Monday, December 31, 2007

Books Read in 2007 (incomplete)

This year's books go through part of November. When I locate further records, I'll update.

1. Finders Keepers - Linnea Sinclair
2. Slightly Psychic - Sandra Steffen
3. The Nazi Officer's Wife - Edith Hahn Beer
4. The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
5. The Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene
6. Once Upon a Time - Gloria Vanderbilt
7. The Rest Falls Away - Colleen Gleason
8. Crispin - Avi
9. God is an Englishman - R. F. Delderfield
10. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane

11. The African Queen - C. S. Forester
12. The Captain and the Enemy - Graham Greene
13. Firehouse - David Halberstam
14. Alice in Wonderland, etc. - Lewis Carroll
15. In the Presence of Mine Enemies - Harold Rutledge
16. Tangerine - Edward Bloor
17. First Light - Geoffrey Wellum
18. Stormbreaker - Anthony Horowitz
19. Someone Like You - Sarah Dessen

20. The Grizzly Maze - Nick Jans
21. To Hell and Back - Audie Murphy
22. That Summer - Sarah Dessen
23. Coffee, Tea or Me? - Baker and Jones
24. Chocolat - Joanne Harris
25. The Broken Shore - Peter Temple
26. The Sound of Waves - Yukio Mishima

27. The Moon on a Stick - Valerie-Anne Baglietto
28. In the Cut - Susannah Moore
29. 20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill
30. The Sex Lives of Cannibals - J. Maarten Troost
31. Start Late, Finish Rich - David Bach
32. Don't Kiss Them Goodbye - Allison DuBois
33. Earthly Joys - Philippa Gregory
34. The Secret Lives of People in Love - Simon Van Booy
35. The Ladies of grace Adieu - Susannah Clarke

36. Rises the Night - Colleen Gleason
37. A Spoonful of Humor - Henry L. Lefevre
38. Foreign Fruit - Jojo Moyes
39. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo - Capt. Ted W. Lawson
40. Open and Shut - David Rosenfelt
41. We Are All Fine Here - Mary Guterson
42. Prescription for Adventure - Naomi Gaede-Penner
43. Pressed Pennies - Steven Manchester
44. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
45. The Pearl Diver - Sujata Massey
46. What I Believe - Norma Fox Mazer

47. The God of Animals - Aryn Kyle
48. Kathy Little Bird - Nancy & Ben Freedman
49. Whose Number is Up, Anyway - Stevi Mittman
50. The Official Guide to Christmas in the South - David C. Barnette
51. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
52. Held at a Distance - Rebecca Haile
53. Dedication - McLaughlin & Kraus

54. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name - Heather Lende
55. Love, Ruby Lavender - Debora Wiles
56. Susannah Morrow - Megan Chance
57. Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy - Lindsay Moran
58. While I Live - John Marsden
59. Angels of a Lower Flight - Susie Scott Krabacher
60. The Ocean in the Closet - Yuko Taniguchi
61. Hurricane - Karen Harper
62. Necklace of Kisses - Francesca Lia Block
63. Consider This, Senora - Harriet Doerr
64. Ticket to Tomorrow - Carol Cox
65. February Flowers - Fan Wu

66. Taking the Plunge - Stacie Lewis
67. Lesley Castle - Jane Austen
68. Truth or Dare - Melanie Atkins
69. The Case of the Missing Books - Ian Sansom
70. Life's a Beach - Claire Cook
71. Voyage - Adele Geras
72. Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller
73. Everyman - Philip Roth
74. Blizzard - George Stone
75. Fever, 1793 - Laurie Halse Anderson
76. Monkey Love - Brenda Scott Royce
77. Life on the Refrigerator - Alice Kuipers

78. God is My Co-Pilot - Col. Robert L. Scott
79. Dying in Style - Elaine Viets
80. Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen
81. Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank
82. Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin
83. Raising Ourselves: A Gwich'in Coming of Age Story - Velma Wallis
84. Mum's the Word - Kate Collins
85. Lottery - Patricia Wood
86. A Girl Named Zippy - Haven Kimmel
87. She Got Up Off the Couch - Haven Kimmel

88. The Collection - Gioia Diliberto
89. Ghost Walk - Heather Graham
90. Twisted - Laurie Halse Anderson
91. Ghost Eye - Marion Dane Bauer
92. The Poseidon Adventure - Paul Gallico
93. The Accidental Mother - Rowan Coleman
94. Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs - Morton A. Myers, M. D.
95. M is for Magic - Neil Gaiman
96. Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
97. The House on the Strand - Daphne DuMaurier
98. A Break with Charity - Ann Rinaldi

99. A Vision of Murder - Victoria Laurie
100. Silence of the Songbirds - Bridget Stutchbury

Happy New Year!

