Friday, June 29, 2007

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster
Just released: June, 2007
278 pages

I haven't read either The Nanny Diaries or Citizen Girl by the same writing duo and they've both gotten mixed reviews from friends. So, I was actually a little leery going into the reading of Dedication. I'd heard a lot of "Katie is so irritating" and "I just wanted to wring Jake's neck". From the standpoint of a person who has written fiction, I know that it's good for the reader to feel emotionally involved, but hating the characters can end up being entirely negative.

Regardless, I wanted to read the book and since I received it as an Advanced Review Copy, felt obligated to at least try, so that I could share my opinion with the publisher. When I picked it up, the book surprised me. It flowed well, apart from the occasional stretch of dialogue during which I couldn't figure out who was speaking. I was honestly sucked right in and enjoyed the reading.

Dedication is the story of Kate Hollis. Now thirty, still single and with a successful career, she has never had closure to her high school romance with Jake Sharpe. Jake has become a well-known recording star, with a string of hits that are mostly about Kate. When her best friend, Laura, calls to let Kate know that Jake has finally returned to their hometown to film a video, Kate is determined to see him, to discuss why he stood her up on prom night and convince him to share royalties from a song he and his high school friends co-wrote, now practically a classic entirely credited to Jake.

Jake is anxious to see Kate, but he has his own reasons. Convinced he still loves her, he wants to pick up their relationship where it left off, with his profession of love and a whole lot of casual sex. He claims to have never stopped thinking about her, even though he is involved in a much-publicized relationship and possibly on the verge of marriage.

Kate has been pining after Jake for so long that she has difficulty seeing the big picture. Jake is a narcissist. Even during the time they dated, he often stood her up frequently and he hasn't been in contact since before the prom. So, the big question is: Will Kate figure out what kind of person Jake really is and move on with her life?

There's also plenty of filler about Jake and Kate's dysfunctional families - the kind of thing I like to call "Dysfunctional Family Follies," in which a parent occasionally argues with the protagonist or comes home running-into-walls drunk. Most of Jake's family mess comes out in flashback scenes, while Kate is still arguing with her parents about Jake in the present-day setting and their story emerges more gradually.

A good portion of the basis for this story seemed ridiculous and Kate and Laura's high school experiences were so far removed from my own that I couldn't relate in any way, but I still found the book entertaining. It's not mentally taxing or dreary, even though Kate is definitely the kind of character you want to shake and Jake could have used a good, swift kick. The writing is not remarkable or special in any way, but the need to know what was going to happen kept the pages turning. I like a good, light relationship story and I think that's exactly what Dedication is - two people with a past meet and must resolve their unfinished relationship. I liked it. I'm much more interested in The Nanny Diaries, now.

4/5 for entertainment value - a quick read, great for those who like chick lit, not for those who are unsatisfied by a book that is about a relationship and little else.

I can't figure out why this is my favorite photo of the fountain in the Detroit airport, but I always pause on this one:

Maybe it's the way the two men in the background appear to have noticed the camera at the same time, while looking over at the fountain. Or, the contrast in their looks and outfits: two unique individuals spotting something at the exact same moment. The way the water is in focus but the people in the background seem to have become the subject matter fascinates me. Click on the photo to enbiggen, hugify, enlarge, etc.

If it doesn't storm, I'll begin working on that "100 Things About Me" post and/or a post on what little I've figured out about nature photography. I haven't forgotten either! I also hope to squeeze in some blog-hopping time. Wish us a storm-free evening.

Off to move the laundry! Fun times!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens
Barnes & Noble Classics, reprint
Originally published in serial form, 1860-1861, This version: 1868
475 pages

I didn't rush through Great Expectations, but the time spent reading was addictive and it went fairly fast. Too fast, in fact, to bother writing down any page numbers or mark quotes. I just didn't want to put the book down long enough to bother. So, the only quote I marked was this quote, which made me think of junior high:

So, throughout our life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.

For those who haven't gotten around to reading, Great Expectations is the story of Pip, a young boy who lives with his temperamental sister and her simple but kind husband, Joe Gargery, the town blacksmith. Pip is visiting his parents' graves when an escaped convict frightens him into bringing food and a file to remove the ball and chain from his ankle. Not long after his experience with the convict, Pip is asked to visit Miss Havisham, a reclusive eccentric who still dons the wedding dress she was wearing the day her intended sent her a note and ran off with her money. Miss Havisham has an adopted daughter named Estella, whom she is raising to break the hearts of men who pursue her.

Pip is entranced by Estella's beauty but hurt by her condescension. Yet, he's so captivated that he can't get Estella out of his mind and determines that he must make a gentleman of himself in order to win Estella. He asks for help from the granddaughter of the schoolmistress, Biddy, who does her best to teach him everything she knows. But, a letter from a lawyer which says Pip is to come into "great expectations" (some form of inheritance) and must be fitted out as a gentleman and hasten to London is the first turning point for Pip.

The rest of the story tells of the ups and downs of Pip's life as he is educated by the brother of Miss Havisham, meets his lifelong friend Herbert, and begins to overextend himself financially while inadvisably separating himself from his roots back home.

Of course, there are a lot of twists and turns that I'm not mentioning. Pip's determination to eventually marry Estella, for example, which is thwarted at every turn by her inclination to exact revenge on any man who pursues her. Estella has been taught to deceive and entrap, but certainly never to satisfy. Pip, however, is convinced that Estella's hand is a part of his great expectations and that someday he will win her over.

It's easy enough to guess who Pip's benefactor is, but there are two possibilities and that lends the story a hint of mystery. As the story unfolds, more secrets are revealed and characters' lives explained. Dickens certainly knew how to keep one's attention with the gradual revelation of its various strands, the well-drawn individuality of each character, the humor, tension and mysteries, all of which add up to make the story thoroughly absorbing.

I can't believe I've missed out on Dickens for so long. Great Expectations is an amazing roller-coaster ride and has just made it onto my mental list of all-time favorite novels.


Also finished reading: Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. I'll try to get a review of that posted, later tonight.

Haven't really felt like writing, this week - I can't say why. The husband called one last time from Darwin, yesterday, before leaving for the interior or desert or Outback, whatever. He will be, he said, in a part of Australia in which 8 of the world's deadliest snakes reside and claimed he's going to let his boss walk ahead of him. Hahaha. At least he's kept his sense of humor. Mine seems to have abandoned me.

We're having daily storms, here - sunny or partly cloudy in the morning, stormy in the afternoon. The humidity has thus shot back up to normal (the yuck zone) and the grass is growing way, way too fast. It's too late for quite a few of the flowers, but the strawberries that died out in the heat are making a comeback.

