Monday, July 30, 2007

Ticket to Tomorrow by Carol Cox

Ticket to Tomorrow by Carol Cox
317 pages
Copyright 2006
Barbour Publishing
Historical Romantic Suspense/Inspirational (Christian)

I won my copy of Ticket to Tomorrow in one of the drawings Katrina at Callapidder Days held during her Spring Reading Thing. I figured the timing was right because I was in need of a little inspiration, this week, and I love traveling in time via historical fiction. As it turned out, I was correct. The book isn't preachy about Christianity, but the occasional scripture read by the heroine tended to be inspiring and hopeful.

Ticket to Tomorrow
is set mostly on the grounds of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and tells the story of Annie Trenton. Widowed just over a year before the story takes place, Annie has continued her late husband Will's work with partner Silas Crockett on the Trenton-Crockett horseless carriage. As the book opens, Silas and Annie are in the process of traveling from Indiana to Chicago to display their exciting new invention. Silas is a scatterbrained genius and Annie happily watches out for him, making certain he doesn't leave his possessions behind or lose his way.

*****Warning: The following three paragraphs may contain some spoilers. Skip this section if you plan to read Ticket to Tomorrow, right away*****

During their visit to Chicago, Annie hopes that she will find the opportunity to mend the rift between her late husband and his parents. But, when she attempts to reconcile with Will's family, she's met with hostility and, later, their interest in her husband's invention prompts the wealthy Trenton family to attempt to take over Will's share.

In addition to her trouble with Will's family, Annie finds herself drawn to Silas's nephew, Nick Rutherford, a performer with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Plus, Annie and Silas have stepped into the midst of a political intrigue and Annie's life may be in danger.

That last little bit of plotting didn't come off quite as well as I'd hoped. At the root of the political intrigue is a potential assassination and the danger to Annie and Silas is based entirely on the accidental transfer of property when Silas bumps into a man and their possessions go flying. Somehow, each man ends up with the other's valise. What didn't make sense to me was the description of two men gathering their possessions in an early scene, followed by one man's insistence that his case was firmly latched and the only way Silas or Annie could have ended up with certain critical documents was for them to root through the man's luggage. Both Silas and Annie did so, but I kept mentally returning to the scene, wondering why the author had possessions scatter if a simple transfer of luggage would have solved the purpose without adding confusion.

*****End Spoiler Warning*****

Regardless of that one little plot hitch, Ticket to Tomorrow was a fun read - not brilliantly written and, I thought, a bit transparent and predictable. But, there are times a gentle, romantic book with a touch of mystery and a solid historical setting can be very pleasing. I enjoyed the peek into the World's Fair, the descriptions of the so-called "White City" and it's wide variety of exhibits, as well as description of the scenes portrayed in the Wild West show. And I found it quite easy to picture Annie and the other characters. There was some annoying repetition, but overall the book was a welcome, uplifting diversion, definitely G-rated, and a fun way to visit Chicago in the late 19th century.

3.5/5 - particularly recommended for romance lovers

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K - or, at least, in Bloggerland. The "shrink to fit" feature is suddenly not working on photos added to my sidebar. Anyone else having this trouble? I was all set to change out my photographs, but after adding two book covers (which, then, stretched like Silly Putty) and one photograph (she's really not a chubby girl, that person running away from the camera), I opted to stop and wait until the problem is mended. I wasn't able to find a contact email for Blogger, but I've found that most of these little glitches usually disappear, at some point. Patience is a virtue required of Blogspot users.

I'm working on
a very last-minute bit of writing for Estella's Revenge, so I'll keep this short. Hopefully, my normal, chattery posts will resume soon. I can't thank all of you enough for the notes, thoughts and prayers after the death of our Sunshine, last week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr

Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr
Copyright 1993
Publ. by Harcourt & Brace
241 pages

Following instructions, she left the highway at a sign whose single arrow was directed toward two settlements, Seco and El Polvo. and when she passed the dozen dwellings and shriveled vegetation of the place called Dry, she saw no other name would have suited it, and when she arrived in the larger settlement of Dust she realized that was what it had to be called.

A war of colors raged from her balcony down the steep length of the road, across the plaza, and, in a final siege, up to the massive doors of the church. The housefronts that lined the way had been painted in all the shades of fruit from lemon yellow to plum purple to watermelon red. Vendors spilled rainbows of scarves and shawls onto the ground. Riotous vines, heavy with blossoms, flung themselves from eaves to balustrades to garden paths. Sue leaned over the parapet to look down on a sheer rock wall, its cracks laced with ferns.

I happened across my copy of Consider This, Senora in our library sale corner. I don't know what it was that drew me to the book - perhaps the soft, watercolor landscape on the cover or the intriguing title. The name of the book definitely had a familiar ring, but the author was not familiar to me. I flipped open to a random passage and liked it enough that I didn't bother reading further before adding it to my bag. Besides, it's hard to lose at the cost of a quarter.

After bringing the book home, it just kept shouting at me. Since the worst of the summer heat arrived in June, I've been having a "siesta" reading time in the afternoon, most days, with my beloved, now-deceased feline (our other kitty has kindly stepped in to take Sunshine's place). I kept bypassing Consider This, Senora where it sat on top of a stack near my bed, but the book continued tugging at me relentlessly until one day when I couldn't figure out what to read and picked up at least a dozen books, all of which were instantly rejected. Finally, I gave in. And, the book was just right for the moment.

Consider This, Senora is a quiet, reflective book, with carefully drawn characters and lovely prose. The story begins with two Americans purchasing land together near a remote Mexican village called Amapolas. Susannah Ames has chosen the distant locale in the hope of escaping her former life after a failed marriage. Bud Loomis is fleeing for his own reasons: he is wanted for tax evasion in Arizona. Both are interested in the same piece of land and agree to go into business together, building homes and selling them. When Susannah travels to Santa Prisca, she meets Frances Bowles. Frances, her mother Ursula, and a German musician eventually move into homes on Sue and Bud's land. But, as each of these new residents begin their life in Mexico, they find that they cannot stop the forces of change, nor can they hide from their pasts, forever.

If you're looking for a book with a relaxed pace, Consider This, Senora fits the bill. It was copyrighted in 1993 and I was curious about the author, who also wrote the book Stones For Ibarra - an American Book Award winner and another familiar title I haven't read. Author Harriet Doerr was the grand-daughter of a railroad tycoon who published her first novel at the age of 74. She passed away in 2002, so there's not a lot of information available, but that alone fascinated me. The idea that anyone managed to publish a first book so late in life inspires hope, doesn't it?

I found a quote that I absolutely loved, by the author:

"I found I'm quite happy working on a sentence for an hour or more, searching for the right phrase, the right word. I compare it to the work of a stonecutter -- chipping away at the raw material until it's just right, or as right as you can get it."

