Thursday, December 30, 2010

Here is our tree, too. Poor angel, she's a little cramped up there, but from the front you can't tell!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I.O.U.

November's books read post and December's will be due soon...  can't find my list - I might have left it up at the lake - will check, post blizzard, when we make it up there later in the week!

MY Christmas Tree 2010

This is our Christmas Tree 2010!  I decided to put on only the white and silver and clear ornaments, and if I had enough, I was stopping there.  Of course there is not a single tree I will EVER put up that won't include a couple of special, NON-white, NON-silver, NON-clear ornaments...  The "K" ornament Daddy made for me and the red bleeding heart ornament that I bought in honor of him...  I also included two homemade ornaments M and J made with Jack after his marriage broke up; I think they made them that next Christmas...

And no, I don't normally have a tire in my library, but that is/was one of M's gifts - one of hers died last week so J ordered a new one and it was delivered on the 23rd, just in time for Santa to take the credit!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maybe Late, But Here Are Middle Sis' November Books

Better late than never, eh?  I spent a lot of time reading The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope for my online reading group, and I'm halfway through it but am not sure I'm going to finish. I hate to admit that, as I always feel compelled to finish a book once I start it. There's so much incessant wallowing over the same thing for dozens of pages, dragging on and on and on... Lizzie refuses to give up the diamonds! Lord Faun is insulted by Frank Greystoke! Lucy Morris is offended by Lord Faun calling Frank Greystone "not a gentleman!" Frank is a weenie and won't tell Lizzie he is engaged to Lucy!  Please. I'm not a big fan of melodrama, so while I appreciate Trollope's sly witticisms and acerbic social commentary, this is all getting on my nerves. Rather than opening the book with great anticipation, I open it with a sigh of resignation.

I've also been reading the brand new "The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival" by Stephen Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka, and I am enjoying it immensely. It's sort of science-light, with the emphasis on the people who helped turn Monterey Bay around, but the history of Euro-American use of the bay for whaling and fishing is interesting and seems well researched. I will finish this one for sure. Lovely pen and ink sketches of the wildlife, and maps--I love books with maps.

So what did I read and actually finish last month?

Drop Dead Divas by Virginia Brown, the second in the Dixie Divas mystery series. I read this back to back with book one, and that may have been a mistake. The book begins the same way as the first novel did, with Bitty again accused of murder. Oh no, I thought, don't make this a habit, Ms. Brown, or I'll stop reading this series, but she quickly extricated Bitty from the circle of suspects, which is good. She also reduced the number of Divas running around, which was confusing in the first book--also good. A couple of little inconsistencies were present: one of the main characters this time around was a member of the Divas in the first book, but Trinket is musing in this second one that she'd be a great addition to the Divas; hopefully, this was straightened out before printing (I was reading a galley). Otherwise, not a bad entry in the series, although do insurance investigators really have access to the same--or better--Internet sources than the police? I hope Trinket gets over thinking her very well adjusted folks are teetering on the brink of dementia just because they want to enjoy their retirement, and will realize that she's seeing them as adults rather than as parents for the first time and it's clearly a shock to her.I hope the mysteries will not always involve an ex-amour of Bitty as that will get old fast. I also hope that Trinket stops babysitting Bitty, as their lawyer's insistence she do so after she, Trinket, was seriously hurt in a car accident made me quite annoyed. I do like how Ms. Brown is letting Trinket and the vet's romance move at an appropriately adult pace, but may I point out that people can tell the difference between bad singing and drowning or choking sounds and no one would burst into a bathroom without knocking? And may I also point out that real women do not engage in cat fights, ever? Very juvenile antics this reader did not appreciate. The scene of Chitling racing away from the lingerie store with a certain item in her mouth--hilarious! I was almost rolling over on the floor with laughter. The mystery is not so mysterious and easy to figure out, but the series does hold promise. I love a main character in her fifties who is active and full of life and vim and vigor.

To Have and To Kill by Mary Jane Clark  Another galley read this month, with murder swirling around a soap opera actress. At first I thought the amateur detectives would be the mother-daughter pair, and I get excited, thinking a unique approach like that would be fun, but the main character is the daughter, Piper, an out-of-work actress dealing with a number of big changes in her life--moving back, hopefully temporarily, into her parent's home in NJ as she can no longer afford to live on her own in NYC, her mother's macular degeneration, and helping out at her mother's bakery may be a slide to abandoning her own career. I liked Piper, I liked her folks, I liked the premise. I hated the tweeting. Do twenty-somethings really wake up and reach to tweet before even visiting the bathroom? If so, I fear for the future. At least the author incorporated the tweeting into the story line because if she hadn't, I'd have decided never to read another in this new series again. I guess I am a Luddite after all. Although I was reading this on my Kindle, would a Luddite do that?  Hopefully the next book will not make use of the same plot device. But it takes place in my old home state, NJ, so that's a plus, the mother-daughter dynamic could go in some wonderful directions, so I recommend this cosy.

The Sisters Grimm, Book 1: The Fairytale Detectives by Michael Buckley What if fairy tale characters were real? And lived in upstate New York? And what would happen if the giants were able to make their way down the beanstalk to wreak havoc as mercenaries for an evil Ever After out to seize power? And what if the only people who can stop them were a delightful Mrs. Grimm and her two granddaughters, descendants of Jacob Grimm, one of the Brothers Grimm? Delightful children's story, the first entry in a series.

Chanticleer: A Thanksgiving Story by Cornelius Mathews (1850)  Feel good slice of mid-nineteenth century life, this short novella will warm the cockles of your heart as it tells the story of the Peabodys and their Thanksgiving reunion. Scmaltzy? A little. Outdated terms? Yup, with a few cringe-inducing depictions of minorities. But the basic message about forgiveness and family love and patriotism still rings true (especially that last, this was a pre-Civil War story with striking parallels to the state of disunion present in the country today), and it was entertaining to read about thanksgiving 160 years before I settled down to my own. 

And that's it. Sad, huh? But my students had their museum assignment that I had to research, write and grade, Mother of Mossy had bronchitis over Thanksgiving, and I spent way too much time with Mr. Trollope. Over 12,000 locations on my Kindle, and a mass market cheesy mystery is maybe 5000-6000 locations. It would be a very thick book I'd be lugging around if not for the magic of Fred my Kindle. Another coworker, after seeing mine and S's (she bought one after seeing mine) has now bought her own, so the Kindle Kult, as Homer calls it, expands. LOL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Blog

http://deerhavenduncanthewestie.blogspot.com/

Ok, I keep trying to maintain a site or a blog on behalf of Duncan the Great. Mustluvpets was about to bill me so I canceled it. I have a moonfruit website, but it's not on the www. and no one can ever find it. So heeeeerrrrrreeeees Duncan! I'm adding some ads & some news so there's more to get out of it than my bragging. I'm going to try to write every day -- Try!! Take my poll & tell your friends to enter their votes! Love, little sis

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Photo Project Week 2 - Water

Thanks for the out, Middle Sis - I have been waiting to find some good water photos but we haven't had rain, and when it showered, I was in Virginia where the rain was either (a) overnight while I was asleep in the hotel, or (b) it was so dark and I was outside for such a short time I didn't have the time to look for a good photo...  Since you put in a couple of "oldies but goodies," I'll post a few of MY "oldies but goodies" here and will continue to look for some current water photos...  We have some rain due in on Tuesday...