I opted to skip this week's Wahoo Wednesday post because, a) it was storming and, b) it was Wednesday when the husband said, "Talk to you in 5 days." Well, gosh, that just kind of got me down. So, I'll watch for Wahooey things and try to make next Wednesday's a nice, long post.

Off to take the sick kitty to the vet to be x-rayed and then take the kiddo to a movie. I leave you with the kind of car the spouse has decided he wants to own, since seeing them in Italy (taken at the Canton, Michigan IKEA - "You are in IKEA heaven," said Simon, when he called and I told him how uncrowded the store was. We were, indeed.):

Armchair Traveler Proves Irresistible, Film at Eleven

Okay, I give up. I really want to join in on The Armchair Traveler challenge because I have quite a few travel memoirs and plenty of novels that easily fit the qualifications, most of which have been taunting me for a while. Lesley at A Life in Books is hosting. I'm going to start with what happens to be near my chair and add to this post when I feel like it.

1. If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende (Alaska)
2. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (Africa)
3. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya (India)
4. Olive Season by Carol Drinkwater (France)
5. Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler (Japan)
6. Howard's End by E. M. Forster (Edwardian England)


7. A House in Corfu by Emma Tennant (Greece)
8. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (Mexico)
9. Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes (Italy)
10. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara (Gibbsville, Pennsylvania)
11. Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger or The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster (New York)
12. Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance (Salem, Massachusetts)
13. While I Live by John Marsden (Australia)
14. Angels of a Lower Flight by *author's name removed* (Haiti)

I think I'll stop right there, for now, but I appreciate Lesley's flexibility because I typically do a lot of substituting.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Finished two and I keep getting kicked off the computer

This was a great reading weekend. I finished Great Expectations on Saturday and then started Held at a Distance all over again, yesterday, and finished that up. So, yippee! I've completed the Chunkster Challenge! That's good because I would have felt pretty dismal flunking my own challenge. Here's what I read:

Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair - 453 pages
God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield - 687 pages
Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory - 516 pages
Foreign Fruit - 483 pages
Great Expectations - 475 pages

I substituted a good bit, but actually read more than I expected, finished the book I considered the most important chunkster on my list (Great Expectations) and surpassed my goal. I didn't realize that till just this minute. Cool!

As to Held at a Distance, I enjoyed it a little more the second time around - particularly for the history, anecdotes, and descriptions of the many interesting sites the author and her husband visited. But, I think I'd get along a lot better with the author's engineer uncle than the author herself. I've turned in my review and it should show up in Estella's Revenge around the first of July.

The kiddo keeps stealing my computer because we bought a new game, so I'm not getting online much - apart from the daily webcam visit with hubby. Before leaving, he bought two inexpensive little web cameras and called me repeatedly from his laptop in the living room. That was funny. Anyway, now he's calling me from Australia, each day. I've got one of our clocks set to Australian time and now am aware that Melbourne is 15 hours ahead of our U.S. Central time zone. We just hung up a little big ago (about 2:45 p.m., Monday, here) and hubby was all freshly dressed, beginning the early part of Tuesday. This is cool. He just called me, again. I highly recommend the totally funky experience of talking by webcam. Sometimes the connection is great and sometimes it's not, but it's a very science-fiction-like experience, very "2001" (just a bit late - and where's that totally nifty rotating space station we've been waiting on?).

I cranked the air conditioner early - because the humidity has suddenly returned to normal - and actually got a little cold, this morning. So, I decided to drag the camera outside and warm up. While outside I spotted this little green fellow who thinks he's a leaf (or is trying to convince the rest of us) and was utterly creeped out when I loaded the photos and realized the blob below him was some sort of mite-like creature. . . ewww. I thought he was a lump of bird doo-doo! I prefer bird poop, to be honest.

The green fellow is very small - around a centimeter in length - so the creepy gray thing (which looks like every nasty, parasitic, evil magnified photo I've ever seen of microscopic creatures you don't want in your bed or on your skin) was tiny enough that his legs were not visible until I saw the photo on-screen. Ewwwww!

I also took photos of a green spider, a female cardinal, a lacy gray moth, a noisy robin, some nondescript little gray birds in flight, a Mississippi kite, a magnolia, and a red-bellied woodpecker sticking his tongue out (it's not very good quality, but it's definitely an interesting shot). There's an awful lot of life directly outside our front door. I came inside sweaty, of course. Don't think I'll be getting cold again, today. Oh, yes, and the sign of the day:

Out "of" the book? That can't be right. But, since I'm being instructed to read, I'm certainly fine with the concept - assuming I can read some other books, also.

Kiddo claims I'm starving him and depriving him of important game time, so I'm going to feed him and read. Wishing everyone a terrific Monday - Tuesday if you're on the other side of the world. :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Someday, I'll finish that last chunkster and the usual chatter

Angela, aka SciFiChick, and I are in the same boat, this month - balancing perhaps a few too many books at once and not finishing much of anything. I immersed myself in Great Expectations, this afternoon, and still have 100 pages to go. But, I'm absolutely loving it and hope to have a review posted, soon, very soon. I'm also nipping away at Solo Traveler, a book I bought on a whim after dropping the spouse off at the airport (while thinking, "Enough of this being left behind!!) and Dedication by the Nanny Diaries co-authors. I'm enjoying all three. Held at a Distance will not defeat me, but I haven't touched it. Don't tell Andi. Okay, Andi, I'll get to it. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

The spouse has arrived safely in Melbourne, is ensconced in some hotel or other and called me first from:

1. A noisy airplane terminal in Los Angeles, then
2. A noisy baggage claim area in Melbourne, then
3. A noisy hotel lobby.

Seems like this has been a noisy, but uneventful trip, so far. That's good, I think.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-style home, the kiddo declared himself "completely bored" and fiercely hungry. We trudged (by car - not really so much a trudge as a glide) to the Mexican restaurant, where I discovered that I really like being called amigo. It's a feel-good word, don't you think? And, then, I told youngest son that it would be fine with me if he helped out with the housework. There's no reason to be bored with all that cleaning to do, said I. The teenager immediately declared himself full of ideas for preoccupation. Miraculous.

We were both stunned, shocked, amazed, and many other surprising adjectives, at the fact that I actually managed to get up at 5:30 am - in plenty of time to haul kiddo to swim practice!! Just for the record, I am not a morning person. And, now, at 9:30 pm I feel a bit like this:

A few product-sample memos:

Snuggle's new wild orchid & vanilla Exhilarations fabric softener smells lovely and works great. Fluffy towels, pleasant smell. Since I recently bought some clearance bottles of fabric softener and then brought them home and discovered why they were rejects (the laundry did not smell good - in fact, it was offensive, so I gave away the fabric softener), I've learned to appreciate a light, pleasant scent.

