Thursday, August 31, 2006

Where the Heck is My Nabokov?

It's been at least two days and I still can't find the Nabokov novel that I've misplaced! So weird. Or, maybe not. My husband thinks it's bizarre every time he misplaces his keys or cell phone, in spite of the fact that he does so on a regular basis, so maybe I should expect such things.

At any rate, I think this mysterious Nabokov disappearance may be a not-so-subtle hint that I need to do some serious housecleaning. And, I've been doing a pretty decent job since I decided to tell myself I'm in an *up* mood! Funny how remarkably well that little bit of self-delusion worked. That and, of course, encouragement from my bloggery pals. Thanks, ladies!! Now, if I could just tell myself there's an extra 24 hours crammed into each day and make time stretch accordingly, I'd be all set.

Thanks, also, to Nat for another HTML lesson. I'll work on turning Andi into a link, later on. But, first, I'm going to babble for a bit and then go read. Here's the most interesting stuff from my day:

1. Lizardfoolery - I had a bunch of errands to run, this morning, and my appetite is slow to wake up so I headed to Wal-Mart (yucko) on an empty stomach, whizzed over to Dillard's to hit the annual 75%-off shoe clearance, and then drove through McDonald's to get one of those yummo fruit and yogurt parfaits (oh, yes, I relax the "no food in Mom's car" rule a bit when it comes to urgent bags of fast food, these days). A little background info, here. I have a life-sized and realistically colored green plastic lizard of the kind that we have running around our yard, here - about 6" in length, I'd guess, including the tail, assuming a cat hasn't gnawed the tail off - on the clear plastic over my speedometer. It looks kind of like this guy, only green--------------->

The little plastic lizard came from Chuck E. Cheese; I actually coerced my sweet child into spending his points on a stupid plastic lizard (the website I got the pic from says this one is a skink) and have had it in my car for 3 years. When I pulled up to the window to receive my yogurt, the girl at the window suppressed a shriek and pointed. I said, "Oh, it's okay. He's just plastic." She sighed, visibly relaxed in the shoulders and said, "Thank you." I'm not certain whether she was thanking me for telling her the lizard wasn't alive or for buying yogurt. Either way, it was a great moment.

2. Yee Haw! - We recently got an invitation to a wedding on hubby's side of the family. He couldn't really explain just who the bride is, but there's some kind of weird thing about my husband's cousin helping raise the child of a girlfriend he never married but with whom he has a son, or something like that, and . . . well, I don't even know if she's any relation to us but that's not the point. It says, I kid you not, that the wedding is to be held at a ranch in Texas, "Yee Haw!" Yes, that's on the invitation. When he read that part aloud, I thought he was kidding. Then, I picked up the invitation and read it, myself and got a really nice belly laugh. Gotta love it.

3. Cool Reading Hour - I've had very little time to read, but a couple nights ago I reached a tremendously fun part of my friend John's book, Rainbow's End, in which an entire series of mini-mysteries with one hilarious elderly snoop named Angela are all set back-to-back. I know those stories were sold to Woman's World because I remember reading a couple of them when they were originally published, but it was double the fun getting to read the whole series at once. (I'm really enjoying the book, John!!)

4. Swimfoolery -Today was kiddo's first high school swim meet. He actually had to swim one event solo, as it was a two-school meet and he was the only person in his heat for that particular event. Usually, competition (meaning a faster guy in the next lane) motivates him, but he did fantastic. His first meet and Will actually hit state qualification time on two out of four events. I'm so proud of him!! And, the weather was terrific. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and a breeze! It was still in the lower 90's, but today was a massive improvement and we had fun. That's it. My day. Now, I'm going to go peek in some favorite blogs and read!!! Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Since I'm Still Up

It's nearly midnight, but we're up guiding the 9th-grader while he finishes some last-minute touches to a report and diorama. He's pretty decent at forming coherent thoughts but he can't spell worth a flip and he still needs some help with his grammar, so here we are. The kiddo wouldn't have kept us up quite so late, had he not fallen asleep. His days are long so I let him nap until the time factor reached critical status.

So, here's what I bought at Target, yesterday. I set out in search of the totally rocking red lamp that Andi
of Tripping Toward Lucidity found at her store (waving to Andi) but didn't find it. This one caught my eye because of the telescoping feature. I have it fully extended, but the lamp can be lowered. We move our lamps around all the time so that might come in handy.

