Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday 13 #8 (123rd ed.)--Favorite Movies Based on Books

(or, in a few cases, short stories)

Now, many of these movies have not won awards nor received critical acclaim; they make my list because they told a good story, as presented. Since I’ve read only 6 of the original books, I can’t really speak to the authenticity of the screenplay in most of these cases.

1. Green Mile--I watched this at a friends’ house, and had to fight off ferret attacks to my feet throughout. I don’t believe the varmints colored my opinion of the movie, but they definitely added a surreal atmosphere to Stephen King’s storytelling. The books were originally published as serials, but have since been compiled into one volume. I have a copy of the latter on Mt. TBR, but have no immediate plans for it on the schedule.

2. Practical Magic--Bullock and Kidman were wonderful in this, and Stockard Channing was icing on the cake. Great soundtrack, too. I believe this was my first Hoffman movie; I’ve since read this and several more of her books, and I enjoy her style of magical realism.

3. Princess Bride--From what I’ve heard in my circles, this movie became a cult classic almost immediately after its release. I’m not one of “those people” who have memorized the dialogue, but I think I’m about due for another viewing. I know people who hunt down multiple copies of the book in order to infect/introduce it to their friends.

4. Stardust--I really enjoyed this one (especially Clare Danes’ performance), but it didn’t do as well at the theaters as I’d hoped. I think that, while it was released around the time of the Plieades (a nice tie-in to nature), it was otherwise poor timing. If they’d waited for the Geminids (going on now), however, I think it would have gotten better turnouts. Well, there’s always DVD sales. I first encountered this as a serial graphic novel (I can’t call this genre a comic book with a straight face, or without worrying about a trouncing from a friend in the industry), then as a standard novel, of which I desperately need my own copy.

5. Contact--Jodie Foster really picks some winners to be in, and she’s smart about waiting years between films for the right script to come along. Matthew McConaughey has a supporting role, but I sure don’t remember his being on-screen all that much. The original book was by the popular and controversial scientist Carl Sagan.

6. What Dreams May Come--Funny this is the only favorited movie starring Robin Williams. His body of work is vast and varied, but this was the best one that fits this category. I thought the movie was an extremely interesting discourse on how we affect our afterlife (or next stage following death, however you lean philosophically), not to mention the almost calorific use of color. Haven’t read the book yet.

7. Stand By Me--Based on King’s short story “The Body”, this movie touched me for its quest theme (even though the quest itself was pretty danged morbid), and for its portrayal of friendship dynamics. Oh, and this one also has a great soundtrack. True to the King style, it had just enough grossness to make me go “ew!” without actually putting me off my popcorn.

8. Carrie--I really tried to avoid repeat authors here, but I couldn’t manage it; here’s the third King on this list. Now I don’t know if this says more about my taste in movies, or if this would happen anyway, as the statistics are simply high in King’s favor. I can’t remember which I did first (read or watch), but I know they were very close together. I was one of the outcasts in high school, and this movie made me realize that eventually, the mean kids would get their karmic due.

9. October Sky--This movie, based on “Rocket Boys”, was one of the better inspirational-type films I’ve seen; not too sappy, not too far down the downtrodden path. It was also one of the few that my husband and I could fully agree on, without compromising.

10. The Hours--I read this one a few years before the Streep/Moore/Kidman film was released, and I found the movie to be reasonably true to the original story. The performances were good, and pretty equal to each other. With a story like this, it was important that none of the main characters make their piece stand out too far from the others.

11. Charlotte's Web--I am, of course, referring to the original (1973) animated film from my childhood. I’m not certain I’m ready to see a live-action/CGI version when I still have such fond memories of the first. I hope I still have a copy of the Garth Williams-illustrated version of the book (he also illustrated the Little House series by Laura Ingalls-Wilder).

12. Brokeback Mountain--Wow. What a story! I’ll confess that I prepared myself for a few good crying bouts; mostly silliness over seeing one of my favorite actors batting for the other team. I instead managed to bawl myself stupid during certain scenes, not because of the original imagined reason, but because I realized that NO ONE was EVER going to love me like THAT. And then I cried because denying people the right to love who they will is so many kinds of wrong, I can’t see straight to think about it. I am actually going to have to watch it again because I was crying so hard, I missed parts of some important scenes. I’m planning to read my copy of the book sometime next month.

13. Apollo 13--OK, I really did not put this one here to be cute. It simply worked out this way, as I was going through my search results in reverse alphabetical order. Multiple outstanding performances from the cast, riveting true story, and great effects re: setting in the craft.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Miracle, and Other Christmas Stories, by Connie Willis

In this collection, science-fiction author Willis gives us 8 Christmas-themed stories, some of which build on traditional stories: A Christmas Carol, the Nativity, and Miracle on 34th Street. I enjoyed these very much (not a bad one in the bunch, IMO), as I've gotten a bit jaded over hearing the same old mushy tales over the years. A few of these had an actual science-fiction flavor, which I especially appreciated, as this is what I was expecting from Willis.

Not a book for the too-traditional-minded; most of these stories need a notched-up openmindedness to truly enjoy them. While there were some very nice lessons, I found only one truly quoteable passage among them: "There are things you don't ask for because you know you can't have them, and then there are things so far outside the realm of possibility, it would never even occur to you to want them."

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Tuscan Childhood, by Kinta Beevor

By the time I was one-third of the way through this book, I realized that the title was a bit misleading. There is more about Beevor's adult years documented here than childhood ones, but the constant theme is more about the area, the land, and the people, so not quite living up to my primary expectation was easy to forgive.

The travel descriptions, both in- and out-of-country were well-done; I had a very good feel for the scenery and the physical experience, and, the historical and geographic knowledge shared here definitely heightened my appreciation for my ancestor's homeland. The thing that makes this travel book special is that it was written by someone who has lived her research; and yes, you can tell the difference.

Also emotionally moving was her portrayal of the scope of wartime (political birth, hardships, and rebuilding). I have to say that I personally feel fortunate that my family emigrated to America well before this time, but I also have to wonder how well my distant cousins survived.

The list of Beevor's family and friends reads like a Who's Who of the literary and art circles of the time. In some sections, it seemed as though every other page had some reference to an author, artist, or book I wanted to follow up on; this book could really have used a good indexing.

The sad end to the "castles" truly made me melancholy for everything that's been lost due to war.

Here are some of the references and quotes I wanted to especially note:

"... we learned about the 'dance of the seasons', and how one should follow the rhythm of the year and its changing produce. One harvest followed another, domestic and wild crops alternating, each stimulating fresh dishes and all producing more than enough for immediate needs, so that the wise could dry or conserve enough to last until the following year. The earth, capable of producing such a perfect variety in the wild--garlic, mushrooms, chestnuts and truffles--possessed its own sacred mystery."

"They played Scoppa, which required the traditional Mediterranean pack of 40 cards with 4 suits--coins, goblets, swords and clubs (cavemen's clubs, not the conventional trefoil)--each running from one to seven plus a jack, queen, and king."

"Poggio Gherardo provided the setting for the first three days of The Decameron, when a group of young Florentines fled the plague of 1348. Boccaccio... had grown up only a few hundred yards away."

"Vernon Lee, alias Violet Paget, with her cropped hair and men's clothes with stiff collars... was particularly kind and gave me copies of all of her books, and more surprisingly, a loom, as if I were a character in one of her Tuscan fairy tales."

"Aunt Janet [Ross]... trusted [Giuseppe] Volti's opinion without reserve. It was he who provided all the recipes for her outstandingly successful book on Italian vegetable cookery, Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen, first published in 1899, and still in print today in a version revised three quarters of a century later by my nephew Michael Waterfield."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman

This book is the first I've read from this award-winning author, and I can see why her writing's been honored. Even though the clues to the mystery woman's identity are pretty clear early on, Lippman still manages to drive the plot so as to keep the reader second-guessing herself throughout the remainder of the story.

Lippman also writes family dynamics very well. Her treatment reminds me of Caroline Cooney's Janie series; the criminal, tragic disruption of the Bethany family accelerates the cracking of their happy facade. One has to wonder how any family can survive a blow such as this.

I think the only less-than-fully-believeable aspect of the story (however crucial it was to the plot) was the Dunham family conspiracy. Even given the father's past career (or perhaps especially because of it), I find it difficult to buy into the great lengths to help the protagonist. I also find it amusing that she thought of her new family as normal.

Overall, I found this to be a good read, and a quick one. I'll definitely keep an eye out for more titles by Lippman.

Disclosure: I received this book from Harper Collins in exchange for a review.

Painted Truth, by Lise McClendon

It's been a few years since I finished Bluejay Shaman, so I thought I'd move along with this short series, and this on also helps me toward the Seconds Challenge, which ends soon.

With this book, I learned a little about the art world (and again feel grateful I've nothing to do with it), and a little more about arson investigations (although I'm sure they come off better in real life). The mystery itself got a bit out of hand, however, and the relationship closure was awfully harsh. I found the protagonist to be little more stereotypical than necessary--I find it hard to believe that Nordic stoicism won't call a slut to the carpet for knowingly using the wrong bed. Ew! I'm also getting impatient with characters who tough it out through concussions. For Pete's sake, can't authors write some believable recovery time?