Water and babies?  A sure win!  (This photo doesn't really qualify 'cause I didn't take it, but it was so cute I threw it in there for fun!)


 Caribbean Sunset, July 2009


Private Island, Caribbean, July 2009


Atlantic City, November 2010 - LOVE the sun on the water


Atlantic City, from The Pier Shops, November 2010


Atlantic City, November 2010



Photo Challenge 2: Desert Water Photos


Nurturing water.





Temporary water.



And, some oldies but goodies...

Angry water.



Tranquil water.


Uneasy water.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

How Cats Drink

The New York Times is reporting today that the latest issue of Science includes an article that demonstrates how cats drink. Unlike dogs, who use their tongues to make a crude little cup (thus the lapping sound), cats apparently touch the tip of their tongue to the surface of the fluid and draw up a column of water (or milk) which they simply close their jaws around.Way cool science, Drs. Reis and Stocker.

Now, to watch the girls drink and imagine a column of water moving too fast for my eye to see...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Big Sis' October Reads

I don't know what happened but I only read three (really? three?!?) books last month.  Or I read more and didn't put them on my list and now they're gone, out of my head...

Naked Heat, by Richard Castle - I've dug around to try and find out who the author actually is, but have been unsuccessful.  Castle is one of our favorite TV shows.  They have some good writers and the chemistry between Castle and Beckett is fun to watch.  This is the second book supposedly written by the TV show's main character, and the characters in the book are loosely based on the characters in the TV show.  The main character from the TV show is listed as the author along with his picture on the back cover, and the acknowledgements are written as if he, Richard Castle, really wrote the book.  Nathan Fillion is one cute guy and it's a fun twist, to show him in character as the author...

Don't Blink, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan - As usual, short chapters and easy to read, but it wasn't one of my favorites.  So you're in the right place at the VERY wrong time and you're a witness to murder.  And then you're investigating that murder.  And you're dragged into things that really don't concern you simply because you were eating at Lombardo's Steak House when that hit went down...  A quick and easy read, fun, but definitely not one of his best...

Shadowfires, by Dean Koontz - Originally written under the pseudonym Leigh Roberts before his Dean Koontz career took off, this was recently rereleased by the publisher in trade format.  I'd never read it and for $9, I thought, "Why not?"  And it was GREAT!  All of Koontz' horror, twisted plots, lots of visual scenes that most definitely might cause nightmares...  I'm giving this one to Little Sis to read - I know she'll like it!  It includes genetic mutations, evolution, and murder, and would make for an awesome movie!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Middle Sister's October Reads

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davies      First in the Domestic Divas mystery series, starring Sophie Winston, forty-something divorcee living in a fabulous old house in Georgetown, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation when she finds a dead man in a dumpster at the grocery store. A dead man who turns out to have been a private investigator who was following her. Enjoyable mystery, with amusing ending with overtones of slapstick comedy. I was particularly enjoying this mystery because Sophie and her sidekick do what is rare in amateur detective novels--they tell the police what they've found, or at least try to. I found it refreshing that Sophie didn't think she was smarter than the detective (to whom, of course, she's very attracted; ditto him to her). Until Sophie found the poison vial and instead of calling the police, decided--stupidly--to try to catch the killer (of several people) herself. Very out of character with a woman who, up til this point in the story, was acting like a normal person. Disappointed this reader. I know, you'll say the author needed this to resolve the mystery. Well, I liked Sophie a lot up til then, and I instantly lost respect for her acting stupid. Which made me forget forgiving her being wishy-washy and unable to tell Humphrey that no, they were not on a date, and no, they were not involved romantically (this relationship was too junior high to be believed) and get annoyed by that whole subplot. Enjoyable enough I'll give Sophie another try, but if this smart amateur detective suddenly has another stupid moment, I'll be mightily disappointed. Lots of food talk in this mystery, and it made me eager for Thanksgiving dinner.

Lark Rise by Flore Thompson   Novelization of the author's childhood growing up in a very small, poor, rural community during the Victorian era in England. I had heard good things about this (and the two subsequent novels) online, and my local PBS station started showing the serialization made in England several years ago. I decided to read the first before watching the show (which is actually based on all three fictionalized memoirs by Thompson). While it's a very fast read, this first book has very little dialogue and is almost completely descriptive. While the people of Lark Rise seem resigned enough with their lot in life (they're not really happy, because they really have no experience of how things can be or were different elsewhere), I came away from it very happy that I live today. These people were extremely poor, and reading about their diet (or lack of much of one), the difficulty of just scraping by, and the general hard times of everyone in the village, I wondered how so many viewers of the television show could find it a wonderful escape and wistfully say they'd love to live then. I haven't watched the show yet, so maybe when you don't read about the one meal a day they ate, with just a tidbit of old bacon fat to flavor it and provide some protein, or the threadbare clothes, lack of daily comforts including sanitation, and all the other things we take for granted, it may seem an idealized way of life. Not to me.

Till Death Us Do Bark (43 Old Cemetery Road, No. 3) by Kate Klise and Sarah Klise   Very enjoyable children's book about a boy who lives with an adoptive father and adoptive ghost-mother, and his adventures when he takes in the dog belonging to the town's wealthy benefactor after that man's death. The clues to solve the mystery of the bequest of the fortune were interesting and well done. I was delighted to look some of the coins up to discover that they are real, and as rare as the author says. Delightful drawings with somewhat Addams-family-esque light decay and spookiness to them to provide atmosphere. Besides, I was getting to play with three real live Irish wolfhound puppies while reading this book with an Irish wolfhound--who wouldn't have fun? Definitely worth the read.

Emma Darwin: A Victorian Life by James D. Loy and Kent M. Loy  Biography of Mrs. Charles Darwin that ultimately fails to make the reader feel they know Emma. A great deal of time was clearly spent in reading archived family letters, tracking the many and evolving family relations (yes, I had to slip that word in here somewhere), and the authors do a good job of recreating the social, financial, and political world the Darwins and their family and friends inhabited. But Emma did not leave a diary, and did not confide her inner thoughts in her letters, so the reader ends the biography with no greater insight than that Emma was a wealthy woman who loved her children and her husband, liked music and spent her widowhood reading. The closest to a meaty issue covered in the book is that Emma and Charles held very different views on religion at the start of their marriage, but by the end, Emma had somehow changed her beliefs to mirror her husband's a bit more. But that change isn't well charted. Nor is how she contributed, by editing, to her husband's scientific writing. I'd have loved to see facsimilies of his writings, with her editorial comments or marks, to see how she contributed to his famous books. Her impressions of great scientists who were friends of her husbands, people like Charles Lyall, the father of geology; Huxley; and others are amusing, but superficial. Way too much of the book is spent discussing daily gastrointestinal information that Emma recorded for her children and Charles. A section discussing how Emma was very concerned with her family's health, with some examples, would have sufficed. Page after page and year after year, and chapter after chapter, of reading "C poorly" was a great waste of paper. The photos were nice, and the brief summary of the childrens' lives after their parents deaths was good, but the authors left out some of the other important people, like the Darwin's grandson who lived with them for many  years, and just disappears from the story after he attains his adulthood. And how many descendants do Charles and Emma have? The authors thank one for his help, but it might have been nice to say "At the time of printing, Charles and Emma were survived by XX descendants." Some interesting insights onto  Charles Darwin are provided, and anyone researching his life would find this an interesting addition to flesh out his character (especially his thoughts on marriage). What I remember several weeks later is that the Darwins were very affluent, which I hadn't known. Otherwise, Emma remains just another Victorian wife and mother, and I don't feel I know anything about her at all.

Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry   Completely charming story by acclaimed author Lowry about mice who live in a church and the trials they undergo when the Great X comes. Lowry skillfully weaves in life lessons a child may not recognize, about fortitude, and being kind even to others who aren't kind to you, and courage. The pen and ink drawings are delightful and charming. I absolutely loved this book. I'm only sad I don't know any children to buy it for when it's published.

The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell  Murder mystery about modern English police trying to solve some gruesome murders that are connected, somehow, to a series of murders that took place over one hundred years ago. I enjoyed the use of genealogical research to investigate the historical murders, but some sections were way too long (the trial transcription, for example) and would have benefited from some judicious editing. Heather Jenkins, a secondary character, was the one I liked the most. Detective Foster and Nigel, the genealogist, were a little too angst-ridden for my liking. C'mon, Nigel, your 'scandal' turned out to not be scandalous at all, and Foster, it's been 8 years since your father died. Eat some vegetables and talk to a counselor if you still haven't resolved that. The murders were too gruesome for my taste, but I wanted to step out of my usual cosy mystery genre to try something new. The final twist that the entire story comes down to was just too coincidental for me, and I found the reason for the string of murders less than convincing. I might screw up my courage (when my stomach stops churning over the ick factor) to read another, but probably not for a good while. But well written, with attention to enough British police procedural detail to create a real atmosphere without overwhelming an American reader.

Guy Mannering  by Sir Walter Scott    I read Ivanhoe (gulp) thirty years ago and enjoyed it, so when my 19th century literature reading group selected this for our fall book, I was excited. When the story finally picks up steam, it's very good, but the first one-third is very slow, with almost no dialogue. Make sure you read an edition that has a glossary in the back for the many, many Scottish dialectical phrases (not Gaelic) used by most characters. But if you're looking for a story with smugglers, hidden identities, a little romance, but not much swashbuckling, this is the story for you.

Dixie Divas by Virginia Brown   I'm going to read a galley of the next in this series, and as I happened to have had the first on my Kindle for months now, I decided to, for once, read a series in order. Dixie Divas is a lighthearted mystery with a 51-year-old divorced, likable main character named Trinket who has returned to her childhood home because she believes (mistakenly, it turns out) that her aging parents need her care. Reunited with her cousin and close friend Bitty, the two become involved in the murder of Bitty's ex-husband, the Senator, when they find him bludgeoned in a historic house they have to gone to visit to try to persuade the owner to allow the house on the local historical society's tour of historic homes fundraiser event. Trinket and Bitty are likable, as are their children and Trinket's parents (who never act like they need help, so Trinket's obsession at the beginning of the book that they are senile is obviously very wrong). The Dixie Divas, a group of hard-drinking, funny women who meet monthly as some strange twist on the Red Hat Society, are difficult at times to tell apart, and I think 1 or 2 fewer Divas would have helped me to keep them straight during the book. The mystery isn't very hard to figure out, but it's not supposed to be. We're just supposed to enjoy swilling mint juleps and seeing some Southern mayhem, and we do. But as for the disappearing body of the Senator: amusing, but if you really want to read how this can be handled superbly, read Edmund Crispin. The disappearing and reappearing decapitated head in one of his mysteries is hysterically funny.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Photos by Lil Sis

Lil Sis sent me these gorgeous autumn photos, because she knows I miss the changing seasons a lot this time of year. Aren't they stunning? Thank you so much, Lil Sis! They made my day!



Monday, October 25, 2010

Photo Challenge #2

Okay, so it seems obvious that the next photo challenge should be Thanksgiving, as we're about to turn the page of the calendar into November.

But the Jane Voohees Zimmerli Art Museum in my old stomping ground, Rutgers University, has a theme for several exhibits and lectures of and on water. I think it might be intriguing to dovetail into that. I wish I was there to check the exhibits themselves out.

So, any preference? Water would be a challenge for me right now, as November is not a watery month in the desert, but that would definitely increase the challenge aspect.

Friday, October 22, 2010

News on the Dog Front

The New York Times today has a story about how vets in Los Angeles are performing brain surgery (modeled on human brain surgery techniques) on dogs (and 1 cat) with Cushing's disease, a pituitary gland tumor. Cushing's disease affects humans, but affects dogs at much higher rates. The canine (and feline) tissue samples are going to be used to develop drugs that will benefit both human and animal patients.

Sammies develop Cushing's at somewhat above average rates, so this is is good news for all us Sammy lovers. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Quote of the Day

"No sensible person thinks that having something written down is better than knowing it."
Scrates, in Plato's 'Phaedrus' (paraphrase)
Quoted in my Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter, Fall 2010 issue.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Big Sis' Book Photos

So my house is full of books.  Books in the library, books in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the living room, in the hallway, in every bedroom.  There are even two in the bathroom, in case of emergencies!

I collect various books.  Yes, I'm a hoarder!  I collect books on books.  Books on decorating with books, books on making books, books on the history of books, books on publishing, books on bookstores, books on selling books...  You name it - if it has to do with books, it stands a darned good chance of making it into my collection!  Here's one portion of one shelf...


Here's one of my cookbook sections.  I also have the entire right section of my library wall filled with cookbooks.  Yes, I know, for someone whose strongest connection to cooking is her maiden name I am addicted to cookbooks and recipes!
Here's the library wall with a couple of display shelves thrown in for good measure.  The left side (not visible) is signed first editions on the top 5 shelves, with assorted titles on the bottom two shelves.  The second section, on the left in the next photo) is general fiction, Harry Potter, and children's books.  The next section includes dictionaries and reference works on the top two shelves, with two sculptured buildings, a schoolhouse and nursery rhyme sculptures, with books about books below them.  Just below that are a couple of shelves of motorcycle books and gardening books.  In the center section are books about books, Shakespeare, some collected Depression glass and cobalt glass and photos, and miscellaneous picture books on the bottom two shelves.  The fifth section includes health books, books on organizing your home and tons'o'decorating and home improvement books.  And as mentioned before, the entire right section is cookbooks (also not visible in the photo).

Here's a close up of my Harry Potter section:  books, ancillary products such as CD-ROM versions, collectibles, note cards, and a collection of Dan Fogelberg CDs thrown in there 'cause I just wanted it off the sofa!

























And this is what I'm reading now...




















So now it's your turn to pick a photo topic...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Photo Challenge: Books

Okay, Big Sis, you posted the first photo challenge: books. I realized while searching for this theme to photograph that I must think of books very differently than you. They are not just paper or hard cover to me; they can be  electronic, or audio, or even printed out. Perhaps reading material is a better term, but books seems a cozier word, an older word, and one that everyone understands without getting into boring specifics (like 'audio'). So it's less about the form, and all about the content to me. Sure, I recognize the traditional book is beautiful, but  as long as I can read, I don't care what form the words come in. Here are just some of the books I live with (and more photos to come as I explore this theme a bit more).

My favorite book:



There are boxes of textbooks just like these stacked in my shed.