Her prose does, indeed, read as if each word was carefully chosen. Consider This, Senora is a lovely, laid-back story that fit my need for a pleasant but well-written read. It's a little bit quirky and heavy on the senses -- lots of description of the colors, the heat, drought and flood, and a unique little band of characters. I enjoyed it immensely. Save this read for a day when you're not in the mood for fast-paced action.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Moaning Meme

I've got a lot of catch-up to do. Tristi tagged me for the Moaning Meme, earlier this week, and I couldn't concentrate to write anything at all and then I couldn't read the screen because my eyes were all puffy (I was so not ready for that cat to die). But, I'm fine to moan, now. We are all fine here. So, here we go . . .

5 people who will be annoyed you tagged them:

Who wouldn't? Lazy alert! I don't want to take the time to think of 5, so anyone who feels like moaning is tagged. I love saying that: "You're all tagged (insert evil laughter).

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

Violence of all kinds
The Hollywood image of perfection (I am so sick of those perfect, totally fake teeth)
Icky bugs

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:

Refuse to take responsibility for their actions (I'm stealing this one from Tristi)
Drive while talking on cell phones
Drink and drive

2 things you find yourself moaning about:

My house. I hate the clutter, the quantity of things that have gone unrepaired, the fact that it's badly insulated, the shape of the rooms . . . I just hate my house.
The neighborhood dogs that are not fenced because we have no leash laws.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

I need to get off my fat fanny and do something about the darned house instead of moaning about it and I should just go ahead and fork out the money for a fence.

RULES: Link to the original meme at so people know what it's all about! Be as honest as possible, This is about letting people get to know the real you! Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
Post these rules at the end of every meme!

Anyone feel like moaning?

How on earth did they come up with this number?

My blog is worth $76,777.44.
How much is your blog worth?

Five Beautiful Things for Friday

A little more lightening up with photos and I hope to post a book review, soon. I'm slowly working on the review of Consider This, Senora and have finished reading Ticket to Tomorrow by Carol Cox - had a bit of trouble trying to load a photo of that one into my sidebar, so I'll just try to get a review written, ASAP. Here are five beautiful things I've seen, this week:

1. A deer running across the road from a small forested area, into our neighborhood. No photo because we didn't have the camera, but it was a great moment. We do sometimes see deer in the area, but not typically running into our subdivision.

2. A little anole lizard hatchling! This fellow is a little over 1" long in the body - he's a tiny, tiny creature:

3. The cat. Spooky is trying very hard to let us know there's still a kitty present in the house and that she's a nice one - very companionable and currently devoting herself to an excessive display of feline cuteness:

4. Youngest son (in Coca-Cola shirt) and friend at band initiation, where all were being hosed down by the volunteer fire truck after the freshmen were sprayed with shaving cream (apparently, a time-honored tradition):

5. Teenage boys and mud - always a fun combination, right?

Wishing everyone a happy and safe weekend.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An old story

To lighten the mood in here, a bit, I've decided to post an old column I wrote about my cats, around the year 2000.

Gifts from the Heart

Hunched deeply in the grass, her belly pressed low and her rear end twitching with anticipation as she stalked, my black-and-white cat prepared herself for the kill.

"Spooky! Stop that!" I threw open the back door, hoping the jangling bells that hung from the doorknob would frighten away the targeted prey; a blur of feathers confirmed my success. I had belled the cats but the dangling alarms were useless, the cats' luxuriant movements too graceful to stir a tinkle from their tiny brass ornaments.

"I do not want any feathered gifts, thank you," I thought to myself. Spooky cowered in the grass for a moment, glared at me and retreated. Unless I called out the magic word, "chicken", she would not come running inside. With no chicken to offer, my attempts to lure Spooky into the house, away from the birds gathering their morning meals, only resulted in a quick dash under the shed. Our orange tabby, Sunshine, zipped through the door before I closed it, a bright streak of colored fur. If a door is open, Sunshine feels obligated to go through. She disappeared into the living room, intent upon shredding the end of my couch.

There is no shortage of animal life throughout the year in Mississippi, so I have become accustomed to the occasional deposits on my kitchen floor. Small green lizards are a favorite of mine. The cats have their own swinging door to the garage, through which they often drag a frightened little lizard, frequently missing a tail. I've learned how to catch them and release them outdoors, although sometimes they will skitter into dark crevices, forcing me to go about my business while I wait for them to reappear.

Birds are a different matter, as well as the reason our cats can no longer go through their cat flap, squeeze under a partially opened garage door and return inside. For a time, we lifted the garage door and locked it into place about five inches above the ground, allowing the cats to move inside and out freely. Then, one day we discovered both a dead bird in the kitchen and a live mouse running from room to room—two gifts at once.

While I drove to the store to seek some sort of mouse-catching contraption, teenaged Daniel "bonked him over the head with a shoe". I returned to find the poor mouse, dazed and backpedaling on the living room floor. The combination of mouse and flying feathers was enough to compel me to slam shut the door of freedom.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Between the garage doorframe and bricks, there is a sizeable gap I have never succeeded at getting my husband to block permanently. Through that gap, small animals frequently enter.

Recently, Spooky lay ailing, recovering from a vicious feline virus and cowering in the garage to avoid the human and her terrifying medicine dropper. As I sat typing at the computer, I heard the cat door open and close with a slap. Spooky had brought a very lively chipmunk through the door and deposited him in the kitchen. He promptly ran to the living area, where I sat, and desperately pawed at the window in a futile attempt to escape.

I leaped up and stood near the window, watching him and thinking, "How on earth do you catch a chipmunk?"

No need . . . the cat caught him and injured his little back. I tried to lift the cat—complete with chipmunk between jaws—to throw both her and the rodent outdoors; but she dropped him and the poor chipmunk staggered toward my teenager's bedroom window with surprising melodrama. By then, the chase had made it back through the kitchen and den, past William's feet—eliciting a tremendous squeal—and down the hallway to Daniel's room.

I fetched a plastic container with a lid and scooped the chipmunk in, then took him outside to release him, hoping he would recover from his wounds. Maybe the cat would recover from her virus soon, after all, I thought.

In spite of the occasional nuisance gift, there have been a few sporadic contributions that I enjoyed. My favorite surprise occurred on another occasion when I was writing. When the cat door flapped open and shut, I thought nothing of it until Sunshine made an odd noise. Her "meow" was different, more insistent than usual, strange enough to lure me to the kitchen. There it lay, coiled up in front of a proud cat, its forked tongue darting in and out.

"You brought me a snake? Thanks."

I admired colorful markings on the four-foot snake for a few moments, observing the teardrop-shaped head that indicated the snake was harmless. Then I picked him up and released him in the backyard, wishing I could find a way to keep him until the children arrived home but knowing he was better off outside.

Returning indoors, I rubbed Sunshine's neck. "You can bring me a snake anytime," I told her. She looked at me gratefully and sauntered off. Some gifts, it seems, are more appreciated than others.

"Gifts from the Heart" was published in T-Zero Xpandizine in September of 2002.

With Spooky by my side, I managed to finish a book, today, and hope to get around to reviewing it in the next few days. I can't thank all of you enough for your kind words, hugs and prayers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

We will miss your beautiful little face, my dear friend.


