Thursday, February 28, 2008

Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield

Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield
Copyright 2007 - Released 10/07
Atria Books, General Fiction
307 pages
Finished ~ 2/17/08

What led you to pick up this book? It's an Advanced Reader's Edition that was sent to me by Simon & Schuster.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Sarah Larkin has been separated from her husband for several months, but nothing could have prepared her for the phone call informing her that her husband, Todd, has disappeared while spending a week in Florida. As the police and Sarah do their own digging for the truth, the mystery simply grows. Did Todd die the night he disappeared? If so, was it a homicide, suicide or an accident? Is it possible he's still alive? Would he really abandon their daughter, the only person who apparently gave his life any meaning?

During the investigation, with time passing and few clues arising to explain what really happened the night Todd walked away from his former girlfriend's home, Sarah must come to grips with her own feelings and help her daughter accept the outcome so that they can both move on and learn to love, again.

What did you like most about the book? This is an introspective work of fiction based on real-life events. The author's husband did, in fact, vanish in Florida. He was an artist, like the fictional Todd, and the author (like Sarah) worked for a magazine. I think the fact that the author left those details alone made the book more interesting than if would have been if she had fictionalized everything. Peeking into the life of an artist was particularly intriguing.

What did you think of the characters? I never warmed up to Sarah. In fact, the one thing that jumped out at me the most as I read was a question regarding the protagonist -- why was the character who personified the author's experience so difficult to warm up to? A friend who wrote to the author after reading the book told me that she felt that the author kept a distance from her character deliberately. I assume that was because the experience was so painful, but it did make the book a little more of a trudge. I liked Sarah's friend and co-worker Paige, Sarah's best friend Lucy, and the private investigator.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I enjoyed all of the scenes in which Paige described her dating experiences. Paige lightened things up a bit.

In general: It took me about 50 pages to get into the book and then the reading went pretty quickly; it kept my attention and I can't say it was a book that I regret reading. However, I had difficulty with the fact that the story was based on real-life events but not an account of what really happened; and, the fact that I never warmed up to Sarah made it an uncomfortable read. I think I would have preferred a factual account, if only to keep away those nagging questions about where fact and fiction merged. The blend of dark, tragic story with characters like Paige (who would have made an excellent chick lit heroine) was a little bizarre, but I appreciated the character because she injected a little humor into a book that could have been merely depressing. I'd call this an average read: 3/5.

This is a catch-up post. I'm going to try to work my way backwards on reviews, for a while. Waiting to Surface was #18 for 2008 and the first book I recorded after my calendar went missing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wahoo! Wednesday

Just a few quickie wahoos, today, as I have an awful lot to accomplish. The biggest excitement of the week was walking into the library to find a cart full of ARCs with the words "FREE BOOKS" taped onto the end. There weren't many left and there was a fellow standing in front of the cart, filling up his second sack. But, I managed to grab a few before they were all gone -- actually, quite a nice little stack. Click on photo to enbiggen:

I've anticipated your first question. Yes, you may see what's on the lovely shelves behind that pile of books. Here you go:

One of my favorite colors is green. And, while I get a little sick of summer, I never get tired of the color green, so wahoo! for green growing things. This is in my front garden:

Note that I still haven't managed to rake out all of the oak leaves. I'd better hurry up before it gets hot.

Sometimes I play. This is my first attempt at panning for . . . quite a while and it was very wahooey fun:

I'm having a little bit of a blogger issue, here (and I have to run, anyway), so I'll quit while I'm ahead. Hope everyone's having a fantastic day!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss

#20 Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss
Copyright 1993
Harcourt YA Time Travel/Mystery
340 pages
Finished 2/22/08

What led you to pick up this book? I was in the mood for something creepy but light. Dreadful Sorry is a young adult novel, so I knew it would be a fairly quick read that I could probably continue to concentrate on well enough to read between swim events, this past weekend (provided that I remembered to take earplugs to the natatorium). I assumed it would be suitably creepy because I've read one other book by this author and the other book was just spooky enough to please me.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. ***Possible spoiler alert - not certain, but skip the next two paragraphs if you think you'll read this book. I may have given a bit too much away.***

Molly has been afraid of water for as long as she can remember, plagued by nightmares of drowning. She has no idea why she has the nightmares, as she's never had a bad experience or an accident in water. But when she comes close to drowning at a pool party and her mother still doesn't understand the depth of Molly's paranoia, Molly decides to visit her father and his young wife in Maine. With her father in charge, she can escape her mother's continued attempts to force Molly into learning how to swim.

In Maine, Molly is jolted by the discovery that her father's house is the setting of some of her nightmares and her visions begin to escalate. When Molly is repeatedly thrown into scenes of a past in which she is literally looking through the eyes of a young woman who lived in the house over a century ago, Molly decides to investigate. Who was Clementine and what does she have to do with Molly and the ancient house? In order to free herself from the memories of a ghost, Molly must figure out exactly why she's being haunted and what she needs to do to set Clementine to rest.

***End possible spoiler alert***

What did you like most about the book? This may sound strange, but what I liked best about the book was the story. I thought the novel was rather sloppily written, and yet the concept was quite fascinating -- the idea that Molly was seeing past events as they occurred through the eyes of the person who experienced them. I was sucked in and just had to know what was going to happen to Molly and Clementine. While I don't think a connection between Molly and Clementine was ever firmly established, I did reach the point that I felt it didn't matter.

