Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey and a whole lot of nothing

Wait!!! I can't review The Pearl Diver till I mention that the latest issue of Estella's Revenge has been posted, ta-da! Wahoo! I love Estella and this one looks nice and juicy. I have one review in the June issue, here. Congrats again, Andi and Heather.

And, on to the book . . . I've been putting off reviewing this book because of fatigue and because I'm not sure I have all that much to say about it, so I'll keep it brief.

I bought The Pearl Diver remaindered and, as mentioned earlier in the week, from the cover blurb and trade paperback size of the book I assumed it was a literary novel with a touch of mystery - mostly because mysteries are typically sold as mass-market paperbacks. So, I was a little surprised to find that the book was a series book with an interior-decorator sleuth and not really very stylistically pleasing at all. The writing was, in fact, pretty flat and unemotional.

However, I enjoyed the mystery. The Pearl Diver is apparently the 7th of 8 Rei Shimura mysteries. Rei has been kicked out of Japan (for reasons that were never fully clear) and is settling in Washington, D.C. with her fiance when she's offered a job decorating a new restaurant. When her cousin disappears on the opening night of the restaurant, Rei goes into action to locate her and then is asked to search for another missing woman, the mother of the restaurant's hostess . . . and from there on things slowly unfold and tangle up and so forth.

It's been three or four days since I finished this book and I honestly can't remember some details that I think should have stuck in my mind. I'm not going to say Shimura did a bad job getting things across because I did think the mystery was a good one, it stood alone well, and it was not annoyingly complicated (which I like). Maybe I'm just a little off-kilter, here, and that's thrown my memory away from the details. I really did find it exceptionally unemotional; and, there's a secondary storyline that's so transparent I had to wonder why she even bothered. Overall, an average book with a rather dull sleuth and unimpressive writing, in my humble opinion. Also, this is the third book I've read, recently, with an interior decorator protagonist and I find details of decorating mega-boring reading material, so that undoubtedly effected my overall impression.

3/5 - average writing, decent mystery, lacking emotion or zing

Just finished: What I Believe by Norma Fox Mazer and I see I've got a typo in my sidebar on that one. Oops. What I Believe is a review book for Estella, so watch for a link in July. It's a young adult novel - a quick read and excellent writing, but that's all I'm telling you.

I stalled halfway into Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile but hope to finish that this weekend - it's another Estella review book and I should finish it pretty quickly once I pick it back up, so watch for that review in July, also.

And I'm almost finished with a short story by Stevi Mittman. It's an advanced reader that Stevi personally sent me; I don't have the other two stories that are in that particular book but I am loving it. I adore Stevi's writing; she has a great sense of humor (plus, she's really nice - you know I support nice authors) and is a consistent writer, which is very pleasing.

Recap of May reads:
Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason (advanced reader - grab it on June 5!)
A Spoonful of Humor by Henry L. Lefevre
Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Capt. Ted W. Lawson (Non-fiction Five)
Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson
Prescription for Adventure: Bush Pilot Doctor by Naomi Gaede-Penner (Non-fiction Five)
Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester (Estella's Revenge review book)
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (group read - not sure what happened to the rest of the group, huh)
The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey
What I Believe by Norma Fox Mazer

Therapy for a lousy week, highly recommended:
I'm particularly fond of those little sprinkles. The mug was purchased at Tattered Cover, a Denver bookstore which is sinfully wonderful - don't know how long ago, but too long. Need to see my nieces and nephews before they go off to college and get jobs. Time is passing way too quickly.

*Brief directed-rant warning*

Note to TB Guy:
I don't buy it, dude. Anyone who is sharp enough to become a lawyer knows darned well that he should not get on a plane while carrying a communicable illness, whether or not he knows it's not very treatable. Quit looking for sympathy and stop trying to shift blame. Shame on you!

*End rant*

Detail from a photo on my wall, for a change of pace:

Cool, eh? I got the photograph for one pound at a little store in Bath, England.

Gotta go. Hubby wants the computer. Happy Weekend to all!


Adorable youngest son has just drawn a number out of the paper sack (because we're both too tired to go look for the hat and a sack was handy) and we came up with . . . Kimberly L. Congratulations, you won a copy of Rises the Night!

Kimberly, please email Colleen directly at colleengleason dot com to let her know where to ship your book. You're going to love it, you lucky chick.

Rises the Night Drawing - Sticky Post!

This is a sticky post, so please page down for recent entries.

Anyone for trying to win another book? It's time to sign up for a drawing! Colleen's second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Rises the Night, will be released on June 5th and it is fantastic!

See my review of Rises the Night, here.

And, Colleen's blog, here.

Sign up in the comment section of this post and I'll add you to the drawing. I'll draw a name out of the hat on the 31st, just to give everyone plenty of time to sign up. Whoever wins will receive a copy of Rises the Night directly from Colleen, signed. How cool is that?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

This last few weeks has been a bit of a train wreck. And, the year started out sooooo good. So, when everything seems to be going very badly, the thought is . . . it can only get better, right? Well, let's cross fingers and pray that's the case because my cat is not looking any better and my mother does, indeed, have cancer again. It's "a weird one" because it's a bone cancer but the cancer was not found in bone; even her doctor was baffled as to what exactly that means. Please keep the prayers and positive thoughts coming.

On to the "wahoo" thoughts because, damn, I need 'em big time.

1. Wahoo and "Thank you, Lord" and wow, that was a close one - The husband flew on Air France out of Atlanta on the 12th of May. Anyone heard about the fellow with a dangerous type of tuberculosis? The one who flew out of Atlanta on Air France on the 12th of May? Not on the spouse's flight. Wahoo for that! I'm thinking about tying him up to keep him home, anyway.

2. Finally! We have a tomato!!! Okay, it's only one tomato and it's kind of tiny (note that cropping the photo makes it look gigantic by comparison with real life), but at this point that's about a $5 tomato, if we don't grow a few more, so I'm just going to say that's a big positive sign that there will be more where that came from - at least enough to get us down to maybe $1 per tomato. Which would still be pretty funny, wouldn't it? Wahoo, anyway.

3. I can't remember what type of flower this is:

I remember planting the bulb; I just don't remember the name. Still, I was very happy to see that it bloomed, today, because some days you just need to see pretty things. It's a very wahooey flower.

4. Wahoo for the luck of the draw. I ended up seeing a doctor who suffers from migraines, today, so I've got some painkillers waiting for me at the pharmacy and I can bank on at least being able to squelch the pain if I get a migraine while I'm waiting for either a referral to a neurologist or an appointment with the old one (which would mean a drive to the Gulf Coast - like I'm going to complain about that). That's a big wahoo, all right.

5. Wahoo for all you wonderful, supportive bloggy people. I love you all. I'm feeling totally gushy because this has definitely been a suck week but I awoke to a whopping 15 messages, this morning, and I felt wrapped in a blanky of love. Thanks so much for all the support!!!

6. One last beautiful sight and then I'm off to finish the laundry and soak in a tub . . . a little bird that peeked over the edge of our roof while I was snapping photos of a squirrel munching on a blade of grass - which was also pretty darned cute. Here's the bird:

He or she was entirely gray, so I'm guessing this is a youngster. There were two of these adorable birds flitting around together, but I only managed to capture the one. And, I'm quite happy with the results.

