Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Drawing Results

Updated to show results only:

#1 - The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle (ARC) --

Winner: Tasses of Many a Quaint and Curious Volume

#2 - Leftovers by Laura Weiss (ARC) -- Winner: Tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn

#3 - The Last Single Woman in America -- Winner: Raidergirl3 of
An Adventure in Reading

Congratulations to the winners!!

Next up will be a review of Loose Ends by Les Combs.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

#34 Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Copyright 2006
Harper Collins Young Adult Fantasy
326 pages

What led you to pick up this book? After reading The Two Princesses of Bamarre by the same author, I was eager to read more of her work.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Aza has a stunningly beautiful voice and a family who loves her dearly, regardless of how she looks (and the fact that she was adopted after a guest in their inn abandoned her). Aza and is unattractive enough that insults by the patrons are simply a way of life, yet in a land where singing is an integral part of life, her voice is her saving grace. When a duchess and regular customer of the inn is left lacking an attendant due to illness, Aza is asked to step in and accompany the duchess to the king's wedding. While at the castle, Aza's voice and ability to throw it (which Aza calls "illusing") catch the attention of the new queen, who coerces Aza into illusing when the queen must sing, in order to both protect the queen's reputation and disguise her own lack of talent. When the deception is discovered, Aza must run for her life; and, in the process she learns much about herself and how little appearances really count.

What did you like most about the book? I liked the theme about beauty being more than skin deep, the adventurous scenes when Aza had to run and hide from the queen, the fast pace, and the warmth of Aza's adopted family. I also loved the gentle romance between Aza and the prince.

What did you think of the characters? They were, for the most part, distinctively polarized; you were meant to either love them or hate them, as in fairy tales. While I didn't adore Aza in the way I did Meryl and Addie in The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Aza was easy to like and her family was particularly charming. The king was lovely, the prince was kind and the duchess and queen were cringe-inducing.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I can't remember any particular scene, but I really enjoyed the time during which Aza was forced to hide out with gnomes.

Thumbs up, 4/5 - Adventure, love and lies with a touch of romance. Once I became involved with the characters, I had difficulty setting the book down.

In general:
An enchanting book with a lovely, positive theme. Not as good as The Two Princesses of Bamarre; but, had I reviewed The Two Princesses, it would have received a 5/5. Not many books are worth a perfect rating, so I definitely think Fairest is worth the time.

I'll do the book drawing, above, at approximately 7pm, Central Time (U.S.). Must go plant flowers while the weather is cooperating.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Floody Vicksburg Photos

As promised, the following are photos of the high water in downtown Vicksburg when the Mississippi crested, last Saturday. After this, I'll get back to book chatter because I've finally finished some books!!! Squeee! Anyway . . . click on any image to enlarge. Starting with my worst photo, taken through the windshield as we were heading to the dock (always a bad idea taking photos through extra glass), this is a photo of the old train depot. Note the proximity of the barge behind the building. That's probably the freakiest thing about this view:

Another view of the proximity of that barge, this time as seen behind the dock walls. Bear in mind that barges are humongous; I'll post a view from up the hill, which shows slightly better perspective. Most of the panels of this wall now contain murals showing scenes from Vicksburg history . The murals are absolutely beautiful and well worth the drive to downtown Vicksburg, if you're ever in the area.

Another view of the dock entrance, with a glimpse of a couple more murals.

Looking uphill from the dock area (Levee St.) to the Old Courthouse Museum (the building with the clock tower).

The flood gauge shows how long it's been since the water has reached this depth:

Maybe it has to do with being married to an engineer or related to someone who died tragically in a flash flood, but I would never, ever step up to a wall holding back flood waters the way this fellow did:

A view from the upper level of a downtown casino parking garage (Horizon Casino), which shows the completely inundated parking/dock area. The barge is so long that it took three frames to photograph the entire length.

Coming up, next:

Reviews of Fairest by Gail Carson Levine and Loose Ends by Les Combs.

Just walked in the door, yesterday:

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson and
Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It by Alan H. Cohen

Question to ask self when shorts that were tight last week suddenly become loose:

Did I lose weight or did the elastic just give out?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wahoo! Wednesday

Just FYI, that's a photo of a painting in Woolaroc Museum, about a dozen miles away from Bartlesville, OK. I had loads of fun at Woolaroc on a sunny, cool Saturday. If you ever happen to find yourself wandering around in northeast Oklahoma, it's worth a stop.

