Friday, October 12, 2012

Canine Cognition

What Your Dog Is Thinking on Time.com; interesting summary of some recent research into the dog mind. All of our dogs can master a large vocabulary, not just that one exceptional border collie. All our dogs can count. They can even use computer touch screens. It's not all "Feed me! Feed me! Walk me! Scratch my belly! Feed me!" I wonder how philosophical they get?

DoodleBug prefers to just rest his head on the laptop, imploring me with those big brown eyes to stop working and have fun. I'm glad, because I'd be worried about what web sites he'd want to surf. dogshaming, for sure. Mr. Big would enjoy the food websites.

Stripey Cat thinks computers are beneath her.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Little Sis' October Read #1

So far I've read Lisa Jackson's You Don't Want to Know.  Not an author I would normally pick up, but this one is about a woman going crazy after her 2-year-old disappears. Thought I could relate. Not!  The lead character complained soooo much, even motherly me got sick of it.  Heartache. Pain. In Every Paragraph. Some of the twists were almost entirely anticipated. Heartache. Pain. And wow, she lives in a mansion, is so rich she pays her family to work on the estate. That right there is enough to start a family crisis. Heartache. Pain.  I'm so wealthy. Heartache.  Pain. 'Nuff said!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Book Quote

"He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, p. 158. (Random House, 2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Middle Sister Reads September

A potpourri of reading goodness:

Walk Off Weight by Michele Stanten Inspired by my medical physical in July and yearly check-up in September, I attempt to figure out why these stupid 8 lbs won't budge from my middle and what to do about them! Actually a really useful guide to getting yourself back on the healthy tract, this walking exercise program involves nothing more than a pair of good shoes. Additional ways to ramp up the exercise using an exercise band or poles are provided, as are some sample menus to eat healthier. Best part--lots of testimonials, with photos, from real women who participated in the study designed to test this program before it was published. That's always my favorite part of Prevention magazine--the inspiration provided by real women. We'll see if it helps my 8 lbs.  (borrowed from library, but on my Amazon wish list)

The Lightkeeper's Legacy by Kathleen Ernst The first in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series, this was another set in the modern past, before cell phones and Internet service had us all connected, all the time; in this case, 1982. Chloe is a curator who goes to Rock Island for a week to help formulate a preservation plan for an historic lighthouse. She's only there for a few hours when she finds a body. What follows is an interesting story that divides itself between Chloe's present, and the life of the wife of the last lightkeeper at the house in the 1870s and 1880s.  Murder and mayhem beset both women, although I confess the denouement of the historic murder took my by surprise and that of the contemporary murder did not. I confess right up front that this is the second recent book I've read when simultaneous stories were told like this, with a strong psychic link between the modern protagonist and the past, and I'm a little leery of this plot device. Just tell me the stories and draw connections between them--I'm tired of supposed emotive psychic connections. Despite that, I enjoyed this mystery quite a bit. (NetGalley.com, to be published October 2012)

Historic Doubts in the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third by Horace Walpole In light of the fascinating discovery of what may be the burial of King Richard III under the cloister floor in the razed Greyfriars Abbey, now covered by a modern carpark (I speak British English!), and being a closet Ricardian, I decided to read one of the earliest attempts to examine the supposed 'facts' about his reign and set the record straight. Only for diehard fans, like me. Lots of references to other historic works that I need to track down if I truly want to follow his argument. The lesser-inclined should just read the most excellent Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (if they can find a copy of the twenty-year-old printing without the missing chapter, which I can't, and which frustrates me terribly! That's the copy still sold to you if you buy it online. I may have to try again; the last time was two years ago, and I still got the bad copy, but maybe Amazon will have worked sales down to a pristine, and complete copy?), where a cogent argument defending Richard is made.