Wishing everyone a truck-load of wonderful, wahooey moments,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

There is no news like good news . . .

Not that we've gotten any terrific news; I just liked the thought (in my subject line). I am awaiting news from my mother, who had surgery and was told that the mass removed "looked like cancer". But, we won't know till Wednesday. Medical people are so cruel. However, they've saved her life three times, so I guess I'll give them a break.

What do you think of the highway patrolman's posture? Excellent, eh? It makes me want to walk around balancing books on my head to improve my posture. That's an old photo, by the way (as in about 8 months old), taken as we were returning from a band contest in Copiah, Mississippi. We were warned that there was a "serious accident" holding up traffic and deliberately altered our course. But, the road we chose just happened to feed right back onto the highway we were trying to avoid. Hence, the opportunity to photograph a highway patrolman with excellent posture, as well as a heck of an automobile mess.

Here's our very last Italian Kinderegg:

Pictured are a few of my favorite toy surprises. We're always fond of the little cars. The green alien-looking thing, at right, is a top - and a very good one. The blue toy - rather like a marble run - is my all-time favorite. Behind it is a pirate ship. Unfortunately, I dropped one of its tiny plastic parrots on the way down the hallway to photograph it and haven't seen it, since. Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.

Just finished: The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey

The Pearl Diver was one of my bargain finds. From the appearance of the cover and the blurb on the back of the book, as well as its size, I was under the impression that I was buying literature with a touch of mystery. Nope, it's a mystery - the kind I'd have expected to buy as a mass-market paperback rather than trade paperback (which I do like better, as they're more comfortable to hold). But, anyway, I enjoyed it. It's no great work of literature, by any means, but the mystery is a good one. It appears to be the 7th of 8 mysteries, but stands alone well. Full review later, if I can summon the energy.

I'm about to lose my mind over the migraine medicine fiasco. As I suspected, my primary physician won't slot me in for a 5-minute medicine appointment because he's getting ready to leave town and I'm undoubtedly being punished for missing my appointment. Bastard. I didn't say that. So, I called to see if they have a new neurologist at the other clinic (owned by the big, nasty medical corporation, where they happily take your money and grudgingly credit your account six months later). We currently do not have a neurologist in Vicksburg at all. Not one. Calgon, take me away. Okay, so the clinic gave me the number of my old neurologist - now on the Gulf Coast. And, of course, he can't call in refills because you have to visit him (plus, he doesn't have my records). Can I just say, "Aaaaaaaaaaargh!" Okay, thanks. I feel better, now, although my head doesn't.

Click on this to enlarge and view the funniest little insert that ever dropped out of an album:

So much for sticking to books only.

Apologies for the static sidebar. I'll try to get that updated, later, so it no longer appears that I'm reading the same books over and over and over.

End Tuesday Twaddle

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Stuff

"It must be Sunday. You never could get the hang of Sundays."

--Bookfool's Husband

I have no idea what he meant. I'm perfectly fine on Sundays, really.

Still haven't finished any books, here, but I've been having fun reading. Anyone else having fun?

Husband and eldest son spent the day flooring the hallway, today, so youngest and I drove to the Big City. Yesterday, I refused to go to the Big City because it's Memorial Day weekend and I figured the traffic would be horrendous. Spouse was not happy, but I stuck to my guns, put my foot down, etc. My thought was that today would be a better traffic day because it's a Southern tradition that everyone goes out on the water with a case or ten of beer and about 20 cousins or friends and they all get fried on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Mark my words, there will be a lot of dermatologists benefiting from this weekend in 30 years, when the nasty sunburns turn into skin cancer.

Okay, so any bets on who was right about the traffic? I am smiling. That's your answer. The traffic was so light it was actually pleasant. I only saw one - exactly one - insane, speeding, likely-to-die, flashing-headlights-to-say-"out of my way" driver, today. And, he was truly an idiot; he came close to tragic, high-speed death twice within the time he was visible to me. He also did not get off at the hospital exit, so we know those flashing headlights related to impatience, as opposed to medical emergency.

Anyway, kiddo and I went to Borders, where we discovered that the marked-down bargain books were down to $1 each. Wowee, did I have trouble narrowing down. But, I got myself down to just a tiny little pile of 5 books and kiddo got the last of the Alex Rider series, Ark Angel, from the other discount shelves. Fun.

By then, of course, we were starving. All that book shopping makes a bibliophile ravenous. So, we drove to the north side of town and ate Italian food. The husband called while we were awaiting our orders and said, "You little snot," when I told him I was eating at the good place. At least I didn't abandon him and go to Italy to eat Italian food and take cooking lessons at a freaking villa. Who is the snot, here?

Since I knew I was going to the bookstore, I didn't tuck a book inside my purse. Big mistake, but thank goodness I bought a few. I grabbed Kathy Little Bird by Benedict and Nancy Freedman from the Borders bag and began reading it in the restaurant. I am loving this book and I have a bad feeling I'll have to look up the other two "Mrs. Mike" novels. I used a little restaurant sugar bag as my bookmark because I couldn't find anything else. Which makes me think . . .

What's the weirdest thing you've ever used as a bookmark? I use anything nearby, provided it's dry (tissues and receipts have always been biggies); but, a friend once used a lettuce leaf to mark her place. I still think that is by far the weirdest thing I've ever heard about when it comes to substitute bookmarks.

In other news, I'm having a serious migraine-sufferer's crisis, here. I had a medication-only appointment with my primary physician, since my neurologist cruelly moved to the Gulf Coast and left me high and dry. Guess what? When I made the appointment, the person I spoke to by phone said, "I have an opening on Friday, May 21." I wrote that down on a little post-it pad instead of the calendar and filed away the thought that I had an appointment three weeks from Friday. And, wouldn't you know, the 21st was a Monday. On Wednesday, I realized we'd had a miscommunication and it was too late. I was an unintentional no-show. So, I asked for a refill of the one med I thought I could get by phone. I had to spell the seven-letter drug name four times and, yep, they got it wrong. So, I am currently completely out of medicine that works, my doctor is about to leave town and thinks I'm a no-show (so, like, no way is he going to squeeze me in, now), I have no alternate physician and I've got a migraine that's getting worse each day. Yeesh. It could be a painful couple of weeks, while I wait for the doctor to return from his vacation.

Hugify this and print it out for yourself, if you'd like. I feel like sharing. You'll actually probably have to save it and then resize. It won't hurt, I promise.

Don't tell anyone in Mississippi that I absolutely abhor sweet tea. They're not going to remember to bring it without the sugar, anyway.

Off to read. Happy Sunday!


Friday, May 25, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Vintage Books
Copyright 2006
227 pages

Survivors look back and see omens, messages they missed.

They remember the tree that died, the gull that splattered onto the hood of the car.

Before dinner John sat by the fire in the living room and read to me out loud. The book from which he read was a novel of my own, A Book of Common Prayer, which he happened to have in the living room because he was rereading it to see how something worked technically . . .

The Sequence is complicated (this was in fact the sequence John had meant to reread to see how it worked technically), broken by other action and requiring the reader to pick up the undertext in what [two characters] say to each other. "Goddamn," John said to me when he closed the book. "Don't ever tell me again you can't write. That's my birthday present to you."