There are at least 2 more books in this series, which I'll see through unless the next book (Nordic Nights) sends me into fits.

Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe

Another self-imposed classic, listened to during housework, Baby Einstein dvds, and travel to and from various errands. I know that there have been 2 different movie releases of this (in 1996) the U.K. version being more true to the book than the U.S. version. And, of course, Netflix doesn't carry it, so it may be a good while before I can see this story played out onscreen. No matter.

Defoe does a more than fair job of describing Moll's life cycle. I found it strange, however, that she chooses to reunite with only one of her several children, and that only because she hopes to secure her mother's fortune. In this novel, money seems to be all, and even though she falls upon the occasional hard time, she's uncharacteristically lucky, and ends her days well above her original station.

Moll's story is an early forerunner of today's crime novel. She gets away with (in the eyes of the law, at least) a great many thefts, whorings, and other scams, until finally caught, sent to Newgate, and sentenced to death, which she manages to evade thanks to a religious sponsor. Also, Moll's travels between the high and low societies emphasize her own shallowness regarding money. Hers is a classic psychological tale wherein money equals security and to what lengths an obsessive personality will travel to that end.

Although I'm not sure whether or not Defoe meant to do this, I can see a faint hint of primordial feminism in Moll's actions. This, apparently, is further explored in Defoe's novel Roxana:The Fortunate Mistress, which I'll read at some point, perhaps next year.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Christmas Letters, by Lee Smith

A short little book that chronicles a family's history (covering 5 generations) through yearly holiday-time (news)letters. A long with the good times and bad, the author also shows the progression of technology, religious adherence, and societal expectations.

Far from being a perfect family, those portrayed here have very authentic problems, trials, and failings. Of course, we do not get to know the characters very deeply, as only so much reality can go into a Christmas letter. Many of the letters include a recipe; funny [because I am a real recipe hound], none of them were noteworthy enough for me to copy before I send this on. I'm guessing they are Very Southern in nature, and I've yet to really find that particular cuisine enjoyable. YMMV.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

Having read the book (long) after I'd seen the movie, I can see why Irving might have had good reason to not give his full authorization/blessing to the screenplay of Simon Birch (based partly on A Prayer for Owen Meany). The two versions of CHR are pretty disparate. I definitely preferred the book for its bigger scope, its better-developed characters, and the historical context of women's rights regarding pregnancy. My only caveat regards the extremely graphic nature of the abortion procedures. The squeamish reader may need to skim over these passages; they do, however, make a dramatic impact within the story, and, in my opinion, are very integral to it.

Many of the situations (regarding orphans and abortions) discussed in this book help make a very strong case for choice. With the precarious position this choice has in our country, even after so many years of safety, perhaps it is time for another wave of readers to get inspired by CHR, or perhaps one of the movie channels could air the movie (which doesn't do such a bad job of addressing the issue); I doubt any of the honchos of the broadcast networks would have the guts to show it.

Noteworthy quotes:

p. 10: "There was the human body, which was so clearly designed to want babies--and then there was the human mind, which was so confused about the matter. Sometimes the mind was so perverse that it made other people have babies they knew they didn't want. And when other minds thought they wanted babies but then couldn't (or wouldn't take care of them... well, what were these minds thinking?"

p. 93: "Adolescence, is it the first time in life we discover that we have something terrible to hide from those who love us?"

p. 96: "But if you love no one, and feel that no one loves you, there's no one with the power to sting you by pointing out to you that you're lying."

p. 339: "When you lie, it makes you feel in charge of your life... you feel as if you have cheated fate--you own, and everybody else's."

p. 397: " 'Every time you throw a snail off the dock, you're making someone start his whole life over.'
'Maybe I'm doing him a favor.' "
[I thought this quote was quite telling of Homer, as at this point, he still refused to perform abortions]

p. 569: "The thing about being in love, is that you can't force anyone. It's natural to want someone you love to do what you want, or what you think would be good for them, but you have to let everything happen to them. You can't interfere with people you love any more than you're supposed to interfere with people you don't even know. And that's hard... you want to be the one who makes the plans."

Books cited: Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Little Dorrit

Endangered Species, by Nevada Barr

I am enjoying this series, especially the change in setting with each book. I feel as though I'm getting a little geography and flora/fauna lesson along with my attention-stretching. I am far enough in to care about Anna, especially when I think she needs a good shaking for not getting the medical attention she so obviously needs, and for taking her "lone ranger" persona way too seriously.

I know that the title refers to the loggerheads that open and end the story, but I couldn't find the deeper connection in the plot--I suppose Barr keeps her titles simple for a good reason. Maybe I'm just trying too hard, but I thought that the plot would have more to do with the wildlife; then again, Barr isn't exactly following a pattern, so I suppose I need to stop expecting that.

I'm looking forward to the next one in line (Blind Descent, which I think I have on one of these shelves, somewhere), but I also know that it will be a while, given all the other reading I've assigned myself.

In other reading progress, I finished a big chunk of Cider House Rules, and now have less than 100 pages to read for tomorrow. Christmas Letters is up next.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It seems I'm not up to the challenge after all...

I am barely 2/3 of the way through my second of three books for the Book-to-Movie Challenge, ending today. I'll finish Cider House Rules for the sake of finishing it in 2007, but I will save Neverwhere for another challenge (perhaps the Fairy tale/Mythology one in the spring). I'm disappointed that I didn't push myself harder.

Looking back on the month, I didn't write what I wanted to; I really wanted better content on the site, and to start drawing regular readers, but I couldn't seem to stick to my self-suggested assignments. Maybe I will try again next month, or in January (probably the more realistic goal, given the holiday season). I'm finding that it takes so much time to do the networking necessary to get that readership, that it seems hard to justify that effort right now; that is, it's hard for me to see the payoff.

My husband wants me to have more drive for my "career", to formulate a plan towards earning money. It's a fair request, but I truly do not know that I can be successful. I know that in everything I've tried so far (journalism, government,teaching, library) I've been burned, and I am afraid that my last beloved thing will be ruined for me if this, too, goes south.

Well, I am going to start on a master list of "assignments"; reviews of the Harper Collins books, challenges, regular memes (like Thursday 13 and Saturday Review of Books), and other articles to write, so that I can move toward a more professional attitude, and start acting like I know what I'm doing.

Har har.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not much progress...

I am only halfway through Cider House Rules, and that means I will not finish the Book-to-Movie Challenge on time. I'm really disappointed with myself, as it should have been easy enough to finish 3 books in one month (obviously, if I'd started the challenge on time, I wouldn't be having issues now). Well, I will see what I can do in terms of finishing CHR, and will make a new plan for December.

I need to catch up on some housework, and start washing the linens that are piling up, so am hoping I can finish perhaps another disc's worth of Moll Flanders while my hands are otherwise occupied.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Getting late...

so I'm going to hold off on any writeups for tonight (I finished Endangered Species last night). Maybe tomorrow will be less laundry-filled, and I'll be able to sit and concentrate.

I decided to start Moll Flanders for my housework read; I'm somewhere on disc 4, which (I think) is a good beginning. I didn't get to read as much of Cider House Rules as I'd hoped. My son had a late dinner, and DH had to take over; I think I managed another 25 pages. I think I will do another round after I've fed the dog and shut the house down for the night.

I did spend a little time today preparing some of my long-ago reads (39, in this batch) for review (with the index cards). I also decided to file the finished reviews by title, so I could have an organized paper record of them (my inner archivist had fun, at least). My desk is also slightly clearer, but I've still not found the dvd that went missing a few months ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Still working on yesterday's books...

I made a lot of progress with my audiobook, but I miscounted the number of discs, so I still have to get through #9 tonight (for bedtime). Did not get to read much of Cider (I'm up to p. 125), but I plan to read much of that tomorrow (that is, while I'm not on a new audiobook (either Moll Flanders or Lion in the Valley while I'm taking care of dishes and laundry). I won't have any tv-viewing tomorrow to catch up with, so I'm hoping to get most of it finished.

No write-ups tonight, but if I can manage it, I'd like to write out some answers to the end-of-chapter questions for Pagan Spirituality sometime tomorrow, perhaps in the evening while my annoying shows are taping.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cider House Rules, Endangered Species

This one's a little daunting, it's a pretty long book, but I'm glad I'm finally getting to read it. This is a much better story than what Hollywood gave us (no complaints about Tobey Maguire, though) several years ago. I'm making decent progress (I'm just over 100 pages in), and am having no trouble with the flow.

I'm on disc 6 of 8 for Endangered Species; the plot is coming along nicely.