I haven't yet figured out how to add a link within text or I would have sent you directly to Andi's blog via the name, above. However--lucky you--you can find the path to Andi in my Bloggy Links at left. And feel free to teach the ignorant middle-aged gal a lesson if you're on the curve. I'm sort of inhabiting a distant planet, here (obviously not named "Pluto", thanks to a bunch of nerds who recently experienced a Groupthink High) as I've been housewiving pretty much since the invention of velcro.

The dining table doesn't match because . . . well, I guess because it's not used as a dining table. Or, maybe because I'm a cheapskate. We call said surface "the work table," in its current incarnation. The shelves are my good shelves, Timmerman style by IKEA. They don't make Timmerman, anymore. I wanted to hurt someone when they discontinued the Timmerman series without informing us because I would have slowly filled my entire house with that style. They fit our needs perfectly. We said a few choice words and moved on.

I think the kid's nearly finished and my pillow is calling. Thank heaven; I really need to at least attempt sleep.


Sleepy Bookfool Who Didn't Get to Read Tonight, Darn It

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Requiem for a T-Shirt and Hopelessly Idle Chatter

All together, now. Daaaaah. Okay, it was a lousy requiem but better than nothing. The pictured T-shirt was my absolute, utter favorite for 15 years. Sadly, it's got holes pretty much all over the place - all around the neckline and near the "F" in "CAFE", in particular. So, I wrote a one-note dirge (see "Daaaaah") and it has been officially retired. I loved this shirt.

I know that's stupid, but it was so cute - especially compared to the boring gold-and-brown Hard Rock Cafe shirts that everyone else had at the time (and it fit well). Do they still sell those? I guess Hard Rock is not the "in" thing, these days. Here's the funny part: Toronto's Hard Rock Cafe was a *dive* when I bought this shirt. It was full of biker dudes, fogged up with smoke and had little rickety tables with plastic covers. We looked at the menu, coughed a bit, rubbed our eyes, ditched the table, bought the T-shirt and left. Then, we went to Tulsa for a visit and Mom-in-law said, "You didn't get one for Karen?" So, when we were in Toronto we bought one for Karen (hubby's little sis, who was then a teenager). She wore it for about two years and gave it away. If I'd known, I would have said "I'll take it!" but that's life.

Speaking of which . . . Here's My Day:

1. Dying to Get Away - I hopped in the car and zipped to the Big City: Jackson, MS. Because I had to return in time to fetch kiddo from school at 1:40 p.m. and I got a late start (it took a while for the coffee to crank me up), I was able to give myself exactly 20 minutes in Target (thank goodness I budgeted my time, since they had to do a price check) and 20 minutes in Hobby Lobby. But, hey, I had fun. I needed to get out. Retail therapy is truly a useful concept.

2. Can't Find It Anywhere - Last night I intended to look up something I read in Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark. For some reason, the book and I didn't manage to make it to the computer together and I *still* can't locate it.

3. "I looked everywhere" is impossible, at least in my house. It's pretty cluttery. We've got a big possession entropy problem. So, Nabokov is still missing and . . .

4. Well, I Had to Read Something at the Pool. Tucked a couple of books into my gigantic purse after picking up the kid, packed the cooler and dashed. It was threatening to rain, so I stayed for the entire swim session. I settled on Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I like it, so far.

5. I also read a bit of Psychology Today, which I believe I may never read, again. A couple of months ago, they had a ridiculous article entitled, "Am I Beautiful?" about how everyone is beautiful inside and we've got to learn to live with our sucky exteriors. The entire article was illustrated with photos of . . . you've got it . . . beautiful people. And, as if the uglies needed a real kick in the gut, they interviewed the beauties and we got to hear how being pretty has benefitted them. Like, why do I want to know that? Geez.

Today's tidbit from that same magazine (this month's version): an article on people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (aka neatniks) which included a comment from some authority who said that cluttery people - those who tend to acquire a great deal of stuff they don't need - are not successful in life, in general. Wow. Why not just walk up and stab a few thousand people for the joy of it? Should those of us who are cluttery just go ahead and jump off the bridge, now, since we're obviously not going to ever accomplish anything?

Just what someone going through a bit of depression needs to hear.

Then . . .

