Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last day of NaBloPoMo!

Sure has been fun blogging every day. I certainly had no problem generating content, with all the events and reading challenges I've found. Haven't managed to get all of them squared away online yet, but have spent a few days roughing them out on paper. I definitely have my work cut out for me this coming year; I think I've have 15 books/month to read if i want to complete them all.

I suppose I'll keep up the daily blogging for as long as I can, but not be so worried if I can't get it in under the wire of midnight.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Books completed these past few days

I started and finished Brokeback Mountain the day before yesterday, and I finished America (The Book) today. Not sure what I'll put up next (need to consult my list), but what I just finished needs writing up. I have notes on Brokeback, and America should be an easy one to summarize and critique.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Finds (11/28)

A little bit of everything this week! Part of me says that I really need to stop torturing myself by finding more books to add to a growing-faster-than-I-can-whittle-it wishlist. The other part says "shut up and code it pretty." Meet my evil twin, y'all...

A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid from mizb17

Digging to America by Anne Tyler and Company of Liars by Karen Maitland from Beth F

The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie from Kylee

Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel Written by Merrill Markoe. I found this ad while browsing one of the other books.

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith from Kim

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headly and ABC3D by Marion Bataille from

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and
Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand from NYT Book Review 10/26/08

Salon Fantastique: Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy by Ellen Datlow (Editor), Terri Windling (Editor) from an ad I found while browsing the previous titles.

Mighty Queens of Freeville, The: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson from Marcia

I hope that everyone is in the midst of a wonderful (holiday) weekend and that no one has any Black Friday horror stories.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What an Animal! Challenge (7/1/08-6/30/09)

Hosted by Kristi

1. The White Raven (Diana Paxson)
2. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christopher Moore)
3. Finding Fish (Antwone Q. Fisher)
4. Fifty Acres and a Poodle (Jeane Marie Laskas)
5. Dragon Queen (Alice Borchardt)
6. The Daisy Sutra (Helen Weaver)

4 of these are crossing over with other challenges.
I'll hotlink these to their respective review posts as I publish them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unread Authors Challenge (8/1/08-1/31/09)

Hosted by Pour of Tor

These are six authors (and the titles I'll read) I keep passing over, and ought to have read by now (IMO):

Joan Didion (Year of Magical Thinking)
Larry Niven (Integral Trees)
Orson Scott Card (Enchantment)
Kathy Reichs (Deja Dead)
Sparkle Hayter (Nice Girls Finish Last) [finished 12/2]
Annie Proulx (Brokeback Mountain) [finished 11/28]

I'll hotlink these as I publish the reviews.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Classics Challenge (8/1/08-1/31/09)

Hosted by Joanna.

bold= already read
italic= chosen for challenge

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Musing Monday (11/24)

How do you feel about wide-spread reading phenomenons - Harry Potter, for instance, or the more current Twilight Saga? Are these books so widely read for a reason, or merely fads or crazes? Do you feel compelled to read - or NOT to read - these books because everyone else is?

Early on, I take it with a grain of salt, and ask "who is doing the hyping?" As more of my friends and other people whose judgement I trust (in terms of what makes good reading) chime in with their opinions, I'm more willing to check out the book (literally--from the library). By and large, I think that whatever gets people reading something other than a magazine or a screen can't be all bad, but then there's those series that have either jumped the shark or deteriorated into one long sex scene (and if you don't know which ones I'm talking about, I won't ruin it for you)...

I don't feel compelled either way on "faddish" books. A new series of books isn't likely to get bumped ahead on my wishlist or TBR shelves. Truthfully, if they really are looking like new classics or must-haves, I'd rather wait until libraries are purging their overstock and selling that to make room for new items.

I didn't post a Mailbox Monday this week, as I didn't have anything come through the mail, but there will be at least one item to talk about next week!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Week Ahead: November 24-30

Monday 11/24- Speech and Occupational Therapy for Anthony, then his only day of school this week. I'll bring review-writing material to work on while we're waiting in the car. Sitter comes after school to watch boy; girl and I take off to run Town (=Austin) errands. Mail last round of bills for the month. Make sure donkey-sale check gets deposited. Mail sister the disc from photo shoot (from a few weeks ago). Not sure if I'll get much reading done, but will definitely work toward finishing The Perfect Storm.

