go to bi-monthly Wahoos. We'll see. I considered knocking out 4 wahoos at once: birds, bees, flowers, trees . . . but that's pushing things a bit. I'd rather it was a bit more natural and meaningful, although I know there are many, many women who would be happy to see a new photo of Hugh Laurie every week.

Off to bed I go.

Sleepyheaded Bookfool

An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell

"Butterflies add another dimension to the garden," Miriam Rothschild wrote, "for they are like dream flowers - childhood dreams - which have broken loose from their stalks and escaped into the sunshine. Air and angels. This is the way I look upon their presence, not as a professional entomologist."

There comes a moment in your life when you must look at what you love and think: Yes, I was right.
People who love butterflies have it easy.

A bag of goo crawls on a leaf, obsessed with eating. It hangs upside down. It becomes something else. A butterfly is born, a bit of heaven, a jazzy design.
It is a gesture of beauty almost too casual.

After World War II, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross visited the barracks of a Polish concentration camp and saw hundreds of butterflies carved into the walls by Jewish inmates. "Once dead, they would be out of this hellish place," she wrote. "Not tortured anymore. Not separated from their families. Not sent to gas chambers. None of this gruesome life mattered anymore. Soon they would leave their bodies the way a butterfly leaves its cocoon . . . It is the emblem of escape from the greatest sorrow the world has ever known."

More than any other group of animals, butteflies look as if they were designed in art school.

Sharman Apt Russell's An Obsession With Butterflies is neither an identification guide nor a scientific tome, but one writer's look into the life cycles of butterflies, the world of lepidopterists, the butterflies they love, and her own obsession with these beautiful insects. Russell's writing is poetic and fluid, eminently quotable and sometimes even humorous. Butterflies and those who love them have an interesting history. The varieties of butterflies are many, their adaptation ability surprising, the differences in their mating rituals and territorial zones immense. At some stages, or instars, the larvae of butterflies can be pretty revolting.

I absolutely loved this book. Even though the author occasionally had me cringing at certain graphic descriptions - for example, at the thought of predatory wasps who lay eggs that hatch inside a caterpillar and eat it from the inside out, ugh - there were innumerable surprises and the book was quite illuminating. Russell's writing is light and fun. Read, for example, this passage about a butterfly searching for the right place to lay its eggs:

Patiently, you fly above the grasses, herbs, and shrubs, looking for the leaf shape you like best and smelling for the odor of your host plant with your antenna, with the top of your head, with parts of your wings. Over and over, you land on a broad oval leaf. You tap the leaf with your foot.

You are proud of your feet, too, which have taste organs that can zero in on sugar as quickly as a third grader.

I smiled a lot while reading this book. Occasionally, I'd stop to look up an image of one of the butterflies described. I marked so many passages with post-it notes that this diminutive book became a fat with scraps of yellow sticking out, willy-nilly. You won't learn to identify butterflies by reading An Obsession With Butterflies, but you will learn something about their life stages and the history of those who study them, as well as the sad fact that their host environments are fragile and many species are dying out.

An engrossing read, especially for those who are fascinated by butterflies.


Monday, September 25, 2006

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

DNF Book: A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

There've been plenty of books that I probably should have abandoned, this year, but didn't because I kept hoping they would improve. But, finally, I've found one that I disliked enough that I simply could not continue.

A Long Fatal Love Chase tells the story of Rosamund Vivian, a young woman who lives with her callous grandfather and acts as his caretaker. Her life is dull, lonely, and frustrating. Then, one stormy night a stranger appears in her remote island home. His name is Philip Tempest.

The storm provided a nice, haunting atmosphere as per the RIP Challenge requirements. But, I immediately found myself annoyed by Rosamund's whining, Tempest's bizarre behavior (he struck me as sociopathic, at the outset) and even Tempest's ridiculous name. A guy named Tempest shows up during a storm? A little forced, I thought. In fact, I really was not fond of the dialogue at all. Rosamund, apart from being a whiner, was impetuous and stupid. When Tempest took her for a ride on his ship, hints of his dangerous past were dropped like water balloons on a concrete pavement. Subtle? I'm afraid not. And, yet, I kept attempting to read the book. I read a chapter, set it down, read a chapter the next night, set it down, read a chapter, and then became so frustrated at the obvious plot that I flipped ahead to the end.

I believe I've mentioned that I only check the ending if I'm pretty certain that I'm going to hate it. So, there you have it. I was convinced this book was not for me, flipped ahead, read the end and discovered . . . what ho! . . . I was right. So, I've ditched it. However, I must add that I've read some glowing reviews of this book, so don't let me put you off. A Long Fatal Love Chase simply was not my cup of tea.

3 Books That Walked Into My House, Recently:

Things I'm Currently Reading:

Lying With Strangers by James Grippando
- Couldn't find an image, but it's another one of those books that just waltzed right in, thanks to friend Barbara.
An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell - Almost finished with this one!
The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton - Haven't opened this one, lately, although I desperately need to.
Wegener's Jigsaw by Clare Dudman - Still enjoying it, but reading slowly.

Have any books walked into your house, lately? Tell me about them!!

Curious Bookfool

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

My first Neil Gaiman book, fourth creepy book for the RIP challenge, and a book that served as a mental break because this has been a migraine week and the doctor still has not called in a refill of Maxalt (I'm just going to have to show up on his doorstep, trip, and knock him over, I guess - migraines whack up my balance completely), Coraline was a nice diversion and a suitably spooky read.

Actually, I can't think of much to say about Coraline, but I think the reason is two-fold:

1. This migraine is killing me; I can't think straight.
2. It was pretty short; the book is, after all, aimed at youngsters.

I will say I found Coraline entertaining and that I particularly liked the fact that in the midst of a creepy, parallel world that she found behind a locked door, Coraline kept her wits about her. I loved the character. And, the dialogue was, I thought, always nicely off-the-wall in a witty but straight-forward way. Coraline spoke her mind but she was never a rotten child, even when she did something wrong that got her into a bind. Instead, she showed courage and intelligence. Although I didn't think Coraline was a mind-blowingly wonderful read, I enjoyed it and it's piqued my interest in Gaiman. I'm hoping to get my greedy little bookloving hands on a copy of Neverwhere, soon. Wish me luck. And, a cure for these darned migraines.