Here's that review for The Fourth Trimester:

Over all, this book had some pretty good advice. I did have a few major quibbles, mostly with tips related to medical advice:

The author poo-poohs Kegels; she really shouldn't have. She could have given better advice about breast pain (there are solutions, and red flags). I'd suggest Depends over sanitary pads, especially for the first few weeks, and especially if bed-resting after a C-section. Get the stool softener, and don't wait for them to ask if you've BM-ed. Formula-fed babies are not necessarily "fine" (I'm referring to weight and diabetes problems later in life). Use wet baby washcloths for all non-poop diapers. If circumcising, one realy needs to do all they n to make the baby comfortable and not believe the doctor if they say the baby doesn't really feel anything.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thank goodness, a day off

I finished Black Dahlia (review below) and The Fourth Trimester, so I'm up to 58 books for the year. I may listen to another disc's worth of Endangered Species for my bedtime story, but we'll see how I feel 'round midnight, and after I've written the review for Fourth Trimester

Black Dahlia, James Ellroy:

I'm not sure how I feel about my chosen reading sequence. I was originally going to read my non-fiction titles on Elizabeth Short, but when I came across the Book-to-Movie Challenge, I decided to bump this one up the pile. Besides, I felt like I'd kept it on my shelf long enough; I really need to get more of my BookCrossing trades moving on.

Anyway, I have no idea how much of this book is based on the facts of the case, and I'm not certain that it matters. As a stand-alone murder mystery, the plot works just fine; twists galore and loose ends wrapped up nicely. I will say that I thought that the first 60 or so pages, while well-written, didn't seem relevant to the story. This was frustrating while I was slogging through Ellroy's character development, but now that I've finished, I can see that he needed that space to also set up a few important plot points.

Ellroy's novel read with a very Spillane-like cadence, but the fast-paced plot served to make this distraction fade away. His character were well-drawn, and easy enough to track [I personally have a problem doing this--an effect of MommyBrain, I'm certain].

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Guests today,

so not much has been done so far in terms of reading. I did manage to get to page 90 in Black Dahlia last night before I packed it in. The storyline is starting to pick up now that the "case" is open. I will probably get another 50+ pages read tonight before I fall asleep.

I've dishes to take care of in the kitchen, but I'm really wiped out from having people over, so those, and the laundry will just have to wait until tomorrow. Also hoping I can get The Fourth Trimester read and reviewed so that I can finally get this package mailed to my sister. She wrote to me the other day, saying (essentially) that her emergency c-section risk has gone up; I'm hoping little R can finish baking, and that J will get through the labor OK.

I am curious about one thing however... how is she going to get to the hospital, as her DH doesn't drive?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

I think I'm up to the 40's now (pagewise) in Black Dahlia. The writing style isn't getting any easier to slog through, but I'm determined to ride it out. I had a really hard time falling asleep last night, and so I could not drag myself out of bed until about 10 this morning. I had a bamillion errands to do today, so most of my day was actually spent away from home. I have so far managed only to get just beyond halfway through Endangered Species.

We're having guests tomorrow, so most of my day will be spent cleaning and cooking, then visiting, and will hopefully have time late in the evening (like now) to get my blogging done. I will probably not have much to report aside from reading progress.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Gorge Day!

Well, that's what many U.S.ers do today as an outward display of life prosperity. I think I did pretty well at controlling my intake, but that was certainly helped by the fact that I'm neither a stuffing nor a sweet potato girl. Both proffered appetizers were gone before I knew it, and I got raves for them, so I can have a little warm glow from that success.

My son had a good visit with everyone; he was the only little kid there, so he had all the attention for himself, and ate it up like a good little Leo.

I didn't subject my boys to my audiobook during the drive to Blanco, so I'll have to make up the time tomorrow during housework or when I do a Costco run for Saturday meals. Depending on my energy levels when I'm through here, I may curl up with Black Dahlia and try to make better progress on it. It's been a slow read so far, as I'm getting a lot of background on two cops involved with the case. It reads like a Dashiel Hammett, but for some reason, it's sloggy. I'm fueling with the orange juice I didn't have this morning (as I was too busy throwing the food together, and packing DS's necessaries) and some chocolate truffles.

I've fallen behind on my Daily Book read, but I may have time this weekend to make up for it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Man, busy day today...

only to find out that the hosted "campout" for this weekend is essentially off. I'll still get to see one set of friends, and hopefully have a good afternoon and evening with them. I was so disappointed to hear that the "it's about time" winter weather conditions would be what's keeping our other friend away. And it's doubly frustrating because it's her birthday on Saturday, and we were going to pull off a bang-up celebration.

Well, the upside is that I won't have to drive myself quite as hard with the housecleaning, which will mean a little more time for reading and writing.

Woo hoo.

I still had to make a trip to the grocery store, as I needed ingredients for the Devilled Eggs and the Artichoke Crab Dip that I'm to bring tomorrow for the family gathering. That helped me make a little more progress on Endangered Species. I believe I'm on disc 4 now.

So, as promised, here is my review forBest Advice on Life After the Baby Arrives:

I've been a member of iVillage from about a year after its inception (in '95). I've pretty much always found its content useful, and it's one of my primary internet resources when I'm looking for the latest findings regarding health. I did not, however, rely on it as much for new parenting help; now that I've read this book, I wish I had checked into that section more often. The book includes a wide breadth of topics, but doesn't go very deep with them. This is actually a plus for the new parents who can't make the time to read. Also, the physically small format makes it a good candidate for reading while captive during feeding time ;)

I'll spend one more round with this book, filling in a few tips of my own, before I put it in the next package for my sister.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lots of reading done so far,

and I've a review for my "quick book" mostly written. DH is coming home early, so I will have to do my tv-watching during son's nap.

Anyway, I finished Puss 'n' Cahoots last night. I'm enjoying the series less as mysteries, and I don't expect more than brain-candy at this point. Part of me wishes that RMB would just do some nonfiction work covering horses and farm life and get back to her storytelling in her fictional works. More on that later.

While I transferred some material to my iPod, I read Best Advice on Life After Baby Arrives, again, so I can send it off to my sister soon. That review is also in the works. I'm really liking my index-card format, as it's also getting me to be concise and not get boring.

I started listening to Endangered Species during my son's videotime, so that's all ready to go while I'm occupied with housework this week. I'll get a start on Black Dahlia later on tonight, when I've all my writing done.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Questioning the Canon Book Group

We've been meeting for well over a year now, and we're even getting the occasional new person. Tonight's selection was Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, which seemed to go over pretty well with the group (two people had to leave early, unfortunately, for different reasons). It was, at least, a lively discussion! My review is pending.

I'm now 5 tracks away from finishing Puss 'n' Cahoots, not sure yet if I want to finish it off for bedtime, or during my son's video time tomorrow. I've some organizing and cleaning to do before our small crowd comes out on Friday, but I will try and get some more books finished soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Review two-fer

I may have come up with a solution to my severe reviewing backlog! Up until now, as I've read a book, I've taken notes, or at least marked pages to which I need to return (say, for quotes I want to discuss). However, I don't usually do this with much of my non-classic fiction. After I've finished reading, I draft my review on binder paper, thus setting up a (large) space to fill. I think that, in the case of these long-ago-read books, I'm putting too much pressure on myself to write that much about a book I barely remember, and in most cases, have no notes from which to draw. So, I found a stash of index cards from a long-abandoned project, and I am using those as my draft papers. Hopefully, this will further my goal of getting these older books out of my house, and in turn make more room on my bookshelves so that I can someday dismantle and repurpose my brick-and-board setup. I will probably still have to invest in some new shelving (at least 6 of my current units are double-shelved), but freeing up that wall space in favor of a better-laid-out office will help our living situation a lot.

Anyway, here is my first Index Card review, of Death at Gallows Green, by Robin Paige:

I find it interesting that they introduced Beatrix Potter as a character in the tale. I didn't know it at the time I'd read this book [a few years ago now], but at some point during the research, the decision was made to give Potter her own series--which is now on its fourth of eight titles.

Team Paige writes a good mystery and believeable characters; they also use the results of their research to good end. They are not over-cautious about what naughtiness they unveil, and their tension-building (in terms of the Ardleigh-Sheridan romance) flows at a reasonable pace.

I also find the English versus American theme to be highly entertaining and informative. It's interesting to see how different authors handle it; I'm currently reading Wharton's Age of Innocence and am finding the undercurrent of snobbery quite similar.

This is the second in the series; Death at Daisy's Folly is next [it also needs reviewing]. I can't remember offhand if I've read the fourth (Death at Devil's Bridge) yet. This particular book goes in the "give back to friend" pile.

Another tack I'm going to try with my reading: I've a few dozen (at first pass, anyway) books that should be readable in a short sitting, and hence also quickly reviewed. Those books are in a stack, which I'll pull from daily until they're gone. By doing this, I might have a chance at reaching my goal of 100 read for this year.

So, the first book I chose (because I have to send it to my expecting-within-a-month sister very soon) is:

First Six Weeks: Baby Tips (Little Terror series), by Charlotte Preston and Trevor Dunton

A nice, quick read (perfect for the fact that new parents don't have time to read), only a few questionable pieces of advice, which may actually be a factor of the published date of the book [it's nearly 10 years old].

The points I found lacking: when listing the "cons" of formula feeding, they missed the ones about future weight gain and risk of developing diabetes; I also don't understand what they mean by stating that babies don't cry at will for the first 3 months--that just doesn't sound right, or at least not how I'd describe what's going on with the crying. The author also suggests highly diluted orange juice to treat constipation, whereas my sources say that citrus juices should not be introduced so early. They also talk about the safe use of covers (in the interest of preventing SIDS), whereas now, someone's come up with sleepsacs, which are much safer, and quite easy to find.