What did you think of the characters? I liked Molly, although she kept herself distant from people because she was so disturbed by her visions. There was a sense that she would be fine, once she figured out the meaning of her mental jaunts into the past. Jared was another character who seemed to be driven by his own confusing glimpses into the past and whom I thought would turn out to be a decent individual in spite of one frightening incident. Molly's mother, Jen, was annoying. Her gentle father and bubbly stepmother were both likeable, sensitive characters and I was sort of relieved when they took over the parenting from Jen. Clementine was the kind of character who gets under your skin like an annoying itch. I understood her desires, but I still wanted to kick her in the shins.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I didn't mark any specific scenes or quotes, but I think the point at which I realized I was really going to enjoy the book was the moment when Jared dropped Molly into a swimming pool. At that point, it became obvious that there was something bizarre and spooky going on with both of them and they'd have to unravel the problem.

In general: A very interesting story that kept me enthralled in spite of average writing. I think the author has a talent for crafting a story but it did seem like this was a case in which the young adult audience may have possibly been an excuse for poor writing. Still, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to those who savor young adult historical fiction with the creepy factor thrown in. Thumbs up - I'd say about a 3.5/5.

Just walked in:
The Last Single Woman in America by Cindy Guidry - thanks to a drawing at The Hidden Side of a Leaf (and a Fed Ex man). Thanks, Dewey!!
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (from Paperback Swap)
A bunch of ARCs - our library was giving them away, again!!! Photo in tomorrow's Wahoo! Wednesday post.

Number One Reason I Should Have Taken My Camera to the Library - Firefighters washing the truck at the firehouse next door -- one of my favorite sights. Taut young buns, tight pants . . . great combination and loads of fun to photograph (but you have to be sneaky).

Five Days till The Iditarod!!! Wow, it's difficult to believe there's a place where the ice and snow are still thick enough to race around on sleds (says a gal who goes outside to dance in the snow when there are flurries -- which happens maybe once every 2 or 3 years; yeah, we don't have a realistic viewpoint of winter, I know).

Best Lost Calendar News: I think I may have at least managed to piece together the titles of everything I've read in February, thanks to casual snippets about finished books at this blog (Blogging Saved My Life, film at 11:00) and the little book pile beside my computer. The calendar is still missing and I don't have all the usual info, such as number of pages read and copyright dates (some of which I'll have to look up, since the books have already been swapped or returned to the library), but at least I've got another calendar that I'm slowly filling in and I can function. Wahoo for that.

What do you think? Is it a sacrilege to paint over a poppet's natural coloring (meaning the decoration painted by artist Lisa Snellings-Clark)? I'm curious what you think, because one of my new poppets got chips in the paint on her skirts, after just a few minutes of bopping around in a bag with several other members of my Poppet Family. The other gals are just fine, but Choxie just doesn't look right with those white flecks. I think she got a Toyota 2003 paint job (I gave Toyota a severe chewing-out about that paint when they made the mistake of sending me a survey form about what I liked and did not like).

Favorite scents: Cinnamon, peppermint, apple, lemon, lavender, rosemary, sandlewood.

Smell I wish would go away: The scent of fabric softener coating my shoes because someone decided to do laundry while his wife was away, in spite of being told numerous times Do Not Do Laundry, and then that same someone whose name shall not be mentioned but whose identity is obvious because I'm only married to one guy left the fabric softener container open and precariously perched where a balance-challenged wife could easily knock it over. Yes, I confess to having a part in the Fabric Softener Disaster. But, really, he should know better.

Off to work on that blue puddly mess,

Bookfool in Mountain Fresh scent

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Salon Goes Splat

Well, hmm. Not a great start to joining in on the Sunday Salon. I did read a tiny bit on Sunday, but it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for. And, I didn't have the energy to write up a Sunday Salon post on what little I read, after getting a late start on our return home because extra lane timers were needed at the state swim meet in Laurel, MS. We had a pleasant weekend and volunteering as a lane timer means the excitement of watching great gigantic splashes of water moving toward you, seemingly in slow motion. What fun when they reach you! Always dress in quick-dry clothing for a swim meet. I also enjoyed all those Tiggers bouncing around in their swimsuits as they mentally prepared for their races.

Back to the immediate topic: It seems I have not succeeded in signing up for the Sunday Salon, although I tried twice, so I'll just do my own Sunday posts until I show up on the list. I'll come up with some decent moniker, next week, if I remain invisible at the official website.

For yesterday's Sunday Salon effort, I read an essay from Granta 67: Women and Children First: "Leonardo's Grave", written by Ian Jack. The title refers to the genuine Nova Scotia grave of a man thought to be one of the Titanic's lost stokers, J. Dawson, who may have been fictionalized in the movie Titanic (James Cameron says the naming was a coincidence and Titanic experts claim the J. Dawson buried in Halifax was an artist by the name of Joseph, not a stoker named Jack) and became a bit of a romantic hero in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio. Author Jack talks about the movie Titanic, what was real and what was fictionalized and how the facts became distorted even at the time of the sinking.

*Note: I've updated this post because I didn't have the Granta beside me while writing it and have altered it to reflect some screw-ups on my part. I'm sure there are more that I've missed. Thanks to Chris and Tammy for some explanation.*

My favorite part was his declaration that James Cameron took a tale of male heroics during a time of tragedy and turned it into a romantic story with a girl-power ending. That actually made me laugh because I'm not a fan of the movie and, although I'd always thought the scenery was set beautifully inside and out (it was lovely to actually feel as if one was seeing inside the steam liner in full color) my personal opinion was that the storyline was quite a joke. I loved the way the author explained the job of a fire stoker, the back-breaking time spent shoveling coal and being scorched in front of a burning furnace . . . and how little time that would have left such a fellow to teach a lady how to spit. The author noted that the Newfoundland Halifax, Nova Scotia grave of the real-life J. Dawson, two years post-movie, was still decorated with numerous flowers, notes and keys (because the fictional Jack Dawson was handcuffed and nearly drowned as the water was rising -- then, of course, Rose saved the day). He also nattered on about Wallace Hartley, one of the band members considered a hero for continuing to play on as the ship sank. This particular issue of Granta was released in 1999 and I purchased it at the local library sale, last week. I paid a quarter for it -- my favorite price.