How long has it been since I wahooed? Too long, I think. The time has come for all good men and women to drop everything and wahoo.

Spring has sprung! Wahoo for the new kids on the block:

Wahoo for family. These are my guys:

Handsome Eldest with Traveling Cat, who has now been to Oklahoma three times (very wahooey -- she's an excellent traveler):

This is just a wahoo because it's kind of funny. Saturday the Mississippi was due to crest at Vicksburg and we heard the river hasn't been this high since 1973, so we sauntered downtown to look at the high water. Click on the photo to take a gander at the sign describing the "waterfront expansion project" on the riverfront in downtown Vicksburg. This photo shows the entrance to the riverfront dock, usually a dock with two rows of parking and a slope down to the water:

Haven't finished a book, yet, but I'm now balancing five. I think it's just that I'm so excited to be back to reading that I want to read everything at once. I'm currently reading:

The Disagreement by Nick Taylor
Loose Ends: Short Stories and Poems by Les Combs
It Happened in Oklahoma by Robert L. Dorman
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine and
Cabin Pressure by Josh Wolk

I'm enjoying all of them. I don't have much reading time, thanks to the mess the guys made while I was gone, the urgent need to get our den finished up so we can stop tripping over furniture, and an annoying migraine that won't give up and go away. But, hey, I'm still glad to be home. I'll take whatever reading time I can squeeze in.

Next up:
More flood photos
Book drawing post

You can hardly wait, right? Have a happy day, wherever you are!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Malarkey Returns

First, to lighten the mood, a photo from home, which I cheezeburgered or lol'd (not sure quite what to call it -- click on photo to see the whole thing, since it doesn't fit quite right):

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

You like?

Reading News: Nil. Nada. Zero. Zippo. Zilch.

Kidding. Actually, I am finally back to reading and I did manage to complete 2 books since I last babbled:

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
(Really!!! I actually finished it!!!) - Not quite sure what I thought of it, though. It was by turns brilliant and exhausting. I had to set it aside frequently, just because the author's style overwhelmed me a bit. And, yet, I just had to know what was going to happen, so I kept returning to the book until I reached the end. Kookie loved it. You should read her review. I'm a little too pathetic to do it justice, at the moment.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine - By the author of Ella Enchanted (which I have not read). The least courageous of two princesses must suck it up and go in search of a cure for the Gray Death or kiss her beloved sister goodbye. I absolutely loved this young adult fantasy/adventure. In fact, I loved it so much that I wanted to share it and knew just who to send it to, when I finished. But, first, I asked my son to please hurry up and read it because he kept picking it up and making "Hmmm, interesting," noises. He whipped through it in one night and I popped it into the mail.

Speaking of mail:

Now that I'm home I need to get rid of a few books, so stay tuned for a future drawing post.

Goodness, gracious, it's wet out there:

We went downtown to see the crest of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg on Saturday. It was a stunningly beautiful day, cool and dry with temperatures in the lower 70's. I'll share photos of the flood water, tomorrow, because I can't seem to add extra photos and move them beyond my lol pic.

Many thanks to all who have sent or posted supportive messages. I'm so glad to be back to the Bloggy World.

Big, Smoochy Hugs,

Bookfool, very, very glad to be home

Friday, April 18, 2008

In Loving Memory


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me.
-- Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)

My mother, Edy: June 22, 1933 - April 9, 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Wordless Wahoos

Well, not totally wordless. Top to bottom, from a drive around the roads near my sister's house:
Scissor-tailed flycatcher on barbed wire (the state bird of Oklahoma)
Meadowlark (my mother told me it's the state bird of Nebraska)
Cows and an oil pump

Things I see on a normal day, and a finished book!!!

I had some fun, this weekend (!!!!). First, I went for a drive in the countryside and took a trip to Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Refuge on Saturday afternoon. I took loads of photos. Sunday, I was able to get away to my in-laws' house to upload a handful. Yippee! I've separated them so that I can stretch recent photos out for a bit, to make the blog a bit less dull. Today, a few photos of things outside my sister's house. Huge thanks to the in-laws for the food, company and internet time!

Here's one of my favorite photos of my sister's dog, Buddy, giving me the sweet, "Please-please-please walk me or play with me or chase me or anything" look. Buddy is part dachsund and part something . . . not sure what . . . and 100% loveable. Note how he's holding himself as if he can't quite sit all the way down and is poised to leap forward. He's an eager little fellow.