The top shelves of this bookshelf are cat and dog books and journals, the bottom, my class lectures and basic textbooks.


Some of my fiction books.


A very messy cookbook shelf.


All of this is why I love this: my Kindle. Currently I am carrying 337 books in my purse. I love that! As you can see from this page of my Fred, I have books, .pdfs for work, and even two word games.






How could you not love a Kindle when the screensaver rotates through pictures of famous authors, the Gutenberg press, and some gorgeous public domain book-related art? Dame Agatha and the Audubon birds are my favorites.



Since we have a library at work (not show, at least not yet), my messy cubicle uses the bookshelves to organize my current projects more than books. But note the scientific journals falling onto the floor.


And audiobooks. My current 'read' or 'listen' on my iPod.


But I also use Adobe overdrive. Here, a galley of a biography of Emma Darwin I am currently reading.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Big Sister's September Reads

My Lies, by Meredith Maran - This was an interesting read, not because it was published by Wiley, but because I've always found the concept of "false memories" fascinating.  This is Meredith's autobiography.  She pulls no punches but writes with brutal honesty about her involvement in helping victims of abuse and incest.  She talks about her marriage and how it failed.  She talks about her later relationships with women.  She came to believe that she was abused by her father when she was younger.  She lets it split up her family; she becomes estranged from them all.  But eventually she comes to believe that she remembered falsely, that he hadn't hurt her at all.  And she admits the difficulty she faced in apologizing to her father, in growing close to her family once again.

1022 Evergreen Place, by Debbie Macomber - I always thought that the idea of living in a duplex next to the man you would eventually fall in love with was a great one.  And this story proved it.  A clean little romance that holds its own in the series.

Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio - This collection of short stories was strange, which I suppose I should have expected given that Neil was one of the editors, but I saw Jodi Picoult's name on the list of contributing authors and bought the book.  Several of the stories really weren't my style, but for the most part I enjoyed them.  At the very least, I enjoyed the format.

Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks - This is my all-time favorite Sparks title.  Katie moves to a small town in North Carolina.  We learn, eventually, that she is running from an abusive husband.  In the meantime, she learns to trust again, and love again.  She falls in love with Alex, and with his two children, and almost begins to believe she can have a real life again.  Needless to say, Hubby Dearest shows up again and while all ends well, albeit tragically, the best part of the book is Katie's friendship with Jo.  And that's ALL I'll say about it!!!

Spider Bones, by Kathy Reichs - Another book with Temperance traveling from Canada to North Carolina to Hawaii to save the day.  How is it possible that the same man can be buried in several different graves?  Read this one and find out!

And I just started Merchants of Culture, a non-fiction book about - drumroll, please! - the trade publishing industry!  I'll let you know next month whether it was a good read...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Middle Sis' September Books

This month I signed up with an Internet galley service, so I have reviews below of some recently published and about to be published books. I've been enjoying reading the galleys; I used to enjoy reading them at the PW bookstore. So, herewith:

  • The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (2011)    Number 2 in the Ruth Galloway mystery series, and I admit that I haven't read the first. But mystery, archaeology, England--what's not to love? Well, unfortunately, some. The main character--a 40-ish female archaeologist--didn't quite resonate with me, but she may grow in future novels. The police inspector, Nelson, didn't elicit much sympathy from me, especially after he ends the critical denouement in a most unprofessional manner, quite at odds with his behavior up till then. Some of the secondary characters were more interesting than the main, and the author should redirect her efforts to bringing the leads to as much life as she did the secondaries. And I never did get used to the present tense, which I usually find awkward at best, pretentious at worst. But the Norfolk coast is superbly drawn, giving the novel a lovely, desolate atmosphere. The mystery itself was not too hard to figure out (and I don't even try to figure out whodunnit), but there certainly were moments of suspense. All in all, I can see potential in this series and this author. (galley edition)
  • Active Senior Living by Jan Curran (2010) Funny novel apparently based on the author's own experiences living in a active senior community while recovering from cancer. Who knew seniors were so randy? It's high school all over again, but with silver hair and walkers. A quick read, engaging, with a sympathetic main character and endearing secondary characters. Life does not end with retirement. That's good to know. (Kindle)
  • Brave New Knits by Julie Turjoman (2010) Interesting addition to the many knitting books flooding the market these days. New, young designers using the Internet to sell their designs are the focus of the book, although three well-established designers are also profiled as they talk about how they've come to use the Internet and online knitting communities to further their outreach. The founder of Ravelry (of which, in the interests of full disclosure, I have been a member since 2007, when it was in beta version), an online knitting community of over half a million knitters and crocheters, provides the introduction. Nice layout, good photos, and thoughtful array of projects for beginner knitters and experienced knitters alike. (galley edition)
  • Crocheted Prayer Shawl Companion by Janet Bristow and Victoria Cole-Gabo (2010) Followup to the first Crochet Prayer Shawl, which outlined how the prayer shawl ministry movement began and spread. Nice layout, nice photos, with added interest in commentary from the designers and prayers the crocheter can use while making these comfort shawl patterns. (galley edition)
  • Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz (2008) Another memoir by Katz of life on a New England farm surrounded by dogs, cats, donkeys, goats, even a cow and bull. I have to say I was somewhat put off in the first part where the death of  a donkey Katz had rescued was described. Well, her death made me teary; the matter of fact disposal of her body upset me. Katz is a big animal lover, but has no problem sending the donkey's body off to to be, well, let's say remaindered, or adding a dog with lots of issues and needs to his overflowing household while he's having serious medical problems of his own that impede his own mobility. I appreciate the no-nonense farmer's approach to animal life, but Katz seems to want it both ways--to be recognized as a superior animal lover, who goes out of his way to take on rescues, and an unromantic farmer dealing with the realities of farm animal life. In reality, he's a middle-aged gentleman farmer who relies on others to run his farm, and takes on a very needy dog while he himself has to use a cane to get around--not exactly responsible in my book. I do agree with his dog-training philosophy, but he's probably find me a bleeding heart. Frankly, I'm not sure I'll read any others by him. Border collie and lab fans will delight in his dogs, though, as did I. (audiobook)
  •  Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright (2009) I heard Ms. Albright being interviewed about this book very early this year, and since I've long been an admirer of her and of pins, I had to read it. Fascinating picture book of her extensive pin collection, with her recollections of where some were found, the people who gave her others, and the messages she tried to send with some of them during diplomatic missions. And she was the commencement speaker at my friend Sarah's graduation! (Who did I have, you ask? Greg Kinnear. Is it any wonder I passed on it?)
  • A Pinchbeck Bride by Stephen Anable (2011)  Another second-in-series-and-I-haven't-read-the-first. Mark Winslow, the former comic improv, is invited to be a trustee of a Victorian mansion to help with grant writing, and discovers the body of one of the docents, strangled, and clad in Victorian dress. Interesting concept that doesn't live up to its potential. The older female trustees are not well drawn, and I was confused for a long time over who was who, and almost all the male trustees and men involved in the mystery turn to to be gay and hit on Mark (himself gay, but in a committed relationship; my gay friend would love to have that many men hitting on him). The author must have been trying to make the first victim multidimensional so as to to confuse the reader over the identity of the murderer, but her very many different personalities were so confusing and conflicting that it just devolved to not caring at all that she was murdered. None of the suspects were sympathetic, and Mark was also a rather bland character. Mark's relationship with his partner was handled pretty gracefully, but there was one allusion to a sex scene that was a little graphic (but all sex scenes make me squirm; I'm most definitely not a voyeur) and may turn off readers. Not sure if this one will move beyond the GLTB community. This straight reader doesn't care if characters are gay or not, as long as they're interesting. Sadly, most here were not. (galley edition--lots of typos and formatting issues, but some may have been Kindle specific)
  • Good Old Dog by Nicholas Dodman (2010) Excellent reference for owners and lovers of geriatric dogs. Most canine care books have a chapter or sometimes just a section on caring for the older dog, so it was wonderful to see a book devoted entirely to issues of aging. Full disclosure--my dogs are 9.5 and almost 11 years old, so I was greatly interested int he topic. Dodman is a well-known veterinarian, so the medical aspects of the book are well done, interesting, and cutting edge (even things I've not heard of, and I spend exorbitant amounts of money at a suite of vet office son my zoo). The one stumble is the usual veterinary trap of not thinking alternative medicines (like Chinese medicine, acupuncture, or reiki, etc.) merit consideration. If Dodman didn't feel competent to address these issues, inviting a specialist to write a chapter or appendix would have been useful. Many older dog owners, myself included, either use alternative as well as traditonal approaches, or are interested in learning about potentially useful and less stressful or harmful ways to ease our dogs into old age. Overall, a great reference that I will have to get to add to my dog library. (galley edition)
  • Identifying and Feeding Birds by Bill Thompson III (2010) Very useful barkyard bird guide that goes beyond traditional backyard bird guides to offer suggestions  on different food, how to guides to build different feeders, and addresses usually forgotten topics like what plants will attract songbirds, what fertilizers should a birder use or avoid, etc. Great close-up photographs. I'd love a real copy of this book to supplement my traditional guides. My one problem--there are no regional discussions. The section on suet feeders doesn't mention that suet in the southwest melts and is a good feeding option only in the dead of winter. Brief tables by region of common backyard birds and tips would have been a handy improvement. (galley edition)
  • The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson (1912) Another horror story to tingle my spine as Halloween approaches. Atmospheric short story about a man with a nightmare that comes true. Pictures that bleed, dogs scared of something no person can see, a remote tower room... Loved it! And not just because it's by one of my favorite authors. Will now seek out other Benson horror stories.