I chose that issue of Granta specifically because of "Leonardo's Grave". I've just recently finished Walter Lord's classic story of the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember, and Lord's follow-up book, written after the Titanic's discovery by Dr. Robert Ballard, et al., The Night Lives On, neither of which I've reviewed because of the tragic loss of my calendar. Okay, maybe not tragic but it's definitely disheartening. Both were enjoyable reads and I believe I'll just skip the reviewing, apart from saying that the latter is simply an update of what's been learned since the 1955 classic's publication and I consider both books worth reading although A Night to Remember is the better of the two. Anyway, "Leonardo's Grave" continued my recent Titanic-themed reading and it nicely rounded off that particular reading theme. I do believe I've finished with the Titanic, for now.

Other reading on Sunday: a tiny bit of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Of the works I've read by Jane Austen, Persuasion is the first that I've found not particularly compelling. The characters are a bit wooden and the writing itself somewhat convoluted. Usually, I have no trouble at all reading Jane Austen, but Persuasion was published posthumously and I have to wonder . . . did the editor die, also? Because someone needed to take a red pen to that book. I'll carry on and hope that the reading improves.

It's sunny outside, so I need to get going. Although the husband packed my camera, I didn't take a single photo this weekend, apart from one snap of the way people parked at the swim meet. More on that, later. The camera didn't come out of the bag, the rest of the time, because it was dark, dreary, rainy and cold in Laurel. There simply wasn't anything worth photographing until the drive home, when we saw a beautiful kestrel perched on a line parallel to the highway. The highway had no shoulders and, anyhow, my camera was buried in the trunk, so I wasn't able to photograph him. But, kiddo and I both said, "Cooooool." You'll just have to trust us -- he was cool.

Since several people on one of my book listservs have been downed by the flu, I wish all of you well and hope you're not among those filling out the brown bits in the CDC's flu map. Apparently, this year's flu is rampant and debilitating. We've been unaffected, so far. Stay well, everyone!

Bookfool, knocking wood

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Forgot one wahoo and back soon

We have a storm moving in, which means I'll have to shut down the computer and unplug (if I value the computer; and, I do). And, tomorrow I'm in charge of driving the kiddo down to Laurel for a swim meet because the husband can't take off to drive the fish to the pond he signed up to toss him into. Hope to be back in time to read and write a Sunday Salon post. In the meantime, here's a wahoo I forgot. Wahoo for squirrels, who always keep me smiling:

Those streaks in the background are raindrops, so the exposure was fairly long and I consider myself lucky that the squirrel wasn't any fuzzier (focus-wise).

For those who missed the eclipse, here's a link. I enjoyed the way the author mused about the importance of viewing an eclipse versus watching American Idol. For my part, I completely forgot that American Idol has returned and it would have had no effect if I'd remembered. I'd prefer to watch an eclipse over Simon Cowell, any day.

See you on Sunday, I hope!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Wahoos and One Complaint

Wahooey Poppet Family Portrait:

Just a couple of wahoos because the idiot with the camera forgot to put her memory card back in the camera and missed taking a photo of a truly hoopty owl right across the street from our house. Oh, argh. I'll be mourning for days.

Due to heavy cloud cover we also missed the eclipse, but I did take a photo of that gorgeous full moon, last night:

Well, wahoo for that, eh?

Actually they were having a bit of a tiff, those two. It was pretty fun to watch.

I took the memory card out to load this photo:

Was it worth the loss of an owl photo? I don't think so. But, there you have it. It's a pretty tree. So, wahoo for lovely spring colors. Yes, I know it's only February. So weird.

Dandelion Whine:

Nooooooo! Too soon, too soon! I haven't even finished raking up the fall leaves!!! Dandelions are really quite pretty up close, though, aren't they? Okay, yeah, reluctant wahoo.

Hope everyone had a wahooey day and got to see the eclipse.

Bookfool who must wait till 2010 for the next total eclipse of the moon (bwaaaah!)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

#19 Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Copyright 1999
Harper Perennial Fantasy
250 pages
Finished 2/19/08

We are set in fast-forward mode, here. I spotted azaleas, forsythia and Japanese magnolias in bloom, today. These are April bloomers, so obviously Mother Nature is totally whacked up. But, that's another story. Since I've been an errand-running fool and have not had the time or inclination to do the major organization that's apparently required to locate the missing calendar, I'm going to start working my way backwards on book reviews. Hence, the review of Stardust, which I just finished reading last night.

What led you to pick up this book? It's probably all Chris's fault. Let's blame Chris. The truth, however, is that Stardust was the closest book to hand when I was stuck on the futon with a cat warming my lap.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. I'll defer to the cover blurb on this one:

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristan learns, lies Faerie--where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.
. . . A remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous--in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

What did you like most about the book? I thought it was a well-wrought and very fun grown-up fairy tale with a decent blend of good versus evil, a rather likeable hero (if a bit too mild, at times) and a wonderful, adventurous setting. I loved the little town of Wall and its people. Actually, there's very little about this book that I disliked.