6. I spray-painted a shoebox for a project kiddo has to complete by Thursday (don't worry - he'll do the real work) and, this being the buggy South, managed to spray-paint a bug right onto the box. A little green bug. Or, he was till he landed while I was spraying and suddenly became white (and very dead). So sad.

Really, not a bad day. But, I could use a major caffeine infusion to get through the next couple of hours. And, then I can read and sleep. Boy, that sounds so fun. :) I love books. Too bad I'll never succeed in life because I own so many.

Bookfool, now done chattering. I promise.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Cardinal Rule by Cate Dermody

The Cardinal Rule was my first Silhouette Bombshell book. I have no idea what the guidelines for a Bombshell novel are, but this particular one was strictly a spy novel. Silhouette Bombshell is, of course, an imprint of Harlequin. So you might expect some sex or romance thrown in. There were moments that I thought might lead to something, but . . . nope. Just a lot of spy action, a little innuendo, and the occasional wishful thinking. That's good. I hate graphic sex scenes; I just do. I have nothing personal against romance, though, and I will happily skim such the parts I dislike if a book is entertaining. There are some very good writers who are sadly overlooked because they happen to write within the romance genre.

I've already managed to misplace this book. No, wait! It's by my left hand. Geez, some weeks. I didn't mark any quotes, so let's just cut to the chase.

The storyline in brief: Someone is creating an army of mechanized robots to replace humans in warfare. It's Alisha MacAleer's job to infiltrate the organization and determine whose side the brilliant scientist developing the robots is on and whether or not he presents a clear and present danger to the United States. The scientist is a former CIA agent *and* her boss's son. Alisha's handsome, Bond-like ex-lover-turned-mercenary adds complications by repeatedly showing up in the wrong places at the wrong times.

It was a fun book and I plan to read the next in the series. Not the kind of book that would ever keep me up late reading, I'd say (although, honestly, just don't trust me while I'm in this horrid mood) but it had some pretty enjoyable action and the writing is pretty good. I'm going to give it an average rating because it didn't grab me and hold on, but don't take that wrong. It's a fun read.


Blue Funk and Uploading Angst

I've been in the worst blue funk I can recall in recent history, with the slightest thing turning me into a puddle of blubbery wimphood. I'm a complete pudding, this week. And, Blogger has been giving me fits of uploading angst, yet again. Really, most of the time Blogger is great but I think my computer has about had it and the combination of "I Can't Do This Because My Memory Is Failing" (what my computer would say if it could speak) and "The Document Contains No Data" (Blogger bitchiness) is driving me nuts. That and not having enough time to read.

My mood being what it is, if nobody visits my site within about 12 hours of posting, I take the whole darned post down. So, forgive me if things suddenly go *poof*.

Trying to think positive, here . . . Best Reading Things Happening:

Still reading my friend John M. Floyd's book, Rainbow's End, and loving it. It's an anthology containing some of his numerous short stories (he's so prolific, I'm willing to bet he's lost count of how many he's written). There aren't many people who do short stories well, but I've never been disappointed by a single one of John's. There's a bit of O. Henry in John's style, I think: always a clever twist thrown in.

I also started reading Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov. And, my copy of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan arrived, today, from Paperback Swap. All that should be enough to break me out of my mood, shouldn't it? Maybe I just need a glass of water and a fluffy pillow, like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30. With a book, of course.

Blue Bookfool in Search of Enlightenment and/or Cheer

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another of my shelves

For Sneaky Bookshelf Peekers

Thought you'd like to look at a shelf or two from my house.

Pardon the lousy grammar from earlier in the day, if you saw this one pre-edit. I said I hadn't read most of these books (but I adore Nick Hornby). Actually, I've read more of them than I realized. A good portion of this particular shelf came from library sales and a fantastic book stock at a salvage store.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Essential Lewis and Clark, Ed. by Landon Y. Jones

This evening the Indians entertained us with their dancing nearly all night. At 12 O'Ck I grew sleepy and retired to rest leaving the men to amuse themselves with the Indians. I observe no essential difference between the music and manner of dancing among this nation and those of the Missouri. I was several times awoke in the course of the night by their yells but was too much fortiegued to be deprived of a tolerable sound night's repose.

--Meriwether Lewis, Aug. 13, 1805

I'm going to remember the phrase "tolerable sound night's repose" because it sounds so much more romantic than "a decent night's sleep". Don't you love the wording?

