Monday, October 29, 2007

A Men Meme , a Million Miles, a Mail Delivery, a Mega-cool Contest and More

If only it wasn't true.

Lynne tagged me for the following meme . . . and you can't help but love the description:

“Ten Literary Characters I Would Totally Make Out With If I Were Single and They Were Real
But I’m Not, Single I Mean, I Am Real, But I’m Also Happily Married and Want to Stay That Way So Maybe We Should Forget This.”

Hahaha. I love it. This is a much harder list to come up with than I imagined. I tend to forget the characters in a book pretty quickly, so I had to really work at it. Here's my list:

1. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth would do fine)
2. Ranger from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
3. Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind
4. Either Sebastian or Max in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason (or both, but not at the same time)
5. Joe Morelli from the Stephanie Plum books
6. William Ferrers from Sense and Sensibility (not the actor - the character)
7. Cavin of Far Star from Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant
8. Dr. Powell from The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
9. Reef, also of Your Planet or Mine by Susan Grant? (and How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 days, which I haven't yet read)
10. Edward Cullen from Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

That was fun! I'm supposed to tag a few people. Les, Colleen (because she had to have gotten her inspiration for Sebastian and Max somewhere), and Kookiejar, tag, you're it!

Speaking of Colleen and her wonderful novels . . . Kailana has a contest going and the prize is a $25 Amazon gift card, a Vis Bulla t-shirt and a copy of Colleen's next book, The Bleeding Dusk. Not an ARC but a real copy with the gorgeous purple cover. Signed and everything! Oooooh, ahhhhh. In order to enter the contest, you need to either write a fan fiction, draw a picture, or take a photo relating in some way to Colleen's novels - the Gardella Vampire Chronicles (read the full details at Kailana's blog). And, of course, if you haven't read them you really ought to just run right out and get the first two, anyway. So, Kailana has given you added incentive. Very cool. Don't you think Colleen must have done something good to garner such fantastic cover art? I never cease to be amazed by her knock-out covers.

In latest news . . . it's Million-Mile Monday (for us, anyway)! Meaning, Delta's Sky Miles program sent hubby a note saying he has reached a million miles of travel with Delta Airlines and he gets a free gift. Well, cool. But, think about it. That's one airline we're talking about. A million miles in 20 years. 50,000 miles a year. At an average of 50 weeks per year (let's just assume he actually stays home for two weeks a year), we're talking 1,000 miles per week. Since 2001, the airlines have downgraded the number of miles they award. That makes it 1000+ miles - not just a thousand but at least a thousand miles a week, on average, that my husband has traveled since our move to the Deep South. And, my Huzzybuns does not just fly with Delta Airlines. Is it any wonder I feel like I've been a single parent for my entire adult life? I looked at that card and thought maybe the husband ought to give me a gift for putting up with him. So, I went to the Delta site and picked out the free gift, a cute little roll-on suitcase. And, you know who will be here when it shows up on the doorstep . . . moi. I feel like I should insert an evil laugh, here. Except, you know, the husband said it was fine if I picked the suitcase out for myself. It would almost be more fun to feel like I'm being sneaky.

It's also Mug the Mailman Monday! Although, I didn't have to mug him because he very kindly delivers. Point being, I got a book in the mail, today. Ask anyone about that and they'll say, "So, what else is new?" Okay, yes, books frequently come and go by mail, here. But, this one is special because I won it from j.kaye in a drawing. It's always ridiculously exciting to win something, especially when you're enough of an airhead to have already forgotten by the time it arrives (yep, that's me). I've tucked her note inside, so you can see it:

J. Kaye's review made it sound like loads of fun, so I'm hoping I'll get to this one, soon.

Currently reading: A Vision of Murder by Victoria Laurie. Figured I'd try to squeeze in one more RIP novel. This one has something to do with ghosts, but I haven't gotten that far, yet.

The book I most want to get my mitts on, as soon as possible: Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

A random photo that I happened across while looking for photos of autumn leaves (but it was taken in December . . . in Louisiana):

Makes you want to break out the paint set, doesn't it?

Must go. My cat needs me. Happy Monday or Tuesday or Whatever Day You Read This!

Bookfool in a good mood

A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi - RIP #8

A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi
Copyright 1992
Harcourt YA fiction
298 pages, incl. author's note and bibliography

What led you to pick up this book? I was in the mood for a quick read that still qualified for the RIP and A Break with Charity was at the top of my stacks, having just recently arrived.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Susanna English desires to join the circle of girls meeting at the local parsonage in Salem Village. But, she's considered an outsider, due to her family's wealth and status. When she discovers that the girls are accusing local Salem residents of witchcraft as a game, Susanna determines that she must share what she knows about the circle. But, when one of the girls tells Susanna that her family will be "called out" as witches if she tells the truth, Susanna is frightened. Will she share her knowledge and stop the madness? Or must she remain silent to save the lives of those she loves?

What did you like most about the book? I liked the fact that Susanna and her family were sensible about the witchcraft hysteria - they knew their own minds and planned for the possibility of having to escape. I also liked the way this story was told - from a suitable distance and as a recollection of past events.

What did you think of the main character? I liked Susanna. She was young and impressionable, but she had a good head on her shoulders. Her greatest concern was always her family.

Thoughts about the plot: I couldn't help but compare A Break with Charity to Susannah Morrow, another book about the Salem Witch Trials that I read earlier in the year. Both had their merits, but I became weary of all the God-is-out-to-get-us, the guilt, the preaching and the detailed descriptions of what happened to the accusers (all that twitching and squealing) in Susannah Morrow. I liked the fact that the protagonist was not in the center of the events, but more of an observer in A Break with Charity - it was not enjoyable to me to experience crawling into the head of someone who allowed herself to become deluded (as in Susannah Morrow); and, I also found that A Break with Charity was easier to believe. The author's notes explain why she chose that particular "distant" perspective. While I think there must be a theoretical aspect to any work of fiction pertaining to the witch trials (nobody really knows whether diseased grain caused delusions and fits or the girls made the entire thing up), it certainly seemed like Rinaldi did a thorough research job.

Share some quotes from the book.

Susanna's thoughts about what it means to be a Puritan:

The Puritan code leaves no room for those who manifest oddities or weaknesses of nature. The Puritan virtues are very plain. They are hard work, cleanliness, orderliness of mind and manner, perseverance, courage, piety, a knowledge of one's sins, a desire for forgiveness, hatred for the Devil and all his works, obedience to the clergy, and impatience with heathens.
Heathens, of course, are Baptists, Quakers, and all other manner of miserable heretics.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I liked the chapter about "four creatures" who helped Susanna offload the charitable donations she hadn't found the time to distribute.