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Book Meme That Died And Has Returned

I spent a ridiculously long time uploading photos for my first book meme and then everything locked up and went bazonkers. I lost the whole post. Bummer.

So, I'm going to try to do the meme for which lovely Lotus tagged me, sans images or links, and hope for the best. Here goes:

1. One book that changed your life?

This may sound like a strange title, but Little Visits With God--a children's devotional--probably had the greatest impact on my life and most likely helped turned me into an avid reader. The nightly reading of its brief devotionals was, in fact, pretty much the only time my mother sat still and spent some quality time with me and was a ritual that kept going for many years. I got so darned tired of the words, "Not now; I'm busy," that it's no wonder I came to love storytime so much.

2. One book you have read more than once?

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I love that book.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

The SAS Survival Handbook. Because I'm bad enough at surviving in a kitchen. It's hard to imagine foraging on an island. I'd need help. Serious help.

4. One book that made you cry?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is still my top read of 2006. An incredibly moving Holocaust tale, it had me reaching for the tissues numerous times.

5. One book that made you laugh?

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. I read parts of it whilst sitting in a waiting room at the doctor's office and had to suppress the laughter, but my shoulders were shaking so hard and all those snuffling noises I was trying to hold back just sounded ridiculous. Hopefully, nobody thought I was having a seizure.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Oh, geez, I don't know. One on how to really fix my life?

7. One book you wish hadn't been written?

Caribbean Cruising. I don't want to say why, since the words I'd have to use might cause me to get some bad hits, but . . . well, it's about a girl who is determined to lose her v**g**i*y before she heads off to college. Ridiculous the way s** is pushed on youngsters, these days, and I find it reprehensible that an adult would encourage such behavior via a young adult novel. Had the protagonist come to her senses, I would have been okay with the book; instead, she spent her time drinking heavily and searching for a stranger to sl**p with and ended up losing her v**g**i*y with the predictable guy-friend. I swapped the book, but when I did so I warned the mother who requested it of its subject matter and denouement, in case she wanted to use it as an example of what not to do. She was actually quite grateful.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Wegener's Jigsaw by Clare Dudman - so far, I'm impressed.

9. One book you've been meaning to read?

The Other Boleyn Girl. I've yet to read anything by Phillippa Gregory, but I think one of her books is coming up as a group read, soon.

I've seen this meme in so many blogs that I'm not sure there's anyone left who hasn't done it. So, I'll take the lazy way out and nominate anyone who reads this and hasn't been tagged.

Happy Friday!

36 Views of Mt. Fuji by Cathy N. Davidson

Like most foreigners, I'm pretty good at adapting to new situations (or I wouldn't enjoy traveling in the first place) but I'm also a bit of a misfit (or I would never have wanted to leave home).

36 Views of Mt. Fuji is subtitled "On Finding Myself in Japan". This refers to the concept of finding herself, as in learning about her own needs, as opposed to suddenly waking up and discovering that she was in Japan, one stormy day. Although, she did travel to Japan on four separate occasions, Davidson was always in Japan by choice, first as a teacher and then, later, visiting friends.

The book shares its title with a series of block prints by Katsushika Hokusai and is so named because the block prints, like her book, don't reveal the whole picture. Japan is a multifaceted culture with a complex set of traditions and unspoken rules, difficult to describe in a single book. Instead, Davidson weighed her own experiences within the culture--her travels, revelations, and even the embarrassing moments--against the culture's traditions and rules. This gives the reader a glimpse into Japanese life, while making it plain that a glimpse is all that can be had. Above all, Davidson describes how her time in Japan made a lasting impact on her choice to finally settle down in a house designed to reflect the aspects she loved most about life in Japan but which also fit her husband's and her lifestyle in North Carolina.

I particularly enjoyed Davidson's embarrassing moments because they were so unique. While traveling by bus on a rainy day, for example, she was surprised to look around and see shocked expressions on the faces of the other bus riders until she realized that all the other passengers were carefully lining up the folds of their umbrellas while she had hastily shoved hers into its cover. When it finally dawned on her what grievous faux pas she had committed, Davidson removed her umbrella from its cover and refolded it with precision; for this, she was rewarded with smiles and nods of approval. Fascinating.

Through stories like the umbrella incident, I realized that this author had uncovered my own problem with life in the South: my unwillingness to change myself into a Southerner for the sake of fitting in. There are some startling similarities; an auburn-haired Caucasian American could never be completely absorbed into a society of black-haired Asians any more than a Midwesterner without the safety net of the extended Southern family and with a personal objection to hunting and unfenced dogs can be fully absorbed into the lifestyle in Mississippi. In a way, 36 Views of Mt. Fuji simply underscored my own realization that I need to find a suitable comfort zone if I have no choice but to remain for another 20 or more years as a stranger in a strange land.

The contrast of her Japanese friends' hidden emotions versus an outpouring of compassion during times of grief was also both touching and revealing. When Davidson and her husband, Ted, ended up faking their way through a family funeral ritual after being mistaken as relatives, I thought the response of their friend was particularly poignant:

Ichiro shook Ted's hand again, in both of his. "My friends," he joked seriously, his eyes glistening, "anyone willing to embarrass themselves for a friend is a friend forever."

There were times that I found Davidson's reflections on her distressing childhood somewhat annoying, but they're part of the point. She was in Japan for good reason, to escape her past and to reveal the needs and desires on which she should focus in order to set herself on a comfortable path in the future. Most travel memoirs similarly apply lessons learned while traveling to the author's life, but Davidson was probably unusual in that she immersed herself so fully in the Japanese lifestyle that she was torn between her desire to become Japanese (which could never really occur, given her distinctive appearance) and her need for something more than Japan could ever offer her as a permanent foreigner.