I do like how the author reminds the parents to keep communication lines open, and that she's honest about the energy level that's to be expected.

I'm all caught up with my page count for Age of Innocence. I may try to get ahead tonight, just so I'm not rushed to finish just before I drive into Austin for the book group discussion.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Almost on track

reading-wise.. am about 46 pages from my goal for tonight. That is, I'll have only 46 pages to make up tomorrow.

Looks like we have our babysitter for tomorrow, and for Monday afternoon. Does she rock or what?

Y'all might just get to see a real review tomorrow, because of her bestness.

All hail the great R!

Friday, November 16, 2007

No reading, not even a T13...

What's wrong with me?

Maybe seeing my friends tonight will help me work out whatever's holding me back (with the writing), and whatever's behind my nearly complete lack of appetite.

If I'm back home before midnight, maybe I'll try to supplement this with a Booking Through or a Friday Feast, just so there's some blog-related content. I'll get my 90 1/2 pages in before bedtime, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


That's how many pages I will have to read per day of Age of Innocence if I'm to have it done on Monday, in time for the Canon book group. It would appear that I have have my Sunday "back," as the FIL was not able to get the tickets for that celtic concert. Maybe I'll hire our BestBabysitter on one of the weekend days, so I can get the reading, some writing, and some cleanup on the homestead done.

Next Friday, we're having some friends out, so I have to overhaul the house, plan food-gathering, and think up something for a family ritual. Oh, and get something nice for Anthony's godmother's birthday. Hope this funk is gone really soon. I've no time for this!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nearly halfway through the month!

I need to get out of this reading/writing lull, and quick. I've put off my normal weekly errands until tomorrow, and it's also Thursday 13... and I still need to fix up last week's posts.


You'd think, with the night off from the husband, I'd have gotten more done.

I finished 3 more chapters of Puss 'n' Cahoots, now I'll be putting it away until I get Age of Innocence finished.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

V. lazy day for books...

I only managed to listen to 3 chapters of my current audiobook, which I may have to set aside in favor of starting/finishing Age of Innocence on time for my book group on Monday. I've been invited by the MIL to attend a Celtic music concert in San Antonio, and Grandpa will watch my son so that DH can work on the homestead, so that actually kills Sunday for doing any reading whatsoever (well, maybe I can plug the iPod in for the way down and back, but the doesn't help with AOI). Oh--short note to self: remember to check in at SWA's blog to enter the contest to win her latest book in the Beatrix Potter series. I've a lot of housework to catch up with tomorrow, so I should make some decent headway with Puss 'n' Cahoots.

Called RB today to get them going with sending me another shipment, it sounds like they were not researching some missing cds after all. Am beginning to think I should give up on them and just do what I can through the library.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Round Ireland with a Fridge

I was surprised but delighted to find this on the dollar clearance rack at HPB a few years ago, as this title kept popping up as a good read on the BookCrossing forums. And, I believe it was the first book I pulled off the shelf as I was searching for enough titles to satisfy the Armchair Traveler Challenge. Overall, I enjoyed the book, so I hope the author’s made some money from it (my love for used books notwithstanding). Hawks writes good characters, beautiful setting description, and decent dialogue. When I’d finished, I wished for a little more connection between his thoughts on departure and arrival. This was also a fairly quick read, thank goodness, and not so heavy on the philosophy that I had to break for “ponder time.”

Quotes that made me think, or laugh, or roll my eyes:

“... ‘if onlys’ are inevitable. The trick is to be masters of our own destiny in so far as we have control, and take the rest on the chin with a wry smile. But we must go for it.”

“...I felt I was headed for the kind of big-time embarassment which leaves a scar on your soul and can disrupt sleep patterns.”

“Anyone who packs two days before departure should seek counselling. Balanced people are still shoving stuff into their bag as they are leaving the house. That’s normal.”

“Taxi-drivers are the same throughout the world--great levellers. Never mind that [someone famous] has jumped into the cab, they’ll get no specialist treatment, none whatsoever. The driver will bore them just as sh*tless as you and me.”

“Of all the romantic and heroic ways to leave this world, being part of a controlled explosion with a large kitchen appliance rated very poorly. Folk songs and poems were unlikely to be written, and not just because ‘fridge’ is a very difficult word to find a rhyme for.”

“This was Irish traditional music as I had hoped to see and hear it, spontaneous and from the heart, and not produced for the sake of the tourist industry. No question of being paid, or any requirement to perform for a certain amount of time. This was self-expression, not performance.”

Tom: “Where are you headed?”
Tony: “I don’t really know.”
Tom: “Well, isn’t that true of all of us?”
Tom delivered building supplies and pearls of wisdom.

“I began to wonder whether my ‘fridge journey’ could be considered an allegory for life. I decided that there was some persuasive evidence. Each day I was faced with a number of choices, some were easy and others were harder. I had learned not to worry; to make my choice and allow things to happen. When things...weren’t good...then they were character building. There weren’t any wrong or right paths to choose, just different ones, and where they led was governed by the attitude adopted towards them. What else? I couldn’t manage alone.”

“I had become unnerved by the eye thing. Some different form of communication had just gone on, and although the meaning seemed clear enough, history had shown that this was a language I was well capable of misinterpreting. Most girls [speak the language fluently]. Boys don’t speak it at all, but just understand a smattering of key words. Their job is not to make a pig’s ear of the translation. They normally fail quite spectacularly.”

Description/commentary from amazon: “When British writer, performer and musician Hawks makes a drunken bet for 100 pounds that he can ‘hitchhike round the circumference of Ireland, with a fridge, in one calendar month,’ he starts, in 1997, an unexpectedly wonderful adventure into the good-natured soul of the Irish people. Though the book begins inauspiciously as a bad parody of Dave Barry's travel books, with Hawks assuming a smug distance from the people and events he encounters, happily fate intervenes in the form of a jovial radio-show host who convinces Hawks to phone in daily to share updates about his travels with the fridge. Almost overnight, Hawks becomes a regional legend ‘The Fridge Man’ with all sorts of people willing to help him achieve his goal, however silly it may be. What could have been a convenient contrivance actually allows a kinder and far funnier Hawks to appear, as his daily talks with his radio "fans" bring him unexpected delights, including encounters with an overenthusiastic innkeeper and his family, the amazing champion surfer Bingo, various musicians and lots of pub visits.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Sunday sessions

Women Writers of the Southwest, first session

Susan Wittig Albert wrote for the Nancy Drew Case Files; Heart of Danger was the only book set in Texas. She reccommends to writers that they read their work out loud while they're editing. SWA founded the Story Circle, focusing on writing about place, blogs daily now. Her latest (edited collection) includes both published and non-published rural and urban writers. She's been fascinated about "coming to the West" stories since childhood (fueled especially by the Little House series). When asked, stated that she's not had a problem selling her regional work. She finds that Western writers tend to be more open, brash, and forthright. Female writers tend to be more realistic within their freedom. Buddhists find "joy in limitation", and western female writers understand and embody this. When asked about the differences between men and women (western writers), said: whereas women see the threat to our environment, have concern for their homes, and are passionate about resource management, men tend to keep these issues at an arms-length abstraction. She closed by mentioning that Native and Hispanic voices are raising about community.

JS loves writing a good footnote. Suggests reading My Antonia in the original publication, as you really need the illustrations to get the full effect. Mary Austen [in? sp?] Little...Rain has similar illustrations to My Antonia. Austen was better known than Cather; they eventually met, interacted, and fell out. She regrets not having any formal training in art history. Her interest in the West comes from being born in Fort Worth ("where the west began"). Katherine Anne Porter and Willa Cather were favorite authhors who moved to New Mexico. "There's just an identity of being from the West." Laments that some Easterners don't know the difference between places in the same state [I believe she used Dallas and Fort Worth as an example]. She says that Austen and Cather were conscious of enjoying new freedoms (at least within expectations of social propriety). When asked about the differences between men and women (western writers), said: the general pattern for men is to write about conquest and violence, women generally focus on the dometic side of life, nature, freedom, physical vigor, and peace. In closing, she stated that Austen's political agenda worked against her in regards to her posterity (that is, why no one knows who she is now)--she wrote about environmental issues, gender wars, and Native American groups (when no one else was).

Books and authors recommended:
Terry Temple Williams
Waist High in the World
Leslie Silco, Storyteller (essay: "Not You, He Said")

Texas Comics Scene, second session
[thank goodness this one was literally, next door to the first I attended, oh, and I saw my friend, too--we were the ones giggling maniacally occasionally in the left front row]


Terry Moore--Strangers in Paradise (set in Houston, 110 issues/6 collections, self-published)
--an expanded audience changes the way you write (characters MUST be taken care of, and you have to balance having a huge arc versus keeping audience interest)
--one creative reason to continue serialization, is that the periodicals meet the audience's attention span

Paul Benjamin--Pantheon High (manga, set in L.A.)