I remember tears coming to my eyes.
I feel them now.
In retrospect this had been my omen, my message, the early snowfall, the birthday present no one else could give me.
He had twenty-five nights left to live.

The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion's account of the first year after the death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. At the time of his death, their daughter Quintana was in the Intensive Care Unit of a New York hospital, suffering from sepsis - a whole-body infection which had begun as flu.

The Year of Magical Thinking was a remarkably difficult and quick read. By "difficult", I mean that the book is exhausting in a heartrending, raw, emotional way. I would never attempt to read the book immediately after a loss, or possibly even during those first few years when any reminder of your loved one leaves you with a sensation much like that of having a bruise poked. I remember that C. S. Lewis's book about his wife, Joy Gresham, was also eloquently painful; in fact, I abandoned the book because it served no purpose during a time of grief to read about someone else's agony.

Joan Didion's thoughts about her husband and their marriage are, however, beautiful and deeply touching. They had an amazing marriage. I love the quote on the cover: "Stunning candor and piercing details . . . An indelible portrait of loss and grief." That's a perfect capsule description of the book and one which I don't believe I can top.

I'm not going to rate this one because I feel torn about it and as if it would be somehow wrong to criticize or score it in any way. While I could relate to the emotions, the numbness and the anger that are part and parcel of the grieving experience (and I don't separate "grieving" and "mourning" the way she does), it wasn't what I'd call a "pleasant" or "enjoyable" read and there's a part of me that feels like reading about someone else's grief truly serves no purpose if there's not some great revelation of light at the end of the tunnel. The book is about pain heaped upon pain. There's a hand-written note in blue ink, at the end of my copy. It says "Joan and John's daughter, Quintana, died August 2005 of acute pancreatitis." If anything, the book left me with the overwhelming sense that life is unfair, in part because of that hand-scrawled addition. I left it with the feeling that I desperately needed air and light.

I should add that the first quote at the top of this entry really jumped out at me because the week before my father died I hit a butterfly with my car on one day and a bird the next. In spite of the prevalence of wildlife in our area, it was and is very unusual for me to kill two creatures in one week and I certainly did reflect on the two deaths as an omen of my father's demise. There were a lot of similar parallels; bits about psychological studies on grief rang true to my own experience. But, in many ways I felt like reading about Joan Didion's anguish merely forced me to revisit my own loss and that's something I neither want or need to do. If I flip through the book again, it will be to mine a few references to titles that piqued my interest.

Recommended with a forewarning that it's a very emotional read.

Please pardon my absence, for the past few days. This will likely be another "light posting" week as the husband is home (oh, the messes!) and so is the eldest son, but I hope to sneak in some blog-hopping, tomorrow. The guys will be working on flooring our hallway, which has been bare concrete since a leaking dehumidifier forced us to rip out the carpeting during the winter and that could keep me away from the computer a bit. Then again, I might just find myself hiding in here - posting to get away from the inevitable trail of tools and flooring.

Youngest son and I drove to Clinton, Mississippi, to watch Spiderman 3, yesterday. Apart from the sobfest toward the end (goodness, Spidey sure was emotional), I actually enjoyed it. I went in knowing it was a love-it-or-hate-it movie and not anticipating that I'd find it overly entertaining. To be honest, it was the only movie with daytime showings that was remotely tempting; and, we just wanted to get out of the house. It suited the purpose. And, while I understood some of the criticism, my overwhelming thought was . . . well, after all, it's a movie made from a comic book. Neither of us expected it to be any more than what it really is - a comic book brought to life. We had fun.

I'm only about 80 pages into The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey and I found it a little difficult to put down, last night. Since I'm anxious to read something amusing - or, at least, light - Stevi Mittman's Whose Number is Up, Anyway? will be thrown into the mix, tonight. It's an advanced reader; I've read earlier entries in the series and absolutely loved them, so I think this is the right moment for an upper by Stevi.

Hope the Americans have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and wishes for a lovely weekend to the everyone else!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

This was another difficult Wednesday, but there were a few funny moments so we'll just focus on the smiles.

We'll call this "Wahoo for Stupid People Because They Make Great Subjects For Anecdotes Week".

Stupid People Stories for your amazement and edification:

1. While stopped at a railroad crossing without any railroad-crossing gates, I was surprised to see a truck driving down the tracks and another about 50 yards behind. I'm guessing they're specially-adapted trucks designed for inspection or maintenance, but it's really bizarre to see a pick-up truck driving on railroad tracks. Anyway, Stupid Person #1 sat at the wheel of the only other nearby vehicle - which was headed the opposite direction to ours. SP#1 zoomed across the tracks at top speed. The driver didn't even pause to look left and right for oncoming trains. I thought it would have been interesting (as in Darwin Awards interesting) if SP#1 had been hit by a train-track truck instead of a train while crossing the tracks. Fortunately for him, stupid people tend to drive very, very fast.

2. The local firefighters have taken over the deep end of the city pool, this week, for dive training. By "dive training", I mean they're working on recertification for search and rescue (and recovery) work in the water, complete with masks, oxygen tanks and flippers. A nearby parent was baffled. "What do they need to know how to dive for in this area?" he asked. It's a good thing I wasn't eating or drinking because I would have snorted something in his general direction. We have bodies of water all over the place, here. There's the Mississippi River, of course, where people are frequently fished out of the water after falling out of boats. We have lakes, creeks, ponds - you name it. Stupid Person #2 made me smile, so wahoo for that. And, wahoo for the brave firefighters who are willing to go through this training in order to help out the stupid people who fall out of boats, off bridges and docks, etc.

3. A continuation of Stupid Person #2's story. After wondering aloud why anyone would need dive training, he told the story of how granny fell in the water on The River and the family went rushing down south to find her, thinking she'd go downstream. Instead, he said, someone called the authorities from a business upriver to say they found granny. "She broke every bone in her body," said SP#2, but they fished her out. We haven't ever figured out how she managed to go upstream."

See, aren't stupid people great fun?

We had an almost awful moment on the way home from swim practice when the road turned oddly foggy and a revolting smell wafted in through the open car windows. "Shut the windows!" the kiddo shouted, so we quickly rolled them up. Just before we caught that whiff of nastiness, I was thinking, "It's too early and the wrong weather for fog." Sure enough, it turned out we were following one of the trucks that spray insecticide to control the local mosquito population. When we realized we'd just inhaled poison, the youngster said, "Couldn't they do something to warn people?" I said, "Like what?" and he suggested flashing lights and a sign or two saying, "Don't inhale." Hahaha. I love it.

Here's a pretty the husband brought home from Italy:

It's about an inch long and big jewelry does not look good on me. Also, that's a gold finish, not actual gold, and I have the kind of chemistry that strips finishes right off cheap chains. I tried the necklace on, bless him, but it looked just awful hanging around my neck, so my glass pretty is now hanging in the breakfast nook window. I love the way the light dances through the glass; it's really quite perfect. And, I can't call my husband stupid for not realizing it's too big because . . .

I married him, after all, and that wouldn't make me look particularly intelligent, would it?