Cascade Action Pacs with Dawn got the dishes clean without leaving a residue.

Aveeno's SPF 55 lotion sample struck me as awfully heavy and strongly scented (it would be heavy, though with SPF 55). And, it made my skin burn. So, that looks like a reject.

Eucerin Calming Creme is light, maybe too light because my skin sucked it right up and asked for more. And, it may have gone off a bit - not sure; it might just be unscented. Sometimes it's hard to tell with lotion.

L'Occitane's Verbena soap is lemony heaven - love it! And the eye cream is soothing.

And, a thought . . .

I was visiting In Spring it is the Dawn and noticed that Nat mentioned to Lotus that she should ask me for tips on nature photography. Which, of course, is nutty because Nat is brilliant. If you haven't seen her iris photos, you must dash right over to In Spring it is the Dawn, right now. But, anyway, I do have a few pointers I could share - just things I've learned by doing. Are you interested? If so, I'll do a post on that, some time.

Gotta go immerse myself in water, soap up, sneak in a few pages and snooze.

Happy Weekend from Bookfool!

Spring Reading Thing Recap

The Spring Reading Thing is about to officially end and I only managed to finish 2 out of 4 books, darn it. But, I'll still do a recap, as requested by Katrina.

1. What was the best book you read this spring?

I assume this means the best book from the Spring Reading Thing challenge list? If so, The Sex Lives of People in Love by J. Maarten Troost was probably my favorite, of the two. But, I really enjoyed The Moon on a Stick by Valerie-Anne Baglietto, too. If we're talking generalities, I think there are too many to list but a couple of favorites were The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes, and The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. I could go on. I've read some fun books, this spring.

2. What book could you have done without?

I liked both of the challenge books I read, so I'll go with . . . In the Cut by Susannah Moore, which was appalling. I wish I'd never picked it up.

3. Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author, again?

Most of the books I've read, this year, have been by authors who are new to me. And, I'd read most of them, again - there are too many to list. I tend to thrive on variety, so it's hard to say when I'll get around to reading them; but, I hope to read Getting Stoned With Savages (a second travel memoir by Troost) in the coming months.

4. If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it?

I lost track of time. If I'd been paying attention, I would have slotted my other two in; both are books that I've read halfway and wanted to finish. I just read the first two so quickly that I thought, "Oh, I don't want to finish the challenge before the first month is over!" and decided to wait on the other two. Then, I forgot. Oopsy. But, I will definitely read them.

5. Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning on adding to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones?

Well, I can't answer that one! I'm sure I did, but I dash off and add them to my wish list or write them down without making reference to where I've seen the titles crop up.

6. What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share!

I learned not to worry about finishing a challenge too quickly.

7. What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing?

Truth? I managed to read and get rid of a book that had been on the shelf for at least 2 years. And, I loved the color the button added to my sidebar. Oh, and I won a book in one of the drawings! That was definitely fun!

8. Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall?

I'm not sure. I'm kind of leaning toward getting away from challenges, at least for a while. Kris at Not Enough Books is having a Cozy Mystery Challenge in the fall and I have a small shelf of cozies I can't seem to talk myself into reading, so I plan to join in on her challenge. Otherwise, I'm in Challenge Avoidance Mode. I might. Maybe.

9. Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments.

I'm glad I participated. Thanks to Katrina for hosting the challenge!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

This will be an abbreviated Wahoo post. Since I haven't been outside much, for the past few days, I haven't taken a single photograph - not one!! Weird. So, here's a cute little wahoo from five days ago . . .

1. Wahoo for the gorgeous cardinal, a lovely bird that is always a joy to see. Not a great photo because this particular cardinal was so far away, but I love cardinals in flight:

2. I got the neatest thing, today. Malady at Life By Candlelight regularly posts links to sites where you can sign up to get free samples of various products (I've been having loads of fun trying all sorts of new products). Today, the Fed Ex man dropped a tiny little package on my doorstep. I knew from the label that it was a lotion sample, but sent by Fed Ex? That was surprising. Youngster and I opened the box, which was filled with blue tissue paper. Inside the tissue was a pretty little glossy drawstring bag with two samples of Kinerase lotion. Wow! How cool is that? It was like getting a Christmas gift - okay, maybe a stocking-stuffer, but very nicely wrapped. Wahoo for fun things dropped on the doorstep.

Malady also recently had a drawing for an "Oprah tote" full of sample products, which I won. Here's a photo of the booty:

Can you believe all that stuff? Goodness. Only Oprah could possibly round up samples of that caliber (and quantity).

3. While in Ann Arbor, hubby and I dropped by the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, where we happened across a booth with some polymer clay photo transfer pendants that I really liked. Ann, who makes the pendants, has a nice little website. And, she's a sweetheart. Wahoo for nice people who make pretty things. I don't have a photo of the pendants I bought, unfortunately, but she uses a variety of designs - some vintage images and some by a friend of hers. I'm particularly fond of the kitty images.

4. I took this photo for the kiddo, who is enamored of Mini Coopers and it's become one of my favorite Ann Arbor photos:

I love the primary colors of those vehicles lined up at the stoplight. And, doesn't it feel like you're kind of spying on that woman? Wahoo for colorful, silly, human moments.

Okay, gotta go - counting down to putting hubby on an airplane and sending him to the Australians. I've decided that the Aussies have to give him back in two weeks because he cooks. It's the best reason I can come up with. Okay, I'm kidding. I kinda like him, too.

Hope everyone has had a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Whose Number is Up, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman (and other stuff)

Whose Number is Up, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman
Release date: August, 2007
Harlequin Next (fiction)
230 pages

I arrive in my driveway at the same time my father pulls up at the curb. he's there to watch the Met game with Jesse, who doesn't have the heart to tell him that he's gone over to the dark side. He's now a Yankee fan.
"Once a week I can like the Mets for Grandpa," he tells me, reminding me why it is I still like the kid. "Sometimes you have to bend the truth a little for someone you love.
It's taken me years to learn what he already knows at eleven.

Whose Number is Up, Anyway? is the fourth complete novel in the Teddi Bayer series, a light-hearted series about a mother of three who solves mysteries while working in a growing decorating business and juggling a trio of hot men. In the latest installment (Teddi has also appeared in two anthologies and two free online reads at eharlequin), Teddi finds herself at the scene of what appears to have been a simple heart attack. But, the dead man in question is in an awfully odd place - the freezer at a local meat market. Teddi smells a mystery, but her detective friend and sometimes lover, Drew Scoones, dismisses her theories.

