Thursday, January 31, 2008

Monkey Star by Brenda Scott Royce

Monkey Star by Brenda Scott Royce
Copyright 2007
New American Library
341 pages

What led you to pick up this book? The author, bless her heart, read that her first book, Monkey Love, was one of my "smile inducers" in 2007 and that I'm on a book diet . . . and sent me a copy. I love authors. Thank you, Brenda!

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. The second book about Holly Heckerling, Monkey Star begins with Holly in a tight spot. Low on money, behind on her rent and unsure about her relationship with boyfriend Tom, Holly agrees to fly from New York to California, where her best friend Carter needs Holly to step in as her Lamaze coach. Carter's husband Danny -- Holly's former stand-up comedy partner -- has landed a part in a romantic comedy film and invites Holly along to the set, where she ends up working as an animal trainer. When the film's leading man takes interest in Holly and money begins to roll in, she starts to wonder if she belongs in Hollywood instead of New York.

What did you like most about the book? I love, love, love the characters. They're unique and quirky. Brenda Scott Royce has a terrific sense of humor and endows all of her characters with unusual, hilarious traits that are (for the most part) believable, if sometimes a little over the top. Maybe it's even the over-the-top aspect that makes them so realistic.

What did you think of the characters? Wait! Didn't I just . . . okay, yeah. I love them. There's an echo in this room. Well, let me just say this . . . I adore Holly's goofy, extended family. The only thing I hate about them is that I want to adopt them all and I can't have them. They're fictional, for one thing (always problematic).

Share a favorite scene from the book: I loved the part in which Holly was stuck in her milk door, particularly when help arrived and she was being tugged at one end and and pushed on the other. Plus, if you like reading about a few good heart-throb male characters (and I do), it's doubly joyful.

In general: Loads of fun. The New York City setting is so wonderful that I was kind of disappointed when Holly flew out to California and stayed there, although it really didn't detract from the story, apart from stretching the suspension of disbelief a bit (the movie star bit). I'm so fond of the characters that I'd probably even enjoy a Holly Heckerling story set in . . . say, Arkansas . . . if it involved Holly, her crazy relatives and her friends. And, any author would be pushing it to set a book in Arkansas.

4/5 - Slightly slow development at times, but overall an excellent contemporary read, definitely above average for the uniqueness of its characters. I would highly recommend this book for people who enjoy light, contemporary fiction that will occasionally embarrass you if you read it in public (you know, the snort thing . . . like when you read a Janet Evanovich or a really good Bill Bryson in a waiting room without a TV--although, I'm pretty sure there is no such thing, anymore, as a quiet waiting room).

Added to the reading list, today: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Why do I torment myself by balancing so many books? I'm fickle. And, maybe just a little on the ADD side. But, you knew that, right?

Weather report: Save us!! The weather in Vicksburg has been utterly, completely hideous. Kiddo had a day off from school, yesterday, thanks to a power outage caused by Tuesday's storms. Today, he returned to school but deputies were directing traffic because much of the power was still out, including the traffic lights . . . and it stormed, again. One of Will's classes had to be moved to a room with working lights and then a tornado watch meant they had to duck out of another. On the plus side, his day off gave us a little extra time to fetch things from Hobby Lobby (in Jackson) for a project we'd done a bad job of helping him toss together. There, I'm ending on a positive note. Go, me.

Where the heck have the wahoos gone? Oh, sorry. a) I'm forgetful and b) the weather has been so awful for so long that I haven't taken more than a dozen photographs in the past two weeks -- and they were all photos of book covers and the new car. I just feel silly wahooing without any photographs. Pray the weather changes, soon, if you're craving a wahoo post.

This photo makes me happy:

And, this man obviously played chess before, um, "The Incident". His relatives still talk in hushed tones and scorn boards with squares upon them:

Umm, okay.

Bookfool, whose head periodically feels explosive for reasons other than deep thinking

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason

The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
Release date: February 5, 2008!!! Good luck, Colleen!
Signet Eclipse
Paranormal Romance
346 pages (ARC)

What led you to pick up this book? I would have bought it, anyway, of course. But, Colleen had her publisher send me an advanced reader. Did I tell you Colleen is uber cool?

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. The third installment in the Victoria Gardella Vampire series takes place in Italy, as Victoria takes over the job of Illa Gardella (top vampire killer) and goes in search of a missing key to open the door of a long-locked laboratory. Victoria, aided by Max and still unsure of the loyalty of her dubious sometimes-lover, Sebastian, fights both vampires and a demon who has returned to earth.

What did you like most about the book? I love everything about this series, but particularly the action, the setting (love the time period), the characters, the dilemmas Victoria must face as a woman and the courage with which she faces each new challenge. Also, Colleen's writing is impeccable. I always feel like I'm completely immersed in the time and place; suspension of disbelief is simply not an issue.