As the name indicates, The Essential Lewis and Clark consists of severely edited journal entries that do not contain the two captains' extensive botanical, meteorological, and other scientific notes - which are probably superfluous to the casual reader - but instead consist of some very basic but fascinating and often hair-raising descriptions of their experiences. Lewis's capacity for understatement often had me smiling:

These bear are a most tremenduous animal. It seems that the hand of providence has been most wonderfully in our favor with rispect to them, or some of us would long since have fallen a sacrifice to their farosity.

No kidding. Lewis himself was chased into a river by a grizzly. Incidentally, Lewis quickly became my favorite journalist of the two, as he was the most poetically inclined. Clark tended to be a bit less of a romantic but I was most impressed with their respect for each other and some of the incredibly wise decisions they made before even setting out on their trek. For one thing, Lewis and Clark decided to share the responsibility of leadership equally and planned to always leave one leader with the main party if another needed to accompany some of the expedition members on a hunting trip (or for other reasons). This seemed to reassure their men, as I'm sure their devoted friendship and decisive leadership did. Lewis and Clark also chose to keep their entire expedition together rather than send back some of the party as originally planned, once the Missouri River branched off. I believe it was Lewis that decided that particular choice may have saved them from attack by unfriendly Indians, as they neared the end of their return trip.

One of my favorite of Lewis's journal entries describes his regret over the years he's spent in "indolence" as he turned 31 and his resolution to live "for mankind" in the future. As if he wasn't in the midst of a great service. But, given the many bears and hostile Indians they encountered, as well as their numerous illnesses and injuries, it's conceivable that he thought it likely he wouldn't make it home.

Lewis and Clark were definitely a couple of Real Men. I really had no idea just how many challenges this expedition faced, and I suppose you can blame either an inattentiveness on my part or a lousy early education for that. Hard to say. Either way, this little book (a mere 203 pages in length) is nicely edited down to an uncluttered and exciting set of journal entries.
I would have sat up all night reading if I could have focused long enough. We're almost on an even keel, here, now that we've begun the third week of school, but I needed a few tolerable nights' sound repose and I haven't stayed up late reading. I'm sure I'll be back to normal, soon.

I'd say this is another 5/5. I would have stayed up if I could have, so it counts as if I did. Very exciting and fun stuff for the history buff (or the history stupid, such as myself).

Now reading:

Rainbow's End and other stories by John M. Floyd (totally cool guy, exceptional writer - I'm loving it, already - I *always* love John's stories)
The Cardinal Rule by Cate Dermody (spy romance, I guess you could call it)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Too Many Books

The cat should consider herself fortunate if she manages to locate a place to lie down.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith

I now see for myself what my father has maintained all along to be true. Native people may live in a different world from ours, but it is not an inferior one. I admit that I have been quick to condemn Joseph for what I have perceived to be his primitive beliefs, but he and his wife are not savages, as their detractors would have us believe . Or at least they are no more savage in their world than we are in ours.
Alexandria Bartram writes about sheltering from a storm in a tipi with the wife and children of a Crow Indian who has accompanied their expedition.

From the cover: "In the spring of 1898, A.E. (Alexandria) Bartram - a feisty young woman with a love for botany - is invited to join a field study to Yellowstone National Park. Its leader, a mild-mannered professor from Montana mistakenly assumes she is a man, and is less than pleased to discover the truth. Once the scientists overcome the shock of having a woman on their team, they forge ahead on a summer of adventure, forming an enlightening web of relationships as they move from Mammoth Hot Springs to a camp high in the backcountry. But as they make their way collecting amid Yellowstone’s pristine beauty - threatened even a century ago by misguided tourism - the group is splintered by differing views on science, nature, and economics.

This delightful epistolary novel captures an ever-fascinating era and charts one woman’s dramatic journey to a greater understanding of herself and her place in the world."

My thoughts: I loved this book! The characters were
believable, well-rounded individuals that I really cared about, the writing was convincing in style and historical detail and each character had a natural, easily distinguishable voice. I had tears in my eyes toward the end, as they were breaking camp. There are quiet moments during which the characters describe botanical life or scenery as well as some tense action. The death of one character's beloved pet had me grieving right along with him and at other moments I smiled and a couple of times laughed out loud. Excellent historical fiction.