Undaunted, Teddi tries to quietly investigate the death of the man, whom she recognizes as a league member at the bowling alley she is decorating. When a doctor is killed in the parking lot of a local hospital and it turns out there's a connection between her and the victim in the freezer, Teddi becomes even more determined to solve the crimes.

Not that anyone else believes the guy in the freezer was murdered. Teddi must constantly prove herself, in spite of her success rate. I think that's one thing I like about the character: she's determined and undaunted by the skeptics that surround her, but she's not quite as bumbling and stupid as a lot of similar heroines (although you can expect the occasional pratfall). Her family is also an important part of the character mix, chiefly the crazy mother who is impossible to please and the ex-husband who still doesn't quite understand why she left him.

Whose Number is Up, Anyway? was the perfect antidote to the downers I've recently read and it's an excellent summer read - nice and light. I love a bit of a chick lit upper, now and then, and the timing was perfect. The one thing I'm really curious about is . . . how long will Teddi keep Drew hanging? Is the author going to keep this series going eternally, like the Stephanie Plum series? Because I enjoy the series, but I felt like the way Teddi avoided commitment in this particular book hinted at the possibility of, "I'm going to keep this series going forever" syndrome. There came a point in the Stephanie Plum series that each book began to take on the feel of a rerun - same old, same old . . . and never with a satisfactory conclusion to Stephanie's man problem. So, I stopped reading the series. My hope is that Stevi will not drag out the series forever. However, I'd also like to see her obtain the success of Janet Evanovich; I think her books are every bit as entertaining as the Stephanie Plum books and I'm hoping Stevi will eventually branch out and offer up some different characters.

*UPDATE* - I neglected to say that I thought the ending was wonderful and it had me yearning to rush out and buy the next in the series (which, of course, will not be available for quite some time). The next title is "Who Creamed Peaches, Anyway?" and it has a general 2008 release date. I should also mention that Teddi does change and grow throughout the series. I love Stephanie Plum and her wacky family, but she doesn't really alter much from one novel to the next. Teddi does; and, in that way, I think she's actually a much better character. Don't tell Ms. Evanovich I said that.

Note that this is yet another book with a decorator, but I loved it. I think that whether or not I like a book with an interior-decorator protagonist has a lot to do with detail: too much chatter about the furnishings, the paint colors, the flooring and accessories is all filler and a total yawn. The Teddi Bayer series provides a nice balance, heavier on the mystery than visual detail.

4.5/5 - loads of fun; avoid if you can't stand fluff, but I think it's a perfect summer vacation read.

Also finished: The Official Guide to Christmas in the South or, If You Can't Fry It, Spraypaint it Gold.

This is one of the titles I snatched up for $1 at Borders' big sale of remainders and I'm glad I grabbed a copy. There's not a lot to it (not a lot of text, that is - it's a quick cupcake of a book) but it's hilarious, particularly if you've experienced Christmas in the South. I couldn't help thinking, "Oh, hey, those candles I got from my friend J. are such a perfect example . . . wax pinecones with a faux-gold finish."

The whole book is very much tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn't keep it from having the ring of truth. In the section, "Translating the Morsel Code", for example, are these descriptions of the gifts of fudge, baklava and divinity:

Fudge: From the heart. Often an overweight heart. Sometimes a bless-her-heart. But nothing warms the old ticker like a slab of well-greased fudge.

Baklava: A studious gift. Often is associated with an invitation to join a book club, the horrible kind, perhaps a Great Books study in a house that smells of mothballs and garlic. Baklava givers also tend to be active in arts fundraisers. Enjoy the honey and get out your checkbook.

Divinity: What, pray tell, is divine about a candy that tastes like nothing but egg and sugar and can only be made under the rarest of climate conditions? No one really knows, but it remains one of the ultimate candy gifts. Topped with whole pecans? You're the best. Topped with pieces of pecan halves? Bad market. Mixed with crumbled pecans a la cookies and cream? The giver is a Yankee.

Still reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens . . . and loving it! Sometimes, I'd like to give Pip a good shaking, but I still think he's funny.

Once I get the husband shipped off to Australia: I think I'll leave him there. No, no, that's not what I was going to say. I meant to say I'm planning to reread Held at a Distance from the beginning and try to keep an emotional detachment from it, this time around.

Yes, it's true: The spouse is going to yet another country that's on my life-long wish list, without me. I still haven't forgiven him for Italy.

Then, again, he's been buying things like insect repellent, snake-bite kits, thick socks to go inside leather boots (I pointed out that the leather is soft enough for a good set of snake fangs to bite right through - you'd have loved the look on his face) and 1000 SPF sunscreen. Actually, we couldn't find any sunscreen with a higher SPF than 50, so I've told the hubby he has authorization to buy himself some Australian sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. He also plans to squint a lot and grit his teeth to keep the sand out.

The most important thing to take to Australia, according to the spouse: Someone who runs slower than you do. Gosh, I can't wait for the anecdotes he'll have to tell.

It may be safer in Mississippi, but . . . a black widow spider jumped out of my garden, a few days ago, while I was watering the plants. Guess who hasn't felt like weeding, lately?

Coming up: The latest Wahoo! Wednesday post - after my afternoon reading siesta and that last bit of washing and drying of laundry for the husband to pack.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kathy Little Bird by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

Kathy Little Bird
The Berkley Publishing Group
362 pages
Copyright 2004

For the first time I had a glimpse of what was happening when music took hold of me. It was like my soul was pouring out through all these notes and their combinations. No wonder I liked it better without words. Pure sound is pure emotion. Octaves, cool. Twelfths and fifths, lonely. Thirds and sixths, sexy. Seconds, trouble. Sevenths, freaked out. Ninths and elevenths, fury. Diminished sevenths, tears. The unison, death.

I finished Kathy Little Bird almost a week ago and have put off reviewing it, although it took some time to figure out why. Disappointment, maybe? The book began with huge promise and, in the end, I found myself skimming in the hope of getting it over with just a bit sooner. Yet, there were moments that I understood or related to, like that in the quote above. I can identify with the power of music upon emotion.

I'm going to take the easy way out and copy the cover blurb because I think it's accurate:

All her life, Kathy Little Bird has heard stories of her grandmother, Mrs. Mike, from her own mother, a Cree Indian nurse who married a wounded Austrian soldier during the waning years of World War II. Living with her mother and stepfather on the plains of St. Alban's, Kathy takes the tradition of Cree music to heart - "singing" the wilderness and the people she knows so well.