What did you think of the characters? I adore the characters. All of them. I love the vampire slayers and it's easy to work up a fierce desire to stab the bad guys.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I can't! I'll give everything away! But, my favorite scene is right near the end and has to do with Victoria, Max, Sebastian, Beauregard, dripping blood, holy water. I can't even begin to tell you what a fabulous ending this book has.

In general: Better than the second book (which I loved), less graphic sex, more development of an already-terrific cast; a tremendous thrill-ride of a novel. Don't let the "romance" categorization put you off; the Victoria Gardella series is heavy on action and too fun to miss.

5/5 - A little slow at the beginning, but once it gets going you'll need a safety belt. It's one heck of a fun ride.

Second DNF of 2008: The Pickwick Papers because I realized I was skirting the book, avoiding it. Too saccharine? Too useful as a doorstop? Too many books at once? Probably a combination. But, I've decided that since it's almost February, I'm just going to move right along. Dickens and I will get together another time. Sorry, Chuck.

Just finished: Who Creamed Peaches, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman

Current weather conditions: Gusty. I'm going to have to shut down because the power is flickering, darn it. So much for evening computer fun.

Be good and eat all your Wheaties,
Bookfool in bad weather (with flashlight)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weird Conversations, a Meme, the Cost of Prayer and eAt MoRe cHiKin--WARNING, long post!!!

Some weekends are like that . . .

I still haven't felt like blogging or writing reviews--not sure what's up with that, but I sat down a couple of times and just stared at the screen, this weekend. However (this part is bizarre and unprecedented . . . at least in recent years), I did go on a cleaning frenzy. The "office", formerly eldest's bedroom, is now quite tidy. And thanks to some pretty amazing weather, today (60's, sunny, a hint of breeze), my front yard is looking neater. No need for help from the Mormons; just stick that strapping 16-year-old behind the other rake and . . . well, it still takes more time than what's required for the job to be completed by 4 Mormons because the yard is big and there are just two of us, but we've got improvement and we're happy. My handsome youngest, a few months ago, so you can visualize the kiddo with a rake:

Obviously, he didn't inherit my shrimp genes.

There really ought to be a book in this, somewhere . . .

Eldest Kid Antics, or something like that. Eldest called home complaining that his truck was making a "loud humming noise; I mean, really loud." He wanted his father's advice, but the Huz was en route home from places far. I asked Eldest to describe the noise, when he was hearing it, how it started, blah, blah, blah. And, it sounded like a tire issue to me -- either that or just the pitch of the pavement. Was there any construction going on? Could it be just the pitch of a new surface? "No," he said, "it can't be the road. It's really, really loud." I won't go into the whole weekend saga, but let's just say he spoke to his father and they bounced around ideas and he somehow managed to convince himself that it was a major engine problem . . . then he looked at his tires. And, they looked a bit . . . flabby. One air-pressure gauge and tire-filling run later and --miracle!-- the noise is gone. I'm so smart it kills me. Kidding, kidding.

Meme time! I begged Kookie to tag me for this one. Eva is the creator of this meme.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Easy . . . The Kite Runner. It sounds so utterly depressing that I just haven't talked myself into reading it, yet, although a friend sent me her copy and eventually I'll give it a try. I'm actually always hesitant to read the latest "in" book and tend to wait till hot-selling books are no longer getting a great deal of buzz, before I read them, but this one really makes me cringe.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Well, I'll tell ya . . . I don't usually latch onto character names and hold them in my memory, so this is a rough one. But, I'll say Tom Sawyer and Elizabeth Bennet go on a Mediterranean cruise with Loki, the prankster god of Norse mythology. Imagine the fun.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realize it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Oh, wow, another hard one. I tend to just set aside books that don't work for me and give them another try later. If a second or third attempt doesn't work, they're swapped or given away and I erase them from my mind. However, I've attempted Gone with the Wind three times and never gotten past page 50. I can't say it would bore me to death, but the timing certainly wasn't right.

Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read when in fact you've been nowhere near it?
Honestly? I can't say I've ever done that. But, there may have been times that the opposite was true -- I forget I've read a book until someone begins to talk about it and I realize, "Oh, yeah, I read that eons ago." I just realized, recently, that I read A Christmas Carol a long time ago. And, for years I've thought my life had a big Dickens-shaped hole that I desperately needed to fill.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to "reread" it, that you haven't? Which book?
If I have, it's slipped my mind.

You're interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you recommend and why? (If you feel like you'd have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP).
That's hard because I really do think you have to know a person to get a feel for his or her taste, but I'll cheat a little and say The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers. I've always thought either would be a great to use as a learning tool in school because they're intelligently written and rife with action. I was shocked to find that Alexandre Dumas was strictly a "money writer" and churned those chunksters out like muffins. Anyway, I have to go with Dumas because too many people have already used To Kill a Mockingbird and I don't want to be dull.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: You will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language to you go with?
Spanish. Ever since a friend-- born in Spain and enthusiastically bi-lingual-- sat down beside me in the high school hallway and read poetry to me in Spanish (then explained how much the poem lost in the translation), I've longed to learn Spanish. I'd gobble up everything Pablo Neruda has written.