Matthew Sturges--Jack of Fables, House of Mystery
--one creative reason to continue serialization, is that the comic book is a legitimate slab of culture.

When writing/promoting your comic, ask yourself: How big do I want my audience to be? (place your limits)
Graphic novels boomed when bookstores started distributing them.
Most publishers have their own graphic novel line.
Movies don't promote comic book sales significantly.
Diamond Comics is THE only comics distributor.

Yard Art and Handmade Places

Speaker introduced as the "original environmentalist", and has a show on NPR.
Opened her talk by asking: "Why do we have a fascination with these places?" and suggests that too many places look the same.
Book/quest seeks how people modify their outside spaces to make the exterior more welcoming. Criteria for inclusion in the book mandated that the place be occupied, and that the creations be original. She was also looking for soulful connections, and sense of an intermediate zone between outside and in.
Themes covered in the book: landmarks, recreating paradise, staying or coming home, overcoming personal adversity, indoor collections spill outside, sacred gardens.

*go to Paint Rock to see pictographs, look up JD Jackson regarding landmarks
*looked like an interesting book, but not enough to bring home at $30. I'll keep an eye out for it at the library.

Yay! Not much more to add about the festival, except that I'd like to be more on the ball next year, have babysitting set up better (or maybe bring sitter and Anthony with, he may be old enough then for some of the kids' programs), get some of my friends to hang out with me (at least for lunch), and maybe have some money in the budget for books.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Literary Criticism

As I'd stated before, this session was the most disappointing I'd attended thus far, even though it gave me a lot to think about. From the description, I'd somehow pulled the idea that the panel would speak to those of us who are trying to get our thoughts out to a readership, but even the panelist who (I believe) got her start online seems to have made herself too comfortable in her elite spot to consort with the rest of us wannabes.

These notes, unfortunately, are a little disjointed, but there are some really good nuggets here:

The big-newspaper market is drying up, and any hit to part of that ecology will affect the whole (I think he was speaking to the removal or lessening of the "Books" section)
General readers are becoming "non-newspaper" readers.
The diversity of authors/published books is not reflected in the current coverage of reviews.
Gail Poole [sp?]--Faint Praise
Edgar Allen Poe was a reviewer in his time, in fact, was a "tomahawk man."
The professor on the panel (Steven G. Kellman) was dismayed about the "Ebertization" (thumbs up/down) of book criticism.
Of course, one has to account for the time/space factor in reviewing.
It's hard to find intelligent negative reviews.
Rebecca Westwood--(essay, 1914) "Duty of Harsh Criticism"
Literary journals produce good reviews, but since they have such a long lead time, they can't be relied on for book promotion.
Kirkus Reviews [are they hiring?]
Try judging by what choices the reviewers make, not necessarily what they write.
None of the panelists review self-publshed books, for legal reasons (essentially, publishing a libel makes you liable).
In the "old days" intelligent people used literature to think.
don't silence the imaginative writers (character Amy Bellett, via Philip Roth)
A good critic helps the reader understand the book.
On the web, more people are writing about books, there's more access to these reviews, and to the books.
One panelist wished for a book show that was set up to be as entertaining as the Daily Show.
Alan Cheuse stated that "we're [critics/authors] at war" with capturing and keeping readers.
Librarians know the value of the book page, and usually choose from print materials (like BookPages).
Jessa Crispin (BookSlut) says that book bloggers will be taken seriously [by her level, I'm presuming] when they have something to say.
One attendee wished for an IBDB (Internet Book Database).
Complete Review [internet? publication?]
B.R. Myers--Reader's Manifesto Atlantic Monthly [2001?]
For authors, is better to go with a small press than to self-publish (better shot at getting underwriters and promotion)
Critical Mass (National Book Critics' Circle)

Friday, November 9, 2007

A lazy day for books...

I spent the earlier part of my day preparing my son for public consumption (fed, bathed, dressed, diapered and packed for a 2-hour drive and visit with his grandparents), and about two minutes doing a Home-Alone-Kevin-frenzied-freedom-scamper-around-the-house-dance. Then I applied myself to some chores, and some tv-watching (bonus--only Friday Night Lights to catch up with this weekend--maybe I'll finally get the chance to watch a few episodes of Weeds and get a new dvd from Netflix next week). While I was doing said chores, I was able to get through a few chapters of Puss 'n' Cahoots (Rita Mae Brown )via my iPod. Best!Present!Ever!

Today was supposed to be Fantasy Friday--I want to get through my huge backlog of fantasy novel reviews by doing at least 4 per month (regardless of whether I'm currently reading any)--but I'm not exactly in a state to knock one out in the next 20 minutes. So, my last write-up for Saturday's sessions at the Texas Book festival will have to wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow is also supposed to be a post for Saturday Review of Books, but I'll have to see what kind of slave-driving mood my husband is in.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Booking Through Thursday #1

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger?

Well, given 37 years of reading experience...and very little consistency across said years...
Compared to one book every night at bedtime when I was 4, I'm reading less books, but definitely more in page count. Another big-volume era was probably from 6th-10th grades during the summertime; I'd bring home whatever I could carry (this was before backpacks were standard issue to children--my son has 2 already!), usually about 20 books, and I'd have those read within a week or two. Another time in my life when I had the time to read a lot was post-divorce, when I was working part-time in schools. I'd say I could finish at least 12-15 in a month's time. In contrast, during college, I would read maybe only 20 books per year, most of those being textbooks.

Nowdays, I am doing good to finish one per week, even though I'd set a goal to read 100 books in 2007. It's November already, and I think I've barely cracked that halfway mark. Definitely not a good rate if I want to keep readers coming back. I think that's why I've been seeking out reading challenges--they're helping me to focus on very specific steps toward meeting bigger-numbered goals. A secondary benefit to these challenges: they're forcing me to keep my reading diverse, and I'm both staying out of ruts and getting obsessions out of my system.


Ah, the reasons are many: I am married, and my time is not all my own. I have a two-year-old and my time is not my own. I have a much larger house (compared to past big-reading eras) that I'm supposed to maintain. I do dishes and laundry for three. I have farm animals that need attention. I live in the country, far away from all of my friends, and the time involved not only to stay in touch but to actually nurture the relationships (seems to be) pretty high. Oh, and I spend time on the internet (which I didn't have before 1997--after all my high-volume eras).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Christmas Challenge

Well, the Christmas Challenge is on (the host was having spamming problems, but has gotten them resolved in the past few days), so I'm just putting a note in here to myself what I've chosen to read:

The Christmas Letters (Lee Smith)
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (Connie Willis)
Murder for Christmas (ed. Thomas Godfrey)

These reviews are due by December 31.

TXBF Saturday session #3

After my hearty lunch of peanut butter-and-whole wheat bagel, lemonade, and Ghirardelli caramel squares, I walked over to the Methodist Family Life Center to hear Rick Riordan talk about his Greek-mythology-inspired series. What I didn't know was that this was a children's series; my only clue being the crowds of said children as I looked for a seat (most of the YA/kids sessions were duly noted on the program--this one wasn't). I stayed on, though, as there are times when reading a good children's book is time better spent than with a poorly written adult novel. Riordan has won 3 different mystery awards for earlier adult books, and he told the audience at one point that his first book was rejected 13 times (this was in response to someone who asked Riordan's advice for aspiring authors)--his point being to not give up easily on something you truly believe to be worth doing. One realization that convinced him to become an author was that books aren't only written by dead people.

Riordan's publisher is releasing the fourth installment (Battle of the Labyrinth) in this series soon, and the author read us a chapter from it (not that the kids in the room had to be convinced to pester their parents for a copy). He took several questions from the audience afterwards, but I refrained from asking him if he was inspired by the late Fred Saberhagen's Masks of the Gods series (I didn't want to run the risk of putting a too-young child on a search for those books). When asked if this series was going to be made into movies, he replied that the first installment (The Lightning Thief) was in development, and that Chris Columbus (who directed the first few Harry Potter films, if I'm not mistaken) has signed on to direct. So, I'll be keeping an eye out for that release.

The last session of the day, Literary Criticism, was probably the most disappointing of all, even though it was the most thought-provoking. I managed to take about 3 index cards worth of notes, which, honestly, look quite daunting to write up at this hour. So, even though I really wanted to be done with these before now, I'm now going to shoot for the end of this week, and hope that I can start meeting some reading deadlines, work on more of my challenge books (I'm about halfway through one for the Armchair Traveler challenge), do a Booking Through Thursday meme, and get back to schmoozing on other's blogs. I need readership if I'm going to have a chance at getting paid work!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Saturday sessions (Molly Ivins)

When I'd heard of Molly's passing earlier this year, I was greatly saddened that we'd never hear her voice of reason again. I'd listened to one of her audiobooks [the title escapes me at the moment, of course], and I'd kept up with her column at AlterNet for the past few years. One of the things I appreciated about her was her sense of Texas political history--whenever she referenced past shenanigans, she left me with sense of someone who was really passionate within her career. While I can't say the same about myself, I can still admire others who have achieved that.