The kitty pictured above, our beloved Sunshine, is much sicker than we imagined. Our vet x-rayed her and found a 2-3 centimeter lesion in her chest cavity. "That would explain why she's crying when you pick her up," he said. I'll say. She's getting a couple of good doses of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medicine, tonight and in the morning, and then we'll fetch her and ply her with more. The vet said she could be shipped off for further tests to determine whether the lesion is a cyst, infection or tumor but that wouldn't alter the treatment protocol, so we're just going to bring her home and have her x-rayed in a month to see if she's improved. Prayers and positive thoughts would be appreciated. Sunshine is 12 years old, so the vet said he's "leaning toward tumor, but you never know." I feel like a bad Kitty Mom for not taking her in sooner.

To end on an upbeat note . . . one more quick anecdote. You know how there are people who have one of those faces that just look familiar to everyone? Well, apparently I'm one of them. In the past couple of weeks three people have mistaken me for someone else. I'd really like to meet my doppelganger . . . maybe. I'm pretty sure her name is Amanda, because I passed a woman in the Wal-mart parking lot and she said, "Hey, Amanda. How you doing?" Since we were walking in opposite directions, I just waved at her and said, "Hi, I'm great. How are you?" I figured there was no point to telling her I wasn't Amanda. Why ruin someone's day? So, I just played Amanda. Amanda's very friendly, of course.

I haven't added a photo to my sidebar, but I've been focusing on The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and should finish, tonight. It's been reviewed all over the place, so I'll probably just share a few thoughts and a quote or two, tomorrow. We shall see. This hasn't been a very bookish book blog, lately, so I'll try to focus on books for the rest of the week.

Wishing you all a lovely and very happy Wednesday.

Amanda's Doppelganger

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Just a silly post

Since I haven't finished any books but feel like sharing, this will be a hodge-podge post.

One for the "If only he'd gone the other way" file:

I did manage to snap a photo of the red-headed woodpecker sitting on that wire, just prior to his nosedive, but still . . . it would have been awfully exciting if he'd been on the other side of the line when he took flight.

Other sightings . . .

While eating out after swim practice, youngest son and I spotted a firefighter who looked like Stretch Armstrong before the stretching. Seriously. We did one of those silly dances around each other when I was headed to the drink machine and the firefighter was leaving. You know, where you're both trying to get around each other and saying, "Excuse me," but you can't quite work it out?

Once Stretch Firefighter had left the building, I commented to youngest that I'd never seen anyone quite so muscular in my life. Son said, "His biceps were as big as my thighs. That's unnatural. You think he's on steroids?" I said I think it's a strong possibility.

Not a great photo because they were a bit too far away, but an incomparable sight which I'll call "Pas de deux for red-tail hawks":

They were circling the trees adjacent to the student parking lot at kiddo's school. This was youngest son's last day of school, incidentally. He said something to the effect of "Yes!!!" when I picked him up. Think he's happy about summer break?

My husband is at a baseball game in St. Louis. Does it seem like he has all the fun, or is it just my imagination? Okay, sure, there are all those wonderful red-tail hawk sightings he's missing out on, but at least he gets to get out of Dodge.

Maybe I'll forgive my husband for planting the ugly pear trees if these turn out as good as they look:

We still don't have a single tomato on our plants, but I noticed we do have plenty of aphids. Maybe that's the problem.

This is unusual for me . . . TV chit-chat for two paragraphs:

I don't usually watch American Idol
because it just doesn't keep my attention until they get to the good part with less chatter and more great performances, but I tuned in on the last song sung by both Blake and Jordin and Jordin blew me away. I just loved it when she got all choked up; and, I'd love to know why she did that. Did the song lyrics touch her deeply? Was she nervous because it's getting so close to the end? Did she realize just how fabulous she sounded and get choked up because she knew? Inquiring minds want to know. And, what on earth was up with that Daughtry guy and the eye makeup??

I actually sat still through the show that followed, as well: On the Lot. It had a little of the dog-eat-dog aspect that keeps me away from reality shows, but I think I hung on because the process of film-making fascinates me as much as the end product. I just wish they'd show the short films that got those folks to the lot in the first place. I almost turned off the TV several times, though - every time the host (hostess?) showed up. Wow, was she annoying. Thank goodness she was only on briefly.

My cat seems to be having a serious relapse. She screamed when I picked her up (twice), she's been hiding under the furniture instead of sleeping in the usual napping spots on higher surfaces, and she went outside to lie on the driveway, apparently for the warmth (I was doing housework and had the air conditioner blasting pretty fiercely, at the time), but what's really bizarre is that she didn't want to come inside. Sunshine is usually terrified of the outdoors and only goes outside briefly to munch on weeds. I tried to call the vet but got a busy signal and then passed the veterinarian in traffic. I wanted to shout, "Wait! My cat needs you!" Tomorrow she's probably getting some pills, poor baby.

We're almost out of them, but still enjoying the Kinder Eggs hubby brought home from Europe. I'll have to photograph some of our favorite toy surprises, some time. Hubby discovered Kinder Eggs when he went to Germany (yes, without me - several times, in fact), many years ago. Ask me if I forget easily when the husband goes to the really good places without me. No, don't. You already know.

From my very first photo album . . . Can you tell which of these animals is not stuffed?

That's my childhood cat, Queenie, on the left. The puppy on the right was my father's toy and I can't remember his name, but he had jingle bells in his floppy ears. The teddy bear came from my grandmother's maternity store (it was musical; I drove my family crazy listening to it at night when I couldn't sleep - I've always been a bad sleeper) and the snake eventually became the mechanism for turning out the bedroom light from the top bunk in my dorm room. That loud bedspread probably goes a long way toward explaining why I turned out the way I did. Not pictured: the red, white and blue beanbag, my early reading retreat. I was mashed in between a wall and the bed when I read, but it was nice and squishy and I was thin. I loved being thin.

Enough chatter. I'm off to have a good soak in the tub. Nighty-night!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Prescription for Adventure: Bush Pilot Doctor by Naomi Gaede-Penner

Prescription for Adventure by Naomi Gaede-Penner
Copyright 1994
Change Points
Nonfiction - 247 pages

Prescription for Adventure is a book that I happened to see prominently displayed in several stores in their "local interest" section or amongst the tourist items, while I was in Alaska last year. Because I had limited luggage space and wanted to avoid carrying anything overly heavy, I bought a few books but decided to pass on Prescription for Adventure and just wrote the title down. The irrational assumption was that I'd find a copy online either at one of the larger bookstores or at a swap site. I was so wrong. Not only was the book not available at any of the swap or discount sites, but at the time I could only find used copies at exhorbitant prices. I don't know if the book was just out of stock, everywhere, but it took me quite a while to acquire a copy.

Prescription for Adventure is subtitled "Bush Pilot Doctor" because it's the story of the author's father, a doctor who moved his family from Kansas to Alaska in the 1950s to set up practice. Dr. Elmer Gaede originally had hoped to move to South America and thought of his work as a physician as an opportunity to profess his faith; in other words, his intent was not just doctoring but mission work. Oddly, there were plenty of missionaries in Alaska and, once he launches into the story with the family arriving in Anchorage, there is little mention of his faith apart from the occasional comment about God being with someone or prayers for God to help him when something went wrong and he or a patient was in imminent danger (followed by comments about how he was certain that God did, indeed, save his life or that of a patient).