In general, the book was captivating. I'd really love to get my hands on a copy of Hokusai's illustrations, and am eager to read more. Bruce Feiler's Learning to Bow will be moved up a few notches on my avalanche-prone TBR piles, thanks to this enlightening read.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wahoo! Wednesday

I know you've all been dying to get your weekly wahoo fix, right? Of course you have.

My 5 Reasons to Say "Wahoo!" Today:

1. My Little Fishy - William placed 6th overall in the 100-meter Freestyle event (and got his name in the paper) on Saturday.

2. Sunset - This is a sunset on the Mississippi River (see the tiny barge?). I love the colors of sunset.

3. Goofy-looking animals that make me smile.

4. Hugh in blue. He can't help but be a frequent Wahoo!5. Total weirdness . Ask me if I'm willing to admit which of the people in this photo happens to be one of my children. Go ahead, ask. Okay, you don't have to (and I reserve the right not to answer if you do).

Coming up soon:

A review of 36 Views of Mt. Fuji - Yes! I've finally finished!!

A massive phone bill - I've been online a bit too long, tonight (and we have dial-up, yuck).

My first official meme!! - I've been tagged by Lotus - yippee, such fun!

Happy Wednesday!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday Malarkey

Things that are on my mind, today:

1. The general suckiness of trying to go off Ambien. I need sleep. Lots of sleep.

2. What exactly Hugh meant when he said, "A woman in boots knows her own mind, and that's appealing." Did he mean a woman who is willing to throw on the ugly Wellies and slog in the garden is appealing? Or was he referring to the kind of woman who will endure the pain of 3" suede heels just to look good in that long, swingy skirt? Could it be that he means a woman in jeans and cowboy boots has a mind of her own or that a woman willing to don ugly snow boots to keep from breaking her neck is worth investigating?

These things concern me. Of course, I love boots when it's cold (that last week of January and the first week of February, of course) but there's such a narrow window of opportunity for boot-wearing in this region that I'm greatly disturbed. I wonder what exactly Hugh thinks of a woman in beaded flip-flops.

3. Why does the word "boots" bring up some really bad links when one does a Google search for images of them?

4. Am I spelling "malarkey" correctly? Does it really matter?

5. Did I do a lousy job of imparting the fact that I still actually enjoyed the book Haunted, in spite of its flaws? For the record: I did enjoy Haunted despite the low rating. The novel was actually quite entertaining and a quick, fun read (if a bit flawed, plot-wise). My review probably veered strongly toward the negative because I think the writing style would also annoy many of the bloggers who drop by regularly (and it was one I think I might have ditched in different circumstances - I found no quotes worth marking, other than one really bad one). But, I still thought it was interesting and unique. Allow me to go find a bigger shovel to dig myself a hole with.

6. What possible purpose could God have for sticking me in a hot climate where I'm allergic to everything? Am I missing something, here?

Things I'm still reading, as of this evening:

36 Views of Mt. Fuji (getting close to the end) by Cathy N. Davidson
An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott (not far into this one, yet)
The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton

Very tired and foolish Bookfool in need of a Vacation

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Haunted by Heather Graham

Get a load of this sentence:

The wooden evidence box, filled with dirt and bones, had been left in one of the viewing rooms, where one of Matt's men would have picked it up from to drive it on in to Digger at the Museum.

Oh. My. Gosh. That has got to be one of the most bizarre, convoluted and just plain awful sentences I've ever seen in a published novel. I had to reread four times before finally untangling what Graham was trying to say in that pronoun-laden disaster of a sentence. However, I'm not here to pick on a poor, bestselling novelist (regardless of how enticing the idea may be).

In the novel Haunted, paranormal investigator Darcy Tremayne arrives at historic Melody House and moves into the haunted "Lee Room" to investigate a malevolent ghost that has attacked two women. Is there really a ghost haunting the Virginia estate that sheriff Matt Stone inherited from his grandfather? Or is a living human indulging in some serious pranks?

Well, shucks, I had to find out. While the writing was awkward, at best, and upon reflection I could tear the plot to pieces, I have to give the author credit for sucking me in. Suspense alone can keep an author selling; and, Graham did dangle the suspense carrot nicely in front of this donkey's face. I'm not certain I would have continued to read, however, if not for two little factors that tugged me toward the ending: I was reading along with friends and I wanted another check mark toward my R.I.P. Challenge tally.

After Daphne du Maurier's stylistic brilliance, a lot of pretty decent books would have likely paled by comparison, I must admit. Graham's writing is anything but brilliant, however, she must get at least a couple of points for entertainment value. Even though, technically, the book was kind of a clunker and I was relieved to reach the end.


Chalk another line on the challenge wall. I haven't started a fourth creepy book because we've been a little overwhelmed this weekend, thus far. But, I'm still hacking away at An Obsession With Butterflies and 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. I've also begun reading a book about organizing called The Messies Manual and dipped into an anthology by P. G. Wodehouse, Lord Emsworth and Others. Hopefully, someday I'll actually finish one of those books. But, for now, I think I'll get some sleep.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

I enjoyed the Thursday Thirteen from Lesley's Book Nook so much, last week, that I'm going to do a version of her Top Shelf books: books that have been autographed by the authors and what, if anything, the inscriptions say. I'm not sure I have thirteen, but we'll see. Mine are scattered rather than set aside on a particular shelf, so it took some time to gather them. I've bought some autographed books without attending signings and I can't find the romances - I have no idea where I set them aside - so there are only a couple from romance writers' conferences, although I used to attend them yearly.

1. Blind Sided: Homicide When it is Least Expected by
Gregory K. Moffatt, PhD. Greg has been a good friend of mine since I met him as his student in an online class. This was his first book. Inscription:

My friend - I've so enjoyed our friendship. I wish you well in all your many pursuits and I hope you enjoy my book.

2. A Violent Heart: Understanding Aggressive Individuals by Gregory K. Moffatt, PhD. Greg's second book. He's a psychologist, by the way. Inscription:

Hope you enjoy my new book. You inspire me and your friendship has always been a blessing.

P.S. You are "N.H." on p. XI

The "N.H." was the first time I've been in anybody's acknowledgments. Very cool experience and I was stunned. Incidentally, I wrote this in my replacement entry when I thought the gremlins got the first . . . weird posting day . . . but I have to add that I loaned this book to my doctor and he quipped, "I hate violence; it makes me want to hit someone." Hahaha.