The Red Room by August Strindberg It's the centenary of Strinberg's death, and my 19th century novels reading group chose this as its September/October book. A satire, it touches on politics, publishing, theater, and some other topics, as observed by Arvid Falk over the course of one year. Amazingly prescient in today's political climate, I must say. It offers hope that we will suffer these fools, even if not gladly, and survive them. (Project Gutenberg e-book)

The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler I think I may just have a slight crush on both John May and Arthur Bryant, the elderly police detectives who investigate strange crimes for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Someone is killing middle-aged secretaries in pubs, but of course, the crime and its solution are far more convoluted than that simple statement. Government conspiracies, coded messages from the killer, and missing cremains are just part of the plot. I was listening to this on my iPod Nano, and I think these might be better suited to read, rather than listen--there's so many clues and so much information that I re-listened to several chapter more than once. Yes, there's an element of 'psychicness' to this one as well, but it's more sophisticated than in the other books with that plot device, and is handled with a much more deft hand.

Okay, and I checked--I've been keeping a list of all the books I've read since sometime in 2002, and I'm not sure why I started, but my grand total is:

677

which works out to 5.7 books per month, but since that covers ten years, that means I really read way less than you, Big Sis. But don't feel bad--it's not a contest. It's really just about enjoying reading and opening your eyes and firing your imagination. And personally, I am proud that I have read certain things I never thought I would and would enjoy (like Anna Karenina) as well as duds that left me cold (like two of my book club selections I never did finish). Long Live Reading!


Big Sister's September Reads - 2012

An interesting statistic - well, interesting to me, anyway...  Since February of 2005 I've been keeping a list of the books I read.  The list doesn't include repeats (like the Harry Potter books I've read several times) and it doesn't include all the non-fiction art titles I've read, like the art journaling books I've been hooked on recently (I think there's only one I remembered to include on the list - one out of about 15!).  It doesn't include magazines, and I read several of those a week.

601

I've read 601 books in 7-1/2 years.  I know for some people that might be an incredible number, but that averages out to only 6.6 books a month.  I always thought I read more...  Hmm...  Guess I have a goal for 2013:  I want to read MORE!

Okay, here goes, September's titles without further ado...

All Summer Long, Susan Mallery - (Fool's Gold #9) This one is about Clay Stryker, underwear model extraordinaire, who returns home to Fool's Gold after a tragic loss in his personal life.  He's known love and lost love and as we all know, isn't looking for love when he comes home.  Home is safe, and secure, and we all know there's no one there who's going to pique his interest...

One Wrong Move, Shannon McKenna - Another in the series of books by this author that include a mind-altering drug that, if ingested somehow, TOTALLY messes with you!  The story itself was fine:  a woman's aunt shows up, worn, emaciated, and during a struggle, injects our heroine with a drug.  Of course we find out that she has, oh, I don't know, FOUR days to live before her circuits will blow from this drug...  Our hero, Alex Aaro, just didn't do it for me.  It took me many chapters before I gave a hoot about either of them, which was disappointing because the orginal couple of books caught my interest right away.  It's a mystery/love story, the combination of which I like, but, eh...

Between the Lines, Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer - Jodi gives full credit to her daughter for coming up with the idea for this book.  It took me a while to get sucked into the story, but after a few chapters (I actually started it in August but never finished it - unusual for me), I was hooked.  What if you were a teenage girl who was, well, let's just say you weren't Miss Popularity.  You're hooked on this fairy tale you found by accident, and you've read it so many times you know exactly what happens on each page.  Then one day, the Prince speaks.  To you.  In real life.  You actually HEAR his voice and see his lips move on the page.  Yea, your mom will definitely send you to a shrink if she ever finds out about this...  It's a love story, a story about a story within a story.  The authors collaborated on it, with the basics coming from Ms. Picoult's daughter.  Great illustrations from the story within the story....

Zoo, James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge - A departure from Mr. Patterson's usual crime dramas, this reminds me of something Michael Crichton would have written...  HAC:  Human Animal Conflict.  It's increasing, by leaps and bounds, and it seems no one is paying attention, not even when MALE lions congregate in the wild and attack humans as an organized entity.  Not even when a domesticated ape goes - um - wild and kills his keeper.  Not even when medical staff in Africa are murdered, eaten by wild animals.  The story spans several years, and our hero and his eventual wife wind up being directly involved in saving the world from these wild animals...