Letters from Yellowstone was copyrighted in 1999 and I was hoping to find more by this author but haven't located anything at all. What a disappointment! Because the dominant protagonists frequently refer to the expedition of Lewis and Clark, I'm now reading The Essential Lewis and Clark, edited by Landon Y. Jones.

And, in other thoughts, I hope this blog hasn't become terribly dull along with its recent infrequency of posts. My eldest son was, shall we say, not so "involved" in high school as the youngster who has just begun 9th grade. I am stunned at how little time I have to myself, these days. My reading time has not only been shot to hell by all the taxiing; but, also, it's been so darned hot that when I'm sitting by the pool during swim team practice or in the car while waiting for band to end (with an umbrella propped up on my side-view mirror, as there are only two shady spots and I've opted to create my own shade rather than fight for a spot under one of the trees), I can't concentrate long enough to get anywhere on my reading.

Note to God or Mother Nature (or, maybe Tony the weather guy, if he has any influence): Send cool weather soon!!

Roasting Bookfool

Monday, August 14, 2006

How I Lost 5 Pounds in 6 Years by Tom Arnold

I like Tom Arnold as an actor and was in the mood for something light when I picked this book up. Normally, I avoid memoirs by famous people because I've found they tend to be either unbearably vain or just flat horrifying. Actors are, with few exceptions, people who crave attention; and, the same issues that lead them to desperately seek out an audience often also cause addictive behavior. You have to expect such things.

Apologies to my former-actor friend: I know you're one of the exceptions.

Tom Arnold is not an exception to the general rules (although I'd say he's less vain than most). He has a pretty horrifying childhood story to tell, involving poverty, abuse, neglect, abandonment and early addiction. The main difference is that he has a huge heart, desires little more than steady work and a solid family life, and his story is told with humor. He's a decent actor and a genuinely funny guy; and, I felt that he was pretty down-to-earth, as far as this type of memoir goes. We even decided to have a Tom Arnold weekend after I closed the book (although we only got as far as True Lies because it was just one of those weeks that required a good deal of weekend catch-up napping).

Admittedly, there was one point at which I came to understand one of the cover quotes:

"After reading Tom Arnold's most candid thoughts and feelings, I wanted to divorce him."
--Bill Maher

However, that point was a serious low point and Arnold pulled himself out of his rut, checked into rehab, tried diligently to work out his marital differences and eventually found a great wife (on the third try). His greatest desire is to have children and the book is written as if he were telling his life story to his own child. Last I heard, he and his wife were taking a break from trying to conceive after 5 in-vitro failures (as of late 2005, I believe); this book was copyrighted in 2002. I wish them the best of luck. He sounds like an okay guy. Just try to skim over the bit about that threesome and quietly dumping his then-wife from the trio to continue with the other female and you'll be fine, if star bios are your thing.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

The name "Bookfool" has been roughly synonymous with the term "goofball" for the past few days, I must say. This was partly due to the fact that my computer went through a nasty little crashing episode when it started behaving badly and the hubster stuck in a diagnostic disc. This naturally made the computer promptly go berserk, the screen go blank, and Windows utterly refuse to come out of a coma. Fortunately, that episode seems to have passed. Fingers crossed. I was having a rough week, anyway, so a computer crash and fatigue were my two best excuses for shutting out the world to read.

I finished Lauren Willig's first novel, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on Friday night, late (too late, really), while the computer was sputtering and the husband swearing mildly. I really should have been sleeping, but that's beside the point. The real point is probably that I reached that, "abandon or finish" stage that you sometimes arrive at in a book you're a bit iffy about. And, I have very mixed feelings about The Secret History, etc.

The book starts off with a modern Ph.D. candidate, Eloise, researching the story of the "Pink Carnation", the third in a [fictional] trio of spies that include the well-known Scarlet Pimpernel and the "Purple Gentian" - which I believe is also a Willig creation. I've read the additional material and promptly forgot that bit. Eloise's story, set in London, has a chick-lit tone, silly and light but with a definite ring of truth. And, of course, it turns out the author used her year in England and even her own Bayswater basement flat for a portion of the setting. That didn't surprise me, as it was obvious that Willig had experienced the crush of the London Underground. Moving right along . . .