3. Wounded Innocents and Fallen Angels: Child Abuse and Child Aggression by Gregory K. Moffatt, PhD. Okay, you've seen his bio and books, so here's his photo. Inscription:

As always, thank you for your friendship. God bless you and your family.


4. No More Bobs by Cynthia Borris

Cindi's another great writer friend and this is her first book. Inscription:

You are the best of friends


Cindi is an upbeat, delightful lady and a terrific writer; I'm anxious for her to finish her second novel.

5. Rainbow's End and other Stories by John M. Floyd

John's first book and it's about time somebody put together a collection of his work. Another friend, this time from a writing group in the Jackson metropolitan area, John is so prolific you could probably wall paper at least 20 houses with his published short stories. I reviewed this book, recently, so check the archives if you're interested. Inscription:

To Nancy -
My good friend and fellow Mississippi writer. Thanks for your support.
John M. Floyd

6. Time Rider by Rickey R. Mallory

Rickey, a friend from Magnolia State Romance Writers (which I really need to rejoin - I let my membership lapse; I miss everyone) is best known as the author of numerous Harlequin Intrigues. Time Rider, however, is a futuristic sci-fi with a touch of romance and it is my absolute favorite of her books. It's loaded with action scenes and Rickey's medical knowledge really shines through. Inscription:

Thanks! Good luck with your writing. I hope you like Time Rider.

Rickey R. Mallory

7. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

My first autographed book. I stood in line to get this one autographed, 9 months pregnant and big as a barn, after listening to Madeleine speak at the Woodland Hills Library (which, I believe, is no more) in Tulsa. She was amazing. Inscription:

For Nancy -
Be a Namer -

Madeleine L'Engle

8. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard - I got to hear Linda speak at a romance writers' conference, at which she was the key note speaker. I also ran into her in the elevator and she is a genuinely warm, sweet Southern lady. Inscription:

To Nancy
Hope you enjoyed Sam.
Happy Reading.
Linda Howard

9. All The Queen's Men by Linda Howard - Another one from the same conference. Here's an interview with Linda. Inscription:

To Nancy
All my very best.
Glad you liked the book!
Linda Howard

Linda misunderstood me, actually. It was Mr. Perfect that I'd read and enjoyed. I've yet to read All The Queen's Men, although I plan to, of course.

10. Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr - I think all of my Nevada Barr books are autographed, but none have any kind of interesting inscription. This is one of my favorite titles. I'm pretty certain I met my author friend John Floyd (above) when I sat next to him the *first* time I heard Nevada speak.

At the time I had this one autographed, she had just finished speaking to a crowd of about 30 at Barnes and Noble in Jackson, MS. I'd asked her if she would speak for our small group of beginning writers (a group that a new event coordinator ditched, once hired) at the first event, mentioned above, and she said she'd be glad to. Of course, she ended up speaking to quite a few people because B & N did promote the speaking engagement pretty heavily. Inscription:

To Nancy-
Nevada Barr

11. The Rabbit Factory by Larry Brown - This one pains me so much because I purchased it from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi (a must-see bookstore - the Square alone is worth the visit to Oxford, also home to Wm. Faulkner and John Grisham) and probably no more than a month later Larry was dead. I had so hoped to hear him speak, one day. I am a big fan of his nonfiction; I don't think anyone surpassed Larry Brown at describing life in MS from the point of view of a typical Mississippian and at sincerely making your heart just swell with love for Mississippi people. It was already autographed so the inscription is just this:

Larry Brown

May he rest in peace. Larry died way too young.

12. Small Town by Lawrence Block - I was on this Larry's mailing list for many years and missed him the first time he came through for a signing. I wrote him and told him I was disappointed to have missed seeing him and he kindly wrote back that he and his wife had a wonderful time in spite of lousy weather. When he came to Lemuria, again, I made a special effort to stand in line. Inscription:

To Nancy - Cheers! Lawrence Block 2-16-03

I must have fallen off his mailing list when my last email address went blooey on me.

13. Basher Five-Two by Captain Scott O'Grady - I read this book when the story was fresh and Capt. O'Grady was still traveling the country to tell his story and inspire youngsters. I absolutely gobbled it up; it was such an exciting, scary, edge-of-the-seat tale of his time behind enemy lines. When a friend of my eldest son went to Washington D.C. for a Boy Scout event at which O'Grady was scheduled to speak, Daniel told him how much I'd enjoyed his book. Daniel's friend said, "I'll see if I can get him to autograph a copy for her." And, he did. He wouldn't even let me pay. Inscription:

God Bless
Scott O'Grady

I did it! I came up with 13 books!!! Thanks for the great idea, Les!!

As it turns out, I have a lot more but I can't find any of my Mallory Kane books and
Suzanne Cox's book (another MSRW writer friend, Suzanne is such an angel that I must mention her) is undoubtedly with the Mallory Kane books because I have a warped sense of organization and have them shelved by category or author, rather than separating the inscribed books and granting them their own shelf, as Les has done.

Happy Thursday!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wahoo! Wednesday

Yes, folks, it's Wahoo Wednesday, again!!! Exciting, yes? Even if it's a little late in the day . . .

Five Reasons to Say Wahoo!, Today:

1. Butterflies - even the kind that won't sit quietly and pose with their wings open. They're miracles. See An Obsession With Butterflies for further info about just how surprising (and kind of disgusting) butterflies are. I've learned that some butterfly species sit with their wings closed, as a general rule, and some with their wings open. This fellow, at left, is "nectaring". Cool. I chased him all over the garden and he was one swift-moving little devil.

2. Miss Lottie - You don't know her unless you live in or around Warren County, Mississippi, but Miss Lottie is the children's librarian here and she is a jewel, one of those rare gentle spirits whose existence make one feel a little happier and lighter. When my children were small, they were noisy and couldn't sit still. Not once did Miss Lottie ever give them a harsh look during story hour. Not once. She is a lovely, lovely human.