Upon arrival in Alaska, Gaede realized the area was even wilder and more remote than he had imagined. In order to reach many of the small native villages, the only option was to fly. With that in mind, Gaede purchased a float plane and began taking flying lessons. Eventually, as he built confidence, Gaede began to travel on hunting expeditions and to various small towns where a doctor was needed. Because the weather is unpredictable and often dangerous in Alaska, Dr. Gaede had some harrowing adventures.

I enjoyed reading about the more exciting of Dr. Gaede's journeys, for medical emergencies and sometimes for pleasure. What I didn't like about Prescription for Adventure was that the stories often seemed to just end, without a reasonable explanation or conclusion. It's annoying when you're reading along and questions develop, as you read. Questions are what develop the tension, even in nonfiction, and then reading the answers satisfies that hunger for information. Many times, I felt like my questions about a patient or an experience (for example, "Wait! What happened to the woman who had a miscarriage? Did he send her to the hospital? How did her family find out she miscarried while they were away at work and school?") were either glossed over or completely overlooked.

It was also a little unexpected to find that much of the book was devoted to Dr. Gaede's hunting adventures (which I found a little on the offensive side, as he seemed bent on acquiring trophies) and that when he moved his family to Alaska, he told his wife Ruby that he knew she'd adapt and then just left her to deal with the family while he was off exploring. I found that pretty irritating.

Otherwise, the book was grammatically clunky but enjoyable reading. I particularly enjoyed reading about the indigenous natives in remote Alaska; their kindness, generosity, creativity and ingenuity was, I thought, very impressive. And, I do love reading about the tenacity required to settle in Alaska. Not just anyone can drive the family car up from Kansas and start a new life. Alaska's environment is harsh and drives the vast majority of adventurers back home within a year or two. You have to admire anyone who forges a new life and succeeds in spite of storms, the need to ration, and the lack of modern amenities.

3.5/5 - Average writing but definitely worth a read


I decided 3/5 = 60% and 60% is a D (I'm thinking in such terms because of Bellezza's comment about the rating of her blog). Since I consider the book average, not below average, I've upgraded it to 3.5/5. I would have liked to take a red pen to the book and whip it into a little shape (old habits die hard) but the book doesn't deserve a "D" rating merely because it's a little awkwardly written. I checked and it is currently available used via Amazon or

I finished Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester, this morning. It's a review book for Estella's Revenge, so I'll post a link when the June Estella has been published.

Hubby cooked all day, Saturday, and was massively disappointed with both the shopping experience ("They don't have this! They don't have that!" . . . "Duh," says the wife) and the quality of food. This is, of course, something I've been complaining about since we returned from Michigan, where the apples are firm and juicy, the blueberries expensive but not coated with mold, the pumpkins fat and pretty on the vine for children to pick on field trips. But, okay, he cooked all day and some of it was pretty good. Still . . . the ingredients were not like this:

If we had tomatoes that perfect, I'd be out chopping in the kitchen all the time, myself. On a side note, our tomato plants are not producing, this year, and I haven't got the foggiest idea why. Usually, we have tomatoes out the wazoo. They've bloomed, but then no little tomatoes have appeared. Hmm.

School is almost out! Guess what that means for me? I get to get up an hour earlier to drag the kiddo to swim practice 5 days a week. Do you sense the enthusiasm?

Speaking of whom . . . I must dash off to fetch the teenager. Happy Monday!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Life is not fair and a book update

These are some of hubby's photos from Florence, in a collage I made while he fell onto the pillows after exhausting himself by spreading dirty clothing as far as conceivably possible. How do they do that? Left to right, handsome husband making one of three types pasta his class cooked up at cooking school, the Ponte Vecchio and one of many David statues with a bird on his head and his more sensitive parts cropped out. The spouse had a lousy camera he checked out from his workplace and he complained vigorously; but, I thought he still managed to get some nice shots. Obviously, Florence was not a miserable experience for him.

But, hey, I got photos of a heron, some bamboo and magnolias. So, I had some fun, too. Not quite the same but life is funny that way.

Did someone ask me how I made the previous collage photo? I recall being asked somewhere, but now I can't figure out who asked me and where the question was posed. Just for the record, I used Picasa's collage feature and since I just figured it out this week, I'll be happy to share how to assemble a collage if there's someone who wants to know. I'm really tired, so you'll just have to forgive me for being a bubblehead.

I'm almost finished with Prescription for Adventure and began reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Hopefully, a review of Prescription for Adventure will be posted by tomorrow evening.

Since hubby is going to have a very, very busy travel schedule, this summer, it occurred to me that I'd better quit being a hermit and reconnect with some old friends. On that note, I drove to Jackson, aka The Big City, to attend my old writers' group's monthly meeting, today. It was great to see old friends. Sadly, one of the ladies was at the vet with her favorite kitty, who is dying of kidney failure due to contaminated pet food. Please send positive thoughts and prayers to Penny.

Because the husband arrived home rather late and the youngster attended a dance that lasted till midnight - the former making an explosive mess and the latter arriving home so hyped up that it took two hours to settle down - we had a late night and I made the jaunt to The Big City alone. There is much to be said for a few hours of controlling your own destiny, including the ability to decide where to eat lunch. How pleasant. I forget what it's like to make your own decisions without anyone else's opinion involved, since I'm usually tied to someone else's schedule.

Poppet and I stopped by the spillway in order to attempt to spot herons. I plunked her in the sand and on rocks to pose. Poppets are much more accommodating about being posed than, say, family members, I've discovered. We had a merry little chase in order to try to pose her near a butterfly and it turns out butterflies are about as cooperative as family members. But, I had fun just following a butterfly through the clover. I'm not certain whether Poppet found it enjoyable; more than likely, she would have liked to hitch a ride. Hopefully, photos will be posted to Poppet's blog within the next few days.

May your weekend be restful and full of good reading,


Friday, May 18, 2007

Another meme!

Another meme, but it's a short one, thank goodness . . .

Chris tagged me for another meme and it's an easy one, so I'm just going to whip it out and then go avoid housework because that's what I'm good at.

You simply have to grab the book nearest to you (no cheating here), turn to page 161, and post the text of the fifth full sentence on the page along with the body of the instruction on your blog. Then you tag 3 people. Not bad. Don't tell my youngest I posted that photo of him, at left. It shows him during the days when he still combed his hair. I have evidence that he was once a tidy person!!

Okay, the nearest book is We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson because I haven't bothered to move it since I wrote my review. Here's that sentence:

There you have it.

Wow, that is not a great sentence, is it? So, I'm just going to grab another book, here, and try again. This time, Free Spirits by Linda Randall Wisdom - a book I didn't order, but which arrived at my house with 5 other books I didn't order because somebody made a keystroke error, I guess, and they said, "We've removed the charges; just keep the books and enjoy them." Here tis:

"I am not going to talk about what happened in the linen closet!"

I like that sentence much, much better.

That's my eldest, at right, undoubtedly not talking about linen closets but probably chattering about a lot of other things because he has the capacity to talk on the phone for at least twice as long as he can actually sit still to study, at any given time. I'm not picking on him, though; I just want you to know that.

I'm going to tag Kookiejar (again; she's found a new way to make cat meme tags and I want to see another one), Book Nook Les, and Stephanie. Again, no obligation.