        Wednesday, September 29, 2010

        Photo Project Week 1

        Okay, since you suggested I choose the first photo subject... Books.

        Let's take a few days to take the photo, and post it on Saturday.

        Why don't we add the photos right to this blog post?  The first person to post the photo can delete this commentary and just leave the subject and add their photo...

        Middle Sister writes:
        Nah, let's have a new post. I'm about to post my monthly reads list, so it will get lost. Okay, Oct 2, my photos of the theme books.

         

        Photo Project

        So I think we sort of decided to do a photo project, right?  Each of us would post a photo a week following a pre-determined theme?  Have we decided when to start it and what the first few themes will be?

        I'm in the mood to start something like this, and perhaps, after a few weeks, I can start putting together a project containing all the photos, yours and mine...

        Do you know if there's a way to post both pictures in one post?  Where you could post one and I could post the other?  I looked at settings and you can have different authors, but can two people contribute to one post?  Or will one of us have to email the photo to the other to have it added to a single post per theme?

        I thought of a couple of other themes:
        perspective
        specific colors
        sunsets (or sunrises)
        our work desks
        meals
        flowers
        self-portraits
        friends

        Or perhaps it might be better to simply post a photo a week, not following any particular theme or direction, but on the same day, let's say - just to see what photo we chose for that week, and how often they are similar in content, perspective, etc.

        Let me know what you think.  I'm going to start looking for photos...

        patrysia writes...
        Okay, I've just granted you and cookiedough admin privileges, which means you can edit my post and vice versa. So we could post photos in the same post.

        Why don't you pick the first theme, pick the dates we wander with our cameras, and pick the day we need to post the photo? I'm not too keen on the friends theme, just because my real life friends, like me, are camera shy and Internet shy, and strangers might think you were some crazy stalker taking photos of them. I post lots of food photos anyway, so personally, I'd want to see that theme paired with something, like "garlic" or "fruit." But we could do that if you are in the mood to cook. I cook a lot more than you, I think, so that would be an easy one for me.

        Okay, let's post and see how this looks.

        Ah, it just adds text without noting who wrote what, so we'll have to identify ourselves.

        Sunday, September 19, 2010

        This Weeks Photo

        Unnamed pink rose in my backyard, blooming today, Sunday, 19 September 2010.

        Monday, September 13, 2010

        Photo Challenge

        Okay, since you're interested in posting photos weekly, how about a challenge? We all try to get photos of a theme, e.g., leaves (it's autumn where you are, even if not here), or a color, or something. Then we spend a week, toting cameras around, trying to spot that theme and capture it to share.

        Interested? Want to suggest something?

        Best Motivation Video Ever

        Sunday, September 12, 2010

        The Zoo

        The fluffy ones.
        The snoring one.


        The frail one.

        The nerdy one.

        Sunday, September 5, 2010

        Wednesday, September 1, 2010

        Big Sister's August Reads

        Back when I was a book buyer, summer reading was a HUGE deal for us.  Trashy novels, beach reads, not too much to challenge the brain cells...  So with a nod to my past incarnation, I read nothing this August of any significantly redeeming social value (that was some awkward sentence construction there, that sure was!), but I read a lot of fun books!

        Scarlet Nights (Jude Deveraux) - One in the Edilean series...  I didn't realize it when I picked it up, but it is one in the series and brought back some characters I recognized from previous books.  Ms. Devereaux has made a name for herself as a romance author, but I find the Edilean books to be less romance, and more general fiction.  Sure, they met, they disliked, they loved, they found each other, but it was less the bulk of the story and more a nice backdrop to the mystery Mike is trying to solve which, coincidentally, involves Sara...

        Fired Up (Jayne Ann Krentz) - Not a favorite in the Arcane Society series, and #1 in The Dreamlight Trilogy.  I was disappointed.  I'm not heavy into the paranormal in my love stories but there are some (Kay Hooper's books spring to mind) that are great, but this one?  Not so much.  It was a weak story.  It dragged in spots.  It didn't really, in my humble opinion, wrap up all that well...

        Black Magic (Cherry Adair) - THIS paranormal paperback, on the other hand, was okay!  I love her writing and was waiting for this one to come out for a few months now.  Some of the twists and turns and psychic powers repeat themselves throughout this series of books, but it's okay when the stories are quick-paced and fun to read.  Besides, who couldn't find a hero named Jack (Slater) appealing?!?!

        Veil of Night (Linda Howard) - This one was fun simply because of the setting:  wedding planner is pulled into it all when her most troublesome bride is found murdered and just guess who was the last one the bridezilla beat up before her untimely and very violent death?  You guessed it:  wedding planner Jaclyn Wilde.  Jaclyn and Eric had a wild passionate one night stand the night and while Eric has every intention of seeing Jaclyn again, she's planning for this to have been a real one-nighter...  although she was sort of hoping Eric would call her as promised...  But then the bride is murdered, and guess who shows up as the detective in charge of the case?  Eric the handsome policeman and last night's one-night stand!