What did you think of the characters? Tristran was mild-mannered to the point that he was very close to being branded a wimp by yours truly, but he was tremendously courageous when challenged and the character grew in the classic way. I liked him. The star, Yvaine, was understandably grumpy (it would definitely hurt to fall to earth from the sky) and the interaction between the two was humorous and lively. The witches were easy to hate. Very well done, I'd say, Mr. Gaiman.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I'm quite fond of the scene in which Tristran is trying to convince Victoria that he will go anywhere and give her anything to win her hand:

"I would go to Africa, and bring you diamonds the size of cricket balls. I would find the source of the Nile and name it after you. I would go to America--all the way to San Francisco, to the gold-fields, and I would not come back until I had your weight in gold. Then I would carry it back here, and lay it at your feet. I would travel to the distant northlands did you but say the word, and slay the mighty polar bears, and bring you back their hides."

"I think you were doing quite well," said Victoria Forester," until you got to the bit about slaying polar bears."

In general:
An enchanting fairy tale and the best Gaiman work I've read, thus far.

All right, Gaiman fans, we're at 50/50, here. Neverwhere is going to be the acid test, when I get to it. Does she love Gaiman or not? She cannot yet say. But, Stardust is definitely a point in his favor.

Yes, yes, headaches and shorted out neurons and all that. Thumbs up.

Coming up . . . Wahoo! Wednesday. But, I have to go. Again. I love my new car and all, but sometimes I'd just like to be able to walk rather than hop into the car every whip-stitch because there are no freaking sidewalks, everything is miles of twisty roads apart and the loose dogs would happily take a chunk from either of my ankles (they did, in fact, once take a chunk out of the cat's hindquarters). This would be one reason I'd have stayed in England if I were Neil, but that's just me. Plus, I really like sheep and things like bits of Roman walls and castles.

Nobody actually knows where any of that came from. If you do not fear the crazy lady, feel free to return for some wahoos, later this evening.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Kick Me

I'm about 6 book reviews behind, now, and the worst possible thing has happened. I've misplaced my calendar!!! Aaaaaaargh! I write down all the info about every book I read on the day I complete it, so the calendar is supposed to be right at my fingertips. Normally, I also keep a log on the computer, but this year I've been a little chaotic and the hand-written info on my monthly calendar is it. So, I'm off to tear my house apart in search of the much-beloved and needed calendar. I leave you with with a wet daffodil because it rained, this weekend:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Short Story Sunday

Quickie post! I was hoping to sign up as a participant in the Sunday Salon, in the event that I managed to read something other than the Bible study lessons I routinely save and cram into Sunday afternoons. Unfortunately, my head wasn't on the verge of exploding, rendering me completely unable to sign up for anything. I did, however, manage to read a few short stories before I caved and fell supine on the futon in fits of agony. I didn't look as attractive as the cat, but the photo seemed to fit.

The Lottery - title story from The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. My friend John mentioned The Lottery as a favorite short story in his column at Criminal Brief. I read three of the other stories in the book, late last year, and was so disappointed that I returned the book to the shelf. Maybe the timing was bad, again, but I didn't care for this story at all. It was definitely suspenseful, but I actually made a decent guess as to what was going to occur, without predicting the specifics. Creepy and well-written, yes. However, I'm guessing that I've heard mention of the story a few too many times and the build-up simply resulted in a severely diluted thrill.

The Wood-Sprite - from The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. I love Nabokov; and, the preface of this set of short stories, by Dmitri Nabokov, does excellent job of pinpointing the reason his short stories are so satisfying. They're "self-contained", "immediately accessible", and "offer the reader immediate gratification". I agree on all counts. The Wood-Sprite is very short at a mere three pages in length, but packs a tremendous impact.

A man imagines (or, does he?) that a wood sprite he played with as a child in Russia has come to visit him as he sits at a desk. The sprite bemoans the fact that his beloved forest has disappeared and that wherever he traveled, after escaping the ravaging of his home, he found nothing but death and destruction. I'm wild-guessing that this story has to do with Nabokov's feelings about the Bolshevik Revolution because it was apparently a very early work. While definitely not my favorite short work by Nabokov, it was certainly satisfyingly complete. The man knew how to write a short story.

And, my favorite . . .
Disappearing Act - from Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester. War has led to massive destruction, "to defend the American Dream of Beauty and Poetry and the Better Things in Life," in the words of the great general leading the action. In spite of the general's demands that everyone must become an expert in something, none of the experts can figure out the mystery of Ward T of the United States Army Hospital, where shell-shocked soldiers mysteriously disappear and reappear.

You'd probably have to be a fan of true sci-fi to appreciate and enjoy Disappearing Act as much as I did. It has a cute, ironic twist ending that literature purists will probably hate. I loved the ending; it made me smile. But, I do like a bit of sci-fi, now and then.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I Lied. I didn't mean to, honest.

When I said, "This is it. My poppet family is complete," I meant it. Truly I did. But, then along came this happy and very colorful gal (who is still, unfortunately, nameless):

Well, heck. Does she look like my kind of Poppet, or what? And, she's not the only one. See Choxie, the other newcomer, here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2 Memes - 10 Ways to Tell I Wrote that Book (the one you rushed out and spent full-price to buy) and a Non-Fiction Meme

Chris of Stuff As Dreams Are Made On tagged me for one meme, "10 Ways to Tell a Book Was Written by Me" and then CJ of My Year of Reading Seriously Tagged me for a "Non-Fiction Meme", so I'm going to knock those out in one whack. And, then, I have to actually get dressed and go somewhere. Imagine that.

10 Ways To Tell A Book Was Written By Me

1. It will either have been written in 30 days or it will be unfinished and will essentially drag on, forever, as a part of my life; e.g.: "that paramedic novel . . . you know, the one I almost finished in 1997?"