In general: I think I'd rather read a factual account of the Salem Witch Trials than a fictional one. I liked the author's choice to unfold the story in a more distant way, with a character who was not one of those stricken (or pretending to be so) by "visions" and I found the book an interesting, very quick and believable fictional telling of the story. It's truly disturbing and creepy to realize that it's very possible that those little girls were merely playing a game and that people were so stern in their religious beliefs that they took the visions seriously and put to death many innocent people for no reason at all. Anything about the Salem Witch Trials is definitely a great choice for the RIP. It's a horrifying piece of American history, no matter how it's portrayed.

4/5 - Written with good flow, making the book a very quick read. Although the writing is a bit simplistic, I didn't have trouble suspending my disbelief in the fictional aspect. There were times that I thought the author was attempting to use her story to give a history lesson; in other words, it felt a bit forced. But, part of the point of reading historical fiction is to learn about the events, to visualize them as they unfolded. I think the author did a very good job of that and I appreciated her obvious efforts to tell the story with as much historical accuracy as possible.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier - RIP #7

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Copyright 1969
Avon Fiction
336 pages

What led you to pick up this book? It's been on my stacks for about a year, on hold for the RIP Challenge. I originally snatched up a copy because I enjoy the author's writing.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Richard and Magnus have been fast friends since Richard's university years, when Magnus was his professor. Now, having recently left his job in London, Richard is spending the summer in Magnus's house in Cornwall. When Magnus asks him to participate in a time-travel experiment, Richard willingly ingests the time-travel formula in order to determine whether Magnus's journeys in time were hallucination or reality. But, there are dangerous side-effects to the drug and Richard's trips back to the 14th century become increasingly addictive as he takes interest in the lives of those he's observed and enjoys his escapes into the drama of medieval England.

What did you like most about the book? My favorite parts were the historical scenes that Richard observed during his time travel. The 14th century was full of drama - murder, plague, intrigue, illicit affairs . . . the story du Maurier wove about the earlier time period was absolutely engrossing and I could certainly understand why Richard wanted to keep returning to that fascinating world. I also liked the way she wrapped up the medieval storyline, so that it felt complete and one was not left hanging, wondering what became of those characters.

What did you think of the main character? He was okay - not unpleasant, but he was really negative about his wife and step-sons. However, he was a character in the midst of an upheaval and his frustrations made sense. They fed well into his urge to continue traveling, even after some very serious side effects would have stopped most people from drinking more of the time-travel potion.

Thoughts about the plot: I'm tossing this in because I think it's relevant . . . this book is based on the concept that time travel could occur via the ingestion of a chemical formula that effects the brain, opening up pathways to stored memories passed on in a person's genetic makeup. I found this far-fetched, in many ways. First of all, both men traveled to the same place and time; it made no sense that two people who are unrelated would have the same historical memories embedded in their brains, even if such a concept was plausible. The second problem I had with that concept would give away too much of the plot, if mentioned, but I never quite let go of my doubts. Still, I enjoyed the story enough that I was willing to try to fight my reluctance to believe such events could occur.

Share some quotes from the book.

When Richard takes his stepsons out to keep them busy:

The rain petered out about four, giving place to a lustreless sky and a pallid, constipated sun, but this was enough for the boys, who rushed on to the Town Quay and demanded to be waterborne. Anything to please, and postpone the moment of return, so I hired a small boat, powered by an outboard engine, and we chug-chugged up and down the harbour, the boys snatching at passing flotsam as we bobbed about, all of us soaked to the skin.

When Richard's wife, Vita, invites over friends and the visiting couple get a little drunk and start behaving inappropriately (but Richard refuses to join in):

"Talk to me, Dick," said Diana, so close that I had to turn my head sideways like a ventriloquist's doll. "I want to know all about your brilliant friend Professor Lane."

"A detailed account of his work?" I asked. "There was a very informative article about certain aspects of it in the Biochemical Journal a few years ago. I've probably got a copy in the flat in London. You must read it some time."

Share a favorite scene from the book: When a character in the book dies unexpectedly, an inquest is held. I assume this is a very British process, bringing together the coroner and people who knew the deceased to determine the cause of death. In one scene, Richard gets the past and present confused and begins to prattle about the fact that it was snowing and that must have caused trouble. The story takes place in the summer, so there was no snow in the present time period and Richard has to do some quick talking to explain away his mistake, then another person backs him up. The whole inquest process was fascinating and I loved the way the second man backed up Richard's story, off the cuff, as well as the inquest's conclusion: Death by Misadventure. What a great way to describe an accidental death!

In general: I love du Maurier's writing style and found that The House on the Strand lived up to my expectations. As implausible as the chemically-induced time travel concept seemed, I was completely swept away by the medieval scenes and found myself looking forward to them. I also enjoyed the way Richard sought out connections (the remains of old homes and historical information about them) between the past and present. Du Maurier did a pretty good job of balancing past and present storylines, adding tension in the present via the dangerous side-effects of the drug while inserting believable drama and detail in the medieval scenes. I did have trouble distinguishing all of the characters and did a lot of flipping back to the family tree in the front of the book, but eventually they became clearer. I still found myself wishing the author hadn't created a story with two characters by the name of Joanna, an Oliver and an Otto, etc. It was very difficult to figure out who everyone was, until well into the book.

4/5 - Very good. While I wouldn't call this my favorite du Maurier book, it was an excellent escapist read: well-written, often suspenseful and eventually quite gripping. The atmosphere was brilliantly rendered and made The House on the Strand an excellent RIP read.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer - RIP #6

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Copyright 2005
Little, Brown (YA fiction)
498 pages

What led you to pick up this book? Many, many positive recommendations, but I was particularly influenced by Andi and Heather (followed by gushing praise from our car rider, who just finished New Moon). After waffling for quite a while, I bought the book rather impulsively. It's perfect for the RIP II Challenge.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Teenage Bella moves from Phoenix to live with her father in the Pacific Northwest. New to the small town and the daughter of the chief of police, Bella's arrival is much-anticipated and she quickly draws friends and admirers. But, she is transfixed by the Cullen family, particularly Edward. As she gets to know Edward and becomes close to him, she discovers that he and his family members are vampires. Bella falls in love with Edward and he with her, but there is danger in their proximity. He loves her, but can he overcome his natural instincts in order to be near her?

What did you like most about the book? I like the fact that it's not at all gory or violent. There are tense moments, but it's really a love story more than a vampire tale.

What did you think of the characters? I loved them! Bella is a little cagey but witty and interesting. Edward is the kind of male character that women fall in love with - sensitive, handsome, sexy.

Share a favorite scene from the book: My favorite part of the book was actually the scary part, when a vampire from another coven is hunting Bella.

