Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hawks, prairie dogs and snow: an update from Oklahoma

Hi Everybody!

It's me, Bookfool. Remember me? I'm still in Oklahoma, where I zipped off to help my mother when she was admitted to the CCU unit at her local hospital. She's much, much better. I'll be back and forth for months and I will somehow have to figure out what to do about that speeding ticket I got in Louisiana (my first - and I had no idea I was speeding; I was just a little distracted, for obvious reasons). But, I'll be home soon. In the meantime, my internet time has been limited, due to the fact that my mother's computer is a dinosaur and she has dial-up. Not that it matters what she has, since I gave up after an hour of clickety-clickety-clickety followed by a string of error messages. I have been emailing from Burger King. Gotta love it.

Anyway, I have many stories to tell (like the Story of the Upside-down Turkey, the Tale of the Terrible Traffic Ticket, the Burger King Internet Pervert and the Psychic Dreamer - just remind me), but since the Burger King people look at me funny, after a while, I'm just going to post a few photos and tell you all is well. I don't have the ability to stick around long enough to blog-hop, but I hope to do so when I get home in a week. I miss you guys!!

Here are some photos. A hawk spotted on the drive up to Oklahoma (I counted 73, in all):

A prairie dog at an undisturbed, natural prairie-dog village near Kaw Lake in Oklahoma:

It snowed, last night!!!! My car, on my mother's driveway:

I only brought one poppet, Violet. She danced in the snow:

On Thanksgiving, my niece Michelle posed with Violet - more photos of Violet and her travels around the house will be posted, once we return to MS. My brother-in-law (who is a really funny guy with a terrific dry wit) said, "You know, I'm stopping just short of calling you weird," as he watched me pose Violet on shelves and next to the infamous upside-down turkey (great story - you'll love it, but you have to wait till I have more time). Aren't Violet and Michelle cute?

I hope everyone has been happy and well. I've bought a stack of books and have finished 7, since I got here, so Violet has to do some posing with books and I hope to do a massive books-read-and-bought update when I return.

Love to all!


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Off-air message and a monkey

Going off-air due to illness in the family and I'm not sure when I'll be back to posting. Please check back or, if you desire, feel free to email me at bookfoolery at yahoo dot com - I will attempt to at least check that email every 4-5 days (but don't hold your breath, please, as purple is not a becoming skin color). Also, while I've got you . . . just wanted to let you know that the nifty "email follow-up comments to" feature that Blogger has just recently added does not work for me, due to the fact that it's based on one's Google ID and my Google ID is my old email address, which is no longer functional. I'll try to change that when I'm back online, but it may be weeks - I just can't say. I leave you with a kitschy beaded monkey holding an oversized Italian glass necklace that doesn't work on a short person and ended up a monkey toy hanging from a curtain rod (Whew! How's that for a run-on sentence?) - lucky you!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury

Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury
Copyright 2007
HarperCollins Nature (NF)
226 pages

What led you to pick up this book? It was an impulse check-out. I love photographing birds but have noticed I'm not seeing anywhere near the quantity of birds that I saw as a child - or, even 10 years ago. I was excited to find a book about the reasons for declining songbird populations.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. No plot, since it's nonfiction. Stutchbury talks about bird habitats, migration (including how migrations can be seen on radar), nesting habits, etc., and how each of these critical bits of bird life are being interrupted. She talks about their internal radar and why instincts programmed into bird brains for thousands of years are now causing massive deaths (by, for example, running into radio towers and buildings that are in the way of their flight path), how and why the fragmentation of forests makes it impossible for many birds to survive and thrive, and what we can do to help prevent the continued decline and extinction of many types of birds.

What did you like most about the book? The entire book was pretty fascinating, but I particularly appreciated the "How You Can Make a Difference" table on p. 221.