A mischievous fairy says you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books, as well). Which book would you pick?
Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. I've read it 4 times and would happily reread it yearly. You can read bits of it, here. I'd reread The Count of Monte Cristo annually, also. Oops, more cheating.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What's one bookish thing you "discovered" from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art--anything)?
Well, let me think. I've discovered I really dislike challenges because I'm far too spontaneous. I want to read what I want to read when I choose, as opposed to feeling obligated to stick to a list. But, I've also discovered that I love spooky books. Two years ago, I would have walked over fire to avoid anything scary, but Carl's RIP Challenge changed that. It's the only challenge I actually eagerly look forward to.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather-bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead--let your imagination run free.
Okay, I really like the library in Arundel Castle (West Sussex, England), but I can't find a photo. Darn. And, truly, it's too big for one little scrap of a family, so I'll say mahogany book cases with the classic sliding ladder, a few hardcover copies of favorite books but mostly crisp trade paperbacks. Plushy leather chairs and sofa, a marble fireplace, tables and a large desk that match the book cases. Oh, and I'd prefer that all the book cases contain glass doors to discourage dust. Lamps, lamps, lamps everywhere. I have quite a few autographed books, but I'd love to own more. There should be lots of windows to let in loads of light during the daytime hours and French doors to a veranda overlooking a broad expanse of trees, flowers and a bubbling river. You can really get carried away with this one. Back to my normal foolishness . . .

eAt MoRe cHikIn:

I got a note from PDXposed host Jon's production manager, Julie (wave, wave) in response to my comment about finding out what he eats in order to stay so slim. She said chicken. Lots of chicken. And, steak on Sundays. Here's a Hawaiian rooster's response to that.

He's obviously showing off his good side.

One more story! My Bible study group just began a new session, yesterday, and I still owed the church money for the last Bible study book (having zipped out of town, repeatedly, I managed to acquire the book without paying for it). Kiddo brought my checkbook in the middle of the introductory video and I didn't want to disturb anyone, so I held my check until it was time to pass prayer requests down the row. One of the ladies looked at my check, within the pile of prayer requests and said, "Wow, those are some expensive prayers." Hahaha. Well, I thought it was funny.

Now, everyone pray that I can talk myself into writing a book review, tomorrow. Or, you can cross your fingers. Whatever works.

Bookfool, still dripping with joy from her day in the sunshine

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Babble Break! The Tale of the Snorkeling Television Host, Jessica's Etsy, and Whatever Else Comes to Mind

Oooh, look at all the little fishies!

Yep, Hawaiian fishies. Pretty, aren't they? I took that with a disposable underwater camera because my own camera objects to moisture, vehemently.

ADD moment (aka, Change of Topic): It's been about 5 days since I finished The Bleeding Dusk and it is such a fantastic, entertaining thrill-ride of a book that I've been letting my thoughts roll around (bashing against the interior of my skull - great word picture, eh?) before writing up my review. I want to do it justice and this one requires some pondering. Hope to get to that and a review of Monkey Star, soon. For now, I'm kind of bored with myself and haven't been in the mood to write. So, today's post is going to be just chatter.

Yeah, okay, so back to the fishies. The following is a tale from Hawaii. Of course, you all know I could mine Hawaii for stories indefinitely, right? Anyway . . . . Huzzybuns and I went snorkeling whilst in Hawaii. We stayed at a place where boats passed visibly and regularly (and close to author Patricia Wood's docked boat . . . gah, still kicking myself for not getting in touch with her before I left-- you should definitely read her book, Lottery, if you haven't; had to throw that in). The Huz noticed the passing boats were rather packed with giddy tourists. In my photos of those boats, I've counted up to 25 people, so his powers of observation haven't yet faded. Because he thought it would be a better option to pay slightly more to go out on a boat with fewer passengers, we ended up on this pretty little yacht-like gem for "a three-hour cruise, a three-hour cruise" (ask me if that thought freaked us out, O Gilligan fans . . . answer: just a little):

That's Bookfool, far to stern, pointing a 300mm lens at passing dolphins. In the cabin is one of the crew, whose name flitted out of my head before we even docked (she's a marine biologist), and next to me, in the red shirt, is a rather ebullient fellow named Jon.

Jon made an interesting comment that led me to believe he worked in movies or television, shortly after we pulled away from the dock; but, it wasn't until we were standing at the stern of the boat, discussing Honolulu traffic, that he dropped a second hint and I bit. Just at the moment I mentioned the large number of pedestrian deaths described in the newspaper, an ambulance drove past onshore with its lights blaring. Jon said, "And, cue," with a swoop of his arm and a pointing finger.

Bookfool could not let a hint like that pass, as she is nothing if not a curious chick. So, I asked the evil question, "What do you do?" I call this an evil question because, near as I can tell, I have no designation. Jon replied that he's the producer of a local Portland, Oregon show called PDXposed, and that he was in Hawaii to scout out locations for a future show (highlights are "music, arts, travel and entertainment"). The Portland airport is known as PDX, so the show's name is a, "little play on words, there." I didn't say so, but I thought Jon was host material; he's incredibly outgoing and talks to everyone on equal footing.