In general: I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the content of Twilight. It was one of the most age-appropriate young adult books I've read in a while - no explicit s*x in thought or action (even the implication in inner monologue and dialogue is written appropriately), no gory violence. But at the same time, the author took her characters seriously. She didn't diminish Bella's feelings. Twilight is a softer, kinder vampire story than most, with a hero who is dangerous to the heroine but incredibly sensitive and tender. It was hopelessly romantic and genuinely emotional (in a good way), suspenseful without the evil feel of similar stories. It was also very unique, in many ways. And, I thought it was easy to connect with the characters and root for them. The only complaint I have is the length; I believe it could have been much shorter without losing impact. And, yet, I didn't mind the length; I didn't find myself drifting off or bored.

4.5/5 -Very, very good. I set my other books aside, for the last two days, I was so swept away. Definitely a great escape, a fun read, and a book I'd actually like to revisit. I'm glad I bought this one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

Yes, folks, it's Wahoo! Wednesday, already. Hard to believe, isn't it? I'm just going right into the wahoos. Pardon me for the crappy photography. I am having a lazy week - too tired and frustrated to bother doing things well, so the photos are a wee bit dark and . . . well, crappy. But, anyway . . .

1. Wahoo for yucky weather! It's cold. It's raining. My feet are freezing. I love it!! I can now wear long pants and stop sticking to my computer chair. Double wahoo!

2. Some people have cable. Some folks have satellite service. Some have high-definition or large-screen TVs and TiVo and big, fat couches with cup holders. We have none of that - no cable, no satellite, no TiVo . . . in fact, no couch (we donated our ugly old sofa, not long ago). What have we got in our living room? Two chairs, a million books and Snow TV. And, I say Wahoo for Snow TV!

It's hard to look at but it costs absolutely nothing beyond the price of the electricity used to run the television set. Besides, it's blurry from where the chairs are located because our living room is badly designed and both seats are located at the far end of the room, opposite the TV, by necessity. Good thing the three blind bats in our household don't watch much TV.

3. On that note: Wahoo for the MUTE button on the remote control!!

4. Of course there have to be some book wahoos. I haven't posted recent acquisitions in a while, so this bunch is a doozy. Wahoo for book acquisitions!!! Click on photos to enbiggen.

Pile #1 - will have to redo the photo, sorry. I'll try to update, later. Here's what was in the photo:

Loving Will Shakespeare - Carolyn Meyer - Paperback Swap
A Friend from England - Anita Brookner - library sale find
The Mercy of Thin Air - Ronlyn Domingue - library sale
Powers - Ursula LeGuin - Estella review book
Twilight - Stephanie Meyer - total impulse purchase using gift card at Borders
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson - Paperback Swap

Pile #2 - all from Book Closeouts (kiddo suckered me into ordering some books for him; I checked my wish list and had some fun):

Top to bottom:

A Break with Charity - Ann Rinaldi
The Coffin Quilt - Ann Rinaldi (both titles recommended by Tammy)
Making Up Your Mind - Jill Mansell, a favorite British Chick Lit author
The House With a Clock in its Walls - John Bellairs - thanks to RIP II reviews
Star Split - Kathryn Lasky - I think this was an RIP recommendation, but I'm not certain
Our Yanks - Margaret Mayhew - listserv recommendation
Remind Me Again Why I Need a Man - Claudia Carroll - listserv friend's recommendation
Out of the Silence - Wendy James - thanks to Tara's review
The Linnet Bird - Linda Holeman - listserv friends' recommendations

Pile #3:

Top to bottom:

Hornblower and the Atropos - C. S. Forester - Paperback Swap

The rest of Pile #3 are from the library sale:

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Girl from the South - Joanna Trollope
The Reinvention of Work - Matthew Fox
Introduction to Great Books - a series work, no author listed on cover
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was actually also a big book-purge week, as I decided I just haven't been reading mysteries. With that in mind, I listed a dozen books (mainly cozy mysteries) at Paperback Swap and offloaded 10 of them. Then, I loaded a sack with some others that have been lingering on my shelves, unread, and dropped them off at the library (where they will be sold to other weaklings).

5. Still wahooing over my Shutterfly book. By request, here is another page from my book - one of the butterfly spreads:

If anyone knows what type of butterfly that all-white fellow is, please let me know. I've been unable to identify him.

Posting and blog-hopping may be a bit sporadic as I'm unsure at what point my presence will be required at home. My mother's cancer has worsened and treatment is not working, so chemo will be added to her radiation regimen. I think, basically, she'd rather I was there to help out when she knows she won't be eating much because she's well aware that I'm a disinterested cook. Sad, but true. I love her kitchen, but I'm so unmotivated around food. So, please forgive me if I'm unable to blog-hop due to the fact that life is sort of sucking and I am wrapping some things up to prepare for leaving at an as-yet-undetermined date. It looks like the 2007 NaNoWriMo experience may go down the drain. Bwaaaaah.

I haven't finished a single book, this week, but I'm currently reading and enjoying Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. I hope to finish something soon. Anything. I also read two short stories from The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Neither floated my boat, so I'll probably review the book and mention any favorites that I happen to find, once completed.

Happy Reading!

Bookfool in fuzzy socks

Friday, October 19, 2007

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman - RIP #5

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
Copyright 2007
HarperCollins fiction/short stories
250 pages
Allegedly for children (watch her pull out her soapbox)

What led you to pick up this book? I snatched this one while I was browsing the library. It was added to my wish list after reading an RIP II review.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. The book is a collection of short stories marketed to children - very tacky of HarperCollins, if you ask me, as I think most of them are really very adult. My guess is that the publisher is trying to ride the coattails of the "national bestselling" book Coraline.

What did you like most about the book? I'm not going to describe all of the stories, merely because I'm short on time, but instead speak in generalities. I really enjoyed Gaiman's ability to take a simple tale and add some unique qualities to it. Characters were easy to visualize, whether likable or revolting (or in between). Far and away my favorite story is "Chivalry", the tale of a woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop and buys it for 30 pence. A knight then shows up to attempt to recover the Holy Grail and keeps returning with interesting offers. I just loved that story!

What did you think of the characters? I like the fact that characters were so well-drawn. I think that's what makes his stories seem rather plausible, imaginative or fantastic as they may be. One thing I loved about "Chivalry" was the elderly woman. She was wise and funny. I adored the way she dealt with the knight, her casual mode of speech, the way she put the knight to work and left the reader hanging a bit, before her decision whether or not to trade the Holy Grail for whatever he was offering.

Share some quotes from the book.

Mrs. Whitaker peered at the sword. "It must be very sharp," she said, after a while.
"It can slice a falling hair in twain. Nay, it could slice a sunbeam," said Galaad, proudly.
"Well, then, maybe you ought to put it away," said Mrs. Whitaker.
"Don't you want it?" Galaad seemed disappointed.
"No, thank you," said Mrs. Whitaker. It occurred to her that her late husband, Henry, would have quite liked it. He would have hung it on the wall in his study next to the stuffed carp he had caught in Scotland, and pointed it out to visitors.
Galaad rewrapped the oiled leather around the sword Balmung and tied it up with white cord.
He sat there, disconsolate.
Mrs. Whitaker made him some cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for the journey back and wrapped them in greaseproof paper. She gave him an apple for Grizell. He seemed very pleased with both gifts.