Anyway, when I saw that there was to be a tribute to Molly at the festival, I was glad that there was a place made for her fans to attend without impinging on a funeral/memorial service (IMO, those services are for family and friends who actually knew her). A crew for C-SPAN filmed the proceedings in the First United Methodist Church [and I was able to snarf it as a landmark! the church, not the crew]. The sanctuary was pretty packed downstairs, and from my vantage point, quite a few people were upstairs also. I've no idea what the official capacity is in there, but I'd bet they could have filled a bigger venue had they one available.

I have to say that I deeply regret that I never took a chance to see her speak, and I'm making this assessment based on only seven minutes worth of documentary shown during the tribute. I have at least two of her books on my shelf, and I'll read those when I can [who knows, maybe I'll get all ambitious and host a Political Writings Challenge in "honor" of next year's elections]. Her last book, Bill of Wrongs, was available for sale and signing (by her writing partner, dear silly readers) during the festival, but our family is feeling poor at the moment, and I didn't want to make any frivolous purchases this weekend.

As I said before, Molly was admired for being someone who maintained a lifelong passion for her career, and I think that political writing as we know it has lost a voice we could still use around here.

Long day today, had lunch with DH, did grocery sopping on the fly, and voted at the Baptist Church (and once again managed to not burst into flame--I think it helps that the polling is actually held in the auditorium) on the way home. I should do another short one, but I think I should hit the sack until I fall asleep.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Writers on Reading

Session 1, Writers on Reading: Valerie Martin and Jane Hamilton, Russell Perreault (moderator)

[I arrived plenty early to this one (I was worried that it would be packed, as free books were part of the deal), despite leaving 25 minutes late. Anthony had awoken, and I decided to get him diapered and started on his breakfast so it would be one less thing for DH to manage without caffeine, and in his state of Ick-fighting. I finished preparing the books I’d be releasing with all the BookCrossing information I could manage, and ate my breakast.]

Jane Hamilton started the discussion off by opining that the book festival raised Austin to the “highest state of grooviosity” she knew. She said that she doesn’t think of herself as a genre writer, but if pressed, says that she writes thrillers. Hamilton also talked about her experiences with Heart of Darkness, and admitted that authors sometimes could not answer the discussion questions in reader’s guides.

Valerie Martin opened her portion of the talk by sharing a story illustrating how some people are nervous about talking to authors, and suggested to book group leaders that they provide plenty of good food and drink if an author comes to talk to their group. She also defined fiction as a conversation between the author and all the books they have read before, and directed our attention to specific novel mentions in books--the author is really telling you “go read this” (also). One good discussion topic in book group is what other books to which the author leads your reading. She explains further that novelists write from a disagreement with something that another author has written, that everything an author has to say about the book is in the book (this is why she feels strange talking about her books).

A few more points the Hamilton had to make (in response to questions) include: if an author reads while writing, they run risk of incorporating the style and voice of the other author (Martin agrees about fiction, but acknowledges that one always has non-fiction research to do, but that this doesn’t interfere--Hamilton concurred), that her characters always evolve while she’s writing them, and that writers are either never really alone while working, or are completely comfortable with it.

Works and people cited or written by the authors:
Trespass (VM)
Light of the Piazza (novella and movie)
Sephora and the Slave Girl (Willa Cather)
Elizabeth Taylor (author, not actress)
Disgrace (Coetzee)
Property (VM?)

Tomorrow is storytime and errand day, and voting day. I’ll write up another talk from Saturday after I’ve wound down from all that. Oh--good news--my aunt is rallying, and it looks like she may have some more time with us yet after all. Our family will probably pay her a special visit when we go out to see our new nephew in December.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Sunday summary

The first session I wanted to attend did not start until 11:30, so I not only got some extra sleep (from the time change), but I also had time to eat breakfast and have a shower. First session was interesting--it made me want to make an effort to join a local Story Circle, but in reality, it will probably be a few years before I can do anything about it. My next session was next door, so I had a little time to chat with my friend Brandy (her husband was moderating), and to let her know that I won't be able to do Indian this week, because of the pending California trip. I dropped 5 more books off at the BookCrossing table, and chatted with Heather before the Yard Art session down the way. I was impressed overall with the idea, but the book was not worth what I could get out of it ($30). While our long-term housing plans are up in the air, it doesn't really seem right to be investing time in whimsy.

I had to buy nail clippers for Boudreaux (our original pair has gone awol), so I arrived at the Austin Celtic festival at about 4:00. DH and Anthony were already there, so I spent some time following Anthony's random forward progress across the grounds. We said hello to our friends from Things Celtic, chatted with my online book group leader (which reminds me, I need to get back to reading the book), saw some friends I hadn't seen in over two years (I know this only because they hadn't met Anthony). I promised to try a restart of our yahoo group, so we'll see if we can get everyone together again. I went primarily for the music, and I even got to dance with my son (while most of the band members were out dancing with the audience)--which he absolutely loved.

Tonight's post must be short, as I need to get some reading done, so I will probably do that until I nod off. Tomorrow, I'll start writing up my notes from the various talks on Saturday, and see how far I get.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sunday Schedule, Saturday Summary

This is my schedule for tomorrow... I'm reading 2 of the 3 series that Susan Wittig Albert has written, so that's why I'll be there. The comics forum is being moderated by a friend's husband, so I am hoping more to see her, and the handmade places book looks like an interesting one; we might be able to take some ideas away from it to incorporate on the homestead.

11:30-12:30 Women Writers of the Southwest:

Janis P. Stout, author of Picturing a Different West, is professor emerita of English at Texas A&M University as well as dean of faculties and associate provost emerita. Other works include Willa Cather: The Writer and Her World, A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather, Willa Cather and Material Culture, and Coming Out of War: Poetry, Grieving, and the Culture of the World Wars.

Susan Wittig Albert is the co-editor of What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest as well as the founder and president of the Story Circle Network, a non-profit organization that encourages women to write about their lives. She has written over two dozen mysteries (in three mystery series, including the China Bayles herbal mysteries series) and also writes a regular column called "The Herbal Thymes" for Country Living Gardener.

12:30-1:30 The Texas Comics Scene

We've asked four of the state's hottest graphic novelists and comics creators - both writers and illustrators - to talk about their latest works and what's going on in the Texas comics scene. Come hear how Texas is influencing the comics world.

2-2:45 [plus signing time] Yard Art and Handmade Places

Relatively few people in America build their own homes, but many yearn to make the places they live in more truly their own. Yard Art and Handmade Places profiles twenty homemakers who have used their yards and gardens to express their sense of individuality, to maintain connections to family and heritage, or even to create sacred spaces for personal and community refreshment and healing. Jill Nokes, an authority on native plants and ecological restoration, traveled across the state of Texas, seeking out residents who had transformed their yards and gardens into oases of art and exuberant personal expression. In this book, she presents their stories, told in their own words, about why they created these handmade places and what their yard art has come to mean to them and to their communities. Krista Whitson, the photographer who collaborated with Nokes on the book, will also be at this session.

I wound up leaving about 20 minutes later than I'd planned--Anthony had woken up and needed a start on his morning routine before his daddy got up--but I still made good time and arrived at the first session with enough time to eat my breakfast (juice and protein bar) and to finish labelling the books I'd be releasing that day. I received three books in the free totebag ("Read, read, read. Read everything." (Faulkner) it says), all bound galleys or manuscripts: The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz, The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and Songs Without Words by Ann Packer. The talk by authors Jane Hamilton and Valerie Martin went well [details to follow in Monday's blog]. It ended a bit early, so I had plenty of time to walk over to the Methodist Church (which is a historic landmark--so I snapped a picture of the plaque) for the Tribute to Molly Ivins. The sanctuary was pretty well packed, even the upstairs. After this, I dropped by the BookCrossing table, and said hey to Heather and Bruce, and I was really surprised that they remembered me, as I hadn't seen them in a few years. I ate my lunch on the capitol grounds, and was eventually joined by a little boy who was polishing off a yummy-looking cookie. On my way over to Rick Riordan's reading, I walked through a few of the tents, and picked up a copy of the Texas Observer (Molly Ivins contributed to them for 6 years, I believe). Riordan was promoting the latest in his Young Adult series, so I was surrounded by many school-age kids. The series looks promising, though, maybe even good enough to start collecting for Anthony. Finished there, I walked back over to the BookCrossing table, and gave Heather a much-needed break. I received another free book (Rituals of the Imagination by Thomas Moore) and a nice handful of labels. The last forum of the day, Lit Crit, was semi-informative, but I was a little disappointed with some in the panel. One was (IMO) too full enough of herself to be taken seriously, but then again, she's getting paid for what she does, so what does this little blogger know?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Capitol grounds, Austin

Events officially begin today, but this year I'm focusing more on the talks and treating this like a professional development weekend. This is my schedule for Saturday (all descriptions are from the festival web site):

10:00 - 11:00 Vintage/Anchor Books Presents: Writers on Reading [totebags and free books!]