And, it turned out he was actually being slightly humble; Jon is the host of PDXposed, and a very good one. He's filmed 68 shows, most of which are archived at their website. And, he is definitely going back to Hawaii to film in May; they're even taking a tour group (see Jon's blog for details). I found that the clips I watched were family friendly . . . and then my speakers stopped working. And, my glasses broke. And, actually, the dryer is still acting hinky. I've been sucked into some kind of a metal fatigue vortex, I think, but anyway . . . I recommend the PDXposed site and I can tell you the host is a genuinely friendly, personable guy. Always nice to know, yes?

Here he is underwater and seemingly headless with the marine biologist and another passenger, Julie:

I need to find out what that guy eats; he's so nice and slim.

Other stuff . . . Jessica's Etsy, first:

One of my favorite green-with-envy blogs is Jessica's: In Search of Dessert. She is freaking amazing with a camera, a talented writer, and lucky enough to be surrounded by terrific subject matter to photograph and write about as an expatriate living in beautiful Switzerland. Oh, man, unfair. Anyway, Jessica has just opened an Etsy (craft) site with her mother and it's so uber cool that you must check out Jessica's Etsy. She makes and sells "bookmark books", themed books with bookmarks made from found objects and pretty papers. Here's one of her hoopty designs:

Verry cool, yes?

Second . . . That's not how it works, son.

My eldest called to tell me that he's been allergy-tested. Not sure why he did so, when he could have simply called to acquire his records from the time we had testing done . . . but, okay. This is the humorous part: he's allergic to cats and he's decided he wants to get allergy shots . . . and two kittens. I said, "Umm, the thing with allergies is that you try to avoid your triggers. You don't get shots and then bring home the thing you're allergic to." But, you see, there's a shelter down the road and the kittens are so cute and he's living in an apartment --alone-- for the first time ever and he's sociable and lonely and, and, and . . . he's just so darned funny. I'm working on my, "Let go; he's a grown-up" skills. Wow, is that hard. On the plus side, if he acquires kittens, you know there will be kitty photos coming. I'll have to visit.

Third: It's all Carrie's fault!

Carrie of My Middle Name is Patience posted a link and I'm now completely addicted to this Traveler's IQ Challenge. In fact, the kiddo and I have actually competed to see who can get to the highest level. We're tied at Level 10 (out of 12). Most of the time, I at least hit the correct continent, which is a good starting point. But, wowee. This American needs a new atlas and a block of time. I've guessed as far as 15,000 kilometers away from the correct geographical location of some cities. I probably shouldn't admit that, but I've also hit some cities within 25 kilometers, so I figure it all evens out.

Okay, enough prattle for one day. Next up will be book reviews of The Bleeding Dusk and Monkey Star. I knew you'd be thrilled. You can quit jumping up and down, now.

Bookfool, off to soak her head

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meet Daisy

Daisy is our new Honda CR-V. She is lovely, however she is totally missing one fine detail: the designation "CR-V" is absent from her body. Doofs at the car lot? I don't know, but they were not fun to deal with and I so disliked the fellow who originally showed us the cars that I sent my husband to finish the final negotiations without me. Last time we bought a car, I did all the talking and enjoyed it because we had a very intelligent, unpushy car dealer. This time . . . moron. He just couldn't get it through his head that I have no interest in extras. I'm a bread-and-butter, vanilla frosting car owner. An air conditioner is the only thing I consider crucial. Anyway, there you go; I think she's pretty. Haven't finished writing my babble, yet, but I hope to have some pointless chatter and interesting links up by tomorrow. In the meantime . . .

It doesn't count:

We stopped at the bookstore, last night. But, this book does not count against me on the book diet because . . . um . . . because I used a gift card. See? It was free. Sort of. So, it doesn't count. The bookmark was on sale; I have no other excuse. I know there's some sort of nautical book challenge going on, out there, and now I wish I'd joined it. Ah, well.

I am now reading five books:
A Hawaiian reader - loving it!
Who Creamed Peaches, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman - fun, cozy mystery with a goofball heroine I adore . . . and good grief, what's wrong with Harlequin? They're ditching the Next series, so this will be the last Teddi Bayer book by Stevi. Every time I find a series I like, Harlequin stops printing them! Argh.
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens - a little too goofy; can only bear a chapter or two at a time.
Neuromancer by William Gibson - poisoned future world to counteract the sweetness of Pickwick
Sailing Around the World Alone by Captain Joshua Slocum - surprisingly light, down-to-earth, entertaining and adventurous reading.

Off to wash socks. I'm grateful for washing machines. We have no rocks to beat clothing on in Mississippi, even if we wanted to.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sick family; back soon

The whole family has been kind of moaning, this week, so please pardon my absence. We're all sidelined with completely different maladies. Also, we had to go buy a car. Darn . . . debt. Not my favorite. But, I do like the new vehicle.