--from "Chivalry"

Quotes that baffled me, considering that the book is being marketed to children:

I was working in London, doing A & R for one of the major record companies. I was commuting into London by train most days, coming back some evenings.

--from "Troll Bridge"

"Effete bitch," he muttered beneath his breath. Still, it was reassuring to see other council members here. He wondered if any of them knew anything he didn't.

--from "How to Sell the Ponti Bridge"

Share a favorite scene from the book: I love the scene in "Chivalry" when Mrs. Whitaker's friend, Mrs. Greenburg, comes for her weekly visit and Mrs. Whitaker very casually tells her (upon inquiry) that the shiny cup on her mantle is the Holy Grail . . . to which Mrs. Greenburg replies that her son has a similar cup he won in a swimming tournament, but it has his name on the side.

I also really like the ending scene in "Sunbird," which is unfortunately a spoiler. I found "Sunbird" also was oddly adult, about a group of epicureans who have run out of unique things to taste. But, it's a great story.

In general: When I check out or buy a book from the children's or young adult section, I do so intending to read something light and geared for a younger crowd. In that way, I was very much put off by this collection of stories. It irritated me no end that they were written for a more mature audience. I loved the illustrations and enjoyed about half of the stories. Some of them simply left me cold, but that's typical for short story collections. It's a rare anthology that contains stories I would consider consistently high-caliber. I can't say enough that I simply do not think this book is for children.

3/5 - Average. It took me a while to get through this one and I was in no way overwhelmed with adoration for his writing. So far, Neil Gaiman is an author I feel lukewarm about. I thought "Chivalry" was exceptionally fun reading and there were elements of each story that I really liked. But, I'm still reserving judgment on the author till I've read Neverwhere.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Historical Documents - My Childhood Fairy Tale Book

I've meant to haul this book out and photograph it for quite some time, but I had to actually do some climbing to get to it. I couldn't possibly count the number of times I read the stories in this book. Look at that staggeringly beautiful cover! You can imagine how easily such a gorgeous book could turn a little girl into an avid booklover:

Here's a closeup of that cover illustration:

Inside the book:

Not all of the illustrations are full-color, but the artwork is all amazing. I don't have a ruler handy, but I'd say the dimensions are about 12" x 10". The book is quite heavily taped because it was so loved that I quite nearly read it to pieces.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wahoo! Wednesday

Feel free to enbiggen little Delmar, above, who was photographed at the School of Dentistry in Jackson, yesterday. I think that's his cousin, Petunia, in the header. But, I'm just guessing; she was in a hurry.

This has been a week of dramatic highs and lows, once again, so I'll stick to the good. It's better to ponder the positives, don't you think?

1. I've said this before, but I love 'em. Wahoo! for wacky teenagers:

They've gotten used to me and my ever-present camera and asked if I was whipping out photos while the professional photographers set up to take team pics. Yes, I replied. And, look how they mugged!! I love teenagers.

2. Wahoo! for my free Shutterfly book!!! I have been pondering the concept of creating a book of my own photos, but those services are pretty expensive. Lo and behold, one of the local high-fat restaurants had an offer for a free Shutterfly photo book with three dinner receipts. Well, it just sounded too good to pass up, so we ate there three times (I know-- the things we do for our art), loaded some of my nature photos, tossed in some quotes and sent away for it. I love it!!! The title is based on a quote by Kahlil Gibran, which I've got on the opening page:

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.

Cool quote, eh? Here's the front cover:

And, my lizard spread. Y'all know I just loves me a lizard:

I won't post the whole darned book, but here's a random bird page:

3. Wahoo! for cold feet! Okay, so it's in the 80's, but it's at least cooling off the evenings and that's a start, right? We've been looking really hard for hints of changing leaves. Just for grins, this is last year's look:

Anyhow, all we're seeing is a few yellowish-brown leaves whose color could easily have been caused by the latest dry spell. But, hey, it's cooling off at night and we have to celebrate any little autumnal hint. Even if it is supposed to get to 90 degrees, tomorrow. Which reminds me . . .

4. Wahoo! for the Latter-Day Saints. You know, the guys who come to your door in white shirts and ties? The people comedians like to say "worship the doorbell"? Well, they're going to come work on hacking away my jungle, God bless 'em. I have to get up early to buy some extra tools because hubby has this knack for hiding mine and they said they don't regularly do yard work, but they'd be glad to do it as a service, ma'am. Honestly, I can't think of a nicer thing anyone could do for me. My yard is seriously embarrassing, so I'm really looking forward to their visit. And, I don't mind if they preach to me. I used to have some Mormon friends and I have nothing but respect for them. They moved to Utah, unfortunately, and we lost touch when I carelessly cleaned off the bulletin board with their addresses.

I was looking for an image of some of the young elders and found a terrific blog with copyrighted photos that you just have to see: Backroads Project. Page down far enough and you'll see a pic of the two Latter-Day Saints that led me to that page. The photos at that blog make me look like a hack with an Instamatic. The hack part might be correct, but I ditched the Instamatic years ago. I married a really nice little Olympus. I mean, a guy with a nice Olympus (tragically, it died).

5. It's been storming all afternoon and evening -- no lightning, now, of course. I'm Oklahoman, you know. We unplug things when it storms, so I'm slow to post and when I have to drive in the rain I'm always, always grateful to make it home in one piece. We get God-kicked-over-the-bucket rain, sometimes. This is one of those days, and I had to drive in it, yuck. Anyway, Wahoo! for not ending up like this car (that black thing on the hood is a child's car seat):

Or these (there were about 5 vehicles involved in this accident, which I hastily photographed while diverting around it via a parking lot - sorry about the focus; the black van at far right is one of the damaged):

Have to go nudge the kiddo - who, by the way, forbid me to post his silly photo (in which he ran his hands through his very thick auburn hair and made it stand up - just trust me; it was funny) - and read. Of course. What else, right?

Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs by Morton A. Meyers, M.D.

Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs - When Scientists Find What They're NOT Looking For
by Morton A. Meyers, M.D.

Copyright 2007

Arcade Publishing (nonfiction)
320 pages

What led you to pick up this book? Ah, yes, another one of those impulse library check-outs. The cover's a bit of a grabber, isn't it? I picked the book up, flipped through it and thought it sounded fascinating.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. It's nonfiction, so there's no plot and the ending is a conclusion that emphasizes our current medical situation, as the book is written in the Introduction/Body/Conclusion format. Happy Accidents begins with a rather heavy-handed introduction explaining why serendipity has played such an important role in medical discovery and how important it is not only for such unexpected "accidents" to occur, but also how crucial that some knowledgeable person has the wisdom to observe the mistake and take note of it, as well as the ability to creatively utilize a mistake for its potential.