Your family

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yes, someone in this household is was immersed in Harry Potter

Youngster wisely went to bed at a reasonable hour and sent his father to stand in the midnight line for his Harry Potter book. Here he is in Cleveland, Mississippi - where we spent the day at the long-course state swim meet held at Delta State University - Harry Potter in hand.

Friday, July 20, 2007

36 Cloudless Hours and the Cats Still Need Machetes

We had around 36 hours without rain. The sun was shining, the interior car temperature rocketed back up to the point that sunglasses left in a shady nook became untouchably hot, lawnmowers were humming throughout the neighborhood . . . and it didn't even occur to me that I should run to the grocery store while I had the chance to go without getting soaked or hit by lightning.

The image is from All Posters. Isn't it cool?

So, the husband came home after a long meeting . . . starving. We both knew the food situation was getting desperate around the house. When he walked in the door, the conversation went something like this:

H: Billy's?

Me: Yeah, I'm thinking white pizza.

Kid: Yuck. El Sombrero.

H & Me: Not hungry enough for Mexican.

Kid: Not Billy's.

H: What else is available that's not greasy?

Me: Nothing. Unless you want bad service.

H: Not in the mood for lousy service. Applebees sounds good.

Kid: Yeah, it does.

Me: Applebees is in Jackson.

H: Yes.

Me: I could handle that, but you won't make it home in time to mow.

H: I'll be home, tomorrow. Road trip?

Me: (shrug, nod) Road trip.

Kid: Yeah! Road trip!

We piled into the Toyota and drove east, but somewhere along the way we decided that the only decent Applebees is on the far side of Jackson and that was a bit far. We ended up going to Corky's, a barbeque place (or BBQ, as they call it) that was 20 miles closer than the 50-mile drive to Applebees. Corky's was packed and they were shy one waitress, but when we finally were seated in a booth and then served some whopping fine food, we were very happy campers.

It rained on the return trip. Deep sigh. The back yard grass comes up to the neighborhood cats' shoulders; they practically need machetes to get through our yard (which, by the way, at least six cats firmly believe is their territory and nobody else's). The front yard isn't quite as bad but it definitely needs a haircut. And, a storm is coming. Isn't life something? But, hey, I haven't had to water in a month!

Back to books. I've been struggling through the summer slump that several other bloggers have mentioned and am, therefore, concentrating on whatever appears to be short, light, and begging me to read it right now. That concept seems to work okay. Last week, I got a copy of Consider This, Senora (if anyone knows how to put a tilde over the n in the middle of a word, please let me know - I can't figure it out) for a quarter. I tossed it on top of a pile and it taunted me - seriously, just taunted me - for a week. I don't know what it was about that book. Last night, I was trying to decide what to read next. I'm waiting for a review book, but it hasn't arrived. I carried a significant pile of books into the bedroom and flipped through them - nothing was grabbing me. But, Consider This, Senora just kept on hollering until I gave in.

And, guess what? I'm loving it. Who'd have thought. Maybe I should listen to my books more often.

Note for cat owners: We received a sample of Temptations Tasty Chicken Flavor cat treats in the mail, today. Sunshine was completely disinterested. Spooky went nuts, seriously nuts. I gave her one, just to see if she'd like it and the cat freaked out. "Meeeooooore!!!" she shouted. That was one insistent pussycat. She actually wiped out the entire pouch. If you have a chicken freak, give them a try. Thanks to Malady for the sample link.

The noisy thunderboomers have arrived. Gotta go.

Bookfool, who is pretty sure she couldn't live in the Pacific Northwest without going off her rocker

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another quiz!

Which Author's Fiction are You?

Jane Austen wrote you. You are extremely aware of the power of a single word.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Book Quiz

You're The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

by Douglas Adams

Considered by many to be one of the funniest people around, you are
quite an entertainer. You've also traveled to the far reaches of what you deem possible,
often confused and unsure of yourself. Life continues to jostle you around like a marble,
but it's shown you so much of the world that you don't care. Wacky adventures continue to
lie ahead. Your favorite number is 42.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I'm seriously in the minority on this one. I love my answer and feel like it fits in many ways. Plus, I really love the book and (big wahoo) it was my good fortune to attend a reading by Douglas Adams when we were living in Ann Arbor. If there's ever a Hitchhiker's character quiz, I know which character I'd be.

Anecdotal diversion:

When my husband and I were dating and he was working on his bachelor's degree, he loaned his copy of Life, the Universe and Everything to a grad student he worked with while I was reading the book. Yes, he never got it back and we eventually had to buy another copy. What is most memorable about that grad student, besides the fact that he walked off with a book I really, really wanted to finish? He had a bumper sticker on his wall that read, "No man is an island, but I can be a peninsula if I want to." I don't remember his face or his name, how tall he was or much else - he did have dark, curly hair and wore jeans all the time - but I remember the sticker on his office wall.

Thanks to Gentle Reader and Jenclair for leading me to this quiz.

Three books and a couple of wahoos

Not feeling very wahooey, today, because I'm a little flattened by fatigue. So, just a few wahoos and quick descriptions of the 3 books I've recently finished, without going into great, laborious detail.

Wahoos, first:

1. We've had a very unusual summer, weather-wise: first, intense heat, high temperatures and drought, then a month of rainy days. A lot of the plants that didn't wither up and die from the heat and dry air actually drowned. But, not everything. Wahoo for gorgeous, bright color in the garden (and, for that matter, survivors):

2. Wahoo for fun with poppets. I think they've helped keep me from going entirely insane. For those who haven't visited my little red poppet's blog, lately, our new little blue poppet informed us that her name is Simone. Don't ask.

3. Wahoo for indoor plumbing that works, food in the stomach and a roof over the head. Really, that's three wahoos rolled into one, but after reading about life in Haiti . . . well, wow. There's so much we take for granted.

And, on to the books I've recently completed:

1. The Ocean in the Closet by Yuko Taniguchi - This one's a review book for Estella's Revenge, so the complete review should be posted on or about August 1. In brief, it's the story of a 9-year-old girl in California whose mother was born in Japan and is going through a horrible crisis. The little girl, Helen, sends a letter to her mother's Uncle Hideo in Japan, Helen's goal being to try to understand her mother's background so that she can help.

This is a beautiful little book from Coffee House Press, the kind of book that's so pretty it deserves to be displayed prominently. Did I enjoy it? Oh, darn it . . . okay, yeah. But, you'll have to read Estella to know why.

2. Hurricane by Karen Harper - My friend Barbara sent me this book, so I feel bad hating it as much as I do. The story is about a woman named Julie who has inherited an island in the Florida Keys. In the large building where she used to spend time as a child, she now runs a summer counseling program for young women who cut themselves. When her daughter goes out on a Jet Ski with a young boy she has a crush on and doesn't return with the other girls who were Jet Skiing at the same time, both parents become frantic. There's a hurricane on the way, Julie doesn't like the boy's father, everyone's either angst-ridden or suspect in some way, the boy's father is a former SEAL (good grief - is this one overused in Romantic Suspense, or what?), there's a slick real estate developer who wants to buy Julie's island and a wealthy man whose purpose is obviously to toss blame around . . . blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, this book was just all over the place and the best thing I can say for it is that it was the kind of book that you can read really, really fast and not worry about whether or not you've missed something important.

3. Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block - I've never read any of the Weetzie Bat series by this author and thought that with a character name like "Weetzie Bat" they must be children's books. Oops. Weetzie Bat is, in fact, a middle-aged woman who is unhappy that the kisses and love have gone from her life with Max. Max is described alternately as her boyfriend or husband. I never actually figured that out.

Necklace of Kisses is a bizarre little fantasy in which the protagonist escapes to a pink hotel, where she meets a woman who has turned totally blue, an invisible housekeeper, a faun, a hermaphrodite and a host of other wacky, mythical characters. I thought Block's writing was magical and loved her emphasis on the senses, but there were times I found it a bit . . . rude, I guess. It's definitely very adult. Weetzie's obsession with clothing became a little tiresome, after a while, but I really liked the fantasy aspect. Here's a favorite passage:

A huge blue butterfly, the size of a hand, flew onto the table. Weetzie and Ping gasped. They had grown up with small orange, white and even black California butterflies, but never one this color or size.

"I knew this hotel was magical!"

"Either that or it's a bad sign of global warming," said Ping.

I thought the book was a pleasant diversion, but I'm not sure I'd read more books from the series. There were a few times I actually was a bit disgusted by the content. Definitely, don't make the mistake of thinking this book is okay for kids. It's not.

Today, I was pleased to see that I'm not the only one who thinks it's best to read about the cold when it's hot outside. From Real Simple magazine's article on ways to keep cool during the summer:

Relax with A Winter's Tale, The Call of the Wild, Doctor Zhivago or Smilla's Sense of Snow. "Reading about the cold can take your mind off the thermometer, evoking one's own experience of ice and snow," says Walter A. Brown, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the medical schools of Brown and Tufts Universities and an expert in the placebo effect. "It's also a bit of self-hypnosis. Sometimes when I shower and the water is cold, I tell myself it's hot and I can make myself believe it."

Dudes. Psychological validation for my deliberate avoidance of Southern Lit during the summer. I love it.

Must go start the spinning clothing cleaner. Wahoo for not having to wash clothes in a river and beat them on a rock. Hope everyone is having a terrific week!

Bookfool, dreaming of snow and a week in a pink hotel

Sunday, July 15, 2007

If this isn't a beautiful sight, I don't know what is and stories that keep coming back

This is the sight of a husband making homemade pasta. What could possibly be more fun to watch?

There was some fun on Saturday, as well, although I was the only witness. Yesterday's excitement involved two beautiful pileated woodpeckers knocking holes in our oak tree and tussling with each other.

We're still having regular storms, so the eldest did not come home this weekend and when we're not listening to thunder and rain, we've been cleaning (me), cooking (husband), reading (kiddo and me), running errands (the guys) and doing laundry and writing when the computer's plugged in (me). It's been quite pleasant.

I love this quote from "Where They Hide is a Mystery" by Simon Van Booy:

"And I suppose that the wind is just air? And not laughter's laughter?"

It's just occurred to me that the stories in Simon's book, The Secret Lives of People in Love, have stuck with me more completely than anything else I've read, this year. Bits and pieces of different stories come back to me at odd moments. I think that's the best kind of read, don't you? Is there a 2007 read that has continued to come back to you, throughout the year?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Angels of a Lower Flight

Simon & Schuster
Release date: October, 2007
326 pages

Note: This review has been revised to removed all references to the author's name, due to a large number of hits I've recently received - in search of photos from her sordid past.

I received Angels of a Lower Flight from Simon & Schuster, began reading it two days later, and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to finish. It's a strange and powerful story of the twisted road that led the author from a childhood of abuse to modeling for Pl*yb*y magazine and, finally, life as a happily married woman who spends her time helping ill and deformed children in Haiti - children who would ordinarily be left to die.

I was absolutely awe-struck by the horror the author has lived through but even more amazed at how she's managed to turn a horrific childhood into the building of a caring organization in a crime- and poverty-ridden nation. Her story of both her own life and the history of the Mercy and Sharing Foundation is jarring in many ways and not for the faint of heart, but definitely an incredible story that needs to be told. Angels of a Lower Flight is shocking, heartrending and inspiring.

The story is, I should add, not particularly well-written. The author quit school in the 10th grade to model, as much to get out of her childhood home as to make money. Yet, it's a compelling read and I hope that her book brings some attention to the plight of the impoverished and unwanted children in Haiti, as well as the corrupt government and the sale of orphans for adoption. One of the most fascinating aspects of this story is that the author's childhood was so traumatic that she's seemingly fearless, enabling her to walk around freely in areas where even the citizens of Haiti are afraid to tread because of gang warfare.

I suppose that I just armchair traveled to Haiti. Scary as it was, I'm going to count it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

While I Live by John Marsden (Bk 1, The Ellie Chronicles)

While I Live by John Marsden
Copyright 2006
Pan MacMillan Australia
Young Adult Fiction
300 pages

Homer and the Anglican priest from Wirrawee sat down with me and told me we had to work out the details of the funerals. I said I couldn't do it but when they got up to go I changed my mind. I realised that if I didn't do it, they would. And, I knew I couldn't live with myself if someone else made the arrangements . . .

So that evening I found it quite therapeutic to sit down and write out what I wanted. Father Berryman had left a bunch of poems and prayer, and there were a few that I liked. One of them started

Everything slips away. The river goes to the ocean
And joins that great mystery.
Now I too. You cannot hold me,
Any more than you can hold water. Let me go . . .

The trouble was that although I liked this one I didn't want to listen to it. Letting them go? I ached for them, hungered for them. My bones were sore with the pain of their not being here. I wanted to grip them to me.

Dad always said there were three types of workers. The ones who stood there saying 'Is there anything I can do?', and did nothing. Most of our city guests were like that. The ones who said 'Tell me what you want done and I'll do it', and did. Most of our workers over the years had been like that. And the ones who didn't say anything but were always a jump or two ahead of you. When you were changing a flat tyre and you took the old one off and turned to pick up the new one they'd already have it in their hands, and they'd move in and put it on from your left while you were still turning round to the right.

Ellie Linton is the protagonist and narrator in Australian young-adult author John Marsden's 7-book Tomorrow, When the War Began series. I found a copy of Tomorrow, When the War Began in the remaindered-book stock at the bookstore where I used to work, carried it up to the register to read, and could hardly bear closing the book long enough to buy the copy, lock up the store and drive home. The entire series was that way for me, but it was over a year before I managed to get the second and third books and it took several more years to acquire the rest. Even though I'm not a big fan of series books, it was hard to close that last book and say goodbye to Ellie. Each of the books is gripping, full of tense action scenes and loaded with emotion as she and her friends do their part to fight the unknown enemy that has invaded Australia. Ellie's resourcefulness alone is amazing.