Tuesday 11/25- Anthony's appointment with Dr. Harkins, in San Antonio. We have to make sure we have all the paperwork, including the checklist we are supposed to fill out. We probably won't be back in time to get him to class. If we have sit-around time while he's being evaluated, I'll see if I can get at least one book review written (maybe the review for the last short story I read from Sisters in Crime 3). Bring mystery story collection to read/review a few more, and the Pod for the trip.

Wednesday 11/26- Post-natal yoga class. Lunch afterwards? Sitter is available. Need to remember to bring the too-small-for-Morgann disposables for classmate K's boy. Make certain I have everything ready for Thanksgiving dinner contributions, and Anthony's food. Write another book review before starting another book.

Thursday 11/27- Cook or prep food, pack clothes and diapers for both kids, pack Anthony's food and toys. Head for Castroville for dinner at Oma's. usually have no chance for any reading, unless I bring an audiobook for the 3+ hours in the car (roundtrip).

Friday 11/28- Stay home! Why deal with Black Friday craziness? Shop online if I absolutely must. Organize list for gift photos from school and shoot; figure out how to disburse and package safely.

Saturday 11/29- Wide open, as far as I know. I'm sure I'll have a better idea by mid-week.

Sunday 11/30- Another wide-open day. In my dreams, full of reading and writing, but reality will, I'm sure, be much different.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another low-productivity day

Slept in and had a nap. Sold Sombrea (the momma donkey); sounds like her kids are missing her. Read a little bit of The Perfect Storm. Wanted to get more writing done, but I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Finds (11/21)

The wishlist took a bit of a hit (as in upwards) this week, but I can't help browsing!

Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni from Callista

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A. by Tonya Bolden (Editor) from Kylee

Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott and The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett from gautami

Madeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum from Joanne

King Rat by China Mieville from Nymeth

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SuSu and the 8:30 Ghost, by Lilian Jackson Braun

This short story was a nice break from her better-known "Cat Who..." mystery series. It isn't so much a whodunit, but leans more to the mystery of the preternatural.

The basics:
setting-- a port town on the East Coast, possibly NY
characters-- SuSu (cat), Mr Van (disabled antiques dealer), Gertrude (librarian) Unnnamed sister (narrator), Frank (Van's aide)
conflict-- vengeance, greed
best quote-- "I prefer cats before they are reincarnated as people."

3rd story read for the 100 Shots of Short Reading Challenge, master post here

I also posted another Thursday 13 over on my Farmwife blog.
**two weeks in a row, go me!**

Jeeves and the Song of Songs, by P.D. Wodehouse

This audio collection takes it title from the first story read by Alexander Spencer, and also includes the following:

The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy (Bertie "helps" old school chum get rid of unwanted writer, and acquire a fiancee)
The Kid Clementina (Bertie "helps" to smuggle a boarding school student back in to school)
Indian Summer of an Uncle (Bertie "helps"--see a pattern?-- uncle avoid a "disastrous" marriage to young woman)
The Impending Doom (Bertie tries to save an old school chum's job, avoids getting his own unwanted job)
The Yuletide Spirit (Bertie tries to avenge a prank, avoids a romantic entanglement
(in Song of Songs, Bertie tries to break up a couple, fails according to plan, but succeeds anyway)

The basics:
setting- 1930's England
characters- Bertie Wooster (of "family", untitled)
- Jeeves, his "gentleman's gentleman"
- several other relatives, chums, and romantic objects
conflict- Bertie gets into scrapes and situations, Jeeves bails him (and/or friends) out

* #'s 4-9 read for the 100 Shots of Short Reading Challenge, master post here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Listen and Listen Good, by Marcia Biederman

A Chinese student in America copes with the death of her brother during the Tianamen Square Massacre. While having lunch, she overhears a conversation that spurs her to action; she can't do anything for her brother, but perhaps she can save other innocents. She does this even while she admits that her understanding of spoken English is poor.
The basics:
setting-- New York City
main character-- Fan, college-age student from China
conflict-- language barrier
best quote--(Fan) "Why do you care? It isn't your country." (Walter) "It's my people."