        Tough Customer (Sandra Brown) - I do love her current fiction, and this one doesn't disappoint.  I must admit, I really didn't like our hero too much, not the least of which was I hate his name:  Dodge Hanley.  And although he comes running when his ex calls him for help with their 30-year old daughter (yes, another thing that put me off:  he never knew his daughter throughout her entire life), I'm never quite sure I like him through the book.  All's well that ends well, and there's lots of danger what with that madman stalking his daughter...  It was good, and there was a surprise twist in the ending that I really didn't see coming.  I sort of thought when it wrapped up that there was something missing, but since that wasn't truly the end of the story, I wasn't disappointed!!!

        Cure (Robin Cook) - I do love me a medical mystery and one by Robin Cook just fits the bill perfectly!  I love Jack and Laurie so with them as the main characters, one can't go wrong.  And I loved the story line, too, all the big business intrigue wrapped around stem cell research and the Japanese Mafia...

        Postcard Killers (James Patterson and Liza Marklund) - Yes, I know, he writes 600 books a year, or at least it seems like he does!  And to be honest, I sometimes feel like he's just taking advantage of his name to sell a book, but in the interests of being honest, they're all good and fun to read and well, if we're buying, why shouldn't he be writing?!  This one takes place in Europe where young honeymooners are being murdered in creative and very disturbing ways.  And in this book, life most definitely DOES imitate art!  That's my only clue!  I liked the characters, I hated the bad guys, and the story ended well.

        Middle Sis' August Books

        I can't believe it's September already--hooray for autumn! August was a good month for reading for me, as I had several plane flights that provided uninterrupted book time. Now that the school semester has started and I'm teaching again, expect dedicated fun reading time to plummet.

        1. The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness by Mark Fenton (2008) Who needs a guide to walk? Don't we do that naturally? Well, yes, but this guide provides a timetable for 52 weeks of walking, with regular distance increases, aimed at getting a new walker ready for a 5 km or longer walk/race. Fenton also provides exercises, encouragement, and practical advice. Another in my series of books to inspire my marathon training. The stretching exercises were of particular interest to me. Well formatted, entertaining and informative, a great guide for the novice trying to start a program, or a dedicated walker trying to rev up her program or train for a race goal (like moi). Trade paperback
        2. The Film Mystery by Arthur B. Reeve (1921) Fun mystery of the silent movie era (and you know how I love silent movies). Well written, nice pace, and interesting first-hand view of the burgeoning film industry just as it was poised to take off and become mainstream American entertainment.The murders were set up well, and the revelation of the murderer undertaken in Classic Golden Era style. Kindle
        3. Mrs. Raffles by John Kendrick Bangs (1905) Very fun vignettes starring the wife of the Master Criminal Raffles, wherein she shows that she is just as clever a mastermind at burgling as her husband. Separate short stories that can be read independently or as a whole, with minor building up across stories to the denouement. Fun! Kindle
        4. A Series of Unfortunate Events No. 3 The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket (2001) The third entry in the tragic saga of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. How many forgotten, distant relations do these kids have? And when will the banker Mr. Poe start to believe them when they identify someone as Count Olaf? Love the Edward Goreyness of the series. Kindle
        5. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820) I listened to a reading of this on BBC Radio 7 last fall, and when I bought my Kindle it was one of the first books I downloaded. Last week I also watched Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp just to continue the wonderful, historic, creepy atmosphere as Halloween lurks around the corner. Great novella, wonderful ambiance, spine-tingling fear as Ichabod is menaced by the Headless Horsemen. Anyone who grew up around the New York/NewJersey/Connecticut area will always have a secret dread of two things: the Jersey Devil and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Definitely recommended. Kindle
        6. The Static of the Spheres by Eric Kraft (2009) Novella of a boy and his grandfather building their own short wave radio set. Touching but not maudlin, a sweet fictional reminiscence. While the narrator never really emerges with much personality from the book, the grandfather and grandmother are more engaging and well-rounded characters. I'd love to eat in their kitchen one Saturday night. Kindle
        7. The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (1896) Wonderful depiction of life in a small Maine fishing village at the turn of the century, when modern changes were already affecting the fabric of local life. Sympathetic depiction of eccentric characters and warm acceptance of their quirkiness by their neighbors, a lovely little celebration of Yankee fortitude and kindness. I've been wanting to read this one for years, and am so glad I finally have. I'd love to live in that little town. Kindle
        8. Walking to Vermont by Christopher Wren (2004) Now this is the kind of walking book I've been wanting to read (forget that one from last month). Mr. Wren, a former New York Times reporter, decided to start his retirement by walking out of his office in New York City to his retirement home in Vermont. Once he leaves NYC, he hikes along the Appalachian Trail, and takes us along with him in a well-written memoir that weaves reminiscences of his time as a foreign reporter with his hiking experience and the people he meets along the AT. Full of the charming and odd people one meets in out-of-the-way places, we also get to meet big-hearted people, like the woman who has made thousands of chocolate chip cookies that she gives to the AT hikers, the people who let the the hikers sleep on their lawns or leave coolers of cold juice out on the trail. Local historical tidbits are included and help flesh out the journey.  Reading about it is the next best thing to hiking the trail.  Hardcover
        9. Real Murders by Charlaine Harris (1990) First of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries. Members of a club who meet monthly to discuss old, unsolved, historical murders are appalled to find that one of them is recreating these murders, using club members as victims. Enjoyable until a child was kidnapped and threatened; I intensely dislike books where children are hurt or molested or killed. Once I get the bad taste lingering behind from that aspect of the story, I may give Roe and her friends another shot. Audiobook
        10. Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer (1918) Egyptian curses! Supernatural appearances! A pair or disembodies hands that mysteriously appears--and kills!Danger! Romance! A great story, very atmospheric, ruined by too abrupt an ending. But the ride to the end is great fun, with an ancient mummy come to life threatening Edwardian London, a fragrance that can kill, human sacrifice, and basically all the ingredients to a rollicking good adventure a la Indiana Jones. Kindle

        Wednesday, August 25, 2010

        A Glimpse of Our Every Day...

        I've seen a few websites where two people who live miles apart, or even on different continents, post a picture a day, every day, with no guidance or hint of what they or the other person will be photographing.  Amazingly, there are days when both opt to post a photo of breakfast, or of a sunrise, or of their Sunday best, or of their dog, and it's interesting to see what catches their camera's eye on a given day.

        So I asked Middle Sister if she wanted to try such a project, although I adamantly mentioned that "every day" was simply too big a commitment on my part!  So we're starting with once a week...  [Note to Little Sister:  Feel free to join in.  The only reason I didn't ask you if you wanted to be a part of this is because I'm not sure you have enough time to do anything at all extra...  If you can, though, one picture a week?  Try!]

        So the plan was to include, as my first photo, a picture taken this morning by cell phone, so the quality is not that great, a photo of the weather from my office window, highlighting what little you can see of the NYC skyline...  BUT, for some unknown reason I have yet to determine, even though I rotated the picture before saving it, it insists on posting 90 degrees off, so I'm going to choose another photo to start this project off...

        Hmmm, how about a photo of Mom after we took her for her birthday dinner at Red Robin, where she enjoyed 1/2 of her 'Shroom Burger.  I guess the waiter heard Jack mention that the birthday girl could order first, and he caught my eye behind Mom's back, and asked, "Birthday?  Dessert?"  I nodded; Mom asked what I was nodding for, and I lied and said he'd asked if we were ready for the check.  A few moments later, 4 waiters and waitresses came over and sang Happy Birthday to Mom and brought her a free sundae!  Mmmm!!!