2. It will have started with a single sentence and then progressed from there (as opposed to a well-formed idea . . . with a plot) or the idea will have arrived in the form of an astoundingly vivid dream that probably scared the peawaddin' out of me.

3. Someone's going to get hurt. I particularly love bonking my characters on the head, but I'm trying really hard to just trip them or get someone to shoot at them, these days. Laser guns are enormously fun.

4. The dialogue will rock. I've been told my dialogue is very realistic. This is humorous, of course, because I'm so seldom in the presence of other humans. Unless you count my family and we're all a little shy on acquaintance with reality.

5. This will surprise you (no, it won't; I'm kidding): the main characters will always have a sense of humor and tend to either poke fun at each other or do exasperating or weird things.

6. I can't even guess at what genre it'll be. You could end up with a sci-fi, a suspense, a romantic comedy, or a generic paranormal story.

7. It will not be a literary masterpiece. Nobody will use the words "tour de force" (thank goodness; that expression is so overused).

8. It will not have a pink cover. I'd seriously put my foot down on this point.

9. The novel will not be entirely my doing. I'll get a lot of help from people who are experts in whatever subject matter the novel involves.

10. It will take place someplace other than the Deep South because I just cannot get the hang of the way people speak, around here.

Wow, that was a bit more difficult than I expected. I actually had to go ahead and get dressed, run to the Big City, drop off my husband at the dental school, shop, pick up said husband, snatch
some lunch, drive to the school, scream all the way home (kiddo was driving -- oh, baby, we have got to work on those turns), feed the cat, and eat an almond cloud cookie (yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds). And, then I did the meme. Can I read now?

Nope, darn it, I can't because I must go on. Anyone who has managed to read this far and for whom the concept of writing their own version of the meme appeals . . . go get 'em.

Non-Fiction Meme

This one's CJ's doing. CJ was tagged by Guatami, who created the meme and whom I have got to add to my sidebar. Someone remind me.

a). What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

A better question would be what doesn't interest me. Because, honestly, there are very few topics I can think of that I'm not willing to read about (and sometimes I just ignore myself and read them, anyway). I have books on gardening, cooking, food, animals, science, scuba diving, climbing, sculpture, home decorating, geography, geology, history, numerous crafts, sailing, writing, travel/adventure/exploration, war, politics, photography, architecture, medicine, paleontology . . . geez, you name it.

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?

Oh, sure.

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

It would be nice to be paid for something before I die, yes, thank you.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

I recommend books to specific people based on what I know of their interests and I recommend books, here. So, yes, I do and I have. All the time.

e). If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

A war memoir I gave a 5/5 rating and which I highly recommend to anyone who likes reading about WWII.

f). Please don't forget to link back here or whoever tags you.

Hi Guatami! I linked at the top. Have a happy day!

Who wants to do this one? The following people are obviously aching to join in (and if not, totally allowed to ignore the tagging):

The Stephanie who Confesses
The Stephanie who Went to China, recently
Book Nook Les
Nik of Keep this on the DL
Candlelit Amy

This could be really fun. I agree with CJ that we don't seem to discuss nonfiction, around here, very often.

Gotta go. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!!!

Mouse Bar, above, came from Art By Cheryl. Sorry, the HTML thing is eluding me. I need a nap.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry and a few little wahoos

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Copyright 1993
Laurel Leaf - YA/Futuristic/Newbery Medalist
180 pages
Finished 2/6/08

What led you to pick up this book? I've wanted to read this book for eons (especially since the recent reading of several terrific blog reviews, although my youngest highly recommended it a number of years ago). However, I had no idea where my son's copy was hiding. I began to read it the day after I located it during a completely unrelated book-seeking mission with the kiddo.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Jonas lives a comfortable, happy life in a community without any suffering and where everyone has a profession chosen for them. Those who don't fit in or who become too old are "released". But, when Jonas turns 12 and is told he will become the Receiver of Memories, he learns the true meaning of pain and pleasure from the aging Giver, a man who is in anguish from carrying the burden of all of the Community's past memories. When Jonas find out the truth, he must make a dangerous choice. Will he have the courage to make a decision that will change things forever?

What did you like most about the book? I'm having trouble figuring out what to say to this question. I can come up with a lot of adjectives to describe how I felt about the book, but none of them seem quite right. What makes the book wonderful, I ask myself? I think, perhaps, its humanity. The thought that if life were to become an experience that was free of fear or pain it might also become flat and meaningless is an interesting concept. What is life without pain or pleasure? Ah, there you go. The Giver is a book that makes you ponder, question, compare and observe . . . a book worth discussing.

What did you think of the characters? I was very fond of Jonas. The Giver, the old man who taught Jonas, was a little difficult to warm up to, but eventually he began to make sense. And, Jonas' family seemed warm and loving, the baby Gabriel that they cared for a charmer. But, there were stories beneath each of those characters; and, it was Jonas -- his strength and his refusal to let what he'd learned become meaningless -- that really jumped out.

Share a favorite scene from the book: Although the ending is left a bit open-ended, it's the part I really love best. Unfortunately, I can't say a thing without ruining the ending for anyone who hasn't read the book.

In general: An absolutely gripping, amazing story of courage and the meaning of human experience. I loved this book!

An aside: There was a point, during the reading of this book, that I became a little bored. I can't remember what the deal was -- whether I thought things were not moving fast enough, it had become a tad repetitive, or I was just sleepy. But, I shoved onward, thank goodness. That bit of ennui only lasted for a few pages; things began to change quickly after I told myself to just keep reading. The Giver is an excellent book and well deserving of its Newbery Medal, in my humble opinion.

I keep thinking I'll get back to rating with numbers, but they're still making my head hurt. So, thumbs up.