He quotes Winston Churchill while discussing how only a creative mind can "convert a stumbling block into a stepping-stone": Men occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.

Morton adds the following:

[Introduction: p. 21] Relatively few investigators have spontaneously acknowledged the contribution of chance and accident to their discoveries. Scientific papers in the main do not accurately reflect the way the work was actually done. Researchers generally present their observations, data, and conclusions in a dry passive voice that perpetuates the notion that discoveries are the natural outcome of deliberate search. The result, in the words of Peter Medwar, winner of a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in immunology, is to "conceal and misrepresent" the working reality.Virtually without exception, scientific literature imposes a post facto logic on the sequence of reasoning and discovery.

The book then focuses on the recent (meaning, I'd guess, primarily the last 200 years) history of medical discoveries, with focus on those that had a serendipitous element - and almost all of the really meaningful discoveries in the last couple of hundred years were based on some sort of accidental happening. There's an excellent conclusion, followed by brief acknowledgments and then copious notes (about 40 pages or so), a bibliography, and an index. It is a very thorough book but the history is written with flair and is surprisingly entertaining.

What did you like most about the book? The body of the book is very well written and orderly, divided into sections on particular interconnected discoveries (Part I, for example, examines discoveries for treatment of infectious diseases, antibiotics, and miracle drugs; Part III on the understanding of the heart, its electrical properties, circulation, blood-thinning, etc.). The book is written with enthusiastic detail without usually going too far over the layman's head (that's me) and scientists are described much like characters in a novel - how they looked, their habits, whether or not they were respected, their determination and how they responded to rejection. There are a lot of interesting tidbits, like this blurb about Paul Erlich, who discovered the cure for syphilis:

Nazi Gratitude: When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they confiscated all books about Ehrlich and burned them in an attempt to expunge his name from German history. In 1938 his widow and family fled to the United States.

What did you think of the main character? There's obviously no main character, so let me just say that I think the author of this book - who has collected stories of medical serendipity as a hobby, for many years - has an agenda that is for the benefit of all humans and the repetition in his introduction is, therefore, worth forgiving. He proposes a return to unstructured experimentation that allows scientists to explore pathways that unexpectedly open up as they appear (rather than staying within strict experimental guidelines). He lays out the history in an entertaining manner. There were some moments that he lost me, but I learned to skim the medical detail that was beyond my understanding (fortunately, there's very little of that); and, he states his case with intelligence and strength without sounding either whiny or condescending.

Share some quotes from the book.

During the time that penicillin was a new drug but in dramatically short supply:

[p. 74] Events now took on the character of an Eric Ambler thriller. Florey was determined to keep penicillin from the Germans. When a German invasion of the British Isles under Hitler's Operation Sea Lion seemed likely, the Oxford team smeared the lining of their clothes with the penicillin mold in the hope that spores of the precious discovery could be smuggled to safety.

One of those little "tidbits" separated in gray-highlighted boxes:

Slightly Crackers: Later, reflecting on his discovery of what would be identified as H. pylori in the stomach, Warren commented: "It was something that came out of the blue. I happened to be there at the right time, because of the improvements in gastroenterology in the seventies . . . Anyone who said there were bacteria in the stomach was thought to be slightly crackers."

In case you're wondering, Warren and his cohort, Barry Marshall - who shared a Nobel prize for the discovery that ulcers are caused by bacteria, rather than stress and poor diet (thus leading to treatment with antibiotics and prevention of stomach cancer) - are Australian. Warren is from Adelaide and Marshall from a remote area in Western Australia. Hence the "slightly crackers" comment. I loved that.

About the pharmaceutical industry's misleading marketing about new discoveries and the dramatic drop in new drugs that effect health (as opposed to lifestyle - most "new" drugs are actually not even new, but reformulations that can be mere molecules apart in difference and are created in order to obtain a new patent and market for huge profits):

[Conclusion: p. 308] Since the mid-1980s, the industry has shown a striking decline in innovation and productivity, even while its profits have soared. The number of new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fell especially sharply in the ten-year period from 1996 to 2005, from 53 in 1996 to only 20 in 2005, despite record-high research spending by the industry, averaging more than $38 billion a year during that time.

Why did the industry have so few major breakthroughs in such a free-spending period? Because it has progressively shifted the core of its business away from the unpredictable and increasingly expensive task of creating drugs and toward the steadier business of marketing them. Most drug makers now spend twice as much marketing medicines as they do researching them. They compensate for dramatically diminished productivity and loss of patent protection by raising prices, maneuvering to extend patents, engaging in direct-to-consumer advertising, and developing and marketing more and more "me-too" and lifestyle drugs that do not enhance health and longevity. Hope has been largely replaced by hype.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I really enjoyed the sections describing the discovery of H. pylori and its significance. Of particular interest is the tale of how Marshall sickened himself with the bacteria in order to fulfill the necessary third causation required for proof of a discovery: "the pure culture must be shown to induce the disease experimentally." The caption for this section: Physician, Heal Thyself (But First Make Thyself Sick).

In general: A fascinating book that I hope will lead to positive changes including a return to the old-fashioned method of investigation in which scientists and research physicians accidentally leave cultures on benches or allow them to be speckled with airborne particles, thereby leading to the startling discoveries that save lives. There was only one brief paragraph or two that I strongly disagreed with and that was a comment about the safety of drugs in the Prozac family. Nuh-uh. I disagree. I'm friends with the mother of one of the "anecdotal cases" that led to the warning label stating that certain mood-enhancing drugs can cause dangerous mental changes (suicidal tendencies, violence).

He encourages funding of open-ended studies that don't limit medical researchers to a narrow path and I strongly agree with that. I also agree that the "peer review" process is severely self-limiting and leads to a narrow-minded approach to scientific publication.

4.5/5 - Excellent! I can only take off half a point for the occasional over-my-head bits that could very likely cause a lot of people to put the book down. The pharmaceutical industry's role in diminishing new discoveries is recent, but huge, and it would be great if every doctor in the United States would read this book and get noisy. The rest of us know we have something huge to fight, anyway, when it comes to drug companies. Highly recommended, but do be aware that some parts can get a little too technical. It's not as dry as most books of its type; really, it's quite entertaining.

Coming up: Wahoo! Wednesday. I remember, today! But, I have yet another busy day ahead of me, so please be patient.

Currently no references to: Pl*yb*y models in this blog. I was getting a ridiculous number of hits that involved searches for the author of Angels of a Lower Flight, sans clothing. Dudes, there are no nudes. Unless you count the critters, and they have fur or very excellent scales, etc. I have removed the author's name from all previous blog entries, but the review of her book remains because I think it's a story that needs to be read. Also, the word Pl*b*y looks just like that.