3. Music - Like books, we all have our own preferences, of course. Isn't that wonderful, in and of itself? I can only listen to music in brief spurts, now that I have a weird ear condition that occasionally makes me hyperaccusive (sensitive to noise), but I still take joy in the moments that I can pop in a CD and sing my heart out.

4. Hugh Laurie - Especially Hugh Laurie doing a flawless American accent during which his character segues into a typical moment of snarkiness requiring the injection of an Australian accent. The man is so talented, witty, humble, and sexy. And, it's even sexier that he doesn't seem to realize that he is all of those things. The photo is a page from this month's In Style magazine, plunked into a frame and plopped onto my futon. Lots of plunking, plopping and snapping going on, around here.

5. The 70's - both the memories from that decade and the outdoors when the temperature hits that range (which it did today in our area, albeit briefly).

Peace, Joy, Love, and Piles of Books to You

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

I dried myself as best I could upon my shirt and walked up through the woods, back to the house. The moonlight made a ghostly path for me, and shadows, eerie and fantastic, lurked behind the trees. Where my path divided into two, one taking me to the cedar walk and the other to the new terrace above, I heard a rustle where the trees grew thickest, and suddenly to my nostrils came that rank vixen smell about me in the air, tainting the very leaves under my feet; yet I saw nothing, and all the daffodils, leaning from the banks on either side of me, stayed poised and still, without a breath to stir them.

While not the exact image of the copy I own, this image comes closest to my book's cover as it shows the large estate on the Cornwall coast which served as the setting for My Cousin Rachel.

In My Cousin Rachel, Philip Ashley tells the story of how his guardian and cousin, Ambrose, has come to raise him as a single man and then for three years wintered in Italy at the advice of his doctors when rheumatism sets in. In his 40's and never previously interested in the concept of marriage, Ambrose is captured by his charming cousin, Rachel, when he meets her in Florence. They are quickly married and Ambrose describes their new life glowlingly in his letters home to Philip. As time goes by, though, the letters develop an ominous tone. Ambrose has become very ill and is either paranoid or seeing his wife in a new light. In his final letters, he begs Philip to come rescue him from the Villa Sangaletti, where Rachel lived with her previous husband, who was killed in a duel. He says Rachel, "my torment", has finally done for him.

When Philip finally arrives in Florence, after an arduous journey, he finds that his beloved cousin Ambrose has died and Rachel is gone. Eventually, Rachel turns up in England and from then on the question always hangs in the air, "Is she a poisoner, an evil woman after Ambrose's money and estate or a woman who cared and tells the truth?"

The end stunned me. But, I have to admit it was slow going for a while. I really enjoy du Maurier's writing because it's stylistically beautiful, suspenseful, and suitably spooky. But, I tired of young Philip's stupidity. At 24, coming into his inheritance on his 25th birthday, Philip acted like a spoiled brat. To say much more would, once again, spoil the book for those who haven't read it. And, upon closing the book I had to admit that the ending was just perfect in a way, although it left me with one rather crucial unanswered question (for which I suppose I can decide my own answer). Even though I got annoyed about 2/3 of the way through and peeked at the ending (something I almost never do, unless I'm concerned that the ending will be hugely disappointing) and therefore knew what was to come, I didn't know why or how. So, it still surprised me.

Still not my favorite du Maurier, though. I've read Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, and The Scapegoat prior to digging into this title. Of those, Rebecca and Frenchman's Creek were my favorites, Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel probably next, and I felt very let-down by The Scapegoat. But, still, I stayed up late reading. So, heck, I guess it was pretty good, eh?


Scratch two off my R.I.P. challenge list!

Still reading: 36 Views of Mt. Fuji
Started: An Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell
Up Next: Haunted by Heather Graham

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

On New Year's Eve, 1992, the five of us were sitting in Linus's underheated igloo of a kitchen around a Formica table playing a lazy poker game, trying to make each other feel noble about the fact that our lives had the collective aura of a fumbled lateral pass.
Rain was pelting the windows; we were using candles, not electric light.

" . . . nobody even has
hobbies, these days. Not that I can see. Husbands and wives both work. Kids are farmed out to schools and video games. Nobody seems to be able to endure simply being by themselves, either--but at the same time they're isolated. People work much more, only to go home and surf the Internet and send e-mail rather than calling or writing a note or visiting each other."

"It's like those cartoons of guys with long beards holding a sign on a street corner saying
THE END IS NEAR; there's always a little part of you that wonders, what if?"

His mind races: Think about all those crazy people you see on the streets. Maybe they aren't crazy at all. Maybe they've seen what we've seen--maybe those people are us.

*Warning* - Possible Spoiler (I'm not sure, but don't say I didn't warn you, if you plan to read any time soon).

This is going to be an awfully difficult book to describe (it definitely "drips with atmosphere", as per Carl V.'s requirements), but I’ll try my best. Girlfriend in a Coma begins with narration by the ghost of a fellow named Jared, a high school football star who died rapidly of leukemia, leaving his friends shocked and bereft. He describes the moon-barren world of the future.

The story then switches to that of two of his friends, Richard and Karen. After skiing, they return to Vancouver to attend a party. Karen has been starving herself and taking Valium to slim down for a trip to Hawaii. With two Valiums in her system, she has a couple of weak drinks and then slips into a coma. Richard opens a note she has left him, in which she describes strange visions that she’s had of the future, leaving the impression that the world is going to be so horrible that she prefers to sleep rather than face the disaster that will end the world as she knows it.

It’s 1979 when Karen goes into the coma and she stays asleep with no hint of higher brain function for 17 years, her body wasting away. As Karen sleeps, her friends drift off into the adult world but without ever really growing up. Each is empty in his or her own way. When Karen awakens in 1997 and finds out how long she’s been in a coma, she’s shocked by the hollowness of the lives her friends lead, the fact that people no longer have hobbies but plug their selves and their children into electronics for entertainment. She wonders where the fun has gone and why she is the only one to see what the world lacks. Then, she predicts that the world will end . . . and it does.