So far, this has been a terrific reading month, both quality- and quantity-wise. I'm trying to churn reviews out as quickly as possible, but now and then it rains outside (when it rains inside, you're in trouble). And, when it rains --outside, of course-- I have no choice but to read until I'm cross-eyed. Those are the rules. I'm again, therefore, 5 book reviews behind.

Reviews forthcoming:
Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz
The Night Lives On by Walter Lord
A Hawaiian Reader, Vol. 1, ed. by A. Grove Day and Carl Stroven
The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

Finished, but you'll have to wait for an Estella review:
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Just walked in the door:
The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (Thanks, Paula!!!)
Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer (PBS, I heart you)
and this gem from the library sale:

I don't have any surfaces that are that ugly, just FYI; the photo was taken our light-drenched but vaguely tacky library basement (like I care if it looks like the Taj Mahal or . . . a basement). Here, read a little. Be my guest:

Very wahooey find, don't you think?

Here's another wahoo, a harbinger of spring:

And, something of interest . . . the reason Vicksburg used to be nicknamed "The San Francisco of the South" (which also may at least partially explain why very few people own vehicles with manual transmissions):

Seriously wahooey; every town should have one of these:

Sleep well, my pretties.

Bookfool in The City with the Hot Pink Gorilla

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sailing Alone Around the World by Capt. Joshua Slocum

Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum
Originally published 1900, Copyright 1999
Shambhala Publications, Inc. - NF/Memoir
293 pages
Finished 2/4/08

What led you to pick up this book? It was a total impulse purchase, which I happened across whilst browsing in the ever-dangerous Borders. Fortunately, it was 50% off the cover price and I had a gift card. So, it actually doesn't exist because I spent no money on it. Well, I can pretend if I want to.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Sailing Alone Around the World is the personal account of the first man to sail around the world alone, literally. What a giveaway title, eh? I won't cause you any difficulty by revealing the ending because it's so obvious. Had he not survived, we wouldn't have the book to read, now, would we?

What did you like most about the book? I loved Slocum's dry sense of humor and wit. I was impressed with his fortitude, quick-thinking in times of danger and his superb nautical skill, as well as the historical backdrop. His journey took place between April of 1895 and June, 1898 -- a time period during which people carried letters of introduction and sailors were a part of a global network which, I think, certainly tops that of our modern life because people actually spoke to each other, invited strangers for dinner and lodging based on the written recommendation of a common friend, and were often stunningly generous. Several acquaintances of Slocum chipped in to pay harbor fees or replace Slocum's equipment without any obvious ulterior motive.

What did you think of the characters? Amazing. Slocum was an interesting man with a tremendous sense of humor, very worldly and adventurous. The people he encountered were largely friends, natives (for better or worse) or villains. There was a distinctive color, flavor and imagination to each place he stopped. The world and its people were fascinating in the late 19th century.

Share a favorite scene from the book: This book is crammed full of adventures, but one of my favorites was the scene during which Slocum was chased by pirates after leaving Gibralter and another was the description of the real-life castaway upon whom the tale Robinson Crusoe was based and whose cave Slocum visited. I marked numerous passages, but I'll quote a few that I think are representative.

At this point in my dilemma Captain Pedro Samblich, a good Austrian of large experience, coming along, gave me a bag of carpet-tacks, worth more than all the fighting men and dogs of Tierra del Fuego. I protested that I had no use for carpet-tacks on board. Samblich smiled at my want of experience, and maintained stoutly that I would have use for them. "You must use them with discretion," he said; "that is to say, don't step on them yourself." With this remote hint about the use of the tacks I got on all right and saw the way to maintain clear decks at night without the care of watching.

Difficulties, however, multiplied all about in so strange a manner that had I been given to superstitious fears I should not have persisted in sailing on a thirteenth day, notwithstanding that a fair wind blew in the offing. Many of the incidents were ludicrous. When I found myself, for instance, disentangling the sloop's mast from the branches of a tree after she had drifted three times around a small island, against my will, it seemed more than one's nerves could bear, and I had to speak about it, so I thought, or die of lockjaw, and I apostrophized the Spray as an impatient farmer might his horse or his ox. "Didn't you know," cried I-- "didn't you know that you couldn't climb a tree?"

The wind was still southwest, but it had moderated, and roaring seas had turned to gossiping waves that rippled and pattered against her sides as she rolled among them, delighted with their story.

My time was all taken up those days--not by standing at the helm; no man, I think, could stand or sit and steer a vessel round the world: I did better than that; for I sat and read my books, mended my clothes, or cooked my meals and ate them in peace. I had already found that it was not good to be alone, and so I made companionship with what there was around me, sometimes with the universe and sometimes with my own insignificant self; but my books were always my friends, let fail all else.

In general:
Sailing Alone Around the World (at least, the copy I own) is not annotated and there are large passages written in nautical language thick enough to puzzle all but the seasoned sailor. I looked up some terminology and read between the lines, so to speak, at other times. The book is such an entertaining read, full of pirates and danger, adventure and even silliness (Captain Slocum liked to refer to himself as "the crew") that it's wonderful as is. But, it would be even better if the language was explained through notes or a glossary and his travels were put into historical context.

Yet another thumbs up. I loved this book and it will be squeezed onto the good shelves, shortly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman
Copyright 2006
Henry Holt Fiction
269 pages
Finished 2/2/08

What led you to pick up this book? I read Kris' review of Anonymous Lawyer at her blog, Not Enough Books , last year, and it sounded great so I added the book to my wish list. I acquired a copy pretty quickly, but when I opened it up I thought the beginning was so funny that I actually closed it specifically to save the book for a time when I thought I really needed the upper. Note the pattern, here. I was on upper books, last week. Funny books = legal uppers. Okay, the legal part doesn't refer to the book, but it's kind of humorous that I stuck "legal" into the equation. This is especially funny if you're from another planet, as I am.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. An obsessed, selfish, and wily hiring partner in a law firm begins to blog about his plan to someday become chairman of the firm and is eventually "found out" by two people who could either harm him or help him. The book is actually a mixture of his blog entries and emails to his niece and various people who discover his blog -- very nicely balanced. Not all authors can handle that kind of format well.