For your entertainment and edification, a few photos:

The view from Pali lookout ("pali" in Hawaiian, means "the cliffs"):

Hawaiian chickens in motion:

Poppet with evil eyes sent from Turkey by friend Karen:

A random happy photo:

Have finished two books due to being unable to move anything but eyeballs--reviews forthcoming, eventually. I'm working on another post, but am giving up for the day. Coming up: babble. Lots of babble. And, maybe a few pictures and a couple of cool links.

Currently reading: The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Who Creamed Peaches, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman, A Hawaiian Reader, Vol. 1, and Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Bookfool, in search of fluffy pillows

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Power of Adversity by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman

The Power of Adversity by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman
Publication date: April, 2008
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
162 pages (ARC)

What led you to pick up this book? I requested this advanced reader from Lori at Jane Wesman Public Relations because it sounded like the kind of book I need to read.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. The Power of Adversity is a self-help book about dealing with life's challenges, subtitled "Tough Times Can Make You Stronger, Wiser, and Better". The author's goal is to share what he's learned from his own battles in both his business and personal life, including alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, the loss of his father's company and the venture into his own manufacturing business.

What did you like most about the book? I like the author's attitude. Positive thinking books are something I read periodically, particularly when I feel like things are looking a little bleak. The author has some sensible advice about dealing with adversity, in part, by treating other people more kindly. For example, he suggests that driving nicely(letting people cut in), giving your time to charity, etc., will help make you feel better as you endure challenges.

What did you think of the characters? The book was partly a personal narrative about the challenges the author and his family have faced. I thought he had a slightly shallow view of his own experience and how it might apply to readers' difficulties. He grew up privileged but with a cold, pragmatic father. When Al Weatherhead was ready to join his father's company, his father wanted to send him to the production line(I assume to learn the business from the bottom up). Al thought his father was punishing him and left home, moving from one dead-end job to another. Having just viewed the movie The Ultimate Gift, and not having experienced swanky schools or privilege, I saw the young Al as spoiled and ungrateful for opportunity. He's now in his 80's and eventually built a thriving business of his own, but he went through a lot of heartache and still doesn't see his father's decision to place him in a lower position rather than straight into management as one that could have been beneficial to him. That bugged me. Otherwise, I thought he sounded like a pretty interesting and tenacious guy.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I'm going to stick with generalities. I particularly like what he has to say about kindness to others and seeing problem solving as one of life's joys. He talks about how we all face adversity and that it's simply a part of life and we should use adversity to make ourselves better people.

In general: The author's experiences are rather unique and his suggestions only partially apply to my current challenges, but I thought he offered some decent advice. The writing was a bit heavy on cliches and I think the author has a slightly unrealistic viewpoint to offer to the general populace. And, yet, I'm glad I read it. The book is a quick read, good for when it's difficult to concentrate because one is facing adversity and having difficulty focusing. I appreciated the brevity.

3/5 - Some good advice, couched in cliches but worth the time to read if you need a little positive injection while going through rough times.

First DNF of 2008: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I decided The French Revolution is just not what I need to read about, right now, so I've substituted The Pickwick Papers as my Dickens entry in the "My Year of Reading Dangerously" challenge. Good decision. The Pickwick Papers is pleasantly goofy.

2/3 Finished with: The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason and hoping to finish that one, today. I love Colleen's writing. So far, this third novel is every bit as gripping as the first two.

Laughed my head off reading: "Equestrian Excursion to Diamond Head" by Mark Twain, from A Hawaiian Reader, Vol. 1, last night. Here's a favorite passage:

The landlord of the American said the party had been gone nearly an hour, but that he could give me my choice of several horses that could easily overtake them. I said, never mind--I preferred a safe horse to a fast one--I would like to have an excessively gentle horse--a horse with no spirit whatever--a lame one, if he had such a thing.

Hope everyone has a terrific weekend!

Bookfool, off to read

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wahoo! Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! a tiny bit late. Seems like it's been a while since I did any wahooing, although I recall feeling like the post-Christmas shopping in Oklahoma City was something to wahoo about, not to mention the city's extraordinarily civilized traffic. Since most of my time in Oklahoma was spent in a room with ugly pink walls, a crap TV and one very sick mama, wahooing should be very easy this week.

1. Wahoo! for this beautiful autographed copy of Monkey Star, sent to me by author Brenda Scott Royce:

It's actually been kind of difficult saving this photo for Wednesday because it was just such a ridiculously exciting book to receive. Monkey Star has been on my wish list since before it was published, from the moment I closed my copy of Monkey Love, Brenda's first book and one of the 2007 reads that totally stuck with me because it was unique, quirky, fun and smile-inducing. She drew the cutest little monkey face inside. Thank you, Brenda!!!