While this was an easy enough read, I thought that the author could have left a few elements out, or pared them down to much smaller bits so that other parts of the story could have been developed further, and made the flow less choppy. Not a bad read, but it didn't motivate me to look for her longer works, either.

Second story read for the 100 Shots of Short Reading Challenge, master post here

WoW: Johnson's Exercises/extra credit

Here is one of Johnson’s suggestions to get the writing muscles warmed up:

Spend five minutes listing everything you can think of that’s the color blue; tomorrow, green, and so on…

Wednesday, 11/12: blue
sky, water, kids' and husband's eyes, jeans, house, bird, roses, cloak, college colors, dragon, crayon, dress, feelings, comedy, diapers

Thursday, 11/13: green
leaves, traffic light, my eyes, diaper bag, mold, eggs, grass, money, vegetables, kiwi, apple

Friday, 11/14: purple
flowers, blouses, truffle tin, index cards, shoes, filing crates, amethyst, eggplant, rain, eyeliner, yoga mat, poppet

Saturday, 11/15: red
wagon, fire truck, lis, cheeks, cape, apple, tomato, ornaments, blood, balloon

Sunday, 11/16: black
cat, tie, bat, light, hat, book, box, night, mood, dress, hole, pride, clouds, limo, heart, panther, wolf

Monday, 11/17: white
paper, flag, rabbit, smoke, hat, snow, out, ghost, rice, sugar

Tuesday, 11/18: brown
cow, hair, nose, wood, stone, molasses, dirt, chocolate, leather

This was a hard one to do, for several reasons (mostly my fault):
I did these at night, usually when I was too tired to think.
I tried to limit myself to not using the same word for more than two colors.
I tried to limit use of same-category words within each color, like food and animals.

I probably would have gotten more from it had I not written them at the last minute, and maybe if I'd done the other exercise (the alphabet). Glad I gave it a try, though!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've been tagged!

I'm still learning my way around the blogosphere, and I've managed to catch someone's (Alice!) attention long enough that I now have some sort of writing assignment:

Ok, so... 7 random/weird facts about me (I leave it to the reader to decide which are weird and which are random):

1. I was reading books on my own before I was 4. Kindergarten was a disappointment, I'd hoped they would have new books for me to read, but I was SOL. In first grade, the teacher tried to fob "Dick and Jane" off on me. Poor judgement on her part!

2. I take notes on nearly every book I read, not just because I want them to draw from for reviews, or because I am a quote slut, but it slows me down and helps me get more out of the book--I sometimes don't know when to stop skimming, if I let myself start.

3. I actually really love short story collections. Not that I need to find more authors to follow, but collections are actually my most reliable source for new reading material.

4. It bothers me to read a series out of order. I hate not knowing the full backstory that authors leave out for the sake of developing a good story. Unfortunately, I also hate it when authors provide too much backstory in their novels; it makes me think they're just bumping their word count and making the plot suffer.

5. I still read Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who... series, even though she jumped the shark a long time ago. (come on, you know she did, diety bless her heart)

6. I read my first Harlequin novel before I started 5th grade; it was my mom's, and I had her permission to read it. Of course, now, I wonder what the heck she was thinking...

7. My wildest (book-related) fantasy involves me accepting an Oscar for Best Screenplay (Book Adaptation)--for a Pern novel, and having Neil Gaiman sign it, even though he didn't win that year.

Now, for the next round of victims, I choose:

Linda, Chris, Janet, Jill, Nymeth, Ali, and Wendi

Note, my taggees don't have to have a bookish theme, I only did because, um... baaaaaa!

Where Are You? Tuesday (11/18)

Mom is here for a few more days, Anthony is doing well in school, and the holidays are looming (I did manage to get 3 presents yesterday, so that was actually a big chunk). Luckily, I have blocks of time when I can't do much more than read or write, so my reading goals are moving along well.

As of this morning, I was in a bar in 1930's London, listening to "Sonny Boy," which the crowd is getting mightily tired of, as it's the fourth version for the evening [Jeeves and the Song of Songs].

And in my short story collection, I'm in a large, unspecified port city on the East Coast [SuSu and the 8:30 Ghost].