But Kathy longs for freedom from her sheltered life and takes her first chance to get away, marrying a charming con artist who promises her the world - and leaving behind her childhood sweetheart. Staying in seedy hotels and singing in run-down clubs, she slowly finds the fame she craves. But screaming fans and hit songs cannot fill the hole within her heart - the aching need she has for the native people she left behind, the father she never knew, and a love that will calm her restless soul . . .

Kathy Little Bird is the third in a fictional series. I have not read the first two "Mrs. Mike" books. Sometimes I felt like the book stood well on its own. But, there were enough "What the heck is Kathy referring to?" moments that I wouldn't recommend diving into the middle of this particular series of novels.

The opening of Kathy Little Bird was a grabber, full of emotion and with an interesting variety of characters. So, what one has to wonder is "What happened? Where did the co-authors lose this reader and why?" I think I'd have to say that I became most frustrated at a point that I can't describe because it's a spoiler. Let me say this much: Kathy allowed her con-man husband, Jack, to do something that I absolutely cannot fathom allowing without moving heaven and earth to undo it. It was that huge. When Kathy moved on and justified Jack's ridiculous action, the whole tone of the book changed, at least for me. During the remainder of the book, I saw Kathy as a different kind of person, selfish and clueless. For the next hundred pages, I felt as if I was holding my breath, waiting for Kathy to realize what needed to be done, get in the car, and just take care of it, for crying out loud.

This is sounding too vague, so I'm going to post a spoiler.

***SPOILER WARNING!!!!! Skip this paragraph if you intend to read the book!!

Kathy's husband, Jack, told her to get dressed and hurry out of the hospital after she gave birth. She dressed and left, without insisting that they pick up her baby or even simply demanding Jack inform her where the baby happened to be. Eventually, Jack told Kathy that he'd given their child to the childless couple Jack and Kathy been staying with and convinced Kathy that they'd return for the baby when they had the money to raise the child and pay off medical bills. Kathy accepted Jack's explanation and logic; and, when Jack later told Kathy that their daughter had been informed her birth mother died, Kathy used her Cree heritage ("If she thinks I'm dead, then I am dead to her, forever") as justification for never contacting her child.

***END SPOILER!!!! We now return to our regularly scheduled programming***

Since Kathy never did make the decision to do what this reader considered "the right thing", at least on the issue I considered most important, the character was not one I really enjoyed following, after that crucial turning point in the novel. Toward the end, in fact, Kathy mulled another tremendously selfish move, proving that she hadn't learned a thing.

If you intend to read this book, be prepared to read about a frustrating character who is so hell-bent on becoming a famous singer that everything else falls by the wayside. The writing is good, but I simply don't feel like I can recommend a book with a protagonist that I found so annoying I wanted to step into the novel and give her a good kick in the shins and a lecture.


Incidentally, the cover must have been a disappointment to the authors, as Kathy is part Cree but she doesn't look it; she is blonde with only deep black eyes as a clue to the native side of her ancestry.

Also finished: Whose Number is Up, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman. Review forthcoming.

Still reading: Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile

Back to: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. And, this time I'm getting somewhere. I'm scrambling to squeeze it in before the end of the Chunkster Challenge, since Great Expectations was the one book I most wanted to get around to reading and completing for the Chunkster.

Considering: Ditching the rest of the challenges because either they're not really challenging or I'm having trouble squeezing specific titles in, between all the advanced readers that have recently shown up. I noticed that at least two bloggers I occasionally visit have decided to declare themselves "challenge free".

There's good and bad to both sides to the issue of participating in or dropping challenges, in my humble opinion. A challenge is not a great thing if it simply ends up being one more reason to feel distraught, to think yourself a screw-up or to kick yourself around the room. However, if you really feel like a challenge helps motivate you to read something you desire to read (but might not get around to, otherwise), then it's a positive thing. I didn't want anyone who participated in the Chunkster Challenge to end up feeling like a loser; hence, the decision not to make the final drawing dependent upon successful completion of the challenge. In my mind, if you managed to read anything at all that you hoped to, you're a success. If you really, really tried and decided a book was far too overwhelming . . . you're still a success for having attempted the book and for reaching the point at which you were able to decide, "This is not the book for me." Not every book is worth the time it takes to read from cover to cover. We all probably know that horrible feeling - closing a book and thinking, "So, why did I bother spending so many hours reading this?"

Which leads to my current review book. It's been enjoyable, at times, for the history. But, when I stalled at about the halfway point, there was good reason. I still feel the same way about that first half as I did when I closed the book and thought, "I'll read the rest later." Now, I'm struggling to get through it because it's a review book and it would be wrong not to finish. I'm well aware that the reason I became frustrated with the first section (there are two parts to the book) has to do with my personal experience. The book is a memoir; it's about a woman's return to her birth country after a 25-year absence. She whines about her years of poverty, but doesn't describe them in any detail. She complains about not growing up near her relatives, but it doesn't occur to her that she is fortunate to find them alive, upon her return. All of my grandparents were gone by the time I turned 26 and the author returned to her home soil around the age of 35. It's very difficult seeing the author's complaints as anything but pure, silly whining.

So, the question is . . . Can I finish this book and truly review it objectively? Is it possible to remain 100% objective, or do we all inject a little of ourselves into our reading material? Certainly, Kathy Little Bird was a frustrating book because the character made a choice that I found incomprehensible. But, I've read other novels with annoying characters and ended up liking them in spite of bad choices - sometimes even because of their flaws. I've read memoirs - heartbreaking at times - and not felt that I had any reason to challenge the author's reflections as whiny or insignificant in any way.

In other words, there's a lot to think about, before I send in a review of Held at a Distance.

End of babble . . . here's the photo of the week. Tell me if this gives you that "Big Brother is Watching Me" feeling (in this case, "Big Flutter is Watching"):

Happy Father's Day to the daddies!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wahoo! . . . oops . . . Thursday

Sometimes a girl gets forgetful . . . this week it's Wahoo! Thursday, instead of Wednesday.

Having just returned from vacation, I feel like I have a lot to be grateful for. This post will probably focus on last week, for that reason. It was awfully fun. That's a Mississippi squirrel, though, munching on the grass in our backyard.

This week's Wahoos:

1. I'm thankful for good timing. We arrived in Ann Arbor on Saturday; and, Sunday just happened to be the day of the "Taste of Ann Arbor" food festival, where we sampled foods from a variety of local restaurants, watched an exhibition of Morris Dancing and, best of all, squeezed in some great people-watching time. I was particularly fond of the family interaction:

I love seeing a parent down at his or her child's level; it seems to reflect a level of respect for one's child that standing above them lacks. Not that you shouldn't ever be able to stand up, but you know what I mean, right?