When Eloise is allowed access to a chest full of papers, the story promptly reverts to the Napoleonic time period in which the story of the Pink Carnation takes place. Shortly after the switch in perspective, I considered ditching the book. The story is interesting, but it maintains a chick lit "feel" - light and silly - and, even worse, the language doesn't sound formal enough to fit the time period.

But, whatever. I decided I was going to continue and I did. Still dragging around page 100, I opted to become a total bum and do pretty much nothing but read. So, I finished it rather rapidly after three days of painfully slow progress. I never fell in love with the book, but I found that the story had some interesting twists and I was annoyed to find myself surprised by the identity of the Pink Carnation. Eloise's modern-day scenes occasional interrupt the Napoleonic storyline, but they seemed to be very well placed.

Apart from a weird mix of modern wit and iffy dialogue, historical accuracy that I can't question because the author is well-educated in history and I am not, and some pretty decent adventure and espionage, the book was (in my humble opinion) seriously marred by the romantic scenes. Of course, I don't like reading sex scenes, anyway, because I've always figured I have a decent enough imagination and don't really need such things spelled out. I'd much rather an author tippy-toed around sex. But, still . . . really. Yuck. Not my thing.

Fortunately, one ridiculous bit of sexual tension that went too far between hero and heroine had a hilarious ending. That helped make the scene tolerable. And, in the end, I was surprised to find that I really kind of wanted to read the next novel in the "series", in order to follow on with the characters. That honestly surprised me. Improbable dialogue notwithstanding, Willig did apparently hook me sufficiently, once I stopped doing everything else. My favorite quote:

"You shouldn't take heaven's name in vain, missy. You might want to go there, someday."

Using my new rating guide, I'd say this book is a 2.5/5 because the dialogue and sexual tension (or more graphic sex scenes) were pretty annoying. But, for entertainment value, it seems like I should rate it a bit higher. And, yet, I considered abandoning the book numerous times. See, I told you I had mixed feelings. I'm going to stick with my ratings system and just say I do think the book was plotted quite well and had some very fun and exciting moments. It's definitely not for those who like a more serious historical read and dislike chick lit.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Predict a Slow Reading Week

Today was kiddo's first day back in school - this time 9th grade - and a frantic one at the last minute because he didn't receive his homeroom assignment until the 11th hour (yesterday afternoon, in the mail, after a last-minute desperation call yielded the news that if he didn't get his homeroom assignment it would be posted on the main building door and no, they couldn't tell me over the phone). Schedules weren't handed out till the kids *arrived* in their homeroom classes. His schedule is a disaster. We went through the same chaos every year when the eldest was in high school. I'd forgotten, probably because it was so horrible I mentally blocked the experience.

So, having gotten the kiddo off to school I updated my vacation blog, did a little laundry, turned on some music, sang loudly and then danced like a dork. I can get away with such things when I'm alone. I had fun for roughly two hours. Then, off to run errands.

Here's where the day really began to suck. First, errands that dragged on in a way they shouldn't for reasons not worth elaborating upon. Then, an hour in the crowded, treeless parking lot from hell in 105+ heat index, followed by the news that the schedule was a total mess and kiddo had missed the first swim meeting at the pool.

We arrived home at 4:00; school allegedly dismisses at 2:40 p.m. and it's maybe a 5 minute drive, at best. Just inside the door, I realized that I'd been wearing my shorts inside-out all day long. I did a mental tally of all the places I went with a tag and seams showing on my behind - Walmart, the rescue mission, my friend's photo shop. Just shoot me.

Shortly after, the kiddo handed me a pile of incomprehensible forms. One says, "Circle this number if your child is being transported." Okay, aren't they all transported to school? Do we mean by bus, car, or beamed down from the Enterprise? They asked for the starting date of transport. I wrote in, "Car rider from day 1." I was thinking about Andi of "Tripping Toward Lucidity" (see blog link at left) and her recent desire to find a rooftop and a machine gun. There are days you can understand the maniacs.

I cleaned up the kitchen, ran the disposal and got the clunk-clunk-clunk that means something hard isn't going down. The spouse had put ribs down the drain. It's 9:20 p.m. and I've spent the entire evening filling out forms, translating gibberish, undoing disasters, writing checks for fees and band sweatshirt and blah, blah, blah and realizing that every single damned evening is filled up - even Saturday offers no escape; there's a pep rally that youngest must attend. The only redeeming feature of the entire evening was the hummingbird visit in our derelict kitchen garden (currently going fallow, I believe is the nice way to put it) as I sat at the table. He was green and he loved our weeds. Nice birdy.