Happy Friday from Bookfool!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Definition for Meme: Me Me Me . . . and the latest from that guy in Italy

I've been tagged! In fact, I was tagged twice for the "Eight Things About Me" meme, first by Gentle Reader and then by MizB. And, after I finished, Melissa tagged me! I love being tagged because it makes me feel loved, so thanks to all three of you. It's much more difficult than I realized to come up with eight things that seem to be worth mentioning. You can tell me if they're the slightest bit interesting.

Here are the rules:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4: Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

It's going to be very, very difficult to find 8 people who haven't been tagged, near as I can tell. I'll get to that later, though . . . here goes:

Eight Things About Me

1. I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. To receive a television signal, we had a 100-foot metal tower adjacent to our home. On pleasant days (and whenever I heard sirens, if the weather was clear), I used to climb the tower and hop up onto the roof. My family and the neighbors thought I was completely nuts, but I liked the view.

2. I had a grade-school sweetheart. We met in first grade and exchanged gushy valentines throughout elementary school, but never did anything beyond hand-holding. During junior high, we went to separate schools and he walked to my house every year to give me his school photo, always with a nice sentence or two about how much I meant to him scrawled on the back. I think I still have his photos and Valentine's cards, somewhere. I hope not.

3. The first photograph I ever took was a photo of one of my dad's roses. I snapped it with a black-and-white Poloroid camera when I was seven years old, and it was quite clear (no visible camera shake). Everyone was stunned. No amount of begging could convince my cheapskate parents to buy me a 35mm camera, so I didn't get a 35mm till I was in my 20's.

4. I met my husband the second week of my freshman year at Oklahoma State University and was 19 when I walked down the aisle. If anyone at all had said, "You don't have to go through with this," I would have backed out.

5. This is how my mother describes me: "Nancy is not very . . . domestic." No kidding. I am not cut out to be a housewife. Staying home was meant to be a temporary thing. I won't go into why that didn't turn out as planned because I'll start whining.

6.My grandmother (really, the only grandparent I knew) was an artist who taught at university level. I have a beautiful little watercolor painting of hers on my living room wall and I had to do a lot of finagling to talk my mother into letting me have it. My grandmother painted it when she was 10 years old.

7. I park as far away from a store as possible because I love to walk. I'm not good at sitting still.

8. Some of my ancestors on my father's side of the family entered the United States via New Orleans in the 17th Century and traveled up the Mississippi River. They settled in Missouri and farmed; and, during the Civil War, one of my ancestral families had a set of brothers who fought on opposite sides.

I'm tagging, kookiejar, Heather, booklogged, Heidijane, Lotus, malady, and coversgirl. But, don't feel obligated if you don't have the time or inclination.

Latest in the Italian saga: Hubby called, today. The good news is that he thinks he's got it all figured out how we can have an enjoyable holiday in Tuscany, some time in the future. The annoying news is that he prattled on about his latest wonderful experience. And, some of you guys will just drool at the thought of what he did. He took an all-day cooking class. This is how it went:
They pick you up and take you to the villa.
There's a basement kitchen with huge sinks and 15-20 foot counters.
They turn on some music and pour some wine.
The students follow the chef outside, where they cut fresh herbs.
They go inside and learn how to cook something.
They drink a little wine.
They cook a little more.
They drink a little wine.
They cook a little more.
I interjected, at this point: "You burn your sleeve and continue drinking wine . . . "
Suffice it to say, he had a blast and now knows what to do with that monstrous bush of fresh sage we've got growing in our herb garden.

Youngster had tryouts for band at 5:45 and wanted to go early to practice, so I took the camera and walked around the marshy area, twice. It was very difficult to get close enough to shoot photos of the birds, but I did my best. Here's my favorite of the red-winged blackbird photos I took:
I'll try again, another day. I worked a good-sized blister onto the top of one foot. Remind me to wear running shoes, next time.

Here are some other things I saw:

I got a little hot and smelly, so I'm off to take a bath. Chris has tagged me for another meme, so I'll try to do that one, tomorrow. I'm reading far too slowly, so I haven't finished any books, just yet.

Wishing you many beautiful sights.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

Oh, boy! Is it Wednesday again, already? Wow, where does the time go?

Okay, so this was a wonky day for me but I've been thinking about things worth saying "Wahoo!" about all day because, as it says above, we must count our blessings to keep from going nuts. Especially when we have spouses prancing around ancient countries, calling and sending emails about what a delightful blankety-blank time they're having while (without saying so) they're well aware that the wife is home washing dishes, ferrying the kid, and lugging in heavy bags full of groceries on her own. Don't you love the little touch with the nut in the bluejay's mouth? I admit that made me smile. As did the following:

1. Initially perplexing to me for their blatant stupidity, I had to smile about the three teenagers standing beneath a tree during yesterday's storm while lightning flashed around them . . . because at least I knew there was one person freshly trained in CPR, nearby (my son, who was safe and dry inside the band hall). There is never a shortage of stupid people to make you roll your eyes and grin.

2. This friendly little visitor made me laugh. I stepped outside with my camera, this morning, before driving my son to school and this little guy bounded around the corner of my house. He was so cute; I wish you could have seen how he halted in surprise when he saw me and then rushed over to jump on my legs. He was a very friendly, happy and hyper little guy; I had a bit of trouble focusing on him because he moved so darn fast. And, then, he wanted to follow me into the house - boy, that was a riot. I kept picking him up and moving him to the far side of the patio and whoosh, back he came like a little doggy bullet. Adorable.

3. Firefighters in tight pants. Boy, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but a sight like that always makes my day.

4. Pillows. I'm very grateful for pillows. I love the line in the movie 13 Going On 30 when Jennifer Garner (playing the role of Jenna, who has just found her 13-year-old mind in her 30-year-old body and future life) says, "I need fresh air and a glass of water and a fluffy pillow!" I can relate. I've felt that way too many times to count. And, I'm very grateful that I've often had fluffy pillows within reach when I needed them.

5. I didn't manage to get a picture, because it was early morning and I was driving the kiddo to school (and even if I'd had the camera, I could not have stopped), but as we drove past the marshy area along the entrance road to my son's school, we saw a beautiful sight: a red-winged blackbird perched on top of the bamboo. I pointed him out to my son, who very kindly agreed with me about the general coolness. I've spotted this particular blackbird several times on the drive into the crowded parking lot and he's on my wish list of wildlife to photograph. That stand of bamboo was really the perfect place for a photograph. Maybe I'll get lucky and capture him, someday. For now, I enjoyed the sight.

6. I'm grateful for semi-nutritious fast-food options during a week when I'm moody, and . . .

7. A poppet to pose here, there and everywhere.

Next up: "8 Things About Me" meme (I've been tagged!).

I'm halfway into three books, at the moment. Hopefully, I'll finish one in the next day or two.

May you find many wonderful things to smile about, today and always.


Pardon that unfinished post

I'm experiencing a bit of blogger weirdness, here. I suddenly could not view my post, apart from "preview" mode, and became unable to edit. So, to finish up . . .

My rating for We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson is 4.5/5.

I think probably hell will freeze over before anyone does something as intense as building a courtyard in our little backyard.

And, I'll be back later. Have a fun day, bibliophiles!