I was hoping to try to make it look like explosives were coming out of the hot pepper jar, but then I realized I don't have any kind of program that allows me to tinker on this computer. Darn. So, you get poppets looking at what I can only assume is explosively hot pepper. I don't know because I don't eat it. Note that I've got my new Christmas poppet in this photo. Left to right are Nicola (aka Nikky), Simone, Molly and Poppet (who has informed me that she would like to be called "Poppy"). I snapped this photo at the Nichols Hills Hideaway Pizza restaurant, here in Oklahoma, before ditching my camera, again. A camera is just one thing too many to deal with in a hospital, and there's not much to photograph, anyway. Sad, but true.

Here are the girls with the pizza. Can you say, "Oh, my gosh, talk about a way to shove yourself into New Year's Diet Mode?" Gah. It was soooo good. Definitely look up Hideaway Pizza, if you find yourself in my home state. No wonder I hated leaving.

New exercise plan (aka, "Sneaky Hawaiian Photo Moment"):

Seriously, it looked fun. I probably should have jumped up when they gave lessons, but I'm just a wee bit too shy for that.

Wishing all of my blog buddies a Happy 2008, full of great books, terrific pizza, peak health and excellent booty-shaking opportunities (with or without grass and coconuts in the exercise wardrobe).

Bookfool, about to go on a book- and food- diet (wish me luck)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wahoo . . . oops, Friday

Busy week, anyone? I hope it's been a good one. I'm a little behind, here, but it's time to wahoo. I feel wahooey.

The photo above is an example of wahoo #1. I still close my eyes, now and then, to transport myself back to Hawaii. There's a lot to wahoo about in Hawaii, but . . .

1. Wahoo for sunshine and rainbows, wherever they may be.

2. Shopping!!!!! Wahoo for shopping! No pics, but I had a little fun doing some post-Christmas shopping, yesterday. I'm particularly fond of my new scarf. I'm in Oklahoma City (my mother is back in the hospital, but she's doing great) and Aeropostale at Penn Square Mall, just down the road, was having a terrific after-Christmas sale. When I got to the cash register with my purchases, I noticed a mannequin waaaaaay up high. And, it was wearing the cutest darned scarf. I asked if it was the only one in the store and the clerk told me, "Yes, but it's 70% off and I have this nice, tall guy, here." She pointed at a lanky fellow standing behind her and I said, "Okay. Send him up." He climbed up the counter like a monkey and tossed the scarf down. So, let's just add . . .

3. Wahoo for tall dudes. I married a guy who has 9" on me. He can be very handy, at times.

4. Back to Hawaii. We may keep Hawaii going on this blog, for a while. Wahoo for dophins:

What is it about dolphins that makes them look so friendly? These two are spinner dolphins spotted during our morning of snorkeling. They weren't in the mood to hang out with us, but I still thought they looked like they were smiling. Dolphins look very wahooey.

5. Wahoo for cheap laptops. The signal here is sometimes a little hinky - they claim it has to do with trouble following the recent ice storm, but it's a lifesaver. At least I can usually check my email before I get kicked off. That's a happy thing, isn't it?

6. Wahoo for the upbeat, kind and very professional medical practitioners who spent their Christmas holidays taking care of people.


7. Wahoo for the folks who took time out of their own Christmas Day to brighten up Christmas in the hospital. There were two women and a young girl with a box full of tiny Christmas bags full of candy, handing them out to visitors and wishing them a Merry Christmas on Tuesday. What a lovely upper and a tremendously kind thing to do!