Best book news of the day:

Two books arrived - one an autographed copy of my buddy's book, not yet released: Rainbow's End by John Floyd. I'll review that when I get to it and then post a blaring red notice when it's published. John is cool. You'd like John.
The other book was sent by a book list friend. I'm too tired to look up the title but it's a memoir by Jancee Dunn. I think that's right. It looks fun. Fun is good.

Current read is The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I hope to read a chapter or two after scrubbing the kiddo's tub and soaking in it because . . . you've got it . . . some little microscopic thingy broke in the drain of the master bathroom after I dropped a bowl and the glass shattered everywhere, just after we made it home alive and proved the hubster still has decent reflexes when a deer jumped in front of the car last night and . . . I could go on. My life is bananas. I need a sedative or an hour in a fat leather chair with my book. Either would do.

May your days be full of books and free of hassle.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sausage Dogs by Smith and a Rough Weekend

This was a rough weekend, with a bit of food poisoning (apparently - I'm still in pain but it wasn't the worst I've been through) and a lot of busy work emptying a dresser to send back with my eldest to his apartment, all of which ate into reading time. Even The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, a tiny book at a mere 128 light-hearted pages, took me three evenings of reading because I never sat down to read for any lengthy stretch. So, I'll do my best to review it but I'm not sure I was "all there" while I was reading.

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs is my second Alexander McCall Smith book. Oddly, it took me a long time to get around to reading the book that launched Mr. Smith's career as a novelist because our library has his books filed by "McCall," not "Smith" in spite of the fact that the names are not hyphenated. Eye-rolling moment. But, okay, I did read The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and enjoyed it immensely. However, I'm one of those readers who require variety and I couldn't get into the second in that series. In fact, I still don't really feel like reading another Precious Ramotswe book.

I chose the third in the Professor Dr. von Igelfeld series, rather than the first, merely because a review of this particular title by one of the members of my book group--who has similar taste to mine--was extremely positive. Plus, it passed my so-called Flip Test, in which I flip through a book and read various passages. If I want to keep reading, the book passes. If I read a portion in the middle of a book and it bores me to the point that I find myself looking away, forget it. It may sound strange, but the concept works. Often, the books I end up disliking are the ones I don't bother to flip through or those which have flunked the flip test (but, inexplicably, then I bought or checked them out, anyway - I'm not necessarily always logical).

So, you may wonder if it was troublesome beginning with the third in a series of books. The answer is "no". I am not, in general, disturbed by reading a series out of order but I've done so enough to realize that some authors handle turning each series book into a novel that can stand on its own better than others. Mr. Smith did fine. While there was no preamble to explain the characters and their past experiences, I thought Professor Dr. von Igelfeld and his cohorts were easily and quickly distinguishable. There was only one instance in which I confused two of von Igelfeld's associates and needed to flip back to remind myself who was whom. That's good; two points for clarity.

The story itself is not entirely about the unfortunate incident during which von Igelfeld is mistaken for a veterinarian with dire results to the sausage dog of the book's title, but about von Igelfeld himself. A rather arrogant professor of languages who travels extensively, von Igelfeld is a bit of a doofus in spite of his intelligence - one of those really smart stupid people you hear about: loads of brains, little common sense. So, Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets himself into a lot of tangles. What I love about this character is his ability to admit that he's screwed up. He may be haughty, in general, but the character knows how to humble himself when he's done something horribly wrong; and, therein lies his charm.

I will definitely go back and read the first two in the series and, therefore, I'd rate the book a 4/5 - one point off for slight annoyance when von Igelfeld looks down his nose at everyone else; I do find his superiority a bit off-putting, at times. But, otherwise the book is engaging and fun. Von Igelfeld is a character who is deliberately over-the-top and who is prone to some very seriously ridiculous, smile-inducing blunders. The writing is consistent and Sausage Dogs would have been a quick read had I been all there, rather than taking brief and, often, interrupted reading breaks. My only other complaint would have to be the lack of translations for the occasional comment in Latin, Portuguese or some other language. Not all of us are linguists, after all, and I found that severe stomach pain and the urge to look something up on Babel Fish simply don't mesh.