I liked the happy feet of Morris dancers, as well:

2. I'm grateful for this paragraph:

The Pont des Arts is wooden, and if you look through the slats, you can see boats passing beneath. Sometimes small bolts of lightning shoot from the boats as tourists take pictures of one another, and sometimes they just aim the cameras at nothing in particular and shoot - I like these kinds of photographs best, not that I have a camera - but if I did, I would randomly take pictures of nothing in particular. How else could you record life as it happens.

--from "Little Birds" by Simon Van Booy (Get the feeling I liked The Secret Lives of People in Love?)

With that thought in mind, I set my camera down on a counter in the Canton, Michigan IKEA and took photos aimed at the restaurant cash register. I do often take photos of people without paying too much attention to what they're doing, but I doubt I'd have thought to set the camera down for a change of pace, if I hadn't just read that paragraph the night before.

3. I'm grateful for little ones, who help us look at the world as if everything were new. Even with a little drool hanging from her lips, this was a beautiful sight:

4. I'm thankful for old friends. We had a little difficulty fitting in a dinner with our friends R. and L. because they're dealing with having their house "fixed" (wrecked by contractors who are not careful, is more accurate) and R. is immersed in his hectic job. But, we did manage to get together and it was wonderful. I always find myself wishing that we lived closer to R. and L., whenever we see them. Okay, so you want to see what I look like? Here's Bookfool with hubby and friends. You won't see another photo of me till the blonde babe (aka "me") loses some major flab.

5. I'm ridiculously in love with nature. We went to the botanical gardens. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the place, off the top of my head, but I've been sitting here flipping through photos from the gardens and . . . oh my gosh, it's so hard to choose! There was an incredible amount of beauty. I've decided to go for one close-up and one distance shot from the outdoor plots.

Here you go, a reason to be grateful for pollen - honey and the bees that make it:

I want my garden to look like this!!

I could go on all day. I only took about . . . uh . . . maybe 300 - 400 photos? Not bad for me (I took more than 900 during last year's vacation), but there's obviously too much to share in one post.

We spent a lot of time in our favorite park, which makes me very thankful for:

6. My tolerant spouse. He wanted to visit the museums, but very kindly agreed to my wish that we spend our time outdoors. I wanted to enjoy the cool air while we had the opportunity, since I knew we'd be returning to a long, hot summer. I didn't anticipate that it would shoot up to the 90's in time for our return, so it turned out to be a doubly good decision.

Which reminds me that I'd better go water the flowers before any more of them keel over.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

But it's a dry heat . . .

We're still adjusting to the hot weather, here, and I'm ready to turn around and head back to Michigan. Wow is it hot! Youngster and I climbed into the car, this afternoon, and the digital thermometer registered the outdoor temperature at 102 degrees. And, then, of course we drove long enough to air the thermometer down to 95, but still . . . wow, is it hot. When I was "interviewing" Simon (more like chatting with him), he asked if it gets into the hundreds very often, down here, and I said it's not so much the heat as the humidity. I feel like I told a fib. Yes, we do get into the hundreds, but it typically doesn't last for very long and it's definitely the humidity that'll get you. Not so at the moment. It's fiercely dry and painfully bright out. A great day for raptors, though:

The fellow above is a Mississippi kite. Hubby keeps joking that he doesn't see the string. Oh, hahaha. I get it.

I didn't buy a single book in Ann Arbor, not one. That has never happened to me; Ann Arbor is a book-loving city, with new and used bookstores all over the place. I'm still trying to figure it out, wild-guessing that it has to do with the fact that there was very little time to read. The guys even made me turn the light out without reading time, at night. Actually, I came back better rested than normal, so maybe I need to shift my reading hours a bit.

However, there was a book from Paperback Swap waiting in the mail and youngster had to go to the library to fetch Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, today (which meant that I had to mosey on over to the library sale corner). So, I've got some recent acquisitions worth photographing. Here they are:

Fun stuff, eh? I'm going to steal Kookiejar's word . . . click on the photo to "enbiggen".

Back-tracking a little . . . I must tell you about our flights up to Michigan, which were very interesting. On the flight from Jackson to Cincinnati, we had a little turbulence toward the end - not a bad flight, overall. What really made it interesting was a fellow who apparently doesn't fly often. Perhaps it was his first flight; I can't say. But, when it began to get bumpy, he got a little nutty and, suddenly, every turn of the plane was reason to shout out either a mild expletive or "What the --?!" Occasionally, he even squealed like a little kid. Best of all was his reaction to that one big noise that comes right before landing. When he let out a whoop of horror, kiddo quietly said, "Landing gear." I was really proud of youngster for holding the eye-roll and keeping it quiet.

Our next stretch, from Cincinnati to Detroit, was even a little frightening to the well-traveled husband. Although, the average bear wouldn't know that . . . I'm merely tuned in to his every nuance. Yeah, yeah, I'm lying. Anyway, there was a storm outside and storms mean turbulence. A little turbulence is no big deal, but the plane was rocking left to right for almost the entire flight and it did become a little tiresome. The landing was just downright scary, with the spouse later commenting that, "Those one-wheel landings are a little unusual." Uh-huh. As we pulled onto the apron, I turned to husband and said, "Well, that was a heck of a flight." At least a half-dozen people around us nodded and muttered in agreement. The really, truly amazing thing about that flight, though . . . there were at least three small children around us and there was not a complaint or a wail from any of them. Very impressive, I thought. We all agreed we'd have hated to find out how the fellow from our first, rather uneventful, flight would have reacted to the bumpier second leg of our journey.

Coming up: A sticky post for the closing of the Chunkster Challenge. I've never taken the time to figure out that Mr. Linky thing that other challenge hosts use, so the final check-in will be much like the most recent contest posts. I'm currently gathering prizes together; as soon as I've finished rounding everything up, I'll wrap up that post and paste it to the top of the page.

Almost finished with: post-vacation laundry and clean-up. Remember, I'm not very domestic.

And, after that, I'll work on a "100 Things About Me" post. It'll be kind of fun seeing if I can come up with 100 things that aren't completely inane.

A quote, for your edification:

Love reveals the beauty of seemingly trivial things - a pair of shoes, an empty wine glass, an open drawer, cracks on the avenue.