Writers on Reading is a special event presented by Vintage/Anchor Books featuring Jane Hamilton and Valerie Martin. The event is not like a regular reading; it's an intimate seminar for readers interested in reading groups. Hamilton and Martin will talk about reading and writing, or more specifically what they personally read, how they decide what to read and how they write. Vintage/Anchor Books will be handing out special tote bags with complimentary new Vintage/Anchor paperbacks at the event. The session's moderator, Russell Perreault, is the director of publicity for Vintage and Anchor Books.

11:15 - 12:15 A Tribute to Molly Ivins

We pay tribute here to Molly Ivins, who died earlier this year and was one of the nation's most iconic political commentators and humorists. At this session, we'll hear from Lou Dubose, Ivins' frequent co-author (their new book is titled Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights); humorist Roy Blount, Jr.; and noted documentary filmmaker Paul Stekler will screen never-before-seen footage of Ivins that appears in Remembering Molly Ivins, a short film he recently made.

Ivins' friend Ellen Sweets will also speak about Ivins - Sweets recently retired as a food writer with the Denver Post, but met Ivins shortly after moving to Dallas to become a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Their friendship was built around an interest in progressive politics; French, Mexican, Italian, Greek, African, and Southern food; dinner parties, movies, lots of laughter and, of course, some sadness.

1:30 - 2:15 Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan's latest entry in his myth-tinged bestselling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians has been called "a winner of Olympic proportions"; the adventures of Percy and his array of often clashing pals have to find Annabeth (the daughter of Athena) as well as Artemis, not to mention deal with the all-consuming prophecy of the Oracle. Riordan will be giving the world premiere reading from the yet-to-be-released fourth entry in the Percy Jackson series at this event!

3:00 - 4:00 Lit Crit: The State of Book Criticism

The amount of editorial space (and broadcast time) devoted to coverage of books and writers - and cultural reporting and criticism in general - always seems to be under threat. It's understood that breaking news trumps arts coverage, but with the layoff earlier this year of the respected book editor from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the publishing industry reacted with more fear than usual about the declining coverage of books in mainstream media. What kinds of books are getting reviewed now? How is the book industry adapting to that coverage? Are informed and well-written reviews only showing up on blogs and boutique literary journals? These panelists, all insiders in the literary scene, will talk about what's at stake in current literary criticism and whether the scene is all gloom-and-doom.

I'll be posting Sunday's schedule and a very short wrap-up tomorrow. More detailed notes about the talks will follow in future posts starting on Monday.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that BookCrossing will have a presence there for the first time! Here's the announcement from CEO Scott Sorochak:

"BookCrossing and Ghirardelli Chocolate are teaming up at the Austin, Texas Book Festival, November 3rd and 4th at the State Capital Building to promote reading and literacy awareness. With over 50,000 attendees and 1,400 authors expected to attend this exciting 2 day event, this is a bibliophile’s dream!

Please join BookCrossing and Ghirardelli’s “Savor Every Page” campaign and realize the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book and great chocolate. Ghirardelli reminds us, “Whether you’re losing yourself in the latest Amy Tan, indulging in the newest Mitch Albom, or reaching for that dog-eared Jane Austen that’s never far from your nightstand, this is the joy of reading--a pleasure as deep as indigo ink, and as rich as the finest chocolates ever made. At Ghirardelli, we’ve been crafting fine chocolates for the past 150 years--Chocolates that cater to all literary tastes. So if you’re ready to escape for a few hours in that novel you’ve been dying to read, indulge with Ghirardelli chocolate. It’s the perfect complement to your favorite page-turner. “

Of course, we are encouraging all BookCrossers in Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio to stop by the Ghirardelli tent this weekend at the Texas Book Festival for a complimentary chocolate sample and $1 off coupon for chocolate. Co-Founders Heather and Bruce Pedersen will be there to welcome you with free BookCrossing labels, bookmarks and other items. Drop by, say hello and help turn the Texas Book Festival into a BookCrossing zone!"

Well, I think that the pairing with Ghirardelli is fate tapping me on the shoulder... that is where my great-grandfather got his first job in America (nothing spectacular, I think he was a janitor or somesuch). Anyway, my family has a fondness for the place. If I'd prepared better, I would have gathered a stack of Texas-authored or -set books, or maybe some reading- or writing-themed books. I'll have to settle for what's in my regular Panera pile, and hope that my printer will behave itself/make the labels I need.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Armchair Traveler Challenge List

I should have started this one a while ago, but we'll just have to see how far I can get between now and December 31!

1. Blue Highways (William Least Heat Moon)
2. Cry of the Kalahari (Mark and Delia Owens)
3. The Edge of the Sea (Rachel Carson)
4. Round Ireland with a Fridge (Tony Hawks)
5. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travelers (ed. Robinson)
6. A Tuscan Childhood (Kinta Beevor)

Book to Movie Challenge List

These are just a few books in my collection that have been made into movies. I chose these 3, as they've been waiting around a long time:

1. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
2. Cider House Rules, John Irving
3. Black Dahlia, James Ellroy

I have only until December 1 for these... gotta get reading!

Definitely not eligible for whatever prize the host chooses, but as with a few other challenges, I want to have the accountable goal set up.

Book Awards Challenge list

These are the titles I've chosen from my stacks. I have until June 30, 2008 to finish these:

1. Possession, Byatt (Booker)
2. Angela's Ashes, McCourt (Pulitzer)
3. Bel Canto, Patchett (Faulner/Pen)
4. She Walks These Hills, McCrumb (Agatha)
5. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond (?)
6. Turtle Moon, Hoffman (Hammett)
7. On Writing, S. King (Stoker NF)
8. Lovedeath, Simmons (Stoker coll)
9. Strange Files of Fremont Jones, Day (Macavity)
10. Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim (National Book Award)
11. Love Medicine, Erdich (National Book Award)
12. Thousand Acres, Smiley (Pulitzer)

Deja Dead, Kathy Reichs (Arthur Ellis)
Age of Innocence (Pulitzer)

I think I did a pretty good job of mixing genres and prizes, so hopefully this list will not burn me out.

2nds Challenge choices post

I'm signing up (really late) for the 2nds Challenge, so I'm not going for any prize, but I really want to set an accountable goal to read the following books:

In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner
Hearse of a Different Color, by Tim Cockey
Painted Truth, by Lise McClendon [track it down, it has to be on one of these shelves]

Unless I stumble upon some other "second to me" book that I just can't put down, these will be the ones I'll need to read by December 31.

Thursday Thirteen #7 (ed. 117)--Series I'm catching up with

Well, here is my first official post for NaBloPoMo... welcome also to fellow Thursday Thirteeners! For those of you expecting a Halloweeen theme, well, I wrote this instead, and will probably post last night's happenings to my farm blog. When I'm done here, I have to go sign up for four more reading challenges: 2nds Challenge, Book Awards Challenge, Book to Movie Challenge, and the Armchair Traveler Challenge. I'm coming late to a few of them, and will probably not be eligible for their prizes, but I'm going to give it my best shot anyway.

The reason I'm doing this particular list, I'm planning on signing up for the Series Challenge next month, so I wanted to get a handle on which ones I can finish off the soonest while I'm tracking down or reserving copies of those series that I'm way behind on reading. So, on to the list! [in approximate order of completion]

1. Jeff Abbot's Jordan Poteet Library mysteries: this is a small one, and I have the last of 4 on my shelf.

2. Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Bear Catering mysteries: I her latest in my queue of audio rentals, unless I stumble upon a free library copy).

3. Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper quilt mysteries: Tumbling Blocks is her latest, I'll have to hunt a copy down from somewhere.

4. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum mysteries: I have Twelve Sharp on the shelf, and I'll probably borrow the next from the library.

5. Sarah Shankman's Samantha Adams mysteries: I have two remaining of 7, both of them on my shelf... somewhere.

6. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone Alphabet mysteries: I have "S" is for Silence on the shelf, and she's releasing "T" is for Trespass in early December.

7. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon fantasies: I have Priestess (on shelf) and Ancestors (loaned out to a friend). The last one of this series was finished by another author, so I hope I can still count these.

8. Susan Witting Albert's China Bayles herbal mysteries: I have 3 more to read before I'm current. I have the next one on my shelf, and the one after that on audio.

9. Carole Nelson Douglas's Midnight Louie/Vegas mysteries: I need to read N,O,P,Q, and R. I think I have the first 2 or 3 on the shelf.

10. Tim Cockey's Hitchcock Sewell undertaker mysteries: He's written 6 so far, I need to read the from the second one on.

11. Anne George' Southern Sisters mysteries: The author passed several years ago, so there will be no more after the 8th book. I need to read from #3 on.

12. Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mysteries: She's published 13 so far, I need to start #5 (Endangered Species--should be on the shelf).

13. Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake horror/mysteries: Next up is Killing Dance, then 15 more (at last count).

There's more that I have to plow through (like my Amanda Peabody's, and Sharyn McCrumb's, and Lise McClendon's), but these 13 were the handiest.