2. This is so silly, but . . . wahoo! for sparkly little happies. This ornament helped make me feel like each room that I moved to (and I bopped around a bit in OK) was a little more personal:

I bought this glittery bit of fun at a post-Christmas sale and hung it from either a lamp or or some other knobby thing in each of my hotel rooms (and a shelf in my mother's house). It is now hanging in our living/dining room (in which we do not dine, but merely live - so do hundreds of books, just FYI).

3. Hawaiian wahoo! This little island is apparently called The Chinaman's Cap. Or maybe it's Chinaman's Cap. Or hat. Okay, I don't remember, but when I took the photo I just thought it was kinda pretty and I need to travel back mentally, now and then, so here you go:

4. And, another little bit of coolness . . . not really a wahoo, so much as something interesting. While I stood on the grass, looking out toward Chinaman's Cap, Huzzybuns walked around in the water and turned around to photograph me (yurgh). Photos of moi are, in general, not worth looking at. But, I thought that this little cropped bit of photo was fun - the Huz reflected in my sunglasses:

5. Cute munchkin wahoo:

Just finished:
The Power of Adversity by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman. Review forthcoming. It's small, but at least I finally finished something.

Hope to finish soon:
The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason - which I'm loving, so far. Need more reading time.

Next up: Monkey Star by Brenda Scott Royce, of course.

How's the Book Diet going? Stunningly well! Half of January is over and I've only bought one book!!! I'm so pleased and proud.

Coming up soon: The Tale of the Snorkeling Television Host (because I need to reflect on Hawaii, for a while . . . and he was a fun guy to hang out with).

Off to read! Smiles to everyone. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Of Books and Hawks and Traveling Beasts

First the books, since this is allegedly a blog primarily devoted to my reading. I finished two, last week, and both were simply perfect for the moment.

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper has been on my wish list at Paperback Swap for quite some time and my mother just happened to receive a copy while I was visiting in November. So, I borrowed Mom's copy whilst taking a weekend break from the hospital and gobbled it right up.

This is a Christian book, written by a minister who was involved in a horrific truck/car accident in which his car was crumpled and his body severely mangled. EMTs on the scene found no pulse and covered Piper with a tarp, then moved on to help other victims. Still without a pulse when another minister arrived on the scene and began to pray for his recovery, signs of life returned to Piper only after prayer. It was much, much later that the author quietly told a friend about his time in heaven and it took many years before he was able to write the story, with help from a published author.

The result surprised me. I thought the book would be a little hokey, with the usual "light at the end of the tunnel" description. Instead, Piper described being greeted by loved ones and the colors and sounds of heaven, as well as his disinterest in earth or returning to life. I found it oddly compelling and believable. A good portion of the book describes his excruciating recovery from injuries (so severe that several inches of bone from his leg were actually ejected from the car and never found). Definitely recommended, especially if you're in need of reassurance about the so-called "afterlife".

Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry was my January splurge. I'm on a strict book budget, this year -- only allowing myself to purchase one book per month -- and I took plenty of books with me to Oklahoma (honestly, can you imagine me *not* taking at least a dozen?). But, I was in desperate need of extra-light reading material because I simply couldn't concentrate for any length of time, so I grabbed this one off the racks on impulse. This particular book has been on my wish list since I read Laurie Perry's tribute to her cat, Roy and laughed and sobbed my way through it. If she ever writes a book specifically about her cats. I'll be the first in line.

Crazy Aunt Purl, etc. is, however, the author's account of the time after her husband abruptly left her. Because her divorce was traumatic, the book is a little sadder at the outset than I expected. But Perry has a terrific sense of humor and tells a pretty good tale. She describes her depression, the adjustment to her life as a single person and how knitting and new friendships brought joy back to her life. There are some knitting patterns in the back of the book and I hope to use those, one day. I'm going to pick up those knitting needles and learn to cast on soon, honest. In the meantime, I'm glad I read the book and definitely recommend it, especially if you're looking for a quick, light read.

On to hawks, or raptors in general. I've taken to counting hawks on the 9-hour journey to Tulsa (and, sometimes, the extra hour over to Oklahoma City or up to Ponca). Since I still don't know how to identify the different species of hawks all that well (some, like red-tails, are pretty obvious in flight - others make me scowl), I'm calling all of the raptors I spot "hawks" - including kites, northern harriers and the occasional kestrel. I can distinguish such raptors from a turkey vulture or crow, both of which are eliminated from my count. It's the counting part that's hard. I find myself counting like this: "42 . . . 43 . . . 44 . . . uh, 42." So, this time I kept a scratch-pad and pen on the passenger seat of the car and jotted down bars for each hawk spotted. I also counted patrol cars. Boy, was that scratch-pad messy. However, it was readable and the final count was:

135 hawks
11 highway patrolmen
6 local patrolmen

Hawk to Patrolmen ratio: 7.94 : 1

Go raptors!!! Here's one of the patrol cars, with its pretty flashing lights:

No, I did not get another speeding ticket. I would never.