When I heard that Marsden had begun a new series called The Ellie Chronicles, I knew I would want to get hold of them, some day. It's a good thing I'm patient because it's not easy getting those Australian books. I finally managed to get my husband to bring the first two home in a suitcase. Big yippee noises.

In While I Live, the war has ended. Australia has been divided and the line between the new Australia and occupied territory is not far from Ellie's home. The family farmland has been divied up because many Australians are now having to share less land. The family is slowly recovering, building up their livestock and trying to make a go of farming, again. When Ellie, her friend Homer and adopted brother Gavin are on a hill above the farm and hear gunshots coming from the Linton home, they run back to the farm as fast as they can. But, they're too late. I don't think it's giving away anything to say that Ellie's finds her parents dead because it happens within the first few pages of the book and the entire series must undoubtedly be based on her struggles without them.

Living without her parents is, according to Ellie, a bigger challenge than she ever faced during the war. She must not only deal with her grief, but also must take over the running of the farm and the care of Gavin. Nobody knows who killed her parents, but there is evidence that soldiers from the other side are crossing into Australian territory and the news carries vague stories about a renegade organization called Liberation, a group of people who have taken it into their own hands to rescue kidnapped and imprisoned Australians the governments of both sides will not acknowledge. Ellie suspects that she may know a few Liberation members. While trying to find out, she has some major battles to deal with on the home front.

Can Ellie save the farm? Will she find out who works for Liberation? What's happening along the border? Who will become her guardian?

Oh, so many questions. While I found that Ellie's struggles on the farm were often sleep-inducing, I love the character and knew that eventually things would pick up. There had to be some action in there, somewhere. Ellie is too resourceful to just run a farm (difficult as that may be) and not take interest in doing her part if there's any chance she can, say, blow something up to save a life. And, indeed, there is some taut suspense and action.

Overall, though, the book felt mostly like set-up for the new series and it took about 150 pages to really get going. It's an emotional book, and for good reason. Although I found it a bit slow, I was impressed as always by Marsden's ability to get into the heart and mind of a teenager - this time one dealing with loss.

If I were to complain about Marsden's books at all, it would have to do with the fact that nothing - absolutely nothing - is taboo. The violence is often graphic, there are sometimes vivid se* scenes . . . really, you name it. In this particular book, I thought he went over the top with a scene in which Ellie rhapsodized about her parents' naked bodies. Huh? Where did that come from? I would rate them family-unfriendly, myself. But I think that lack of inhibition is a part of what must make teenagers love his books. All the books with Ellie as heroine are written in first person. They're her thoughts and experiences; he never steps away from Ellie. And, teenagers don't censor their own thoughts. So, from that perspective they make total sense. Well, except for that bit about naked parents.

In spite of having a bit of trouble with drifting off, I still think While I Live is a very good book and a promising beginning to a new series.

4/5 - sometimes a wee bit dull, but true to Ellie with a few great action scenes

That second quote, incidentally, oddly made me think of my incompetence in the kitchen. I used to stand around watching helplessly as the women buzzed around on holidays. Eventually, thank goodness, I realized that I'm perfectly capable of doing chores that don't involve stirring and mixing. I can set a table and clean up after a meal. Whew. Big relief.

Since this book is set in Australia, it's another one for the Armchair Traveler Challenge. Wow, have I been a traveling fool.

Gotta go. Action Squirrel and I have had a busy day with the nuts. Nighty night.

There's a storm coming, but before I have to shut down . . .

Just a bit of silliness.

This is what happens when Bookfool practices avoidance technique. Sad, but true.

I'm really going to do that housework, now.

Bookfool, friend of Action Squirrel

One Word Meme

Stolen from Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza

1. Where is your mobile phone? Purse

2. Relationship? Steady.

3. Your hair? Curly.

4. Work? Pardon?

5. Your sister(s)? Bartlesville.

6. Your favorite thing? Nature.

7. Your dream last night? Weird.

8. Your favorite drink? Coca-cola.

9. Your dream car? Bond.

10. The room you're in? Office.

11. Your shoes? Barefoot.

12. Your fears? Defeat.

13. What do you want to be in 10 years? Content.

14. Who did you hang out with this weekend? Cats.

15. What are you not good at? Housewifing.

16. Muffin? Tim-Tam.

17. Wish list item? Confidence.

18. Where you grew up? Oklahoma.

19. The last thing you did? Photography.

20. What are you wearing? Shorts.

21. What are you not wearing? Jewelry.

22. Your pet? Two.

23. Your computer? Functional.

24. Your life? Yeesh.

25. Your mood? Zen.

26. Missing? Excitement.

27. What are you thinking about? Heat.

28. Your car? Camry.

29. Your kitchen? Outdated.

30. Your summer? Hot.

31. Your favorite color? Green.

32. Last time you laughed? Yesterday.

33. Last time you cried? Friday.

34. School? Waiting.

35. Love? Knot.

Pass it on. Bellezza doesn't mind. I'm not sure about Paula, from whom Bellezza stole the meme.

Finished: While I Live and Angels of a Lower Flight.

Reviews: Forthcoming

Also forthcoming: Eldest son. So, it may be a little quiet for a couple of days.

Putting off: Harry Potter. Kiddo slammed his door when I said I'd like to wait till the crowd thins. Sigh. I hate crowds.

Off to clean the pit. Or, in British: This place is a tip. Pit. Tip. Funny.

Bookfool, who'd rather read

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Between the Storms and Reading Aussie Books on a Mississippi Sofa

I'm sure y'all have just been aching to see this entry. And, you'll think me doubly crazy when you finish, but . . . what the heck.

So, Bookfool (uh-oh, she's talking in third person; that can't be good) was cleaning the bathroom while the husband was (once again) out of town. While packing for Australia, the poor fellow was a little frantic, having never traveled quite as far as the other hemisphere. He had three or four different bags full of toiletries (he gets stranded quite a bit, and occasionally an airline will give him a small bag of amenities), all of which he tossed this way and that while filling up the usual toiletry kit. He asked me to dig up various items, sent his secretary on a lark or two to fetch sunscreen and snake-bite kits, etc., and basically buried the bathroom counter in such a frightening mess that it took a couple weeks for me to just get up the courage to attack it all.

And, what did I find? Bottles and bottles and bottles of hotel shampoo, mouthwash, conditioner, lotion, body gel . . . shoot, even a few tiny sewing kits and some miniature emery boards. I set some aside to take to the rescue mission and then lined up the rest and thought . . . huh. You could put these things in a triangle in the hallway and roll something down the hall . . . voila! Cheap bowling! Instead, the sun came out between storms. Ha! Outdoor time! I hauled them outside to the driveway.