Hey, that Gaiman dude is not so bad: Okay, I'm still of the opinion that the stories in M is for Magic are, for the most part, not for children - either too adult thematically or with too many details that only an adult can fully understand. But, he does have a knack for giving the ordinary a magical spin. I'm about halfway and today is the due date for the book, so either I'll need to bury myself in it during swim practice or I must recheck. It's short. I'll try the digging-in option.

Gotta go. Wahoos may be a late-evening activity. Best to all and happy reading!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman

The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman
Copyright 2006
Pocket Books (fiction)
392 pages

What led you to pick up this book? It was sent to me as an advanced reader by Simon & Schuster. When I was trying to decide which book to read next, I picked up The Accidental Mother and began to read it, just to see if it sparked my interest. The author sucked me in immediately.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Sophie and Carrie were best friends, but they drifted apart. Now, hopefully on the verge of a promotion, Sophie's carefully planned life (which does not include children) is thrown into chaos when she's informed that Carrie has died, her husband can't be found, and her two children need a home. Sophie had agreed to be their legal guardian in the event of disaster, with the thought that such an event would never occur, and now she's stuck caring for the two urchins while England's social service attempts to locate their father.

What did you like most about the book? I really loved just about everything about this book and had difficulty putting it down.

What did you think of the main character? Within just a few pages, I grew fond of Sophie and knew that I was going to enjoy reading her story.

Share some quotes from the book. Please bear in mind that this is an advanced reader copy and some changes may be made to the published version:

When Sophie is preparing for a meeting with representatives of a German company:

"Guten Tag, Herr Manners." Cal said it first, slowly and carefully. The fact that he was multilingual made him a real asset, as he never tired of reminding her.
"Guten Tag, Herr Manners." When Sophie said it, she sounded like her cat, Artemis, when she was coughing up a hairball.
"Mmmm," Cal said. "Once more with feeling."
"Guten Tag--Oh, bollocks."

When Sophie is trying to explain to a social worker that she's hardly fit to take on the care of two small children:

"Look, I don't have much--any--experience with children, except for my own childhood and that was . . . unusual. My mother didn't raise me, a chocolate Labrador called Muffin did." Tess raised an eyebrow. "Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but in any case I don't have much to go on."

Share a favorite scene from the book: The youngest of the two children (Bella is 6 and Izzy is 3), Izzy, has become terrified of automobiles, due to the fact that she was in the car when her mother was killed in a terrible automobile accident. I absolutely adored the scene in which Sophie takes the children to her car and pulls Izzy onto her lap with the door open to begin the process of helping Izzy slowly recover from her fear by gradually exposing her to safe moments in the car, an idea she got from a manual on dog care that her mother gave her.

In general: I truly enjoyed this book, loved the characters and cared what happened to them. There were moments that I became annoyed with Sophie but I think you could say that I had faith in her; I believed that she would figure things out, in the end. A lot of what happened was unique and surprising, making the book even more pleasant. The story wasn't totally trite and predictable--at least, not in the way it easily could have been. I think I was expecting "Baby Boom: The Book," and it was not that at all. Author Rowan Coleman's story is original; there are funny moments, serious moments, and a few times I had to wipe a tear or two away. The Accidental Mother is a lovely story that I'd particularly recommend to those who like a tale of reinvention in which the character still manages to stay true to herself without allowing herself to continue clinging to her own fears.

4.5/5 - Excellent! I had trouble putting this one down. I don't think it's perfect; the prose is not what you could call lyrical or beautiful in any way--the writing is light--but I found it meaningful rather than fluffy and mindless.

The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico - RIP #4

The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico
Copyright 1969
Penguin fiction
347 pages

What led you to pick up this book? I found a copy for $1 and waaaay back in the 1970's, I enjoyed the movie. Plus, the cover is a grabber. The poppets were transfixed.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. When a cruise ship and freight hauler is flipped upside-down, a small group of passengers decide that in order to have a chance at survival they must climb to the ship's hull.

What did you like most about the book? The one truly frightening scene - right near the beginning - when the ship is hit by a large wave and turns over.

What did you think of the main character? This particular book had a cast of characters and the author did a lot of what writers call "head-hopping", moving from one character's viewpoint to another. I have to admit that, upon reflection, I didn't truly like any of them.

Share some quotes from the book.

When Scott (whose part was played by Gene Hackman in the original movie version) was trying to convince the passengers around him to climb upward, rather than just awaiting their fate:

Scott said, 'I have. Do you know the cause of death of most people who are either lost, shipwrecked or drowned in inhospitable country?'
'Panic,' Muller volunteered.
'No,' said Scott, 'apathy. Doing nothing, just plain quitting - giving up. The statistics show it. The records indicate that the mere action of keeping busy, trying to do something keeps people alive.'

Share a favorite scene from the book: Hmm, I already mentioned my favorite scene, so I'll tell you about the scene that made me want to throw the book against the wall. When a young member of the group disappears, his teenage sister, Susan, splits off to look for her brother and is raped in the corridor. The rapist is a young man from the crew and he splutters about thinking she was a stewardess (as if that makes a difference), panics and runs away. Before he leaves, Susan actually tries to stop him, saying it's okay and that she won't tell a soul. Oh, please!!!! I know a mere two people who have been raped; both attempted suicide and one succeeded. The one who did not succeed in taking her own life has continued to battle with depression and anger for over 40 years. I nearly gave up on the book because it made me furious the way the author diminished Susan's feelings. The only reason I continued was that, by that point, I'd made the decision to just get the book over with.

In general: The book was a huge disappointment. The characters were unlikable, vicious, bigoted, chauvinistic or wimps. Instead of banding together and cooperating fully to save their hides, they bickered and criticized each other. I could have read the first few chapters, enjoyed the one frightening scene and then quit and I would have been far better off.

2/5 - Don't waste your time.

Ghost Eye by Marion Dane Bauer - RIP #3

Ghost Eye by Marion Dane Bauer
Copyright 1992
Apple Fiction (children's)
82 pages

What led you to pick up this book? The spooky cover and description; this book was a library sale find.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Purrloom Popcorn traveled around the country as a prize-winning show cat after his elderly owner, Lydia, became unable to care for him; and, he was perfectly happy on the show circuit. Then, one day, Popcorn was suddenly sent "home", where a lonely little girl tried to become his friend. Annoyed Popcorn descended a staircase to escape, only to discover that he could see ghosts through his one blue eye - and there were many ghosts in the old house.

What did you like most about the book? The ending. The book sounded spooky, but it was really quite a sweet story with a touching ending. I also loved the author's sense of humor. Popcorn would think something on the order of, "I'm off to Pittsburgh," one minute and then, "Just point the way to Knoxville," followed by, "Which way to Des Moines?" I loved that.