From "The World Laughs in Flowers" by Simon Van Booy

Oops, I forgot it's Wednesday!!! Ack! Okay, look for a belated Wahoo on Thursday. I have lots of things worth wahooing about.

Later, gators.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Author, Author

Author photos!! I've got them!

Here's Colleen Gleason, posing with a copy of Rises the Night:

And, below, Simon Van Booy, signing my copy of The Secret Lives of People in Love (which I managed to spill water on, as I left it on the nightstand and someone knocked the bottle over; Simon says that makes it more special; but, it took an annoying two days for the book to dry out, during which I was unable to read for fear of tearing pages):

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
Scribner Fiction
305 pages
Released March, 2007

Sheila Altman had finally come back and we mucked stalls while the sounds of hammering echoed through the barn. "I'm thinking of giving it up," she said, and I stopped, the pole of my rake sweaty in my palms. The air around us vibrated with the noise of building, and for a moment, I thought about pretending I couldn't make her out over the din. But Sheila stared across at me through the white feathers of her eyelashes. I had heard every word and she knew it.

The quote above is almost random; I flipped through The God of Animals until I found a paragraph that I felt was fairly representative of Aryn Kyle's prose. Her writing is simple and straightforward, written from the viewpoint of 12-year-old Alice Winston, who lives on a run-down horse ranch with her overworked father and a mother who has been depressed since Alice's birth - so severely depressed, in fact, that she never leaves her room. Alice's sister, Nona, has run away with a cowboy, leaving Alice to bear the enormous responsibility of helping her father with cleaning and upkeep of both home and horse stalls, paying bills and caring for her mother. And, Alice's lab partner from school has been found dead, drowned in a canal.

Alice is understandably anguished over the tragic death of a child she knew, twisting her own mental image of her former lab partner to fit her emotional needs. In her mind, the dead child becomes the best friend Alice never had, while in reality she is unable to connect with the one person willing to offer her friendship, the wealthy client whom her father is training to ride Nona's old horse.

There's a lot more to the story of Alice than I can possibly describe without summarizing the entire story, so I'll focus on the characters and the overall feel of the story. In general, The God of Animals is depressing. It's about a young girl experiencing the harsh realities of life and reacting by grasping at love in a very odd place. At times Alice seems to be almost devoid of emotion - stony, quiet, stoic. At other times, she seems wise beyond her years. Her father, Joe, is a man who does the work he believes he's meant to do, but he has no head for business. He seems strong and courageous, but he's also incredibly frustrating. Nona is enigmatic and Alice's mother is baffling.

So, what kept the pages turning? Simply put: I wanted to know what was going to happen. Would Nona ever return? Would Alice's mother ever emerge from her depression or would someone find help for her? Were things ever going to improve on the ranch? The author's writing was not earth-shattering or beautiful in any way, and yet the book was a fluid read. I don't have any interest in horses, but I found that I enjoyed reading about the everyday workings of the ranch.

In the end, I had mixed feelings about the book. It's written well enough that I found the characters believable - so believable, in fact, that they angered or perplexed me. My biggest frustration was Joe's indifference toward his wife. It made no sense to me why anyone would let his wife languish in a depression so deep that she couldn't even summon the energy to leave her room. And, yet, The God of Animals is not Joe's story. The story is about Alice, about surviving tough times and reaching out, about a young girl's attempt to find escape in her own desperate way.

I think it's very telling that I knew, within the first 50 pages, that I would not ever reread the book. I knew I'd be able to read it and part with it easily, unless the author revealed some earth-shattering truth or ended on such an uplifting note that I would feel compelled to revisit the story in order to relive the experience. Kyle did not satisfy me in that way. The ending is neither horrifying nor uplifting, tolerable in that all the ends were tied up and yet disappointing for the same reason. It pulled me in both directions - loved it for ease of reading, hated it for heaping on so much sadness without revealing any great truth, wanted to kick the characters, found them somehow both dull and fascinating, admired them a little for toughing it out, thought they were stupid for the same reason.

Overall, I'm going to call it an average read. Had I not received The God of Animals as an advanced reader, I'm not certain I would have finished it.


Our weekend seems to have caught up with me, around mid-afternoon, so I'll leave you with a few bits of silliness.

Sign of the week:
Translation: "We have a high theft rate in this skanky hotel; if you pilfer the towels we'll find out and you'll pay dearly for our crappy linens."

You should probably pay for the good life insurance policy if you have the kind of job that requires a lifeline:

I wasn't kidding! Olympic athletes really do eat healthy food:

Coming up:

Photos of the two very hoopty authors I met, anecdotes about our journey, and whatever else hits me.

Fun of the day:

Running to Jackson to snatch up our luggage because the airline we were originally meant to fly on did not receive a request for our luggage and was threatening to hand it over to the other airline (the one that loses things). Followed by lunch at our favorite restaurant, a nap, and a whole lot of laundry. The food and the nap were really the only fun parts; but, I'm happy to have our luggage back.

I really missed finding the time to read, this week, so I'm off. Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Strike up the band 'cause Bookfool's back!!! Did you miss me?

What a week!!! I'll be doing some major blog-hopping, tomorrow. I've had limited internet access, this week, and yada, yada on the no-time thing. Now that I'm back, I can tell you why I had such a busy week. I've been on vacation in Ann Arbor, Michigan!! Wahoo! I had such a blast. Kiddo attended swim camp at the University of Michigan and loved it. We spent plenty of time at the pool and were very impressed with the organization of the U of M swim camp (two of us were on vacation; the youngster was hard at work). Those calves in my most recent Wahoo Wednesday post belong to Olympic gold-medalist Michael Phelps (who is featured in the July issue of Men's Journal magazine). He and several other top Michigan swimmers dropped by for an autograph session on Tuesday.

Best of all . . . . I met two fabulous authors, this week!!! Our own bloggy wonder, Colleen Gleason, met me for lunch on Monday (waving to Colleen!). If you think she's wonderful on the internet, you really must go to one of her signings of Rises the Night and meet her in person. Colleen is loads of fun and a total sweetheart! Here's a link to her website.

And, on Thursday, I met Simon Van Booy for . . . well, it was supposed to be "brunch", but we got a late start and I guess it turned into a long lunch, instead (waving to Simon!). Simon is utterly captivating and he's also touring, right now, reading and signing The Secret Lives of People in Love. Anglophiles, take note: he has a lovely accent and he is a total charmer (that bit's for the females).