To say much more would give away a bit too much of the plot, I’m afraid. But, the book is not just apocalyptic. Instead, it ends up being a kind of combination of It’s a Wonderful Life and Pay It Forward, in that Coupland takes a possibility, shows it to a handful of people, drops in a ghost to guide them, and then tells them how they can change the world in a positive way.

The oddest thing about this book, to me, was that I found it so much more plausible than Pay It Forward. A book with a ghost, a world where all but a few people die, several people have visions that come true, and a woman goes into a coma out of fear but comes out of it 17 years later . . . all that certainly does not seem plausible when you look at it purely from a plot perspective.

I’m guessing the differences are that Pay It Forward was just a little too simplistic and unsurprising for me - there is certainly no way you can call Girlfriend in a Coma bland - and that I have personally had visions which then showed up as headlines (see yesterday's Friday Freakiness post for more). That doesn’t make the book or the real-life visions any less freaky; but, it made the story more palatable to me for some reason.

Besides being a nicely creepy book (for R.I.P. read #1), zipping into my Top 5 Reads for 2006, and simply ending up an entertaining read, Girlfriend in a Coma gave me the impression that I'd been kicked in the forehead by a higher power. "So, you don't think a handful of people can change the world, BookFOOOOL?" Ummm, okay. I get it.

This was my first Douglas Coupland novel, incidentally. I stalled on Generation X, but am guessing it just wasn't the right moment for that title. I'm a very fickle reader, at the best of times. We shall see.

5/5 for Girlfriend in a Coma. Loved it.

Now reading:

36 Views of Mt. Fuji by Cathy N. Davidson
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Friday, September 08, 2006

RIP Update and a Friday Freakout

Nat has informed me that it was Carl V. who came up with the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) challenge and that the books must be finished by October 31. Thanks to Carl, I'm enjoying a second novel that is very atmospheric. However, I must revise my goal list because it turned out that Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier is "short stories". They look novella length to me, but that's what it says in the book. I hadn't bothered to check, as I haven't picked up the book in a very long time. So, after removing it from the shelf to read and rejecting it because I'm in the mood for a longer work, I tiptoed into the office and located another du Maurier: My Cousin Rachel.

So here's my new challenge list:

1. Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland (finished - review forthcoming)
2. Now You See It - Richard Matheson
3. My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
5. Haunted - Heather Graham (just arrived in the mail!!)

Others I want to read:

The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Long, Fatal Love Chase - Louisa May Alcott
The House on the Strand - Daphne du Maurier (if I can find it)
and I'd like to reread
The Return by Daoma Winston, as that's an old favorite that has a great, spooky atmosphere.

I hope to get the Girlfriend in a Coma review up by tomorrow evening.

I'm trying to inject some Autumn color into this post, in case you were wondering. Also, I have no idea how to put the challenge icon in a side column and I'm embarrassed to ask for help, once again, but if anyone feels like telling me I'm willing to learn.

And, now for the freakout. Whilst reading the evening news, which I haven't managed to read for at least a week (figured I ought to at least try to squeeze one in, since I'm falling behind on world events), I had a bizarre epiphany. Has anyone followed the story of the Austrian girl who spent 8 years imprisoned in a small cell? As I was reading a story in which she spoke to the press about her experience, I remembered that I had a very strange dream a few weeks ago. I looked in my outbox and here's what I wrote on the morning of August 24:

Last night was one of those fascinating nightmare nights. I wish I could put together the bits of the dream that I remember because it was actually really interesting. I can "see" the house, the basement (very tight staircase and everything was neatly organized but it was tiny), the countryside (gorgeous), the bad guy (handsome but with sinister eyes), etc. Weird. Someone was kidnapped but I can't figure out who.

I read about the extremely cramped cell Natascha Kampusch was forced to live in, this evening, and that's what spurned the idea to look up images on the internet. And, I nearly fell out of my chair. The staircase, in particular, was almost identical. The cell itself wasn't as orderly as my dream, but there were some stunning similarities. So weird.

Here's a link with photos, if anyone is interested:

BBC News Article

This is not the first time I've had one of those, "Oh, wow, I dreamed that," moments. But, they never cease to stun me as they don't happen often (maybe once a year or less). I thought this was a fitting story to mention with spooky reads on the menu. Nothing like a little real-life weirdness.

I've been under the weather, today, so I'm going to head on to bed to read. Thanks, again, Carl and Nat!!

Freaked-Out Bookfool

Thursday, September 07, 2006

RIP Autumn Challenge

I've seen this one all over the place, but I think it was Nat's blog where I saw it first and then Ex Libris wrote about a title I just happened to have on my shelf, so I'm finally up to five titles! Like Nat, I don't usually read spooky, frightening or creepy books. They tend to give me nightmares. So, I've attempted to find titles that I hoped would not spawn a bad night's tossing and turning or a middle-of-the-night cold sweat wakeup call. I'm about to finish the first one, actually. Here are the rules:

Pick out any 5 books that you want to read that you think meet the very open, broad criteria of being scary, eerie, moody, dripping with atmosphere, gothic, unsettling, etc.

Well, that seemed easy enough, when I thought about it. I like ghostly reads. Here's my list:

1. Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland (sounded creepy and it has a ghost in it)
2. Now You See It - Richard Matheson
3. Don't Look Now - Daphne du Maurier
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
5. Haunted - Heather Graham (group read; still waiting for my copy to arrive)

Some other possibilities (if I can find them):

1. The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne (somewhere around here, I have my grandmother's copy)
2. A Long Fatal Love Chase - Louisa May Alcott (Wahoo! Found that one!)
3. The House on the Strand - Daphne du Maurier

Unlike a lot of people, I just don't have the guts to attempt In Cold Blood. I don't know who started this one and I'm feeling too lazy to look (plus, my little ticker, here, says I've got 10 minutes left, hurry, hurry). But, thanks to he or she who began this challenge. This is the first bloggy challenge I've joined in on and I'm jazzed.

Gotta go finish the last 10 pages of Girfriend in a Coma!! Pass it on!

Bookfool ready to be Creeped Out

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wahoo! Wednesday

It took me about 8 hours to come up with a title. Isn't that pitiful? I wanted one that sounded upbeat but inane. How'd I do?