My mother was in the Intensive Thoracic Care Unit of Baptist Hospital when we arrived in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day. Because it was a holiday weekend and the situation was critical, the guys went with me and we loaded up the cat and dragged her along. Here's Miss Spooky, Intrepid Feline of the Daring Road Trip, with maps of each of the states she's driven through (or, in the case of Mississippi, out of) on her back:

She was terrified but remarkably quiet. I don't think we could have asked for an easier road trip with a cat. We dropped off Spooky and kiddo at the home of my delightful in-laws. Both cat and teenager apparently made themselves very much at home and were spoiled mercilessly. At least, the cat was. She got salmon. And, since a trip to Oklahoma wouldn't be the same without a visit to Eskimo Joe's, Spooky got her first Eskimo Joe's merchandise. You can see she was elated:

This is, of course, the real reason you read my blog.

Coming up next: Book excitement discovered upon my return. But, for now, I have to go kick my dryer. It's currently not working and that ticks me off. I have mucho laundry to do.

Bookfool, very glad to be home but wishing she lived in a state where things actually dry out if you hang them outdoors

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bye-bye to Oklahoma City and back in a few days

This is the view from my mother's hospital window, here in Oklahoma City:

It's been a long, often heartbreaking three weeks, but I will miss this city. The nurses have been absolutely amazing, my mother's care stellar, the shopping loads of fun. Unfortunately, my mother was unable to get a slot at the rehab facility in Oklahoma City because she doesn't have enough strength to qualify for their rehabilitation program, so she'll be moving to a 24-hour care facility near my sister, tomorrow, and then hopefully into hospice care when she's stronger.

I've finished reading two books, but will have to wait to review them because I have to pack and then I'll be on the road for several days. After that, hopefully I'll get back to a little normality for a while - meaning blog-hopping, reviewing and life in general.

The books I've finished:
90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry

Currently reading:
The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason

My apologies to Colleen. I've had an ARC of The Bleeding Dusk for a couple of months and planned to have it read in time for the release, but with my life going entirely wacko, that did not occur. However, I will dedicate myself to finishing the book as soon as humanly possible, when I arrive home. I'll be giving away an autographed copy of The Bleeding Dusk, so please come back in a few days to sign up when I get a sticky post . . . ummm, stuck. To the top of this blog.

See you soon!


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost

Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost
Copyright 2006
Broadway Books (travel memoir)

235 pages

What led you to pick up this book? I enjoyed Troost's first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Not a plot, since it's nonfiction, but the book tells about how the author grew tired of actually having to work for a living and urged his wife to return to the South Pacific. Getting Stoned with Savages tells about their time living in Vanuatu and Fiji and their choice to begin a family while living in their new island home(s).

What did you like most about the book? I like the author's light-hearted style, although this book contained more dreary history and political exposition than the first and that made it drag a bit.

What did you think of the characters? I thought they were fascinating. I don't necessarily understand the author or his wife and was rather baffled by his choice to leave a job where he was apparently making piles (pretty much because he didn't want to work - addendum: I forgot he was, in fact, fired - this shows you how messed-up I am) or their decision to start a family in a Third-World Nation. But, then Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had a baby in Africa, of all places, so there's a lot I don't get. I always find that he makes his neighbors and friends sound like people I'd like to at least observe . . . invisibly.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I liked the description of their visit to an active volcano. What the guide said and how they ended up leaving were both pretty funny.

In general: Not as good as his first, but I still like his style and got enough enjoyment out of the book that I'll end up buying his third - probably in 2009 or 2010, because of the book diet thing, assuming things go well. It took three attempts before I managed to get a copy of this book; the first two were both lost in the mail.

3.5/5 - Good enough not to give up on the author, so I'll call it "above average" but the next book is the acid test, so to speak. He'd better be a little more entertaining or it's back to the bank for him. Hahaha. I say that, but he's probably already back to making piles of money. Some people get all the breaks.

Now attempting to read, but I can't seem to focus for long: Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair. That's my January purchase because I needed something way light. Don't blame the author if I can't get into it. I just can't concentrate, these days. Another addendum: You should probably take that into account when looking at my ratings. "Bookfool is whacked up," you should say to yourself, "and I will therefore give authors a chance, even if she says a book put her to sleep. She's kind of sleepy all the time. I get that."

Sorry so short. I'm also attending online Traffic School in order to keep that stupid speeding ticket off my record. It's actually kind of fun, but I have to hurry up and finish it before heading back to Oklahoma City. Update: I passed my final with a score of 100%!

And, another update: Andi's review of Getting Stoned, etc. is soooo much better than mine. Please go read it and then feel free to sit around in awe of her gigantic brain and awesome writing skill. I know I am. Thanks to Les for reminding me that Andi read the book last year.