What did you think of the main character? He was haughty and annoying, but he was, after all, a cat. He took some getting used to.

Share some quotes from the book. I didn't mark any quotes. The book is very short and probably more qualified to be called a "short story" because of its size. Simplistic writing geared to a younger audience made it a fast read that I gobbled in the car, whilst waiting for kiddo.

Share a favorite scene from the book: The scene in which Popcorn's elderly owner has returned as a ghost and Popcorn - who has a very short memory - abruptly recalls her name. It's a very tender moment.

In general: It's a sweet story, but I found the cat's strange name somewhat distracting and his attitude just a little annoying. But, it's a quick read and the ending is lovely. I was smiling when I closed the book. As it turned out, the author had a cat by that name. I'd really like to ask her how on earth she came up with such a strange name. Maybe it's a show-cat thing.

3/5 - Cute story, not outstanding but a fun little read.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's just one of those weeks, ya know?

I can't seem to find myself coming or going. So busy. So, so busy. Kiddo has been overwhelmed by it all - I feel like I empathize, and all I do is guide him, chauffeur him, clean his clothing. It's not like I'm attending classes, doing mounds of homework, going to band and swim practice and trying to please the opposite sex with my looks. He has a lot on his plate.

Meanwhile, back at the boring old ranch-style home, I forgot Wahoo! Wednesday. Completely forgot. My sidebar is totally outdated. I got an early jump on visiting RIP II bloggers and then fell on my face.

What's the good news? I finished a book - only one, but it was a good one: The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman (an ARC from Simon & Schuster). I am now 3 book reviews behind, which is one better than 4. Might as well just smile and catch up when I can.

I haven't taken a single photo, this week - not one. Weird. The anole lizard, above, was snapped last week.

After band practice, today, I asked the kiddo if he'd like to go out to eat. He said, "Sure." I asked him to choose my next fiction read, while we waited for the food - I'm still working on Happy Accidents and haven't touched Haunted Castles of the World despite my best intentions (although I really think I will read more of it, any day now); but, I have to keep at least one novel going, at any given time. I handed him the two books: The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Wisely, he read the cover blurbs, asked me what the deal was with the house theme (which I hadn't noticed) and chose the du Maurier. Smart kid. I love du Maurier. So, I've begun reading The House on the Strand.

I've also read two of the stories in Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic and I'm wondering . . . has this one been banned, anywhere, yet? Because, the book is marketed as a children's book, but those first two stories were what I would term "very adult". In fact, it's hard for me to fathom that a child would enjoy either of them. Do kids know, for example, what it means to do work in "A & R"? I know A & R stands for Artist and Repertoire because of a course I took on Copyright Law (focusing on the music industry), many years ago; but, it's not even defined in the story in which the concept is mentioned. That baffles me. My current thought process is that the book is billed as a children's book because the publisher thought it would sell better; at least one of my children lacks that bias that adults tend to harbor against short stories. I'll keep hacking away at the book and see what I think of the remaining stories.

But, for now, I'm off to read Daphne. I hope to be a normal blogger, soon. Hope everyone is having a peachy week (or has had - I'm always messing up on the time zone thing).

Bookfool, excited about the coming cold front and wondering what I did with the warm socks

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Copyright 2007
Viking Fiction (young adult)
250 pages

What led you to pick up this book? It was an impulse check-out from the library, spotted on the "new titles" rack.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Tyler Miller faded into the background at his high school, practically invisible to the other students until he was arrested. After a summer of enforced work to pay the damages of his misdeed, Tyler has grown taller, developed muscles, and is known to everyone. But, when the one girl he's really interested in suddenly notices him, Tyler ends up walking into another disaster. Blamed for yet another crime - this time, not of his doing - even his family doesn't believe he's innocent.

What did you like most about the book? I loved Tyler, the story, and the way the author kept heaping disaster upon disaster on Tyler until things looked hopeless. I loved the way Tyler turned things around. Actually, I liked everything about the book.

What did you think of the main character? I adored him. He was a good person - funny, sometimes tongue-tied, really quite normal and confused but good at heart and unwilling to let anyone convince him that he was as bad as they thought. I liked that strength and how he summoned it in the end.

Share some quotes from the book.

A scene in which Tyler's sister Hannah is pounding on the door to get him out of bed in time to get on the bus for the first day of school:

It sounded like she was going to punch through the door. All those middle-school girl-power sports had made my little sister a lot stronger than she looked.

"Get up!" Thumpwhumpthumpwhump. "Mom said! I don't want to miss the bus."

It was going to take a week for her to figure out that high school was school, plus seven levels of social hell (especially for freshman girls), with too much homework and rules dreamed up by psychopaths.

Then we'd see who was eager to get out the door.

Share a favorite scene from the book: There was not a single scene I disliked, but I was particularly fond of the scenes toward the end of the book, when Tyler summoned his wits and very firmly told the adults that he was not going to take their abuse anymore.

In general: I'm convinced Laurie Halse Anderson can do no wrong. This is my third book by Anderson. Speak blew me away; it was powerful and intelligently written. Fever 1793 was probably the weakest of the three, but I still found that I learned a great deal about what it must have been like to live through a plague. Twisted was amazing. I thought she did an excellent job of getting into a teenage guy's head, showing his insecurities while giving him a tremendous amount of character. I felt I knew and understood Tyler and I was rooting for him, throughout the reading of the book.

5/5 - Great character, believable conflicts and dialogue, witty, funny, with a great ending.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham - RIP #2

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Copyright 2005
Mira Fiction
393 pages

What led you to pick up this book? A friend sent it to me, last year, and I thought the book would make a good read for the RIP II Challenge.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. When Nikki DuMonde sees a bum in the street and gives him $20, she has no idea he'll soon be dead and that his ghost will return to ask for help. And, when her friend Andy dies in exactly the same way and Nikki sees her ghost as well, her friends aren't so certain she's totally sane. But, Nikki's sure that the two deaths are connected and is determined to figure out why. Brent Blackhawk is the only person who truly believes her; he's a paranormal investigator who has been called to New Orleans to seek out a killer. He sees ghosts and communicates with them. When Nikki and Brent get together to solve a murder, ghosts talk and sparks fly.

What did you like most about the book? Things keep happening. Oddly, I liked the concept of people who can talk to ghosts better than the way it was written, but Graham kept the story moving well; it's very entertaining. I also thought she did an excellent job of using the setting, New Orleans, almost as a character in and of itself.

What did you think of the main character? I liked her; nothing in particular about her stands out in my mind, but she was a nice character.

Share some quotes from the book.