Thoughts about the plot: It's a very interesting book. Sometimes I found myself drifting of for a bit, but that's not unusual with nonfiction reads. It might be that it's a little too dry or that I've been tired - maybe a bit of both. But, I'm glad I hung in there and learned about what's causing the decline of songbird populations (and that of other birds and animals, as well). I didn't realize that dangerous poisons are still used on U.S. crops; I honestly thought bird-killing agricultural poison use was halted when DDT went off the market. I also had no idea we're still being exposed to DDT over 30 years after it was banned. Nor did I have any understanding of migration and why deforestation on migration paths causes massive die-offs (like what we experience on road trips, birds need to stop to rest and refuel at certain points - and those migration paths are firmly programmed into their brains). Even more surprising was the information about shade-grown vs. sun-grown coffee and how shade-grown coffee sustains life while sun-grown coffee is basically a disaster for the land and natural life as well as its farmers.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I think my favorite chapter was "Coffee with a Conscience," which explains why farmers ripped out the canopies of shade-tree plantations and planted sun-grown coffee (which is bitter and requires increasing amounts of fertilizer due to the lack of self-sustaining nutrients provided by trees and which offers no haven for birds). The author described specific coffee brands that are grown on sustainable farms and for which farmers are guaranteed a reasonable profit. Timothy's World Coffee is one of them. The author's favorite shade coffee, Cafe Oro, is described and she advises buying shade-grown coffee to give as Christmas gifts because it not only has a great message but also provides a better taste than sun-grown coffee.

In general: It took me quite a while to finish reading Silence of the Songbirds, but I hope a lot of people will read it and take action. Anyone who reads this blog regularly is probably well aware of how much I love nature.

4/5 - Excellent writing, if a bit dry. The author does a particularly good job summarizing the hazards to birds and what ordinary folks can do to help slow the dramatic decline in songbird populations.

While I was reading this book, I kept thinking about the movie Real Men (starring Jim Belushi and John Ritter), in which Belushi's character repeatedly reminds Ritter that if the aliens don't get what they want, he can say goodbye to "all the trees, all the birds, all the little flowers," forever (something like that - I couldn't find the quote). Don't ask me why.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Vision of Murder by Victoria Laurie

A Vision of Murder by Victoria Laurie
Copyright 2005
Signet Mystery
296 pages

What led you to pick up this book? I discovered it on my shelf and decided to try to squeeze it in before the end of the RIP II. Ooooh, missed it by this much.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. While on vacation from her job as a psychic, Abby Cooper buys a house with her sister and favorite handyman in order to fix it up and sell it at a profit. The house, however, is haunted. Before repairs can be made, Abby must rid the house of its ghosts and solve the the mystery of the previous owners' family history.

What did you like most about the book? Well, hmmm. Love ghosts. Love reading about psychics. Liked the story. The mystery is pretty decent.

What did you think of the main character? Abby tends to get on my nerves. I read the second Psychic Eye mystery just after the first and discovered that her sarcasm and childishness get annoying. Small doses, widely spaced, are good. She's an interesting character, though. I find Abby strangely believable.

Thoughts about the plot: Honestly? I was surprised. The author kept me guessing till the end. The story had enough threads to keep my attention without becoming twisty enough to cause confusion. Certain bits were predictable or obvious, but they weren't enough to detract from the overall effect. I can only take Abby in small doses, but I think Victoria Laurie writes a pretty decent cozy mystery.

Share a favorite scene from the book: The scene in which Abby's sister, Cat, goes off her rocker and runs over Milo's car is pretty funny - particularly Milo's reaction.

In general: A decent mystery with some transparent aspects, but definitely a light, diverting read. There's a lot of se*ual innuendo, but nothing graphic.

4/5 - Above average for the genre, not great writing but a good enough story to make the annoyances and minor flaws worth ignoring

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Estella and NaNo - bounce, bounce, bounce

Yippee! It's Estella time!! A brand, spanking new issue of Estella's Revenge is ready for your reading enjoyment right here. There's no such thing as a bad issue of Estella, but I think this one is particularly awesome. There's a hoopty reading challenge coming up (with prizes - oh, boy!), a book giveaway, and a terrific assortment of interviews and reviews. Go on, gobble it up. Personally, I was most enamored of the interview with the founding director of the Blackbird Books project in Kosovo.