I'll try to wahoo on a Wednesday, next week, but I just never know when I'll have the time or the connection, these days. A new year is coming, soon! And, I don't have to listen to fireworks on New Year's Eve, this year. Well, wahoo for that. Not into explosives. I'm just not.

Hope everyone had a terrific Christmas. Reading has been nil, here - I just finished one Christmas romance that didn't thrill me. What are you reading?

Smiles all around!


Friday, December 21, 2007

A book I finished in Hawaii and the newest addition to my poppet family

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
by Harriet Jacobs
This edition: copyright 2001, Dover
Orig. published in 1861
176 pp.

Can't find my copy amongst the refuse of my recent travels, so no quotes . . . but there was a great deal worth quoting as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is an astounding memoir that offers a shockingly truthful peek into the world of slavery in the United States during the 19th century.

Harriet Jacobs lived a comfortable life, for a slave. She was a household servant whose grandmother lived as a free woman, yet was unable to save her own children and grandchildren from slavery. Jacobs was never whipped as punishment, which was rare. At times, she was able to find protection in the home of her grandmother, who had a thriving baking business. However, Harriet's life was terrifying in many ways. The moment she turned 15, her young "owner's" father, a physician, began to hound her to submit to him.

Jacobs described the relationship between slaves and their part-white offspring -- the "mulatto" children who followed their mothers into slavery, angered wives of slave owners by their very existence and were tucked away or sold away from their families as embarrassments. Jacobs herself had white blood and some relatives of hers were so fair-skinned that they were indistinguishable from whites, yet their color didn't help them in any way and they remained in slavery. Unwilling to give her body under pressure to the master of the household, as others had, and angered into showing the doctor what she thought via her actions, Jacobs avoided his dogged pursuit but had an affair with another white man of stature and gave birth to two of his children.

As Harriet Jacobs' refusals became more adamant, the doctor's methods to lure her into a trap grew sneakier, his jealous wife became more dangerous, and the threat of having her children sold to slave traders loomed. In order to save her children and herself, Jacobs arranged help from her grandmother and the father of her children, escaped and hid in a tiny garret room over her grandmother's storage room for seven years. Seven years of living in a tiny room in which she could not even stand, endured deadly illness and torturous cold or heat, and was able to watch her children but not speak to them or touch them ended when a friend located a sympathetic ship captain and obtained passage for her and another escaped slave.

Years of hard work and terror in New York -- as she was a known escapee doggedly pursued by the vindictive doctor -- finally ended when a kind employer purchased Jacobs, against her wishes, and set her free. Eventually, Jacobs was able to reunite with her children and lived a long life.

What I loved about this book: The raw honesty and sheer terror of Jacobs' story gave the book a part-horror/part-adventure feel. It is truly an amazing and absorbing narrative. The fact that Harriet Jacobs was taught to read as a child made the book particularly fascinating as it must have been doubly hard for an intelligent, well-read and hard-working woman who was dedicated to her children and understood the truth about slavery to exist in that world. And, indeed, it was part luck but mostly sheer determination and clever plotting that enabled her to eventually escape and remain free.

It's hard to fathom a time in which one could not disappear in New York City but instead was forced to go into hiding when people from the South who might recognize an escaped slave arrived in town, but that was the case. I looked online and discovered that the population of NYC was around 800,000 in 1860. That seems large to me, living as I do in a town with a population around 50,000; but in a time when few people of African descent lived in the area, it was apparently quite difficult to avoid being tracked down by a determined slave owner and easy enough to be spotted by visitors from the South. So, Jacobs' days of fear were far from over when she arrived in the North and obtained a job.

I began reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl when I discovered it online and began to receive it by email from Daily Lit (which has changed dramatically in a year - excerpts are now available to purchase; not everything is free). I'm not sure how many installments I read, but reading off a screen has never been something I enjoy doing and I decided to just look for a hard copy of the book, after a time. I just recently located a copy in the museum shop of our local military park for a very reasonable $3.50 and snatched it up before leaving town. Highly recommended but be forewarned: it's not a pretty story.