I'll be writing up interview articles of both for Estella's Revenge and will post links when the time comes. Photos forthcoming when the husband isn't nagging at me to please hurry up and finish so we can go to bed because we left for the Detroit airport on Friday morning and didn't arrive home till tonight (Saturday) at 7:00 pm. After numerous delays and a night in a skanky hotel (yeah, yeah, more on that, later), hubby managed to get us on a direct flight to Jackson. I loved the way the pilot, Dan, introduced our flight attendant: "The one, the only, the incomparable Sue!"

We had only one big bump, caused by "wave turbulence from another plane that flew in this area, quite some time ago." Have to watch for those disturbing air currents, you know. And, then we actually sat in the plane on the tarmac for nearly an hour, upon arrival in Jackson, because there weren't any gates available. Our pilot asked us to kindly open all the air vents - it was 97 degrees outside. No point in baking while we waited.

We ran so much that I was hardly able to read at all, this week, apart from The God of Animals (hope to post a review of that, tomorrow) and most of Simon's book, which I reread so it would be fresh in my mind when I spoke to him. I had a million questions; his stories are incredibly thought-provoking. I also managed to get about halfway into Kathy Little Bird, during the flight home.

Our other flights were really interesting - loads more stories to tell but I have to run!

Hope everyone's having a terrific weekend! I missed visiting your blogs and can't wait to catch up!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

Goodness, this has been a busy week! I will have some terrific stories to tell you, soon, but I'm so overwhelmed that I'm just going to do a regular wahoo post and hope that I can catch up in a couple of days. Hope everyone is having a terrific week!

First, the wahoos, and then an update. Things I feel like saying "Wahoo!" about, this week:

1. I finally got a decent photo of a red-winged blackbird. Wahoo! And, then, of course I plastered words over his head. I do have a saved version of Mr. Red-Wing without words, of course; you can see that he was making some noise. Isn't he (or she) pretty?

2. I just peeked back at my archives to make sure and, yep, I was right. It's my 1-year Bloggiversary!!!! Happy Bloggiversary to meeeee. And, thanks to all the wonderful people who have made blogging such a terrific learning experience and a huge adventure! If you'd told me that anyone at all would visit my blog (much less my peak number of nearly 250 in one day) when I began, I would have said, "Nah, I'll just be writing to myself." I certainly had no idea I'd meet so many fellow bibliophiles, make loads of new friends and end up with an even longer wish list in no time (really, who'd have thought the wish list of books could get any longer - it was already baaaad). I'd planned to try to write up a "100 things about me" post to coincide with my bloggiversary, but . . . oops, too busy this week. I'll plan to work on that, next week. Although, I'm not sure if I can come up with 50, much less 100 interesting things about me. Maybe 20. Or 10.

3. Family - I'm grateful for family. My family is not as big as this one, though:

Hubby has been in town, this week, so we've gone out to take photos together. He patiently sits or stands while I rattle off about 50 photos of everything I see. In fact, he didn't even see the geese and their gaggle of goslings because he was waiting on a bench, beyond my view. They were between us and I didn't want to upset the geese (they bite) so I just hung around snapping away until I could figure out a way to get past them without trouble. Such fun watching a little family of geese walk and lie around, preen and tussle and then fall asleep (the little ones). Wahoo for families of all kinds!

4. Free books! I know all of you get just as excited as I do when you get an advanced reader, right? Of course you do! Thanks to my bibliophile listserv friends, I've successfully signed up for Simon & Schuster's Advisory Board and an envelope with three books arrived, this week. Wahoo! I finished one of them: The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. I hope to get a review of it posted by the weekend. In the meantime, wahoo for free books!

We've been running kiddo to swim camp, this week, hence the busy-busy comments and lack of posts. Get a load of these calves:

I definitely need to start swimming and working out with my son (those are not his calves, actually, but youngster's look equally tough). There is not an ounce of fat on any of the people in charge of his swim camp, but there's a lot of muscle walking around.

I'm currently rereading The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy. He's touring, so check out his tour dates and drop by to see him read, if he's anywhere near you. The book is a breath of fresh air. Every story has so many gems of wisdom and beauty that I plan to reread it regularly. You should definitely read this book, even if you hate short stories.

Yesterday was the official release date for "our" Colleen's second book, Rises the Night. That's Colleen Gleason I'm referring to, just in case anyone out there has missed reading up on Colleen and catching up on her vampire novels. Congratulations, Colleen!! Colleen is doing signings, also. You can check out where she's headed via her home page. Yep, you should certainly buy this one, too.

I'm off. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy Wednesday and a pile of excellent reads!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Who's That in the Itsy Bitsy, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman

Just a quickie review, due to time constraints. I was sent "Who's That in the Itsy Bitsy, Anyway?" by Stevi Mittman. It's only one of the three stories to be released in the anthology Summer Dreams, which is scheduled for a July, 2007 release. Remember my comment about another book that had an interior decorator heroine? And, how sick I am of interior decorating stories because they bore me? Well, recurring heroine Teddi Bayer has a job redecorating the Long Island get-away home of a man by the name of Carmine De'Giuseppe. Carmine has scary family connections and may possibly be Teddi's real father. Stevi's version of Teddi-as-interior-decorator is anything but dull. In fact, it's a bit of a roller-coaster ride.

Teddi has not one, not two, but three good-looking men hanging around her: Mark, the contractor who helps her with renovations, ex-husband Rio, and detective Drew Scoones - who is willing to go way beyond the call of duty to watch out for her. That fact alone gives the story a bit of a Stephanie Plum feel. Add to that the fact that Mittman also has a terrific sense of humor all her own and you've got a great formula for entertainment.

When Teddi moves into the home to do renovations, she discovers evidence that someone has been camping out in the house . . . recently. In fact, things disappear, reappear and move around daily, usually while Teddi is sleeping. When her contractor discovers some potentially incriminating evidence inside a wall he's tearing down and it begins to look like Teddi's life is in danger, she gets help from her detective friend, Drew, and her ex-husband, Rio. And, then her mother shows up. Teddi's mother is a complete nutcase, so there's the usual fun banter with her crazy mom as well as a peek into what her mother must have been like as a young woman in love.

4.5/5 - a little bit of a slow start, but once it got going . . . woohoo! Hold on for the ride.

I truly adore Stevi's writing. While it's classified as romance, a lot happens in her books and the focus is never on just the males swirling around her. Instead, you get to see a woman who has a lot to deal with and often makes a fool of herself but who triumphs in the end. Teddi Bayer is a character I love. And, I think I mentioned this earlier in the week, but I'll repeat that I think one of Stevi Mittman's strengths is her consistency. Like the better-known Janet Evanovich, when you pick up a Mittman book or story, you know just what you're getting into.

Okay, must dash. This will probably be a light-posting week because the kiddo has a busy schedule.