I didn't think it would be very interesting to use a boring old round ball, although I've got a nice bag of tennis balls in the trunk of my car. And, it occurred to me that - since the pears taste horrendous - there had to be some use for that revolting, flavor-free fruit that's about to litter our driveway (besides feeding the local insect life). So, I plucked a pear off the tree and started bowling with my left hand while snapping photos with my right - not an easy task. Pears are interesting, of course, because they're not round and wobble all over the place. So most of the time . . . .

nowhere near. That pear was all over the place. Meanwhile, you can imagine I was keeping a sharp eye out and an ear tuned for traffic because I'm pretty sure the deputies would be really concerned if they saw such a sight. Not to mention the neighbors. Just before the postman drove down the hill (very quietly, I might add), I managed this shot:

Wheee! The postman did catch me playing; he thought it was awfully funny. And, then the clouds started to look ominous and the rumbling grew, so I gathered my little bottles and went back inside to unplug the electronics.

I whipped up a cup of coffee (microwaved Viennese Chocolate Cafe - admittedly, I'm not a serious coffee drinker) before unplugging the microwave, pulled out While I Live - the first of The Ellie Chronicles by Australian young-adult author John Marsden - and set it on the couch. While I Live is one of the books the spouse kindly dragged back from Down Under.

Having read Marsden's fabulous Tomorrow When the War Began series, I've long since purchased an Australian English dictionary. I know better than to try to tackle this stuff on my own. So, I had my Dinkum Dictionary, my perfectly color-coordinated bookmark and a great Australian book to dig into:

Almost ready. All that remained was to break into the Aussie junk food to complete the mood. Poppet helped.

Thank goodness the husband didn't bring back Weetabix or Vegemite. I'm terrified of Vegemite; chocolate, I can handle. Thanks to the humidity, the air conditioner was cranking away like crazy and the chocolate melted in my mouth, not on my hands - because it certainly wouldn't do to have chocolate tracks marching through a perfectly lovely Australian book that safely traveled around the globe, now, would it?

So, now you know how to entertain yourself between storms if you have a traveling husband and some wobbly bad fruit, plus how best to read an Australian book while sitting on a couch in Mississippi. I live to keep you informed.

Incidentally, I did finish the book and will review it as soon as possible, probably between storms, tomorrow or Thursday. We've had thunderstorms almost daily for three weeks, now. It's very humid out there.

Today . . . youngster and I zipped over to Clinton to see Live Free or Die (thumbs up - huge body count, as usual, but I thought Justin Long was particularly fabulous as the nerdy sidekick). As we waited at a stoplight, a young gal turned left, arcing in front of us. Her left hand was dangling out the window, flicking cigarette ashes onto the pavement. With her right hand, she had a cell phone pressed to her ear. What I want to know is, how the heck did she manage to turn a steering wheel with both hands occupied? She wasn't leaning forward, so it wasn't an elbow thing. Could this, at last, be the alien invasion we've been waiting for since the 1950s? Because, frankly, I just can't figure out how anyone could turn left without sprouting an extra set of arms.

Yes, I really do think that way. I'd better go read while the power isn't flickering. Hope everyone is having a peachy week!

Monday, July 09, 2007

End of the Chunkster - Winners!

There was a storm brewing in our region earlier, so I pulled down this post, drew names, and then . . . bigga badda boom noises. Had to shut down and unplug because I'm so not into fried computers. Also, did anyone notice that I never got around to saying what anyone was going to win? Sheesh. Some people are serious procrastinators. So that's coming up, if you can hang in there for a minute. There are 5 winners.

The Grand Prize Winner of the Final Chunkster Challenge Drawing is . . . ta da . . .

3m of 3m's Reviews

Congratulations, 3m!! You've won a quote mug from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi (very hoopty place - y'all should visit that one), your choice of any two of the used books in the photo below (the bottom 5 are ARCs and some are duplicates I accidentally picked up because I'm that way) and 3 bookmarks. Here's the photo of books to choose from:

Top to bottom:

Life Expectancy - Dean Koontz
Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner
The God of Small Things - Arundati Roy
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
Prescription for Adventure - Naomi Gaede-Penner
Dedication - McLaughlin & Kraus
Jump at the Sun - Kim McLarin
The Broken Shore - Peter Temple
Our Lives are the Rivers - Jaime Manriquez
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Winner #2 is Kookiejar of A Fraternity of Dreamers!! Kookie wins a Little Blue Poppet, which will happily pose for book photographs, and three bookmarks.

The final three winners each get two bookmarks (one home-made, one from the Old Courthouse Museum in downtown Vicksburg):

Lisa of Breaking the Fourth Wall
Missyjoon of Persian Purls and Yarnovers, and
Nyssaneala of Book Haven.

Congrats to all and thanks to everyone who nudged me into this challenge business because I probably never would have gotten around to discovering Dickens and clearing 5 fat books off the shelf if you hadn't begged.

Coming up:

What to do between the heavy morning humidity and an afternoon storm if your husband travels a lot and the fruit off your trees tastes awful. The postman thought it was funny.

and . . .

How best to read an Australian book while sitting on a couch in Mississippi.

Exciting, yes?

One last thing . . . do you think we should do the challenge again, next year? Yes? No? Maybe?

Gotta go. Send addresses, winner people. And, hugs to the rest of you for joining in. It was fun. I particularly enjoyed reading everyone's reviews and wrap-ups.

Bookfool, off to finish Aussie book #1

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rockin' in the Deep and Sticky South with a Winged Buddy

I think I've delayed long enough on this one. Because I dragged my feet, Bonnie, Melissa and Nat all tagged me for a Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. Rockin' Moth is about to break out in song on the antenna of our aging Honda, above. He only thinks it's a microphone. Poor, stupid moth.

As usual, I fretted and tossed and turned over who to tag because I wouldn't have added any blogger I don't admire to my links. And, hey, look at that. It's limited to girls! Anyone for cross-dressing so I can tag you? Just kidding. Kidding, kidding. I'm a little late, so if you've already been tagged, just print out Rockin' Moth and add him to your shelf full of awards. Or, whatever.

1. Colleen Gleason of For All the World to See - Colleen doesn't just read, she's the author of a totally rockin' paranormal historical romance series and - as I recently found out - she is loads of fun in real life. If you haven't read her books, you really should. Colleen definitely rocks.

2. Nik of Keep This on the DL - She lives in Italy, where she's toughing it out on her own in spite of the language barrier. I love her honesty. I love that she was willing to quit a job that was driving her nuts. I love how crazy she is about her husband. I wish she lived next door to me. Nik rocks.

3. Lazy Cow at Only Books All the Time - Not too long ago, LC took a hiatus from blogging but she's back. Yippee! I missed the chatter about her kids and her books and seeing her beautiful, light-drenched photos. She's a rockin' mom who takes loads of photos of her kids reading (what could be cooler than a reading family?) and who lives in one of my husband's new favorite cities in the world: Melbourne. Neato. Keep rocking, LC.

4. Maggie of Maggie Reads - Of course, she rocks because she's a librarian who actually reads (more rare than you'd think) while fighting the battle to get more Mississippians to read. But, she'd rock anyway, if only because she's so creative and fun. Who else would have thought to give away pecans as a drawing prize? Rock on, Maggie.