        Middle Sis, you're up!

        Thursday, August 5, 2010

        Polish Restaurant

        My friend took my out to dinner last night as a thank you for watching her cat while she was out of town. She comes from a many-generations-down-the-line German family, so last year she and I tried a new Polish-German restaurant, Amber. Amazingly, it is still in business despite lots of my favorites restaurants here in town going under the past two years. The golabki is almost as good as Babci's (our babci's, not the current family matriarch's, whose golabki are good, but not like Babci's), and the kielbasa is delicious! I asked the first time we ate there if they flew it in from Chicago or somewhere with a huge Polish population because I didn't think you could find such good kielbasa locally. Last night I tried the mizeria, and it was just as good as Mom's and mine. I had the pierogi plate this time (we split the family sampler the first time)--very good.

        You must come and visit because I want to take Mom there.

        Tuesday, August 3, 2010

        What did Big Sister read in July? Part Deux.

        So I mentioned in my last post that I was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


        I believe I might also have mentioned that I don't skim either, that I feel obligated to read cover to cover.

        Yea.

        Well, I am apparently a liar.

        There was no freakin' way I was going to be able to read this book cover to cover so I skimmed the last 2/3 of the book, looking for any combination of words that might pique my interest.

        Well, suffice it to say not too much piqued my interest.

        Here's the story [SPOILER ALERT!!!]:

        He loses a court case, quits his job, is having an affair with his partner, takes a "job" for some guy to find out who murdered that guy's niece years ago, winds up having an affair with two other women, finds the woman who's not really dead, and The End.

        The only part of the story I cared about never got resolved; I must have skimmed right past it. And I don't care enough to go back and read it cover to cover to find out about the flowers...

        That's hours of my life I'll never get back...

        Sunday, August 1, 2010

        Mid Sis' July Reads

        I must say, this technology stuff I'm playing with has definitely upped how many books I read a month. The following were read either on my Kindle Fred, listened to on my iPod Nano, or were DTBs (dead tree books in ebook lingo).
        1. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (1919). What can I say? It's Wodehouse! Laughs a minute. I didn't like the non-Jeeves short stories as much, but still good for a guffaw at how innocents can get caught up in a bungled mess when they just try to help someone out. (Kindle)
        2. Wood Ladies by Percival Gibbon (1913). OOP fairy tale about a girl kidnapped by fairies from her garden. Cute and short, but might scare little ones. (Kindle)
        3. Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James (2009). Essays written by Baroness James to detail why we, and she, love detective fiction as much as we do, and structured with an historical slant--beginning with the earliest mysteries and ending mid-century, for the most part. Heavy on classic  British authors, with just two classic American authors mentioned. And I've read most of them! Good on me. (Library DTB)
        4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883). I never read this as a child because I thought it was boys' fiction and boys had cooties and therefore anything boys read could not possibly be interesting. Avast, me hearties, was I wrong! Lots of fun, a delightful summer read. My online book club selected this for our July/August title, and unanimous agreement is that it's a classic for a reason. Great writing, races along at a merry clip, and enough action to keep even today's jaded readers interested. Now I'm searching for accessible titles by his cousin, Dorothy Stevenson. (Kindle)
        5. Murder on the Marais by Cara Black (1999). Listened to during marathon training. Middling mystery, with the main character almost a bit unbelievable in her Super Sleuth/Super Woman ability to pop her own dislocated shoulder back in, shimmy down a gutter, and hang onto a pole for dear life to keep from plunging several stories to her own death--all within 2 days. It exhausted me just reading it. Makes me wish I knew more about Paris, though, because many references are made to streets which might be real. Wonder if the DTB had a map in it? Interesting thread throughout how modern Europeans have dealt with their Nazi or Nazi-affected pasts. (Nano)
        6. Designed to Die by Chloe Green (2001). Fashion industry mystery that starts off quite funny and would have been much better cut off a chapter early. The motives were fine and worked and would have been a much better fit with the comical mystery subgenre until Green decided to through in a curve ball with money laundering, government agents, fake deaths, and other nonsense in the last chapter. She should have quit while she was ahead. And I can't believe that models eat as much as her model characters do. They were eating all the time! If that were true, they'd weigh the same as normal people if they did. And not believing that breaks the spell over whether or not Green is really knowledgeable about the fashion world and fashion styling as she would want her readers to suspect, or just making it up. (Nano)
        7. The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson (2008). Read to help pump me up for my marathon. Started out with an interesting discussion of the many verbs in English for different styles and kinds of walking. Interesting historical tidbits about marathon walkers in Victorian and Edwardian times who walked for sport and entertainment. Totally fell apart when Nicholson let his own self-imposed "I'm way more cool than you" aspects show through. He couldn't believe working class people could appreciate the beauty and silence of a modern formal garden built in Sheffield to commemorate a soccer tragedy? This working class woman (who visited formal gardens for fun with her family--remember Longwood Gardens, my sisters?) resents that blatant snobbishness. (Library DTB)
        8. Sinister Island by Charles Wadsworth Camp (1915). Extremely atmospheric OOP mystery that takes place on an isolated swampy island down South. Dripping with claustrophobic, dense vegetation, menacing snakes, brutal nineteenth century slave trader/murderer backdrop--I loved it! Will definitely be uploading more to Fred to enjoy. (Kindle)
        9. The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen (1894). Science fiction novella about what happens when the human brain is tampered with to allow a meeting with the Greek god Pan, and the horror that ensues over decades. Totally out of character for me, but I enjoyed it. (Kindle)
        10. Winter's Passage by Julie Kagawa (2010). Teen fantasy novella, a continuation in a series where a half human, half fey (that's fairy to us oldsters) teenaged girl discovers who she is and becomes drawn into the Fae wars. I probably would not have read this as a teen, but if I had, I would have liked it. Not the fey part; that seems a little silly to me. But Kagawa's physical descriptions of different fey worlds is well done; her description of the ice world had me shivering in the 100+ degree heat of the desert summer. (Kindle)
        11. The Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke (2002). Fairly recent (well, this decade anyway) entry into the Hannah Swenson Cookie Jar mystery series. I always want to like these more than I wind up doing by the time I finish. I want to like Hannah; after all, she a curly-haired redhead. And she makes cookies for a living, and I love cookies. And she lives in a quirky town full of eccentric characters in Minnesota, so I get to visit cold and snow and shiver vicariously. The mysteries are even middling as far pace and story go; enough red herrings and potential murderers to keep the murder from being too obvious (although I guessed whodunnit when the character was introduced just because that person seemed so unlikely to be the murderer). But Hannah's vacillating back and forth over Mike the Cop or Norman the Dentist is still going on, despite the ten or twelve entries in the series. There's no spark of romantic tension at all amongst these three, and Fluke isn't able to generate any interest in which man Hannah will wind up with. Just pick one, Hannah, it really doesn't matter which. Cookie recipes included. (Nano)

        Saturday, July 31, 2010

        What did Big Sister read in July?

        No too much that improved my mind or challenged me, but they were fun, nonetheless!