Have a peachy day!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 Reading Year in Review

Number of books read: 117
*updates in red*

Total pages read: 32,506
Average book length: 278 pages

Longest book read in 2007: God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield - 687 pages

Shortest book read in 2007: Ghost Eye by Marion Dane Bauer - 82 pages

Fiction reads: 86
Favorite fiction: Argh! So hard! I loved the following:
Lottery by Patricia Wood
The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Non-fiction reads: 31
Favorite non-fiction: Oh, wow, don't make it easy on yourself, Bookfool.
Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss
Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs by Morton A. Myers, M.D.
To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy
First Light by Geoffrey Wellum
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

Number of authors new to me: 94

Biggest smile-inducers:
The Sound of Waves by Mishima (very romantic)
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost (hahahaha, oh, hahahaha)
The Official Guide to Christmas in the South, of If You Can't Fry it, Spraypaint it Gold by David C. Barnette (so fun I read half of it aloud to my poor husband)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Lesley Castle by Jane Austen
Monkey Love by Brenda Scott Royce
The Last Days of Summer (I laughed, I cried) by Steve Kluger
The Secret Lives of People in Love (ditto) by Simon Van Booy
Lottery (double ditto and sorry - just remembered I didn't put this one on the smile-inducer list; it was an emotional ride and I could not put it down till I finished) by Patricia Wood
The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
Lottery by Patricia Wood
-----all three of these were so wonderful that words elude me; actually, that might be kind of normal, but who knows with my life going all roller-coastery (yes, that's a word, Mr. Spell Checker)

Nightmare-inducing (literally):
The Grizzly Maze by Nick Jans
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Most awesome writing:
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy

Most surprising books:
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (I expected a futuristic story, but found it an amazing peek into the past)
To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy (the courage of Audie Murphy and his humility astounded me)
Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss (absolutely gripping; I found that I actually held my breath, at some points)
Firehouse by David Halberstam (most folks can't get the kind of answers that Halberstam managed out of a close-knit group like firefighters )
Lost in the Amazon by Stephen & Marlo Kilpatrick (I didn't expect it to be so well-written or so gripping)
Colleen's vampire novels (I thought I'd hate them, but I like Colleen, so I had to try . . . and it turned out they're terrific)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (oh, wow, so romantic)

Biggest wastes of time:
In the Cut by Susannah Moore (just sordid; I wanted to burn it)
Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester (trite story, bad writing)
Hurricane by Karen Harper (lousy writing, huge plot holes, terrible dialogue)
February Flowers by Fan Wu (uck)
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers (hopelessly depressing)
The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico (totally pissed me off)

Best edge-of-seat thriller:
Ill Met by Moonlight - a non-fiction WWII story about the kidnapping of a German general from Crete

Authors I read more than once:
Colleen Gleason (2)
Sarah Dessen (2)
Stevi Mittman (2)
Haven Kimmel (2)
Debbie Macomber (2)
Laurie Halse Anderson (2)

Authors I wish would hurry up and write more:
Patricia Wood
Simon Van Booy
Hugh Laurie (still waiting, Hugh - come on, hurry up)

Books read which were written by authors I know personally or have met:
The Rest Falls Away and Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason (who was one of the first visitors to my blog)
The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy (met after I read the book)
Truth or Dare by Melanie Atkins (friend from the writers' group I keep swearing I'm going to return to)
Two books by Stevi Mittman (had a nice chat going with her, for a while)
Lost in the Amazon by Stephen Kirkpatrick (took a photography course from him)
Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (introduced her at a writers' conference and kept in touch for a time)

You should definitely read my friends' books. They're such nice people. So is Patricia Wood, whom I could have met (but I blew it by not contacting her before she left for San Francisco). Yep, you should hurry up and read her book.

Authors I wish I knew (or could at least spend a dinner or two interrogating):
David Halberstam (deceased)
J. Maarten Troost (whose attitude is so close to mine that it's frightening)
Charles Dickens (good old Chuck)
Brenda Scott Royce (I have a feeling she's a fun chick)
Patricia Wood, of course . . . and her mentor

Coming soon, I hope: A review of Getting Stoned with Savages, which I'm hacking away at, slowly.

Fill-in thought:
This week would rank high on
the interesting scale, low on fun. Except, I've gotten a tiny bit of joy at Penn Square Mall. I'll take it.

Favorite moments in the past week:
Son's phone call to tell me he got his first paycheck in the real world (he was giddy).
When Nurse Leland said, "I was almost worried, for a while, but I think she's on the mend." (about my mother)
When Dr. Parker #2 (my mother had 2 doctors Parker dropping by, this weekend) said, "You're not going to croak, today."

Reading goals for 2008:
1. Read from my shelves.
2. Purchase no more than 1 book per month (yeah, I've already altered that one, two days in).
3. Stop reading if a book doesn't grab me (there were too many I should have ditched, this year).
4. Don't participate in challenges, except for the Year of Reading Dangerously and any self-challenges I might deem worthy of creating for myself.
5. Read more than 125 books.

Hawaii pic of the day:

Cool. Not sure I want to try surfing, but it was fun to watch.

Gotta run. Hope 2008 is turning out to be a good year for y'all, so far.

Bookfool, on the verge of going completely crackers (but I haven't made it, just yet)