4/5 - entertaining, smile-inducing, well-written and with only the occasional minor irritation; not conducive to Babel translations on a bad day.

I have no idea what I'm going to read next. Last week, I spent a few days working on one of those someone-shot-at-the-president conspiracy theory fictions; I picked up Sausage Dogs when the many over-the-top evil government characters in high places became tiresome. In fact, I can't even remember the name of the book. And, I'm not going to look. I think, instead, I'll lie down and hope I can sleep off a tummy ache.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression was sent to me by a friend in one of my online book groups after I commented that I've wanted to read it for quite some time. Having gone through a lengthy bout of postpartum depression without much support, even after many years I was anxious to read about someone else's experience.

I was not disappointed. Although Brooke Shields dealt with some very different challenges from the average new mother, her experience - particularly the thoughts that ran through her head - strongly echoed my own feelings after the birth of my first child and the kind of brush-off comment ("It's just the baby blues; you'll snap out of it") that she describes as common was exactly what I heard from every angle.

While it's been a very long time since my own bout of postpartum blues, the book was still a comforting read. It was particularly encouraging to finally realize that I wasn't the only new mother in the world to look at her newborn and think, "Could someone just take this alien back?"

Down Came the Rain is also a quick and fluid read. Shields is unflinchingly honest about the feelings she experienced and closes by strongly advising women dealing with postpartum depression to get help immediately, even adding a couple of hotline numbers and a list of books and websites. This is a wonderful, open and encouraging personal account that will undoubtedly help a lot of people and, hopefully, lead to greater awareness and understanding of the condition (if it hasn't already) and increased ease of early intervention. Huge thumbs up to Brooke and someone get a gag for that Cruise guy; his careless comment is exactly what struggling new mothers *don't* need to hear.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Promise Me by Harlan Coben

What a total Bookfoolish Bum I was, today! After whining about not finding the time to read yesterday, I pretty much did nothing *but*, all afternoon, in spite of a bang your head against the wall, pounding migraine. Of course, it was because of Harlan Coben's consummate skill at sucking a reader in and keeping her transfixed. With Coben's trademark combination of both suspense and humor in top form, this Bookfool couldn't put the darned book down for more than a few minutes at a time. And, most of those breaks were spent peeking at a snoring son who very nicely napped right till the book was closed and set aside.

Promise Me marks the return of Myron Bolitar after a lengthy break during which Coben switched to stand-alone suspense novels. And, what a whopping fine reappearance of a beloved cast of characters. Not only did Coben keep this reader guessing till the end (which has become more rare with every mystery or suspense I read - okay, I did figure out at least one critical detail but it wasn't enough to ruin the book), but his characters were also at their witty, fun-loving best.

From the cover: Myron Bolitar has known Aimee Biel since she was a little girl. Her mother was one of his best friends in high school. So when he overhears Aimee and her friend talking about getting in a car with a drunk driver, Myron's protective instinct kicks in. He asks the teenagers to call him if they're ever in a bind--no questions asked. His offer seems harmless enough, but even the best intentions can sometimes go horribly wrong.

A few days later a frantic Aimee calls him at 2 a.m. and asks him to pick her up at a deserted street corner in Midtown Manhattan. Myron does and then drops her off at what Aimee claims is a friend's house . . . but he doesn't see her go inside. Now Aimee is missing and Myron is in a critical situation. Can he find this vulnerable girl before her parents and the police turn their sights on him?

The cover blurb isn't entirely accurate, as the police take interest right at the outset and Myron has to do a little quick talking with the help of his friend, Win, to get himself out of a bind. But, nevermind. Until Penguin comes knocking at my door to beg me to write cover blurbs, we'll just have to live with the occasional slightly misleading blurb. The book was excellent and the pages flew. This one's a 5/5, a two thumbs up, rollercoaster ride. Go for it.

Next up: Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields.

Currently reading

I started reading Promise Me almost immediately after I put down Turtle Moon. Unfortunately, things are getting in the way and I'm only halfway through the book. It's excellent, so far; life just keeps interferring.

Things that are currently interrupting my reading time:
1. Kiddo getting ready for school (which begins next Tues.)
2. The Mom Taxi Service to swim and band practice.
3. Post-flood clean-up, particularly clutter removal that I should have done years ago.
4. Brain-draining fatigue.

I'm hoping August will be a much better reading month than July.

Happy Reading!