Eagle-eyed Bonnie noticed the photo, above, which is also in my sidebar. Yes, I now have two purple poppets. While packing for our trip to Hawaii, I hunted for my little red poppet, Poppet (very clever name, eh?) and mistakenly grabbed the bag containing my spare poppet, whom I'd intended to save for future gift-giving. Well, you don't carry a poppet all the way to Hawaii and then just leave her in the bottom of your purse. That would be cruel! So, I had to take her out and name her. The word "Mahalo" is not a name -- it is a show of gratitude, the Hawaiian way of saying "thanks" or showing appreciation or respect -- but I considered several names and decided I liked Mahalo as a name. It's representative of something I heard frequently and which will always bring back fond memories of the trip. I'm calling Mahalo "Molly", which also gives her the distinction of being the only poppet I own who has been bestowed with a nickname. Lucky Molly. Left to right are Molly, Simone and Violet.

I've also recently purchased a green Christmas poppet, but she is, as yet, nameless (and in hiding). I hope to remember to pack her in the suitcase, this next go-around. I am profoundly tired of packing and unpacking. How on earth do million-milers like my husband tolerate it? Oh, yeah, they leave the suitcase in the car and make the wife unpack. I forgot.

Hawaii pic of the day (although that photo of the girls was taken on our bedside table in the hotel, so it was also taken in Hawaii). Just when you think you've got the lagoon all to yourself, along comes some nut with a camera:

Awwwww, how sweet! If you know this couple, feel free to pass this photo on to them.

Bookfool, who can still feel the trade winds when she closes her eyes

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge

Andi and Heather have come up with a flexible list of intimidating books for the "My Year of Reading Dangerously" Challenge. Since I've decided I'm truly meant to be a fickle reader and dislike lists, this is the only challenge I plan to participate in during the year of 2008. I'm making some substitutions because I also plan to read only from my TBR stacks - no buying in 2008. And, you believe I'll last an entire year without purchasing a book, right? Well, actually, there are some qualifications to that little personal goal, but we'll save that for another time.

The Twelve "Official" Novels by month and My Substitutions:

January: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens --- A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens

February: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison --- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami

March: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood --- The Blind Assassin or Oryx and Crake by

April: Transformations by Anne Sexton (Poetry) --- Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems ed. by Nathaniel Tarn or Passions and Impressions by Pablo Neruda

May: Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote --- The Secret History by Donna Tartt

June: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov --- yep, I've been wanting to read Lolita for years.

July: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier --- The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

August: Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman --- Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

September: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy --- there's no substitute for this one; I'll reread it.

October: The Human Stain by Philip Roth ---
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

November: A Month of Classic Short Stories, Various --- cool by me.

December: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck --- East of Eden or Of Mice and Men

Subject to change at my whims, as always, but I'm pretty happy with this list. I've already read Great Expectations (loved it!) and The Grapes of Wrath (not as terrifying as expected, actually). It's possible that I have a copy of Cat's Eye, but my husband has buried the room in which my pile of Atwoods resides, so I just don't know. Most of my choices are books that have been languishing on the shelves, either scaring the tar out of me or just in need of a reading; I
don't always know why I put off the reading of a particular book. Simon's book, of course, is just so brilliant, moving and infinitely quotable that there's simply no substitute.

I think the biggest obstacle to this challenge will be making sure that I pack the right books in my suitcase. Wish me luck on that. If I leave a book behind, though, I've got some others I stashed at my mother's house. Of those, the most intimidating is the set of two volumes of The Forsyte Saga. Oooooh, scary.

Hawaii pic of the day:

Wishing everyone a calm and safe weekend!

Bookfool, who finally put a mini Christmas tree out on the table (but there's not much under it)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The weirdness of Bookfool, a meme

I was tagged for this meme by Joemmama at Life Happens While Books are Waiting. Weird? Me? I had to think about it, even though I know there's plenty of weirdness about me (but I'm used to my personal weirdness level). I've added my husband's opinion to a few of these, just for grins. He's sitting here laughing at me.