Five things I feel like saying "Wahoo!" about, today:

1. It's not in the hundreds, outside. Anything under 90 degrees is thrilling, right about now.

2. Nat posted the Five Most Interesting Things she's Ever Done and, as expected, they're the kind to turn one green with envy (travel bugs in particular). Nat has a fabulous blog. Thanks for carrying the Interesting Things on, Nat!!!

3. My youngest son tried out for the Mock Trial team at his school. This was totally unexpected, although his big brother was a lawyer in Mock Trial (a group in which the chosen teenagers simulate a trial; this kind of activity would be quite challenging for Will because his writing skills are weak). Big brother Daniel won the "Best Lawyer Gavel" at least twice. I'm not sure how many gavels we have sitting around, but at least two. I'm just thrilled that Will was willing to try out, as it required preparing and presenting a 3-5 minute speech.

4. The neighbor's cat posed for me. Actually, she really just tolerated me while I took her photo. Close enough for a wahoo.

5. I've had a terrible time putting down one of my current reads: Girlfriend in a Coma. I love that.

Actually, there are 6. I got a new pair of shoes.

On the down side, the wait for Will during his Mock Trial tryout was kind of horrible. Because he's in athletics, this semester, we don't have to deal with the after-school rush. People do not park in parking spaces; they cram the aisles in a ridiculous, totally unnecessary log-jam and don't even leave room for people to pass (instead, parking in two parallel rows in the wide space between the parking rows).

One woman leaned on her horn and shouted a string of half-incomprehensible invective (unfortunately, the nasty words were the easiest to understand). We were *all* boxed in, but she apparently couldn't see past one very large truck and sent a giggling male emissary to tell the driver to move. He opened his door and said, "Just where do you expect me to go?" He was just as stuck as everyone else. Ugh. I sat and sweated, read when I could (not while that woman was shouting) and fretted about what the heck I'm going to do when I have to face that traffic in the spring.

Bookfool Who is Glad to Be Home. Wahoo!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yikes - It's Like a Ticking Bomb Thing!

Okay, it's not *that* bad, but the spouse gave me such a hard time about spending "a ridiculous amount of time" updating my blogs, this weekend, that I gave it some thought. And, then I went out and bought myself a cheap kitchen timer. Now, I'm timing myself while I update, post messages, etc. I gave myself 20 minutes, though, and then cranked the timer to add another 10. We'll see if this timing business works out.

It's only 7:10 p.m. and the poor teenager has totally conked out. I get really tired of brushing his teeth while he sleeps and cramming the retainers into his mouth, but I guess that's coming up. Oh, no! I'm down to one minute! This sucks!!!!!

Current reads, as quick as possible:

36 Views of Mt. Fuji by Cathy N. Davidson (travel memoir set, of course, in Japan)
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland (trying to find 5 creepy books for fall; I've only found 3, so far but it's a start).

My favorite show is on!!! Actually, my *only* show is on. Must dash!!

Bookfool in a Hurry

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rainbow's End and Other Stories by John M. Floyd

Those who have read my recent posts know the author of Rainbow's End and Other Stories, John M. Floyd, is a friend of mine. I've been referring to the book as simply "Rainbow's End" for simplicity, knowing the title I used was not accurate, as that is the title of the final short story and the book itself is an anthology of John's short stories. Please pardon that bit of laziness on my part.

Because I've known John for-- gee, I'd guess at least a decade?-- awhile, let's say, I read quite a few of the stories in this book when they were first released in various magazines. "The Blue Wolf" and the title story, "Rainbow's End" are two of my old favorites. I'm excited to have them in a nice, hardback book because it has always pained me to part with magazines containing John's stories.

I'm well aware that many people don't like anthologies of short stories and I have to say that anyone who skips this one is really missing something; and, that's not a comment made merely because I happen to know John is an all-around terrific guy (which he most definitely is). I'm not generally a big fan of anthologies, myself, and I tend to read them very slowly so that I can absorb each story before moving on to the next. Anthology-wise, O. Henry, James Thurber, and Vladimir Nabokov are among that few storytellers whose short works make me sigh and think, "Now, *that's* what short stories are all about." The same is true of John Floyd. The hallmark of John's stories-- whether they're mysteries, western, or general fiction-- is a surprising twist at the end. Although I'd read a number of those in Rainbow's End and Other Stories when they were originally released, I'd forgotten how some of them ended and darned if he didn't snooker me all over, again.

Around the middle of the book, there is a series starring a snoopy, elderly woman as the sleuth. I missed a couple of those when they were published in Woman's World and absolutely could not set the book down for the night until I'd gobbled every single one. Sheriff Chunky Jones and nosy Angela (aka "Angel") Potts are a hoot; and, Angela never fails to sniff out a crime of some sort, even if it's not exactly what she suspects. Here's a taste:

Sheriff Jones nodded, still studying the tent. "Okay, Ms. Potts, you can take Ms. Fenwick on home. Fred and me will handle this--"
"Fred and I," she said. "And forget that--I'm staying."
"I'm staying here. Bets, you go on home and lie down, I'll call you later." After Betty Fenwick had wandered off, Angela said, "I have a plan."
"I was afraid of that."
"You'll never catch him, in that crowd. What you should do is--"
"Ms. Potts, you need to just let Fred and I--"
"Fred and me."
Sheriff Jones closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose. "Fred, give us a minute, okay?" He waited until his deputy had moved away, then turned to Angela. "Ms. Potts, I wish you wouldn't correct my grammar all the time, I'm not your student any more. And don't call me Chunky in public--my name's Charles."
Oh, hush up. Do you want my help or not?"
"Well, actually--"

Hence, at least one late night and what my husband calls a "reading hangover" (more on that in another post. Some new favorites: "The Proposal", "The Messenger," and "Creativity". But, I enjoyed them all.


Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

She wanted to know what she would do, but really there was nothing.
Years ago, maybe then. "Options" was not such a useless word. But, now there was the boy to think about. Suicide, homicide, telling the boss to shove it, they were all off the menu for years, maybe forever.