This is about Brent Blackhawk, a character who was part-Lakota (either 1/8 or 1/4 - can't remember) but whose looks were so distinctive that most people assumed he was 100% Native American. I think it jumped out at me because of the recent reading of Raising Ourselves by Velma Wallis; it's the only quote I marked.

Growing up with a Lakota heritage had taught him a lot about bitterness and chips on the shoulder, but the past was just that - the past - and now people needed to focus on entering the twenty-first century, reaping the rewards of progress and technology, without losing sight of a heritage that was something precious, something to be preserved.

Share a favorite scene from the book: Brent Blackhawk had a ghost friend he occasionally visited in a graveyard. While I found that the "talking to ghosts" scenes were far-fetched (like sitting around with anyone else, having a chat), there was a cute scene in which that particular ghost was acting a bit impish.

In general: The book was not the slightest bit scary and there were some glaring plot holes, but I found it entertaining enough to overlook what I disliked and just chug on through. Graham is not a skilled writer, but she can weave an interesting story.

3.5/5 - Great setting used well, interesting storyline (although poorly crafted and with some plot holes), entertaining enough to overlook its flaws. If you can't tolerate the occasional inconsistency, skip this one.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Where on earth has Bookfool been?

Bookfool has been very busy, dashing around to various kid events. Miss me?

On Friday, after the usual chauffeuring duties, I hibernated because of a migraine and finished reading Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is an excellent young adult novel - Anderson has yet to let me down. On Saturday, we went to a swim meet followed by a band contest and then I reached the end of a very short children's book called Ghost Eye, by Marion Dane Bauer. I meant to write up a review of that as a short-story Sunday entry; but, alas and alack, I was just too darn tired. So, instead, I did load upon load of relaxing laundry and then finished reading The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico, last night.

I am now 4 book reviews behind. May I just say, "Argh!"? But, hey, it's been a great reading week. And, the swim meet and band events were extremely fun. And, a green dragonfly landed on my leg at the swim meet, which is supposed to be good luck, right?

To aid in catching up, I believe I'll continue to steal Dewey's book review format, which I snitched for my review of The Collection. Answering questions is just a wee bit easier than my normal method. Then, hopefully, I'll get back to my usual chatty review style.

More, later . . . at least, that's the plan.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Collection by Gioia Diliberto

The Collection by Gioia Diliberto
Released September, 2007
Scribner Fiction
275 pages (hardback)

What led you to pick up this book? I received it from Simon & Schuster's Reader Review program.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Ill with consumption, young Isabelle Varlet learns to sew from her grandmother and later obtains a job in the atelier of Coco Chanel in Paris, during the aftermath of WWI, where she has an inside view of the rise of French couture.

What did you like most about the book? The setting and time period. The book begins in a small French village and then moves to Paris. I liked the atmosphere of village life before and during a major war, the sense of what it must have been like for an entire nation to lose most of its young men and to experience the damage to those who returned from battle. The book definitely had a strong sense of the impact to France's young male population and how the loss of young males effected young women.

What did you think of the main character? I found her extremely bland and practically devoid of personality. She was not a character I found I cared about; however, I still wanted to know what was going to happen.

Share some quotes from the book.

About the village baker:

I do not believe that a taciturn nature is evidence of a sluggish mind, and I did not feel more clever than Jacques. He had his own kind of genius, which Madame Duval, not liking sweets, couldn't see.

About Isabelle's best friend in Paris:

Daniel sat on the edge of my bed in his officer's uniform: navy slacks and a horizon blue jacket with brass buttons. Over the jacket he wore a brown leather belt with shoulder straps and two ammunition pouches. I'd never seen him in uniform before. He wasn't one of those flashy veterans, those champions of suffering, who wore their medals everywhere and boasted constantly of their bravery. Daniel didn't consider himself special for having survived the war. "Everyone's a survivor of something," he told me once. "Even if it's just their own foolishness."

Share a favorite scene from the book: I can't honestly think of a single scene that stands out. I liked the setting, but I found the story a little plodding. Just when it seemed that something exciting was going to happen, things seemed to peter out.

In general: I found the book was written with clarity, but lacking in excitement. There was a lot of build-up, disappointment, build-up, disappointment. I loved the historical backdrop and I didn't find it immensely difficult to read; but, it was not a fast read because it never really captured me. A tiny glossary would have been nice, as there are numerous technical terms and the occasional French phrase, none of which were directly defined. Most were easily understood in context, but it would have been nice to make sure. For example, people were always sending each other petit bleus. I assumed a petit bleu was some sort of telegram, but the direct translation is "small blue" - not a very helpful translation - and I don't read near the computer, so it wasn't convenient to search for definitions. Later, I looked it up and discovered that a petit bleu was, in fact, a distinctly Parisian form of telegram. It would have been nice to know that while I was reading the book.

3/5 - An average read, decently written but a bit dull and heavy in detail of the fashion scene (a little too detailed for me - I'm not a fashion buff). The best feature of this book was its interesting historical backdrop.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Estellify Yourself, Wacky Barge News and Islands I Didn't Know Existed

Yippee!!!! The October issue of Estella's Revenge is available for your reading pleasure and it is fabulous, as always. Way to go, Andi!!! I have one review in this issue, a review of Lottery by Patricia Wood - one of my favorite reads for the month of September. And, you must check out Patricia Wood's blog - it's a hoot.

In the news . . . Remember yesterday's traffic problem? It was not 1 barge that broke loose but 42. 42!!!!! The meaning of life! (that's a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference, for those who have missed out on the joy of Douglas Adams) If I'd had any idea that a towboat had run aground and 42 barges were on the loose, crashing against piers and being chased by a fleet of boats playing "fetch the barge", I would have gone up the back route to the river overlook. Darn! They say the crash noises when those barges hit the piers was really something. Also, I found it of interest that my son's photo of the backed-up traffic was much better than the photo in the newspaper. Ha! That's my boy!

Here's a sketch of one of yesterday's hummingbird photos from the uber cool

Digital Cameras Tools
Sketch your photos

And, last but not least, I find that I am even more Geography Stupid than I realized (and I knew I had a problem - we United Staters and our troublesome lack of maps) when I briefly indulged my new minor obsession with Blogger Play. If you click on an image, you're directed to the blog site at which the photo has been loaded. I saw a lovely painting that intrigued me, clicked on it, and was directed to the blog of a painter who lives in the Faroe Islands. It really bothered me that I had never heard of the Faroe Islands, so I Googled the location name and hit a link to an article at Wikipedia. What on earth did we do before Wikipedia? I'm baffled.

Finished a book, today: Ghost Walk by Heather Graham. That's one more for the RIP II and now I'm 2 book reviews behind. This will be one hell of a busy weekend, so I'll try my darndest to catch up, tomorrow. If I don't . . . well, there's always next week.

Must go sleep. I don't do enough of that, lately.

Bookfool in search of a fluffy pillow