7 Weird Things About Me:

1- I am a creature of habit living in a house of chaos. My husband thinks I'm obsessive-compulsive. Personally, I think OCD is a "condition" created by drug companies for the sake of selling lifestyle prescriptions, but that's just me. The gist of it is that I believe there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. So, I put my keys in the same location every time I walk in the door and my phone in the same slot in my purse and I must read before bed every night or I will surely die, etc. So, when something of mine turns up missing, I go completely ballistic. I know where it should be! But, I live with an absent-minded professor type and my home is bizarrely chaotic, in spite of my efforts. C'est la vie.

2- I have a high musical aptitude and play 4 instruments. But, I've never bothered to become skilled at any of them (although I was a pretty good flute player, way back when). That's just weird. I've always figured it's crazy to let a talent languish. Husband's opinion: "That's not weird; it's just lazy."

3- I spent one summer (as a teenager) completely addicted to soap operas and have been disinterested in television, ever since - to the point that I often forget to tune in, even when I like a show (like House, M.D.). I watched 5 hours' worth of soaps, every day, that particular summer; but, by the time school resumed I'd come to the realization that I hated "cliffhanger" endings. I love movies, though, as it seems to me that they tell a complete story in a way that television does not.

4- I didn't want to go to Hawaii; I wanted to stay home and do housework. Honest. But, I don't consider that completely weird, as my husband trashed the place while I was in Oklahoma and, knowing I have limited time before I have to return to OK, I just wanted to make the house livable. Husband's opinion: "Yep, that's weird, all right."

5- When I bought placemats for our new table, I got an extra one for the cat. They're plastic and wipe clean easily. It makes sense; she's a really messy eater. Husband's opinion: "Now you're really getting into the weird stuff."

6- I am completely unable to put my own needs ahead of those of my husband or children, to the point that I'm perpetually miserable and feel like I've wasted 25 years of my life. However, I'm an optimist and constantly look for the bright side of everything. And, I keep telling myself things will improve. Weird. Husband's opinion: "That's just sad."

7- I can't stop buying books, even though we're all tripping over them. And, I think hamburger is disgusting. And, I think it makes no logical sense to believe in a story that sounds like every other myth created by cultures that go back to the dawn of time, yet I still believe in Christ and am absolutely, firmly convinced there's a higher power. And, I think it's perfectly reasonable to "quote" my poppets. And, I can't stand the ridiculous, shiny-white perfection of all those movie stars' teeth. And, and, and . . . I could, unfortunately, probably go on all day. Darn. I'm weird.

All together, now: Ooooh. Aaaaah. (And, an anticipated comment from Mom: "Oh, my gosh, you're going to blind yourself.")

This is a busy time of year, so I'm going to go for the lazy and kind option, again - if you're interested in doing the weird meme, you've officially been tagged. Go for it.

Bookfool, off to fight the clutter

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry and Aloha (that's a hint)

I thought I'd be able to post while we were on vacation, last week, but I was only able to get on briefly (like, half an hour) the whole week. We were in a very wahooey place:

Hubby had a conference in Honolulu and I tagged along! Very fun. We had a terrific week and I took something on the order of 1500 photos, although a lot of those will be thrown out because I bracketed, quite a bit, to get the lighting right. Here's one of the places I sat, trying to read:

The view was incredibly distracting, however, and I hardly read at all. I finished two books: Leftovers by Laura Weiss (an ARC from Simon & Schuster - read on the flight to Hawaii) and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (which I read part of via Daily Lit and then bought at our local military park's museum shop). More on those, later. I purchased exactly one book, while in Hawaii: A Hawaiian Reader, Vol. 1, Ed. by A. Grove Day and Carl Stroven. So far, I'm enjoying it immensely. The book consists of an excellent variety of literary narratives about experiences in Hawaii - in chronological order, beginning with Captain Cook's discovery of what he then "named" the Sandwich Islands (although they already had native names). I'll try to get that into my sidebar, soon.

I will have to return to Oklahoma, soon, but I hope to get my mother's home set up with DSL on this next trip. Wish me luck. I've got my mother's computer upgraded from Windows 98 (and a monitor that probably weighed 50 pounds) to Windows XP and a flat-screen monitor, thanks to my lovely and generous in-laws, who allowed me to set up their old computer in my mother's home. However, the computer was missing a driver and I failed to get the DSL installed. So, that's the next trick I've got to pull off.