What did you like most about the book? It's so completely over-the-top that you can't help but laugh, even when he's talking about deliberately tripping a paralegal or insisting that the lawyers shouldn't have to share a water fountain with the people who do computer support or the technicians because who knows what kind of diseases those people carry. He refers to everyone by descriptive names: The Jerk, The One Who Missed Her Kid's Funeral, The Frumpy Litigator, The Musician, The Suck-Up, The Guy With the Bad Haircut, etc.

What did you think of the characters? They're actually quite believable. I took a paralegal certification course, a few years back, and thought it was a little surprising that the lawyers who taught the class managed to fit into the room with their egos. But, there are normal people in law, also -- people who are idealistically out to save the world and those who just want to make enough money to feed the family. He represents the whole spectrum well.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I'm just going to quote a fairly large section that seems representative of his typical patter:

Mentor. I hate that word. It's how they manipulate us into caring about them. If I'm your boss, I can make your life a living hell without spending a single instant worrying about what you're getting out of it or how it affects your "career development." (Career development. Another pair of words I hate). But call me a "mentor" and suddenly I'm burdened with having to think about you. I don't want to think about the Suck-Up as a real person. I don't want the responsibility of making sure that what I ask him to do is actually helping him. It's helping the firm. That's all that's supposed to matter.

We're a business. We're trying to maximize profits. If that means each year we take fifty law school graduates and burn out forty-eight of them before they turn thirty-five, well, that's what they're signing up for. We don't promise mentors.

Well, in the recruiting literature we do. But in the recruiting literature we also promise client contact, pro bono opportunities, and a work-life balance. Scales balance in all sorts of ways.

What's the problem anyway? We're doing well. It's been almost seventy-five days without a work-related suicide.

In general:
You have to read this book in the spirit that it was apparently intended: not specifically a parody of any other work (as far as I know) but more of a caricature, picking on the obsessions and excesses in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate law. Like Kris, the last post completely threw me, but then I realized that there were hints that the character couldn't admit to certain realities throughout the book and the ending is simply a continuation of those occasional tall tales that he inserted because he didn't want to admit the truth. You should definitely read it in order to figure out what the heck I'm referring to.

Another thumbs up. And, it's worth noting that Anonymous Lawyer is yet another book that began as a blog. The blog Anonymous Lawyer was, according to the book's slip jacket, "profiled in The New York Times and remains one of the most popular blogs on the web." The author was a recent graduate from Harvard Law School at the time the slipcover was printed; Anonymous Lawyer is a novel, not a memoir. Blachman has a newer weblog, which is also fun reading but about the real human, not written from the perspective of a fictional character. He sounds like a fun guy.

Totally off the wall: Did you know there's such a thing as a Space Weather Alert? And, that we're currently in the midst of one? Is it bad to spend all day raking your yard and sweeping your porch when there's a solar flare or is a geomagnetic flux simply something that makes your radio signal worse? I don't know. Actually, I feel bad for not knowing. I think I'll have to investigate.

What do you think about the following photo? If you looked down into my car, while you were working in some drive-through window, handing me a clear drink (because, of course, we don't drink anything that could stain the beige interior) would you freak out? Yes, of course I realize you're beyond the drive-through years, but that's not the point. Would you scream, thinking it was a real lizard or just laugh and say, "What a cute little plastic lizard!"

I ask these things because I'm sure a curious chick.

But, I have to go. Three more reviews forthcoming. I'll try to concentrate.

Bookfool, getting flippy

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The World According to Mimi Smartypants

The World According to Mimi Smartypants by Mimi Smartypants
Copyright 2004/2006
Avon Trade
237 pages

What led you to pick up this book? I happened across Mimi's blog, a couple of years ago and used to subscribe to her feed. She's irreverent, sharply observant, smart and often side-splitting funny. Of course, I wanted to read her book.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. No plot; this one's actually just a compilation of some of her blog entries, with an opening note from the author and a "Little Black Book" (more notes by the author) describing how the book came about following the closing entry.

What did you like most about the book? "Mimi" is just so darn funny. I don't know how anyone can possibly stay friends with her without investing in some sort of bladder-control garment. I didn't mark the funniest anecdotes because, you may recall, I read it during that weekend that I could barely move my eyeballs and I just couldn't be bothered to reach out for a post-it note. But, anyway . . . here's a sampling:

I made a llama puppet (it's a long story) and I wanted the llama to be able to see Al Gore. I stuck my arm up in the air so the puppet could look out over the crowd, and I learned that the Secret Service really do not like it when you show a puppet to someone they are protecting. No tackling ensued, but two of the guys moved over to get a better view of me and stayed like that for the rest of the remarks. My sister and I developed a fondness for the Secret Service and decided that we want to get some old phone cord and make fake curly ear wire things for ourselves like the ones they have. It looks really cool.

What did you think of the characters? The "characters" are Mimi, her husband, her friends, her co-workers, the subway crazies, and anyone else she happens to observe. I love reading about them, but I think in real life "Mimi" would terrify me.