        The Bodyguard, by Cherry Adair - I ordered this 'cause of the author, but it turned to be a 3-story collection with the main male character being a bodyguard of some kind.  Not the best Adair story  I've ever read, but what can you do?

        Ice Cold, by Tess Gerritsen - As always, a GREAT criminal procedural.  Some blood and gore tossed in to make it an exciting read.  I love her books and was not disappointed.  And she tossed in some cult references, too, another plot twist that always catches my attention.

        Private, James Patterson - Co-written with Maxine Paetro, not one of his best, but it was a James Patterson mystery/thriller.  Shared it with Mom already.

        Silent Scream, Karen Rose - This one threw me off.  I thought Rose's last book was in hardcover; why would this new one come out in paperback?  But I hadn't read it before; it was indeed a new story.  Fires set to cover murders.  Young teens being blackmailed into setting the fires.  One bad guy lurking in the background.  And when you find out how he makes them set these fires?  Well, suffice it to say that you will be VERY careful about what you say in public, say on your cell phones, or put out there over the internet...

        The Search, Nora Roberts - Used to be a fan, until I saw an uncorrected manuscript and realized just how much of her stories are saved by her editors and proofreaders...  For some reason, though, I picked this one up and it was good.  It involved canine search and rescue training, a subject I like since reading so many Kay Hooper titles...  The story was pretty good, and I liked how the romance between the two main characters seemed more normal, not all romantic and sappy, but with more bumps in the road, and one liking one more than the other, and having to realize you are in love...  Sometimes it's just not all wrapped up in a pretty bow and recognizable as "love."  And I also like stories that take place in the Northwest...

        Drop Shot, Harlan Coben - I love his books, and this earlier one was no less intriguing.  I like seeing Myron visit all these places in NJ that I know...

        Live to Tell, Lisa Gardner - Love her books!  A mystery and a thriller all wrapped up into one.  And add in a feral girl, a woo-woo New Age "expert," and some other children committed to the locked-down pediatric psych ward, and DD Warren has a lot to figure out.

        The Obama Diaries, Laura Ingraham - It's no surprise I'd like this book since I'm a registered Republican, but the most fun part of it was the made up diary entries by BO, Miche, Axe, Joe, Rahm, and a number of other political figures!  Since I lean toward agreeing with some of Laura's politics, it was an easy read for me, but like I said, the most fun was the format itself.

        Criminal Minds, Jeff Mariotte - A Wiley book!  The author references episodes from one of my favorite shows and includes a brief summary of the real-life crimes and criminals that were the basis for the show.  Those real life murderers were mentioned by the characters when they were creating their profile for the TV killer.

        The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson - THIS is why I don't like to read books that are getting a lot of hype.  I started it a month ago, and I'm not even 1/2-way through.  I'm not liking the writing.  I'm not liking the characters.  I don't like the storyline so far.  Everyone and anyone who calls this modern literature has been paid off - it does NOT qualify as literature, modern or otherwise.  I will NOT be reading the next several books, and I rank this right up there down there with Twilight, and we all know how I feel about THAT piece of trash.  I'll try to remember to make mention of this one next month, after I've finished the book.  My friend seems to feel most people who liked it skimmed it until they found a dirty word, a reference to murder or sex, or something else that caught their attention.  But I read every word, and I.DON'T.LIKE.IT.

        Monday, July 19, 2010

        From my past...

        I was visiting a blog I recently found, written by a single day with multiple children in his care, and he was mentioning his childhood, a childhood that started before the 1980s.  It got me to thinking, as I'm much older than he is, that there must be quite a bit I'd forgotten about...  Here are just a few things...

        1. Marlin Perkins & Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
        2. The Wonderful World of Walt Disney
        3. Pilgrim8-7407
        4. manual typewriters and the race to get 1 of the 10 electric typewriters in Mrs. Costello's typing class
        5. riding in the back seat without a seat belt
        6. Channel Lumber
        7. Great Eastern Mills
        8. Kresge's
        9. Two Guys
        10. signing up at the Computer Lab to access a computer in college (OMG, I'm truly O.L.D.)
        11. Gino's
        12. American Bandstand
        13. Saturday Night Fever
        14. Abbott & Costello
        15. Korvette's
        16. Creature Feature
        17. Seaside Heights when you could walk on a beach without stepping on cigarette butts
        18. crabbing in the bay with Uncle W
        19. TV without a remote
        20. black and white TV 'cause that's all there was
        21. Romper Room
        22. The Bowery Boys
        23. Wonderama with Bob McAllister
        24. Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans
        25. My Favorite Martian
        26. My baloney has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R...
        27. Apollo 11
        28. the Manson Murders
        29. the birth of the bikini and the mini-skirt
        30. The Munich Massacre at the Olympics
        31. gas rationing and even/odd days
        32. Watergate
        33. Pope John Paul II
        34. The Me Decade
        35. the famine in Bangladesh
        36. life before the VCR
        37. bra-burning
        and I could go on and on... this is just a few minutes of my afternoon, thinking about the 60s and the 70s and what I remember, first-hand.  The scary thing is, this is "history" to so very many people, but to me, it's just my childhood...

        Restaurant Review: Halycon

        I realized I never posted a review of Halcyon, a seafood restaurant in Montclair that L, J and I ate at last month. I was very excited to be eating here, since I harbor a simmering distrust of seafood in the desert, given that it has to be flown or, worse, trucked, in from somewhere else, so I was really looking forward to being near sources of water and seafood you could trust to really be fresh.

        It was delicious! We were there on a Wednesday, and the place was not crowded, but L and J have been there on weekends when it has been packed (jazz combo in the upstairs lounge). I can understand why it would be, since the food was fantastic. We started out with the lobster 'cigars' and the mini crab cakes. These were the best crab cakes I've ever tasted--I wished they weren't mini!  And no grumbling that you don't like lobster, Big Sis; try this and you will. Outstanding. I'd be seriously tempted to just eat several orders of each of these and head on straight to dessert.

        For dinner, I had the snapper (one of my favorite fishes), J had the giant prawns (and boy, were they big) and L had the swordfish. Again, each dish was outstanding, although I liked the swordfish better, and L liked my snapper better, so go figure. I thought the swordfish was just so succulent, the marinade or herbs or whatever it was cooked in so flavorful that it beat the snapper, which was very good, hands down. Two delicious bottles of a riesling were the perfect accompaniment (sweet, but not cloying, and wet enough that you wanted to just down your glass and have another like it was iced tea).

        And of course, there were desserts. J, like me, always checks out the dessert menu first, so that you can order your entree accordingly. Why waste room on a veg that might be better filled by a fantastic sweet? L had the berries and cream (that's almost a health food in my book and not really a dessert), J had the chocolate mousse cake (delicious) and I had the bread pudding (outstanding). Three words: to die for.

        Yea, pricey, but if you have anniversary or a special evening planned, Halcyon might be the ticket for you (especially if you and Mr. Special like sea food). I'm not sure if it was slow because it was a weeknight (because there couldn't be another explanation, given the quality of the food), but no one tried to hurry us at all. The decor is urban metro, elegant, but the waitress was very friendly and accommodating (we had to wait quite some time for L to come from the hospital), and none of that uber-metro snobbiness that can make me feel very uncomfortable in other restaurants.

        Not into seafood? It's worth a trip for coffee and dessert. And the bathroom was nice, too.