Here's the Christmas tree in our hotel lobby:

Note the blue lights in the shape of a waterfall, on the right side of the tree. Gorgeous!

Aloha! More to come soon, I hope. Mahalo for your patience and Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) to all!

Bookfool, back to the daily slog

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Tale of the Psychic Dreamer, a Book I Bought the Kiddo and My Wahoo is Broken

First, the book. I bought kiddo several books for his 16th birthday (he turned 16, today) and he was happy with all of them but this was my personal favorite find, Undercover Cat. While browsing at an Oklahoma bookstore that carries used books, I came across this book and thought, "Wow, that sounds like That Darn Cat." Then, I saw the little blurb that said it was soon to be made into a motion picture by Disney. Aha! Definitely the book that came first. It was only $2.95 and kiddo was thrilled. What more could a booklover ask for than a son who becomes overjoyed when Mom brings home a little box of books for his birthday? Uber cool.

So, I guess that's a big wahoo, isn't it? I just could not get up the energy to do a wahoo post, this week, and have gotten to the point that I think My Wahoo is Broken. But, it could be that I just don't feel much like posting. It's been a long month. Still, there is much to be grateful for. Eldest is now completely finished with his undergraduate work and in the process of moving his possessions to Memphis. But, he also has added to his Stupid Eldest Tricks by getting a credit card. Oh, son, did none of that Dave Ramsey stuff we pounded in your head get through? We are working hard at shutting off the parental control switch. He will hear the words, "There will not be a rescue if you get yourself into debt," repeatedly, in the coming months. That much I know.

And, on to The Tale of the Psychic Dreamer. Just a little chunk of mod fabric for a "WooooOooo" effect:

This is a Hanging Out at Burger King story. You've really got to love those gathering places with wireless internet access. People talk loudly on cell phones and their laptop screens are in plain view. And, sometimes they're so lonely that they see you playing on your computer and use it as an opener for conversation. That was the case with The Psychic Dreamer. An older fellow, silver-haired and very lonely ("Most of the managers from Pipeline Accounting are dead!" he said, and I realized that was why he was talking to me - the people he was friends with at our former workplace weren't around, anymore), he was a regular at Burger King and spoke to whoever happened to be nearby.

When I first met him, The Psychic Dreamer (TSD) and I chatted about the hostile takeover attempt of Conoco, Inc. by Seagrams, back in the 1980's, and how we'd both been working in one of the two "towers" that were then fairly new. TSD told me that space was now being rented out and that he had a dream that he was standing on top of the North Tower, looking at the tank field, nearby. The towers, he said, had been turned into apartment complexes in his dream. "I have psychic dreams," he said with a casual wave of his hand. "So, someday . . . "

Of course, you guys know I've had dreams that turned up in the news, later on, right? So, now I know just how weird that sounds.

Bookwise: I've meant to do a massive books-read post, but haven't gotten around to it. And, I was having rather a crap reading week. So, today, I decided to just spend some extra time on the futon and I managed to finish a book that never even made it into my sidebar: Time Windows by Kathryn Reiss. This one's a big thumbs-up for folks who like time travel and young adult books. Time Windows is the story of an 8th grader, Miranda, who moves from a New York City apartment to a sprawling, 150-year-old house in New Hampshire and discovers that she can see into the past when she looks through the windows of a dollhouse (an exact replica of the house she's living in). As Miranda watches scenes from the house's dark past, she realizes that the same events are being replayed through the women who inhabit the house - including her mother.

Time Windows would have been a great choice for the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge and was perfect for a light, but suspenseful morning of reading.

I've just begun reading an ARC from Simon & Schuster: Leftovers by Laura Weiss. I'm finding it a tad annoying, so far. We'll see. Still also reading Night Train and plan to get back to The Worst Noel, which started out funny and turned toward depressing, so I've set it aside.

Off to bed I go. Hope everyone had a terrific week!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Some news and the juicy, upside-down turkey

Squirrel chose pecans. There are people who object to that choice, but we won't go there, today.

News, first! I completely missed the release date of the latest issue of Estella's Revenge (wahoo! for Estella) since I was on the road, but the December issue is available for your perusal. It's shorter than usual, perfect for the hectic month of December (at least, it's hectic for some people - not usually so much for us).