And, it's also NaNoWriMo time. My usual modus operandi is to come up with nothing more than a title (which invariably changes) and hope I don't write myself into a corner within days of beginning (and, yes, that has happened - I started all over on Day #4, last year). So far, so good. I've written 2158 words and shocked myself by spitting out . . . of all things . . . science fiction. Possibly sci-fi with a romantic twist. Where the heck did that come from? I guess it just goes to show that when people ask what I write and I say, "Um, a little bit of everything - just whatever hits me," I am so not kidding. I chose the title "Walking in Sunshine" when I hoped to write Chick Lit (being a person who tries to always think sunny thoughts, it sounded perfect) and have made sunlight an important part of my current story.

On the down side, the NaNo site has been completely bogged, unless my computer is going hinky on me. Hopefully, all the bugs will be worked out quickly. This is my third year and I've never had quite this much trouble with the site.

Another down side is the fact that my husband has just trashed my laptop. So, if and when I finally end up in Oklahoma, I'll be . . . I guess screwed is the proper word. I'm still trying to figure out why on earth Huzzybuns opened the computer and tried to fix a problem on his own. He's a geotechnical engineer, not a computer technician. Dirt, not computers. Completely different things, you know?

Enough of the bummer news. I've written over 2100 words! I'm happy!
Okay, the backside is numb. I've had enough of this computer. I think I'll just take my happiness to the bathtub for a soak.

Bookfool, trying to be an author (again)

RIP II Wrap-Up

RIP II Wrap-Up time! Oh, boy, did I have fun. I don't know what it is about spooky and atmospheric books in the fall, but once I got into the mindset (it didn't feel quite right, at first, since it was still very hot outside), I really had a blast. Huge thanks to Carl for hosting the RIP, again! It's my favorite challenge.

I chose Peril the First, but I decided in advance to be flexible and read anything that I felt qualified for the challenge; and, as always, I did stray from the original stacks a bit. After reading four full-length novels, I was still in the mood for more and ended up reading a total of 8 books - 7 novels, 1 book of short stories. Full reviews can be read by clicking on the links. Here's what I read for the RIP II:

1. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - An classic apocalyptic tale. A riveting tale of survival and also a fascinating look into the 1950's, as the story was set during the time period during which it was written.

2. Ghost Walk by Heather Graham - A man and a woman who talk to ghosts, a couple of murders, and a few plot holes. Entertaining, but not great writing.

3. Ghost Eye by Marion Dane Bauer - Popcorn, a forgetful cat with one blue eye and one gold, realizes that he can see ghosts with one eye. Cute children's story - not scary but fun; the author has a great sense of humor.

4. The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico - Read for the atmosphere; the only truly frightening scene was that in which the boat flipped upside-down. Considered ditching this one.

5. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman - Short stories, shamelessly marketed to children. "Chivalry" was my favorite. Some were great, some so-so. All were rather adult.

6. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer - The hopelessly romantic opening of a pleasingly tame YA vampire series (at least, so far). Excellent atmosphere and one rocking scary hunt scene.

7. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier - A time travel story in which a drug sends the men who drink it back to the 14th century but the side effects prove dangerous. Sometimes confusing (too many similar names) but gripping. I loved the historical scenes, in particular.

8. A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi - Another Young Adult novel, this time a reflection upon the Salem Witch Trials. Very quick reading and the author's notes explain why she chose the point of view used.

Of the RIP books I read, only one was extremely disappointing: The Poseidon Adventure. Twilight pleasantly surprised me; I will definitely continue the series and am glad that the idea of yet another RIP book lured me into purchasing it. Du Maurier has only disappointed me once (I believe I've read 6 of her novels, now) and The House on the Strand now ranks well up there amongst my favorites. Nothing beats Rebecca, but I really enjoyed being transported back in time. I'm a fan of apocalyptic novels, but I think Alas, Babylon has just become my new favorite; I thought the author had a surprisingly good grip on the aftermath of disaster. We experienced some of what he described, after Katrina roared through, and it was easy to set aside any doubts and immerse myself in the atmosphere. M is for Magic, Ghost Eye and Ghost Walk were all average reads - no regrets, but also not books that I'll go around pointing out to friends. And, I will definitely read more historical fiction by Ann Rinaldi. A Break with Charity was a pretty comfortable read, in spite of the setting.

All in all, the RIP II was a very satisfying challenge experience and I sincerely hope Carl will continue to host it annually!!