Buddy has been ignoring the squirrels, which I definitely appreciate. Apparently, he does sometimes hunt them, but they're so entertaining that it's a relief to see the pupster ignoring their antics. Squirrels in Bartlesville are very different from our Southern fox squirrels. Here, they have little gray squirrels, which are quite cute.

My brother-in-law told me they had a family with three baby squirrels in their yard, last year, and that the babies provided a great deal of entertainment. "They play like kittens," he informed me, "chasing each other and jumping over each other, tussling. Such fun to watch." I felt a little envious. But, even the individual squirrels have been amusing, so there will be a few more squirrel photos in upcoming posts. The photo above looks practically posed, like he's graduating from Squirrel High School, but I liked the lighting, so there you go.

Not far from the driveway is a lovely forsythia bush. This isn't a very good photo, but the backdrop of that dark blue sky against sunny lemon blooms is so pretty.

While I've been immersed in caregiving, I've had a bit of trouble with losing track of time. So, pardon the huge delay posting a link to Estella's Revenge. The latest issue has been up for days. I managed to read a few articles and, of course, they were all superb. Is "superb" an uppity word? Anyway, I enjoyed them. Since I took the time to read and went back to fetch a link, Estella has gotten a spiffy new header. Cool.

You can find my review of Pat Barker's Life Class, here. It was not a favorite read, but I did like Barker's voice and plan to read more of her work.

Last night, I finished my first read for the month of April! Wahoo! It's The Olive Season by Carol Drinkwater. The Olive Season is the second of two memoirs by Drinkwater which tell of her experiences on the olive farm in Provence that she and her husband purchased and tend to between film jobs. I was surprised to see that the author's face is familiar. For some reason, I envision her dressed in period clothing from WWII, although I haven't looked up her filmography to find out what films or television shows in which I might have seen her perform. Drinkwater's writing is lovely and welcoming. You feel as if you've been allowed to peek into her charming country life and it's mostly quite uplifting as she has a love of nature and life that truly leaps off the page. The latter half is quite emotional, due to a terrible loss that occurred during the time period covered in this particular memoir, and yet it ends on a positive note.

I'm hoping to finish A Fraction of the Whole, tonight or tomorrow. Also reading:

It Happened in Oklahoma by Robert L. Dorman and

Loose Ends: Short Stories and Poems by Les Combs. The first short story in this book made me smile and was nicely unexpected, so I'm really looking forward to reading the rest.

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!

Bookfool on the Prairie

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

They Tell Me It's Tuesday

I hear it's Tuesday, but you really lose track of time when your days don't vary much. So, assuming it's Tuesday, it's time for Tuesday Twaddle -- an essentially meaningless title that gives me free reign to continue babbling about anything and nothing. Mostly nothing.

I am reading slowly . . . but. At least I'm reading. I'm still working on A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. Someday, I'm going to finish that book. In the meantime, though, I took a brief break from Fraction, over the weekend, and read:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Of course, I can't paste an image of the book, at the moment, so I'll just give you a link. The Absolutely True Diary, etc., is classified as "juvenile fiction". I'll call it Young Adult but only because I feel like it. TATDoaP-TI (abbreviated -- that is one heck of a long title) is the story of Junior, a youngster who tells his story in narrative and cartoons, as opposed to dated diary entries. Junior is an aspiring cartoonist who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Born with fluid on the brain, Junior wears glasses, stutters, has seizures, and is picked on at school by everyone but his best friend, Rowdy.

After he's expelled, Junior speaks to a teacher who advises him not to waste his brains and his life on the reservation. Junior takes the teacher's advice and moves to an all-white school in a neighboring farm town. It's difficult even making his way to school. Some days his alcoholic father can drive him, some days he can't. Sometimes the car works, sometimes it doesn't. At times he can hitchhike; at other times he ends up walking the full 22 miles. But, Junior is determined to improve himself and faces each challenge admirably. Meanwhile, back at "the rez," he's considered a traitor. Rowdy won't speak to him and Junior must face loss upon loss in addition to being rejected by his own people.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a National Book Award winner. And, much as I often like to pooh-pooh those awards, I think it's an awesome story of facing up to challenges, refusing to give in, choosing to better one's self despite huge odds against success. It's much deserving of the award. TATDoaP-TI was another impulse purchase (because Books are Blankies for some of us) and, boy, am I glad I bought it. There's a quote by Neil Gaiman that I love, on the back cover:

Excellent in every way, poignant and really funny and heartwarming and honest and wise and smart . . . I have no doubt that in a year or so it'll both be winning awards and being banned. --Neil Gaiman

I agree on all counts. Except, I have no idea whether the book has been banned, but it wouldn't surprise me. The fact is, the book is written from the viewpoint of a boy who writes with such honesty that those crude, rude, vulgar, anatomically-worded moments wouldn't be right if they weren't written exactly as they are. And there, I think, the book differs from a lot of books. Everything fits. Yeah, you might not want your kid to read it. And, yet, a young adult can learn a great deal from the book -- about poverty, prejudice, strength, grief, love, respect . . . there's such a huge spectrum of emotion in this book that I can't possibly say a bad thing about it. I loved it and couldn't put it down. Huge thumbs up.

And, now . . . some twaddle.

Soup, soup, soup

My brother-in-law comes home (remember, I'm in my sister's house) for lunch every day. Even on "goody days", which used to be simple but now involve rather a feast, according to D., he comes home and warms up some soup because, "I'm not really a cubicle kind of a guy. I need to walk away, just for a short time." D. eats Campbell's Chunky Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, every single day. And, I do mean every single day. One day is cooking day and the next is microwave day. He heats up a can, eats half, saves the other half in a Tupperware container, zaps it the next day, heats up a can the next, eats half . . . on and on. People are so funny. But, just FYI, that is one of the best Campbell's soups I've ever tasted.

Bark, bark, bark

I've been taking photos of Buddy, my sister's dog. My sister didn't want a dog, actually, but D. said, "You needed a dog. So, I got you Buddy." And, she adores him. However, she's at work all day and I'm not willing to go out for a muddy paw-print stamping until evening, so poor old Buddy is a wee bit lonely. The next-door neighbor is an avid gardener and he's usually outside at least part of the day, wearing rubber boots and wielding a shovel. I've seen the neighbor sit down beside the wire fence that separates Sister's yard from Neighbor's. There, he chats away with Buddy for a time, and then off he goes with his shovel to dig and plant. It's rather lovely and touching. I wish I could post some more photos of Buddy. And, the neighbor's yard is gorgeous. He has a host of golden daffodils blooming up a storm, back there. Beautiful!

Movies and a Short Story

This past weekend I drove to my mother's house to run her appliances, flush her toilets, check the lightbulbs, etc. To help fill the time, I watched Atonement and Martian Child. Mini reviews:

Atonement: I've got the book, but I haven't read it. Someday I will; I don't mind doing things backwards, since I began comparing books to their screenplays, just for fun. As to the movie, I thought the scenery was beautiful, particularly in and around the house where early events take place. It always amazes me how my mind can't seem to summon up the kind of glamour, size, detail, and beauty of those English country homes. Film, in this case, captures something my imagination shortchanges. However, the story was just flat sad and I don't like a great deal of gasping (can we say, "melodrama"?) in a movie. Plus, I just don't like that scarecrow-stick actress who played Cecelia, Keira Knightly. She's a decent actress but she's so pretty she's ugly, if you know what I mean. I find her distracting. The movie belonged to James McAvoy, in my humble opinion. I've yet to see him act and not feel totally blown away. He's brilliant, emotional, perfectly human in looks and movement and speech. I love him.

Martian Child: Gah. I love John Cusack. I just love, love, love John Cusack. I've been hooked on Cusack since Say Anything. Is it the looks, the style, the adaptability, the height? Maybe all of the above. I think he's the bees' knees. Having said that, I also happen to think the storyline was awesome, touching, and perfect. It is also clean, funny, heart-warming, beautifully set, believable and well-acted by everyone. The cast is amazing. I loved Martian Child. And, fortunately, I bought the copy I watched. Yippee! I can watch it over and over and over. What a happy thought. I wish there were more movies like Martian Child. Someday, Hollywood will figure out that we don't really need all that swearing, sex, and violence. We get excited about humanity, about emotion, about happy moments, laughter and great acting. At least, that's my hope (and what I love in a movie).

Over the weekend, I was unable to locate the power cord for my laptop, hence the lack of posting and blog-hopping. Plus, things are getting a little bit intense, around here. So, please forgive me if I'm only able to zip in and out. I have located the power cord, but I'm not sure whether or not I'll be able to get away on the weekend, this week. We shall see. Hope everyone is having a terrific week.

Bookfool, dashing off, again