Share a favorite scene from the book: The August 21 entry about why you should not take yourself seriously describes a time when Mimi was in college, had "dropped a large amount of acid with friends" and was in "Introspective Mode". She decided that there must be some important, illuminating message in the patterns in the snowflakes she observed, coupled with the drug-induced colors . . . and concentrated. While she was watching, the patterns resolved themselves into the shape of Astro, the dog from The Jetsons. Her comment:

So while I don't discount the validity of anyone else's Moment of Clarity, drug-induced or otherwise, make sure you take a second to reflect and ascertain that you are not simply being a pretentious dork. I consider that particular hallucination a sort of warning signal from my brain that things were getting a little too pompous and serious up there.

I found this particularly funny because of a friend who swears she saw Jesus in her alarm clock during a similar drug-addled haze. I had a little trouble keeping a straight face when she got to the part about shaking the clock because she really just wanted to know what time it was, but Jesus wouldn't go away. Apparently, he got the message across.

In general: I loved this book but it's definitely not family-friendly. The World According to Mimi Smartypants is a no-holds-barred, honest account of what one woman (who, I think it's important to add, doesn't want to be identified) has seen, heard, thought, and experienced, while living in Chicago and riding on local public transportation. Her language can be extraordinarily offensive; some of her anecdotes made me blush. And, I was at home, alone, so it's not like anyone could accidentally read an embarrassing section over my shoulder. I think she's hilarious, though, and the book was perfect for the moment; I actually saved this book specifically for a desperate-I-need-an-upper week.

Still don't feel like rating books with numbers, but thumbs up. Check out her blog to see if you like her style and can stomach her blunt humor. I have a feeling she'd love that towel in last week's Wahoo! Wednesday post.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Y'all Make My Day and Mwah!

I begged Heather to let me post this uplifting photo of her beautiful daughter, Ellie, to open my version of the You Make My Day post. Thanks, Heather!!! Isn't it the perfect happy photo? Just looking at it makes my day.

Since I've been so slow to get this post typed up, I've been tagged for the You Make My Day award by (gulp) six bloggers: Heather, Eva, CJ, Bonnie, Jenclair, and Amy. Because all six of them have obviously posted on the You Make My Day award and they all make my day, I've decided to send each one a separate award (which Bonnie gave me . . . and I just discovered Raidergirl3 also gave me -- right back at both of you!!!). Here you go, guys:

The point of the Mwah! award is "to hand some of that love and kindness back around to those who have been so very, very, very good to me in this bloggy world. My hope is that those who receive this award will pass it on to those who have been very, very, very good to them as well. It's a big kiss, of the chaste platonic kind, from me to you with the underlying 'thanks' message implied. I really do appreciate your support and your friendship and yes, your comments. ... Mwah!"

What a nice sentiment, don't you think?

~~~ We interrupt this post for a special annoyance. Or, announcement. I tried -- oh, how I tried, people -- to write "little blurbs" about why I adore all the people who are on my "You Make My Day List". But, there's this problem, see . . . they were turning into essays. I am so filled with adoration that I can't shut up. So, I've decided to delete the descriptions and just post a list. Trust me; they're all worth visiting. End Annoying Announcement~~~

And, The Official You Make My Day List . . . I must add that the following bloggers are only a few of those who regularly make my day (because I'm supposed to choose 10, I believe) and that I decided not to bother checking to make sure they hadn't already been tagged because . . . well, because I feel like it and they still make my day, even if they're also making someone else's (which they probably are):

Kookiejar of A Fraternity of Dreamers
Cupcake of A Truth Universally Acknowledged
Raidergirl3 of An Adventure in Reading
SuziQ of Blogging My Books
Tara of Books and Cooks
Nikki of Keep This on the DL - Update: You must read her post about The New Guy. I nearly fell out of my chair.
Carrie of My Middle Name is Patience
Stephanie of The Written Word
Nat of In Spring it is the Dawn
Jessica of In Search of Dessert

I could go on. But, I'm not supposed to and everyone knows what a sweet, well-behaved little thing I used to be. I'm falling back on my past to try to make myself behave in the present.

Sorry for the posting delay - next up will be the promised book reviews. I read another book, yesterday, in between naps. Apparently, I ran out of fizz because I slept and slept and slept and read and read and slept and slept and slept. Anyway, I finished Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz and the next 5 posts will be book reviews unless someone slips me a highly caffeinated drink. I could have probably used one, yesterday.

Happy Weekend!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wahoo! Wednesday, cont'd - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

These are mostly favorite sights spotted on Saturday. Hope you like them. Today, the sun came out! Wahoo! But, the camera did not. Awww. I hope to get out and about with the camera, tomorrow. In the meantime, some wahooey bits and pieces from Saturday's swim meet at Delta State University.

1. Absolute favorite totally wahooey jammers (no way you'd have difficulty spotting your child in these -- psychedelic, dude):

2. Favorite photo of a towel that looks like it says something it does not (use your imagination and pretend it's not upside-down; I touched up a bit to make it look even more like what I thought I saw before I stopped, giggled and resumed acting like a grown-up):

3. This is a lousy photo, but it's my favorite winter swimming fashion statement:

4. Another lousy photo (I needed a tripod) . . . favorite photo of a swimmer running on water. Okay, yeah, he was actually just jumping in but it's fun to pretend.

5. Favorite photo of Delta State's unofficial mascot, the "Fighting Okra", looking a wee bit angry about his situation:

5. Favorite sign:

Up next: I am going to get to that "You Make My Day" post. Oh, yes I am.

Just finished: The Giver by Lois Lowry. This means I am now 4 book reviews behind, so expect a few book reviews in the coming days, as well.

Must dunk self in tub of warm water. Wishing everyone a very wahooey week!

Bookfool, slightly sleepy and maybe just a tad dirty