Off to get signed up for more challenges, and to flesh out some of the 6 reviews I rushed through to meet yesterday's midnight deadline (for the R.I.P. Challenge), and possibly to watch Heroes, Journeyman, and Bionic Woman while my son naps. Happy Thursday to everyone!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Sleeping Mommy lists her favorite things about the fall season.
2. pussreboots shares her thoughts about NaNoWriMo.
3. (leave the link to your T13 in comments, I'll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

R.I.P. Challenge wrap-up

Well, I've been doing plenty of reading (although not as much as I'd planned), but precious little writing. So, I have just over an hour to churn out reviews for the 6 books relevant to the challenge:

The Thirteenth Tale (audiobook, finished Aug. 26, on the way back from Kansas)
Bloody Bones (finished Sept 19)
House of the Seven Gables (finished Oct. 3)
Danse Macabre (finished Oct. 7)
Dracula (finished Oct. 15)
Fragile Things (finished Oct. 30)

Looking at the gaps, I certainly could have finished my 2 chunksters, and done the Sunday Short Stories, but in my need to get off-farm, I overscheduled my weekends.

I really enjoyed all these books, and I really wish that I could have participated/interacted more with everyone else. I think that I got in my own way this time.

Well, here I go... am backdating my posts so that they're in some semblance of reading order, but these reviews were all written between now and (gods willing) just-before-midnight so I can post this wrapup entry over at SSD

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Danse Macabre, Peril the First

I wanted to include a non-fiction book into this challenge, and I've been wanting to read this one for a while (aside from the fact that it was published over 25 years ago). The problem I have in general with reading non-fiction is the fact that I wind up with exponentially more books to read. This book was no exception; I believe that I have at least 5 pages of notes documenting more books to read, or movies to see. So, if I die unhappy, it will be because I couldn't finish them all.

I really wish that King would write another volume of this, I'd love to read his take on how the horror genre has evolved in the nearly 30 years since Danse Macabre came out, and I'd like to see what he has to say about current authors, graphic novels, and perhaps some commentary on the flavor of societal violence we're seeing now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

House of the Seven Gables, Peril the First

I wanted to include a classic in my reading, and when I made my list in August, I hadn't planned on reading Dracula, so this was the one that stood out and said "Pick me!"

This was a nice, solid work, but I didn't really find anything noteworthy/quoteable/thought-provoking for (about) the first half of the book. Looking at my copy, I see several posties holding a place for me to go back and think about...something.

[which I'll do after I get the basics out on the rest of the reviews]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bloody Bones, Peril the First

Anita Blake rides again! I'm in a place in the series where there is still some plot to her stories, but I can see that the, erm, tension between the main characters is going up exponentially. So, I'm on the lookout for when the series switches over so I know when to pick them up as my mood dictates. Ahem.

In this installment, Anita battles fey and a big bad vampire queen, and of course calls up a few dead bodies for her "day" job. Glad to see that she finally gets some sleep in between rounds with the baddies. [this has been a complaint of mine in earlier installments]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Not book-related, but this is big news I have to share:

[this link is photo-heavy, so you dial-up types are forewarned]
There's a new baby on the farm

Go here to vote on his name!

So, the cranking out of reviews is stalled for a little bit, at least until we know everything's stable [har har].

Thursday, August 30, 2007

13 Favorite Male Authors--Thursday 13 #6, Edition 108

I devoted my first Thursday Thirteen post to my favorite female authors, so I thought that it was about time I did the same (better, actually) for my favorite male authors. This time, I hope to convey why I enjoy their books. Here they are, in no order whatsoever:

1. Neil Gaiman: My introduction to his work was from a man I'd been dating. He had boxes of Vertigo comics in his office, and he encouraged me to read them when I'd come over. The Sandman series and Stardust were my favorites of what I'd perused, and I slowly found more titles to get excited about long after I'd broken it off with Parks and Wildlife Guy.
Works read: Books of Magic, Sandman vols. 1&2, Death: High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life, Good Omens, Coraline, Stardust, Wolves in the Walls, and American Gods.
Titles on Mt. TBR: Neverwhere (for the Seconds Challenge), Fragile Things (R.I.P. Peril the Third), Anansi Boys, Sandman vols. 3-10.
I check in with Neil's online journal every 4-5 days or so, he's fun to keep up with, and his daughter Maddy has made a few guestblogger appearances. What a dad!

2. Terry Pratchett: Now, it may seem foolish to put someone in my top 13 on the basis of having read only one book. Which, technically, is more like half a book. And for all I know, Neil was the one writing the comical bits of Good Omens. But, I have heard very good things about his Discworld series from other readers who I trust, and I've been slowly acquiring the necessary books. Mr. Pratchett claims that readers can start anywhere in his world, but I'm one of those "begin at the beginning" sorts. I managed to find a reading order guide that gives me a nice visual map to follow. Honestly, I will probably not get to start until well into next year. I intend to follow through with the Series Challenge and catch up at least 10 before I start this or any other.

3. Stephen King: I don't know who, of the girls at my high school, started reading King's books when I did. They are probably the ones I wish I'd found then, and might still have as friends now. He was one of the first authors I'd found intriguing the summer I'd self-transitioned from the children's room to the adult fiction room which shared the bottom floor of our town's Carnegie library. My first was either Christine or Salem's Lot. Firestarter and the Shining were read next, then I took a long break, starting back up with Carrie over 10 years ago.
Others Read: Bag of Bones, Cell, Dolores Claiborne, Dreamcatcher, From a Buick 8, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Rose Madder, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.
On Mt. TBR: Danse Macabre (for the R.I.P. Challenge), On Writing (for the Awards Challenge), Needful Things, Different Seasons, Everything's Eventual, Eyes of the Dragon, Four Past Midnight, The Green Mile, The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis, Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

4. Tim Cockey: I don't read very many male mystery authors, but after I'd heard about his undertaker protagonist Hitchcock Sewell, I devoured his first book The Hearse You Came in On, and proceeded to acquire the next few in the series (of 5 total). I just might have a chance at finishing this series within 6 months time (for the upcoming challenge).

5. Jeff Abbott: This author has two different series and two stand-alone novels under his belt. I've read three out of four of his first (with protagonist Jordan Poteet--a small-town librarian). I hesitate to classify his first outings as "cozies," but the Poteet mysteries are definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum. The last book that will finish the series for me is Distant Blood.

6. Fred Saberhagen:I reviewed one of his books recently, so I'd like to direct the reader's attention there for my opinion of Saberhagen, who passed in June of this year.

7. Dennis Lehane: I stumbled upon his Kenzie/Gennaro series during a really slow day at the library. I was packing up discards for the annual used-book sale and started reading Gone, Baby, Gone. When I found out that it was the 4th of 5 in the series, I put it down and added Lehane to my list of TBR authors. I also have Mystic River on Mt. TBR. His latest offering is a short story collection; it will be be on the shelves within the week.

8. Gregory Maguire: Wicked was a surprisingly good read; I really like how he'd turned the Oz world onto its head and spun it around. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was OK, but left me confused at times (it could be that the house move I was wrestling with occupied too many brain cells). I have two different versions of Mirror, Mirror (audio and trade paperback), neither of which I've cracked yet, and I've also a copy of Lost (Maguire's retelling of Dickens' Christmas Carol) that is gathering dust. Maybe I will read that one for my Christmas Challenge. I did manage to listen to Son of a Witch fairly soon after its release; it didn't disappoint.

9. Tom Robbins: I borrowed Even Cowgirls Get the Blues from my local library and listened to it during my "commute" to various tutoring gigs I had back in California. Another Roadside Attraction and Jitterbug Perfume have been on Mt. TBR for a while. I really want to read them, but haven't yet been able to fabricate a good excuse.

10. Wil Wheaton: Yes, that Wil Wheaton. Didn't know he's an author? He certainly is, and I'm not talking about his blog or his column at Suicide Girls. My husband and I got the chance to meet Wil at a combination Stand By Me showing/Just a Geek booksigning at the Alamo Drafthouse a few years back, and I just got around to reading it a few months ago. Wheaton tells a fine tale, and gives his fans and readers (not completely mutually exclusive) a real sense of how he grew up while also being an actor and what his life is like now as a writer, geek, father, and actor. When I get less out-of-pocket (half a pocket?), I plan to buy a copy of Dancing Barefoot (his first book) and a copy of his latest, The Happiest Days of Our Lives (to be offered any day now).

11. Dan Simmons: A longstanding and prolific writer, Simmons has produced award-winning short stories and novels in several genres (science fiction, horror, mystery). I'm currently reading Lovedeath for the Short Story Sunday Peril of the R.I.P. Challenge, and I have A Winter Haunting on Mt. TBR. My introduction to Simmons was Children of the Night, which was both scientifically intriguing and sufficiently creepy for my tastes.

12. Spaulding Gray: I took a "drama for non-actors" course during my senior year of college, and one of the assigned movies was "Swimming to Cambodia." I've picked up a few other titles since then, and might be able to read one for the In Their Shoes Challenge.

13. Lemony Snicket: His is a 13-book series, and I actually saw the movie (A Series of Unfortunate Events) before I started listening to any of the installments. I'm currently up to #8, Hostile Hospital, and hope to get a good start on it this weekend while I'm traveling to one friend's wedding and another's birthday party. See my review of Vile Village here.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!