77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz - The Pendleton, a gorgeous mansion turned condominium that was built in the 1800s, is home to the usual variety of characters.  What the current residents don't know is that every 38 years, something happens.  Something REALLY not good.  Something REALLY scary.  Suffice it to say this book includes the usual Koontz horror, with a twist.  His descriptions, the way he puts his words together - it's SO visual.  I could really SEE one of the monsters, HEAR him and FEEL him as he crawled along the floor...  I could envision them flying outside the windows, feel what our characters felt when they realized the San Francisco they knew was gone...  The big twist, and this drove Little Sister a bit nuts when she started the book, the big twist about this story is that time is warped - what takes 38 years in our time is about, oh, 45 minutes in the time warp...  The entire book takes place in such a short time, and each chapter is written from a different perspective, all taking place during the same few hours...

The Last Victim, Karen Robards - LOVE Ms. Robards' books, but this one threw me for a loop.  There's a psychic twist in it that I just didn't expect, and is obviously meant to keep us coming back for more, WHICH I will, as soon as the next book is released!  Dr. Charlotte Stone is a serial killer expert, with an ability to see dead people.  Sorta makes it easier to solve those mysteries, right?  But even though Mr. Right appears to be right there in front of her, working with her on this latest search for a serial killer, I can see why if you actually meet and work with the killer, that it might be hard to remain objective...

Almost Summer, Susan Maller (Kindle edition) - I bought several Kindle books in preparate for jury duty, and this was one of them.  Another from the Fool's Gold series, I wasn't thrilled with this one.  I guess I'm an American, through and through... Our British hero just didn't cut it for me in this book.  I didn't feel the love, the passion, the attraction that seemed effortless in other Fool's Gold stories...  And Paige, our heroine, she just didn't help me enjoy the story either...  After all the Mallery romances I've been reading recently, this one disappointed.

Only Us, Susan Mallery (Kindle novella) - Okay, this one was just fine, although it was about a couple of Fool's gold characters I really don't remember appearing in more than, maybe, one book...  The veterinarian's wife just up and left one day; she left him AND her baby daughter, and she never returned.  They divorced and Cameron has been raising his daughter alone, with the help, most recently, of pet groomer Carina Fiore.  Rina is in love with Cameron, she fell for him and his daughter immediately, but she's done nothing about it.  Her girlfriend convinces her to take a chance, and she does, with disappointing consequences.  Cameron rebuffs her advances - he just wants to remain friends.  Well, that doesn't cut it for Rina and she moves on, only to find that Santa can indeed bring happiness forever after...

Chasing Perfect, Susan Maller (Kindle edition) - Finally!  Fool's Gold #1!  Only instead of the tried and true formula, heroine and hero linked by an intertwined past, she starts off with strangers meeting under business circumstances, strangers who become friends, strangers who become each other's true love...  And that little twist about one of the strangers having an unknown link to the town?  That just added a little drama and made it feel more like you were reading about family instead of strangers...

Where Azaleas Bloom, Sherryl Woods - Another in the Sweet Magnolias series, single mom Lynn Morrow is struggling when her soon-to-be-ex-husband apparently stops sending support.  In fact, his lawyer even disappears for a while, apparently running off with hubby's money...  She gets a part-time job, and does well, but ends are not meeting and she winds up working from home a few hours a week for a local contractor who eventually winds up as her hero.

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn - An earlier book by the author of Gone Girl (reviewed last month), this novel contains the same dark characters and warped stories I guess Ms. Flynn is famous for, and MAN, were these characters dark!!!  I didn't like any of them - Libby Day, our heroine, is a troubled individual, not heroine material at all.  She's the victim of a horrible childhood, the only survivor other than her murdering older brother...  who murdered their entire family when Libby was only seven years old.  She's had nothing to do with her brother for 25 years, but desperate circumstances bring them into contact again.  I did NOT see the twisted ending coming and admit to being totally shocked at how it was resolved.  Disturbed, and shocked...