5. All of the rest of you. Seriously, I think you all rock or I would have probably quit talking to myself a long time ago.

Pass it on, if you feel like it. Or, just admire Rockin' Moth and be happy.

Bookfool, off to read a rockin' Australian young adult novel (I just love John Marsden).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran

Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran
Berkley Nonfiction (memoir)
Copyright 2005
295 pages

"You can always identify an Agency officer," one of my first bosses said. "He's the one working a cocktail party while the State Department weenies cower in the corner."

. . . my own prospects for ever tying the knot, I felt, were diminishing daily. None of the men I worked with seemed even remotely interesting. Contrary to the image perpetuated by movies like Spy Game and The Recruit, in which the neophyte CIA officer is played by some breathtaking hottie like Brad Pitt or Colin Farrell - a protagonist who's as introspective as he is hunky and who ultimately recognizes and confronts the moral dilemma presented by his job - most Agency men are self-consciously slick and preternaturally shallow. The male trainees spent hours on coffee breaks debating how best to achieve their next promotions.

Later, Mark and I tromped not so stealthily through the woods - he smoking one of his contraband cigarettes and me lumbering awkwardly under the jumbled load of equipment. Our faces painted for battle, we sported the night-vision goggles, whose effect was more disorienting than enabling, causing us to plunge into small ditches and run head-on into large trees.

I felt distraught and guilty every time I wrote back to headquarters: "Subject is motivated by the desire to help his ailing daughter. If recruited, we can effectively control Subject by leveraging medical aid for the girl."

Ophelia and I would get together for dinner and commiserate about how disgusting we found the process. Ethan, on the other hand, was into it, as were the majority of our fellow trainees. On our bike rides, Ethan would reassure me that Vainglorians were an oppressed and troubled people, in need of the CIA's help, and also that I ought not to feel sorry for any of the Malevolencians, whom we know - from the material contained in the binders - to be a bellicose and deceitful lot.

I started to read Blowing My Cover yesterday afternoon and ended up staying up late to finish (my version of partying till dawn, according to the husband). I'm still not certain whether I just wanted to gobble up a book or I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't put it down. I've got the house to myself, this weekend (and heavy rain meant migraine weather) so I'm leaning more toward the thought that I just felt like indulging because I didn't feel up to much else. It's certainly true that I found the author tended to concentrate on the negative aspects of becoming a CIA agent.

However, I did enjoy reading about Lindsay Moran's experiences, whiny tone and all. She begins the book by describing her childhood desire to become a "spy", her love of James Bond movies and spy novels and how she scoped out the neighbors' activities. I thought the opening was kind of funny because I did the same thing. I kept a little notebook full of information about how long the neighbors left their sprinklers running and who accidentally set fire to his mattress (a visit from the fire department was always a huge event in our neighborhood, so you really couldn't call it spying). As it turned out, my neighbors were unspeakably dull - which, I believe as an adult, is a very good thing - and it didn't last long.

Moran's interest never waned, although she filled out an application to work for the CIA at the age of 21 and then changed her mind. Five years later, she once again reversed her decision and went through with the process. Those five years were filled with rock climbing in Bulgaria, partying with friends, falling in love with a Bulgarian rock climber, work and grad school. She talks about her concern that she would be rejected for having smoked marijuana and the experience of having to go through drug and polygraph tests, followed by an interview with a psychiatrist who made her feel like a pervert. Honestly? She sounded a little nutty to me, by that point. Her life was interesting and sometimes enviable but not in a way that I would have ever emulated deliberately.

The bulk of the book describes her training, which is closer to the Colin Farrell movie version than I would have expected, sometimes to the point of terrifying her and her fellow trainees to tears. It's surprising that the CIA approved the book, given the depth of detail. But, her memory isn't faultless and she didn't always check her facts well, as evidenced by this quote:

"Wow." Chris seemed genuinely impressed. He'd never traveled any farther than Jackson, where he went to college at Ole Miss. When I told him I'd gone to Harvard and lived for a while in Bulgaria, a place he'd never heard of (and evidently equated with the land where no children are allowed, from the old Dick Van Dyke movie-musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), he was bowled over.

Oopsy. Ole Miss is in Oxford, not Jackson. One would expect a Harvard grad to check her facts a little better. In fact, to believe every word in this book would, I think, mislead the reader in many ways. Moran has a tendency to portray most everyone as moronic in some way, perpetuating the common belief that nobody of intelligence would continue to work for any branch of American government beyond five years. And, yet, Moran always describes herself as the brilliant, athletic Ivy-league grad with a heart. Take for example the following comments:

I was at once dismayed to realize that an evening service was taking place. This was poor planning on the part of C/O Abington, the kind of move that would have garnered someone a slew of lesters at The Farm.

Here, she's criticizing the agent she was supposed to meet with on Christmas Eve in Austria for not realizing there might be ordinary citizens inside the church location of their intended exchange of documents. Just two pages later, she says:

If anyone asked, I was working on a book called "The Women's Guide to Traveling Alone Around the World." Why and how I managed to commence my tour in Vienna, Austria, with a hitherto totally unadulterated passport, I hoped wouldn't come up.

You can't help but think, "Wait a minute. Neither of you had the common sense to figure out that people would be attending Christmas Eve services and you criticize the agent who set up the rendezvous; but, it's perfectly fine for you to not bother coming up with a complete story that explains your presence in Vienna?" I think maybe the author was unaware of her own lack of common sense. Nights spent sneaking out to drink and meet with boyfriends using government vehicles add to the picture of a not-so-dedicated trainee who happily took advantage of time spent learning and partying at taxpayers' expense. She doesn't leave herself a whole lot of room to criticize.

Still, the book provides an interesting peek into a type of training and lifestyle that has been so closely guarded it's not surprising we have a warped image. The gist of the book is that training is brutal and the job itself a lonely and uncomfortable experience. There's no sneaking around to steal papers, scaling walls and unlocking tricky devices while guards lurk about, ready to chase a spy and rain gunfire around them. Instead, there is a great deal of paperwork and time spent coercing people - in her case, in a nation where roughly half of the population hated Americans.

Just an aside: after my 4th-of-July caption, I really appreciated this comment:

Explosives, a topic that enthralled the men in our class, did not interest me in the least.

See, I told you it's a guy thing. Apart from the fact that Blowing My Cover is a bit jumpy (sometimes I had to flip back to reorient myself as she often bounced back and forth in time) and the author has a tendency to focus on the negative when not describing herself or those close to her, the book is very readable and I still recommend it for the unique look at the machinations of a much-glorified profession.