I like that quote because I understand it. When you have children, there are certain things about life that change--or should--things you might have done as a childless person but can't or shouldn't or won't even consider knowing that it's not just your own life that will be altered. I thought the author did a good job of creating a mother who was flawed but tried, who knew her boundaries and struggled to stay within them.

Sorry about the tiny image. I guess that's what I get for being so far behind the times. I have not seen the movie version (yet - I'd still like to watch the movie) but this is the correct cover illustration for the copy I acquired.

The story in brief: When Trevor McKinney’s new social studies teacher gives his students an extra credit assignment to find a way to change the world for the better, Trevor comes up with the idea to help out three people. Rather than ask those people to pay him back, Trevor requests that each person “pay it forward” by helping out three more people in whatever way they most need help, beginning a chain of human kindness.

I’m not sure whether there’s anything left to be said about this book. Although I’ve never seen the movie and I was slow to get around to reading the novel, the idea is so straightforward that there were not any huge surprises;. Still, it was an enjoyable read and I liked the idea, whether or not I found it completely plausible. I guess I’m a little too jaded to think such widespread goodness could possibly occur.

The author made a point of making Trevor’s fate obvious at the beginning, and I also appreciated the warning. I thought it was a fairly consistent book and, although the outcome of the “pay it forward” concept seems unrealistic to me and I don't think the book will stick with me for long, it was presented with a good dose of reality, so I’ve given it a slightly above-average rating.

One of the main reasons I didn't feel like I could give this book my highest rating was the style the author used. It took me a very long time to get used to the way the author bounced back and forth between perspectives, sometimes in first-person and sometimes third. You always know when Trevor is speaking because his name is at the top of the page, for example, but the sections that were written by a reporter can describe anyone; sometimes they're done in interview style (question-answer) and sometimes a character reflects in first-person. I really disliked having to try to puzzle out who was speaking.

Overall, though, a very good read.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Five Foolery

I've noticed a lot of bloggers have some sort of "Friday Five" list. In keeping with my theme, naturally I've added the unword "foolery". At least, I don't think it's a word. Neither is "unword", for that matter. This week's will not be related to reading, although I'll have to elaborate on something reader-oriented, later tonight (assuming I can cram in a post; it might be tomorrow).

Five of the Most Interesting Things I've Ever Done:

1. Recorded a demo of a song I wrote (in a small Nashville studio). I never attempted to sell the song and because I'd lost my voice for the entire week before we went to Nashville (I brought it back by drinking gallons of Throat Coat tea), my voice deteriorated toward the end. But, it was loads of fun - just a great, unique experience. And, I have a very professional-sounding tape to listen to when I'm feeling like I've had a wasted life. The copy of my tape that I sent to my delightful British friend, Martin, was actually one of the few things he brought over when he moved to New Jersey with only 2 suitcases of his possessions. I still think of that as one of the nicest things anyone has ever done; what an honor.

2. Visited a movie set. Parts of the movie Mississippi Burning were filmed here. I was bored and lonely, new to Mississippi and feeling kind of stuck with a small child, so when I saw the advertisement for extras I applied. I was accepted and then cut. But, before they cut me from the cast of extras, they told me where and when I was to go for costuming. I showed up with my camera and I must have looked pretty professional in my little photographer's vest (which I wore to hold extra film and lenses) because the publicist, David something, walked right up to me and shook my hand, assuming I was the official set photographer.

I told him I was just there for fun and promised to stay out of the way and be quiet. Oddly, David didn't seem embarrassed. He took me around the set before they began to film and introduced me to several people, including director Alan Parker. He is now Sir Alan Parker. Sir Alan (then just Mr. Parker) actually stopped and posed for me and Willem Dafoe very kindly posed for several photos with various people who played FBI agents. I'm not star-struck, but being at the set was a truly fascinating experience.

3. Heard Madeleine L'Engle speak. Yes, this one's book-related. I guess at least one had to be. My favorite early novel was and still is A Wrinkle in Time. So, when I found out Madeleine L'Engle was going to speak at the library next to Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa (when I was 9 months pregnant with my eldest son, so almost exactly 22 years ago), I leapt at the chance to hear her speak. She was absolutely amazing, mesmerizing, funny, captivating . . . in short, everything you'd dream of in a favorite author.

She ran out of copies of A Wrinkle in Time before I reached the autograph table, but I've got her autograph in a copy of A Wind in the Door. L'Engle and her husband (who died a few years later, but at the time was still occasionally showing up on All My Children in his recurring doctor role - I believe he played Dr. Charles Tyler) were in Tulsa for his high-school reunion.

4. Got ogled in Paris. I've never fully understood this one. When I was 17, I traveled to London with a friend whose father lived there. He took us to Paris for a couple of days. When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and went up one escalator, walked around 180 degrees and jumped on another, a man spotted me and literally turned 360 degrees as he watched me get off one escalator and onto the other. My friend said, "Did you see the way that man stared at you?" He was literally open-mouthed. I still wonder if I resembled some famous French girl, at the time, because we later went to McDonald's (yes, we went to France and bought burgers at McDonald's in 1980; I know that's weird) and the handsome, grinning young man who took our orders was so flustered while looking at me that he slammed his thumb in the drawer.

American men never really noticed me till I got extremely buff in my late 30's, so these experiences were truly odd.

5. Played mini-golf on a cliff in Wales. This one's from the same trip, at 17, which I still consider one of the best experiences of my entire life. We took a day trip to Llundudno, North Wales and whilst we were in the Llundudno area I ate melted cheese on toast (they know how to do cheese in Wales) and then rode what the Welsh claimed was the world's longest tramway over beautiful hills dotted with fluffy white sheep. At the end of the tramway was a cliff with a putt-putt type of golf course, minus the goofy decorations around the holes in the ground.

I was absolutely freezing and kept one hand in my pocket the whole time, but I played probably the best round of mini golf I'd ever played. And, the view was pretty incredible.

I'd love to see some other "most interesting experiences". Les, can I nominate you to pass this on?

And, now off to eat out for my birthday and then watch the youngster play trombone at the local football game.

Happy Friday!!