We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson

We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson
Copyright 2005
Berkeley Signature
Fiction - 201 pages

I spy around for Ray and locate him in the kitchen, chatting up some woman I've never seen before. The woman is laughing hard enough to give everyone within fifty yards a tour down her pink, waxy throat. Ray catches me glancing at him and does a quick double raise of his eyebrows, as thought I should understand what that means. That was always the problem with our secret language. Neither one of us ever knew what the other was talking about.

Mothering is everything it's cracked up to be, which is to say, a complete and total nightmare. Anyone who tells you differently is not to be trusted.

Under no circumstances should the new father show up at the hospital looking tired and stressed and wanting comfort from the new mother. Under no circumstances should the new father expect to still be able to attend a Sonics basketball game with his buddies the very next evening because, as he tells the new mother, he might not be able to get out with his buddies for a while.

I know a woman whose husband died and left her alone to raise their three-year-old son in their tastefully furnished home, along with two cars, a condo at Sun Valley, and an insurance policy to keep her in fat city for the rest of her life. Isn't that really every woman's fantasy? That her husband would die and leave her everything and she wouldn't have to go through a messy divorce and also wouldn't have to live with him forever and put up with doing his laundry and dealing with his parents, and cooking things with no dairy products for every meal because he's goddamn lactose-intolerant?

It's been a couple of days since I read We Are All Fine Here and I blew through it in one night, so I had to go back and refamiliarize my self with the book, having spent so little time with it. We Are All Fine Here tells the story of Julia, who has never quite gotten over the love of her life, Ray. Julia's been married to Jim for fifteen years. They married hastily when she became pregnant and now their offspring is a teenage boy who causes her plenty of grief. There's no spark between Julia and Jim, anymore, and she's really weary of his excited chatter about a beautiful woman he works with and runs with during his lunch hour.

When Ray nudges her into attending the wedding friends from college, Julia tells her husband she's going shopping. She doesn't anticipate feeling every bit the same as she did many years ago, nor does she plan to have a fling in the bathroom of the newlyweds. When she realizes she's pregnant and doesn't know whether the father of her child is Ray or Jim, Julia has some soul-searching to do.

We Are All Fine Here is a quick read and I enjoyed it, but there's one thing you should know. The reviews at Amazon and elsewhere tend to paint the novel in a lighter shade, often describing it as "funny". It's not really a laugh-out-loud funny book at all; realistically, I have to say it's a little on the sad side and raw in the way of an Elizabeth Berg novel. The difference is in the twist of phrase; Guterson's sentences are often smile-inducing, even when they have to do with her frustrations. Julia is kind of goofy and fun. She's just a little confused about how and why she ended up in a plodding relationship with a man who doesn't thrill her, with a job that amounts to hiding herself away and a teenager who has reached the point that never is about the average length of time he'd like to spend with his mother. I like the way Amy Tan described the novel, in her cover quote, "full of naked truth."

The storyline is fairly common, very much what I would consider a "woman's dilemma" with a lot of soul-searching and questioning, justification and sometimes outright refusal to admit the obvious. In other words, the character felt real to me. In some ways, I could relate to her completely. My husband is such a workaholic, for example, that he repeatedly told me I needed to have that second baby on Saturday, so he wouldn't miss a day of work. I did so (although, actually, the baby made the final decision when to arrive and he just happened to be good at scheduling), and then 10 days after the birth of my second child, my husband left on business. I still have trouble understanding why my husband puts work ahead of family; and, there were passages that had me tearing up a little because I felt like the author understood in a way either nobody else I've met does or, at least, is willing to share. But, I was smiling at the same time.

Since I couldn't put the book down till I finished, I'm giving it a high rating. The writing is not earth-shattering or beautiful, but it's realistic with a light touch. I loved that. It reminded me of an Elizabeth Berg book in many ways - the rawness and honesty, open sexuality and reflection upon where life has taken her because she's a woman. I'm not sure I'm describing it adequately, so I'm going to plunk a link to Amazon, here:

Coming up: Wahoo! Wednesday. It is Wednesday, right?

I've been tagged for a meme by Gentle Reader and I'll get to that as soon as I can. This might be a high-post day. We'll see.

Did I tell you the husband called from Italy, yesterday? He couldn't get his international calling card to work, so he had his assistant patch him through. It took three attempts before she managed to connect us and then I got to hear all about what a terrific time he's having, how beautiful Florence is and why we need to build a courtyard in our backyard, now that he's stayed at a quaint little hotel with a beautiful courtyard. I told him he'd need to get someone to remove the gigantic poison ivy vines if he wants to create a nice little corner, as he described. He said, I kid you not, "No, no, on the other side of the yard."

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Book Meme

I stumbled across this one at Sci-Fi Chick's blog, last week, and tried to leave a comment saying I was going to use it. Is it spooky if you attempt to leave a message at a sci-fi blog and it disappears, like it was beamed up by Scotty or something of that nature? Seems a little Twilight Zone to me.

A book that made you cry: Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes. I'm going with most recent book that made me cry, because that's easiest. Foreign Fruit was the kind of book that I became so wrapped up in that even though what happened was inevitable and maybe even a bit predictable, I cared and was moved to tears.

A book that scared you: The Amityville Horror. I didn't sleep well for weeks and I avoided the movie like the plague.

A book that made you laugh - Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington.

A book that disgusted you: In the Cut by Susannah Moore. It was so sordid and revolting that I think it deserves to be burned. And, obviously, not highlighted.

A book you loved in elementary school: The Cay by Theodore Taylor. I loved this book so much that I was determined both of my boys would read it. When my eldest showed no interest, I read the first two pages aloud and he said, "Okay, stop," snatched the book out of my hand and didn't emerge from his bedroom till he finished. When my youngest shrugged and said, "Not interested," I read the first two pages and . . . same thing. It's that kind of book.

A book you loved in middle school (junior high, in my case): A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I happened across it while browsing the racks in my junior high library and loved it so much that I later tried to acquire everything L'Engle has written. At some point, I quit acquiring her books but I've read almost all the titles I own. I don't care for her adult fiction as much as her children's and young adult stories.

A book you loved in high school: Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. I read it several times, after discovering my mother's copy, and then carried it off to college and kept it when I married. Eventually, I got my own copy and asked Mom if she wanted hers returned. She shrugged. I gave it to a friend who was dying to own a copy. Mom can always borrow mine.

A book you hated in high school: I don't remember a particular title I hated, but I thought romance novels were appalling. My sister went through a huge romance phase, so I decided to give them a try. They were all the same - boy meets girl, boy and girl hate each other, boy and girl fight a lot and then fall in love. Yawn. Romance has improved dramatically since the 70's.

A book you loved in college: Design on the Land, my landscape architecture text.

A book that challenged your identity: I can't think of anything but the Bible.

A series that you love: I'm not a series reader, in general, but I loved Len Deighton's Bernard Samson spy novels: Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match, Hook, Line, Sinker, Faith, Hope and Charity.

Your favorite horror book: Not a horror reader, either! But, The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson is classified as horror and I liked it, so I guess that will do.

Your favorite science fiction book: That's a hard one. I'm going to say About Time by Jack Finney, even though it's a collection of short stories. The one with the Woodrow Wilson dime is a gem.

Your favorite fantasy book: Another hard one, since fantasy isn't something I read very often. I really liked Susannah Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu. But, then, I really liked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone . Hmmm. I'll go with Harry. I read the British version, so mine was entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Your favorite mystery book: The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais. I like mysteries with a sense of humor.