3.5/5 - interesting, if a bit on the vain and whiny side (definitely PG-13)

Thanks to rain, the camera has been sitting idle. So, here's the best of hubby's sign photos from Australia:

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance

Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance
Warner fiction
Copyright 2002
466 pages, incl. brief author note

I went into the reading of Susannah Morrow knowing almost nothing about Salem Village, apart from the fact that what began as strange situation developed into a hysteria that ended in the deaths of many people accused of witchcraft. This particular story tells the tale of Susannah Morrow, a fictional composite of several of the accused. Susannah arrives in Salem Village from London as her sister, Judith, is struggling with the birth of a daughter. Judith dies shortly after the baby’s birth and Susannah takes over what would be considered the “woman’s place” in her sister’s household: cooking, scrubbing, taking care of the children. But the eldest of the children, Charity, harbors the secret of a “sin” that her mother helped her to hide and she fears that her mother’s part in the deception will keep Judith from heaven. As a result, Charity begins to hallucinate and develops an animosity towards Susannah that leads to horrible consequences.

The book does an excellent job of explaining what exactly happened, that a group of girls apparently got together and pretended to be tormented by various specters of women whom they accused of witchcraft. While some of the characters were fictional, including the title character and the family she lived with, the reality is apparently that what began as a horrible prank led to hysteria, numerous arrests, the deaths of many innocent people, poverty for a large number of village families, and the near-collapse of a small society.

Susannah Morrow is a pretty good book that didn't really thrill me. I have to admit that I tend to dislike anything that is dark or gothic in tone and I quickly reached the point that I really just wanted to get the book over with. I did, however, like the ending and the book was written with the kind of flow that makes it easy to read quickly.

I think what I really found uncomfortable about the book was the way each character seemed to twist his or her own belief in God, faith, and the scriptures to fit what they wanted to believe was happening around them. It may be reality that humans do so, but it made for annoying reading. It can be looked at another way, of course, as a fascinating examination of the horror that can happen when people are swayed by the beliefs of those around them. And, it certainly is bizarre and intriguing, the idea that a group of young girls were the root of such a huge frenzy, all because they played pretend to cause trouble for a few women they didn’t like. I’d definitely like to read some nonfiction to learn a bit more. However, the author mentioned that most of the girls who made the accusations disappeared from records after the frenzy died down. Still, it appears there is quite a bit of information to be found. If anyone can recommend a good, accessible book about Salem, please share!

3.5/5 - good flow, a little too dark for my taste (not that I expected sweetness and light in a story about that particular event but, you know . . . )

I'm going to call this a book for the Armchair Traveler Challenge because I just got to travel to Salem, Massachusetts (a place I've never visited in real life). Cool. I'm having fun traveling.

I've got some housework that can't stand to be put off any longer, so I'm going to delay the Chunkster drawing until Monday, if that's okay. Is that okay? Pardon me if I go quiet for a few days.

Also . . . three people have chosen me for a "Rockin' Blogger Award". Yikes. I guess I put that one off too long. Okay, I'll do a post on that when I have a minute, also. Thanks to all who think my blog rocks. Right back at ya. :)

Bookfool, Rockin' Beneath the Laundry Mountain

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Guys in the House = Explosives on the Driveway

Wahoo! Wednesday

Wednesday, already? Wow, where does the time go? I have many things to be grateful for, this week. First and foremost, of course . . . Hubby's made it back, safe and sound, from Down Under!!! Wahoo! Doesn't he look adorable, all decked out in the Outback? I picked out the hat when we did some last-minute supply shopping before dropping him off at the airport when he left for Australia; and, as the spouse was unpacking, I asked if his hat worked out well. "It was perfect," he said. Wahoo for that, too! He does look pretty well-shaded, doesn't he?

2. Books! Hubby brought me some books from Australia!! Wahoo!

Left to right:

Carpentaria by Alexis Wright - the latest Miles Franklin award winner
My Brother Jack by George Johnston - I've been trying to get a copy of this one for ages
Incurable and While I Live by John Marsden - the first two in the Ellie Chronicles series

He said, "Your friend in Melbourne was right. Books are expensive in Australia. This is a big gift." Believe me, I'm very grateful.

3. Wahoo for silliness. Australians are funny. Wahoo for this laugh:

That's a freebie attached to a kids' magazine. Hubby bought the magazine primarily for the Free Bouncing Donkey Poo!! Well, who wouldn't?

4. Wahoo for stunning native art. I had no idea Aboriginal art is so beautiful. This is the design on a t-shirt:

5. And, of course, Wahoo for United States independence. How many years has it been since we kicked the redcoats out? I mean, uh, asked them politely to leave and then when they wouldn't . . . well, you know. Hmmm. 231 years, I think. And, we still love Great Britain, over two centuries after our forefathers got all rebellious and tossed a bunch of tea in the bay, causing some serious caffeine withdrawal and a bit of a war. Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!!

I don't have a photo of it, yet, but hubby brought back a "small" didgeridoo - an Aboriginal musical instrument. He didn't think he could get the traditional size home, but now he's pretty sure he might need to practice daily (regardless of which size digeridoo he ended up with) because it turns out that learning to play the didgeridoo can ease sleep apnea. Tired of the spouse's snoring driving you out of the room or waking you up from a peaceful night's slumber? Well, get online and order that didgeridoo, right now.

Warning: Your spouse will make a noise that sounds like a tormented moose when s/he does his or her daily practicing. But, hey, you'd rather listen to ear-splitting moan sounds when you're supposed to be awake than when you're trying to snooze, anyway, right?

Husband stayed at the Hilton On the Park in Melbourne (where, it appears, we could not afford to stay on our own budget) and brought me the Swiss milk chocolate that was left on his pillow - or wherever. He's asleep, so I can't ask. Wow, why can't we do chocolate like the Swiss? That was one pretty amazing burst of chocolate sensation. Hubby also brought me one piece of chocolate that he picked up, elsewhere. I popped it in my mouth (note that I jump right on the chocolate gifts) and said, "Oh, wow. That tastes like rum." He replied, "Well, it did come from the casino . . . "

Speaking of Hiltons, I noticed that this week's Us magazine proudly announced that it was "100% Paris Free" on the cover. Hahaha. Good for them.


* "I know why kangaroos and wallabies hop," says the husband. "It's because the animals that don't bite have to keep moving. Everything that bites can swallow you whole."

* Hubby didn't have to stay in the normal quarters - trailers with a shared shower facility separate from their sleeping quarters. Instead, he was able to share a room with two other people on "the team" in the only hotel in Timber Creek ("We all sighed with relief when we saw there were three beds."). One of the fellows who used the shared facilities looked up while showering and discovered there was a snake hanging over his head. I didn't manage to find out whether or not he ran out of the shower, naked and screaming. It's the ending I desire to hear, though.

* If I can figure out how to turn his video into a YouTube thingy, I'll share the brief video he took of a crocodile splashing right next to the boat. It's really something. But, I don't know anything about YouTube, so advice would be welcome.

* On the crocodile-viewing boat tour in Timber Creek, a woman asked how long the crocodile they were viewing happened to be, as their tour guide described the method of determining a crocodile's age. "Tell you what," the tour guide replied. "I've got a measuring tape, so I'll hop out and hold one end by his tail and you take the other end. We'll find out."

* I swear the crocodile was smiling at the thought:

Get a load of those teeth.

Bookfool, hoping the photographs don't lead to a nightmare