And, the ever-delightful and extremely erudite Simon Van Booy is leading a writer's retreat in a redwood forest in May of 2008. He still had some opening slots, as of Friday. Then, I hit the road. You already knew that, though. You can view the information about Simon's workshop (in pdf), here. I wish I could go. I'm tremendously fond of a redwood, you know, and I have no doubt that Simon is an awesome teacher. And, by the way, if you haven't read his book, The Secret Lives of People in Love, you should definitely ask for a copy for Christmas. It's fantabulous.

Speaking of things that have been mercilessly logged . . . okay, really, things that look like logs . . . Violet found the perfect poppety-sized log cabin in my mother's house:

There was, however, a slight problem with the front door:

Violet is still wondering why on earth anyone would create a round front door. It's just not right, you know. Poppets should be allowed to live in proper homes with hinged doors. And, I quote, "Hmmmph," said Violet.

I promised to tell the Tale of the Upside-Down Turkey. This is funny to me because I've been laboring under the misconception that my sister was the perfect daughter, always whipping up something delightful for the family (who ate promptly at 5:00 p.m. - they really did that; I got chewed out for our wing-it cooking style when she came to visit and thought her babies were going to starve to death), with the perfect country-style home (uck, not my thing) and, of course, a well-crafted financial plan to avoid retirement in poverty. So, you know, ignoring all that other stuff . . . let's get back to the perfect cooking bit. Sister spent the night before Thanksgiving in my mother's home, in order to get that bird shoved into the oven, nice and early. It wasn't until she arrived looking just a wee bit frantic and then wondered aloud just how long she should cook the turkey and whether or not she should call the Butterball Hotline that I remembered, "Oh, yeah. I was the daughter to whom everything came easily." Geez, all those wasted years.

Fast-forward to Thursday morning. Early-bird sis shoved the fat turkey into a fiercely hot oven and then concentrated on side dishes. Eventually, her family showed up. Brother-in-law whipped up some mashed potatoes and fussed around in the kitchen (he's an excellent cook) and then they waited and waited and waited. After a few more hours of waiting, out came the meat thermometer. They puzzled over the turkey. Why was it not reaching the proper temperature? And, what the heck was going on with its legs? It just didn't look right, somehow. Finally, my clever brother-in-law realized that Sis had placed the turkey upside-down on its roasting pan and that the thicker breast meat wasn't warming up because it wasn't surrounded by hot air. He pulled the turkey out, flipped it over and popped it back into the oven. At 3:00 p.m., we had a delightfully juicy turkey. Kookie tells me that turning the bird upside- down for an hour actually is a good thing, as it makes the juices run down into the breast meat (and I can confirm that - it was definitely not your typical, dry turkey). Violet just thought that impression of a grid on the turkey looked weird:

For Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made On:

I don't always get great hawk photos. Sometimes, I get grainy red-tail butt. Photography takes lots of practice and lots of frames - even the pros have photos they throw out. Feel better?

Bookfool, still glad to be home, in spite of the mess

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm home!!!!!

I'm back in Mississippi!!!! And, boy, am I beat - too tired to write a full post, but I'll try to start posting (and blog-hopping, of course), tomorrow. The hawk pictured above is one that I spotted on the 9-hour drive from Tulsa, today. He had just gobbled down his dinner. He was actually saying, "Yummm," but his meal looked pretty disgusting to me.

I decided to bypass this lovely pink bathroom, when I filled the car with gas in Dumas, Arkansas:

Big mistake. Note to self for future road trips (y'all can benefit from this bit of self-advice on important fuel levels):

Gas tank - Keep as full as possible.
Bladder - Empty when the possibility arises, because you never know when the driver is going to be too busy counting hawks to remember to pull over at the nice little tourist information center in Lake Whatever, Louisiana and every subsequent opportunity for relief will involve an irate farmer and/or a citation for indecency. This can make the last hour of driving extraordinarily painful.
Stomach - full is good; enough to keep from seeing spots, stay conscious and remain in the correct lane is okay.

More later!

Bookfool in need of a shovel (to dig out from under the mess hubster made in her absence)

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!!