Your favorite biography: I have too many favorites to list, all in memoir form, but a few favorites are The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Stand Before Your God by Paul Watkins and To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Your favorite classic: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Your favorite romance book: Not really classified as romance but my favorite romantic novel is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Your favorite book not on this list: It wouldn't be right not to list P. G. Wodehouse as an author that never fails to please. Muriel Spark's A Far Cry From Kensington is a favorite that I almost always seem to add to lists of favorites. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and My Antonia by Willa Cather are others that come to mind. Of course, I could really go on all day.

I'm sure I'll think of a million better answers, later on, but there you go. Pass it on, if you'd like!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt and much, much more

Open and Shut
Copyright 2002
Warner Books
Fiction - 292 pages

My childhood is filled with great memories, in fact, great ones are the only memories I have. I talked to a shrink about it, and we pretty much agreed that unpleasant things must have happened when I was growing up, but that I had just repressed them. I asked him how long I could go on repressing them, and he said maybe forever. That worked for me, so I left therapy before I could blow it and get in touch with my true feelings.

Before I start chattering about this book, I have to tell you that SuziQ at Blogging My Books reviewed Open and Shut, here. It was her wonderful review that piqued my interest. I told her it sounded like the kind of legal thriller I love to read, the kind with a sense of humor. Suzi assured me that I would enjoy it as it also lacked blood and guts. I trust Suzi and the book was readily available through Paperback Swap, so I ordered a copy. And, I did absolutely love it. This is the quote that really grabbed me, in Suzi's review:

The only sports Nicole tolerates are sports cars, and occasionally sports shirts. It was a problem in our marriage. One time I planted myself on the couch and watched football for so long that she came over and watered me. Tara licked it off my face and I didn't miss a single play.

That quote was, I thought, reminiscent of Harlan Coben (who is quoted on the cover - Suzi mentioned that) and I love a good legal mystery with a sense of humor. Lisa Scottoline's early novels are also favorites of mine.

Open and Shut is the story of an irreverent, wise-cracking lawyer asked to defend a man who has long since been convicted of murder and sentenced to death. His retrial is based on a minor technicality and the case should be open and shut as there was an eyewitness and plenty of incriminating evidence. Willie Miller appears to be guilty as sin. However, as lawyer Andy Carpenter begins to prepare Willie's defense, it becomes obvious that the circumstances surrounding the murder were not what they seemed.

There's a lot more to the story than just a murder mystery and a legal defense process. Andy has a lot going on in his life: loss, danger, unearthing of a family secret, the reappearance of the wife who left him (at a most inconvenient time). The story is perfectly paced, gripping, funny and surprising. Rosenfelt even handled se* scenes just the way I like:

"I had forgotten about you," she says.
"You never shut up."
With that, she prepares to shut me up, except for an occasional moan. She does a really good job of it, but hell, somebody had to.
I have a great night's sleep, which carries right through the usually effective wake-up call planted in my brain.

Perfect. Se* is, in my humble opinion, seldom integral to plot and a waste of time. It's obvious that there was a coupling, but just a few sentences were enough to portray the encounter and skim right past, back to the meat of the story. I appreciated both the lack of graphic se* and the absence of grisly detail about the murder. There's obviously some necessary description, but it was not nightmare-inducing. I enjoyed every minute of reading Open and Shut. In fact, I'm still paying for my inability to put the book down until finishing. The rest of his books will be added to my wish list.

5/5 - gripping, funny, often surprising

Yesterday was a whopper. I should be back to regular posting, now that the husband has been safely shipped off to Italy. He had one heck of a long day with a delay that caused him to miss his international flight by 15 minutes, hours and hours on standby, a storm that temporarily diverted incoming flights, etc. Last I heard, the spouse had arrived and located one of his two bags. He's probably lucky that part of his luggage showed up. And, maybe I should count my blessings that I didn't manage to accompany him.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . or, anyway, back in Jackson . . . the kiddo and I managed to hear a raptor expert who spoke at the Natural Science Museum. Here he is with a small red-tail hawk:

We also dropped by Borders, where we happened across an incredible sale - a wide variety of remaindered books were marked down to $3.99 and $5.99. I was particularly excited to find a copy of The Birth House by Ami McKay, which has been positively reviewed all over the bloggy world. You can imagine my excitement when I got to the cash register and the books marked $3.99 rang up $1.99, while those labeled $5.99 came up $2.99. I got The Birth House for $2.99!!! And, a lot of other books. I am going to be in so much trouble when the spouse returns. I'd better start reading faster.

After Borders and the Natural Science Museum, we headed to the north side of town to stop for reinforcement (food) and then over to Barnes & Noble.

Here's where things got embarrassing. I wandered around Barnes & Noble for about 20 minutes, mostly waiting for the youngster (certified book nut - must spend time in bookstores or he will crumble). I wandered over to the recommended reads because Book Nook Les mentioned her excitement over the choice of The Book Thief as a monthly selection and I love the book so much that I wanted to see it in a prominent place. I was floating along, looking at the recommended reads and then turned around to see that friends from my former writing group (which I'm about to rejoin) were sitting at a table, having a book signing. They'd been betting on how long it would take me to notice them for . . . well, ages. Of course, it was terrific to see them and I ran out to the car to grab the camera. Here they are:

Left to right: Delores Fossen, Melanie Atkins and Rickey Mallory, who also writes as Mallory Kane. I don't really know Delores, but she's written for Harlequin's former Flip Side line and I think she's now writing for Harlequin Intrigue (romantic suspense). Melanie writes romantic crime and paranormal and Rickey has published a large number of Harlequin Intrigue books and one of my all-time favorite sci-fi/time travel stories. I'll post links to their websites in my sidebar, later on. I nabbed a copy of Melanie's book Truth or Dare. Her books can be pretty intense and I was fortunate that she just happened to have a scary-but-not-gruesome paranormal book on hand for the signing. Fun!!

I was totally zonked, last night, but my new little poppet traveled with us to Jackson (where her drawstrings fell off - guess I'll have to find her a new traveling bag) and I posed her in various spots at the Natural Science Museum. Since I'm having such a grand time dragging my tiny toy around and posing her, I decided to give her a blog of her own with SuziQ's The Adventures of Pirate Bendy as my inspiration. You can follow Poppet's adventures at Poppet's Magnificent Traveling Adventures. I've posted 7 photos and will add more, soon, as well as a link in my sidebar.

Best kid news of the week: Youngster was inducted into Beta Club for making the A/B honor roll - very nice thing for college applications. And, while waiting for him at poolside, the pool manager - who taught the Red Cross Lifesaving Course kiddo recently finished - told me she was disappointed that, at 15, he's not old enough to hire. She said my son was her best student, great at "absolutely everything". Cool. And, it's always nice to know that your child has both an employable skill and the ability to restart someone's heart.

Coming up: A sticky sign-up post for a Rises the Night drawing. I was so tired, last night, that I actually can't remember what I read before falling asleep. I'll have to look around and see if I dropped any books on the floor. Sometimes when I'm tired, I make my family giggle.

Did I tell you my lily bloomed the day after I posted a photo of the buds for Wahoo Wednesday? Here it is:

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas!!!