Monday, November 17, 2008

Arts and Crafts, by Mary Jo Adamson

If I can see a full novel coming from a short story, I can get more entertainment value from it, as I can imagine which plot points and characters would be developed and how. This is important because when I can figure out who is going to die (and how AND why) by the time I've finished the first page (as I did with this story), my motivation to care about the characters loses a lot of steam. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, merely the difference between entertainment (destination known, but how will we get there?) and involvement (keep me wondering for a good long while).

The basics:
setting- Boulder, Colorado
- Rosa (waitress, cook, Jack's wife)
- Jack (student, artist, former Navy)
- Birch (herbalist)
- Mama Sofia (restaurant owner)
conflict- obligation versus evolution, and living versus survival
best quote- "To me, living is doing what you love, but sometimes I think survival is knowing what not to do."

* for the 100 Shots of Short Reading Challenge, master post here

Musing Monday (11/17)


Sisters in Crime 3, edited by Marilyn Wallace


Arts and Crafts by Mary Jo Adamson (first story in the above-named collection)
It was an enjoyable short story. The bad guy "got his" all on his own, and blamed everyone else to the very end. [will link to longer review once I get it posted]
Last night, I finished listening to The Awakening by Kate Chopin. The story itself was beautifully executed, but I was very disappointed (although not surprised) with the conclusion.


The next story in the collection: Listen and Listen Good by Marcia Biederman, and for my audiobook, I will probably start Jeeves and the Song of Songs this evening.


I'm not signed on to any holiday challenges, so if I do crack one open, it's likely to be a picture book that I read to my son at bedtime.

Mailbox Monday, Nov 17

I didn't bring many books into the house, which is just as well, but there were two surprises I was happy to receive:

InterLibraryLoan: Cerulean Sins from Tallahassee, Florida--technically, it didn't arrive in my mailbox, but it did come through the mail to my local library. I've been wanting to make better progress with this series (this is book 11), and only just found the company that records these. [description from PW:] "Having gained immense supernatural powers and become an important force in the vampiric and lycanthropic communities of St. Louis in the 10 previous books, Anita begins this fantastic dark adventure by raising the dead and ends it by tackling a murderous monster. In between, she wades (literally) into a bloody investigation of a preternatural serial killer and (metaphysically and physically) into dangerous vampire politics. šber-vampiress Belle Morte has sent her dreaded surrogate, Musette, to demand that Anita's paramour, Jean-Claude, Master Vampire of the City, return the vampire Asher to her-a fate worse than a stake through the heart. In order to save Asher, Anita must be both sexually and psychically creative. Anita and the vampires also need head werewolf Richard to help defeat Belle Morte's designs. But can Richard, who recently dumped Anita because she was more "monster" than human, be relied on? Meanwhile, cop Dolph Storr, who's gone violently anti-preternatural, won't let Anita (now a federal marshal) help stop a series of gruesome murders. If this all seems complicated, it's nothing compared to Anita's sex life. There's plenty of the hot stuff, but it's presented with a certain morality and definite hilarity."

Buffalo Gal, by Laura Pedersen from Marcia at Up For Grabs. [description from BoB:] "Growing up in the snowblower society of Buffalo, New York, Laura Pedersen s first words were most likely turn the wheel into a skid. Like many families subsisting in the frigid North during the energy crisis, the Pedersens feared rising prices at the gas pump, argued about the thermostat, fought over the dog to stay warm at night, and often slept in their clothes. While her parents were preoccupied with surviving separation and stagflation, daughter Laura became the neighborhood wild child, skipping school, playing poker, betting on the horses, and trading stocks. Learning how to beat the odds, by high school graduation Pedersen was well prepared to seek her fortune on Wall Street, becoming the youngest person to have a seat on the American Stock Exchange and a millionaire by age 21. Combining laugh-out-loud humor with a slice of social history her hometown was a flash point for race riots, antiwar protests, and abortion rallies, not to mention bingo, bowling, and Friday night fish fries Pedersen paints a vivid portrait of an era."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Salon

The Sunday

These are the ways in which I'm able to steal time away from my family, and my regular routine of housework and child juggling (not quite literally):

Listened to The Awakening while I nursed and pumped today. While I was hoping for a different ending, the one I got did not surprise me.

If I finish that today, I'll break into one of the short story collections I've set aside for the challenge I'd signed on to last month.

Searching for and entering contests/giveaways:
The Magician's Book
Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?: Insanely Annoying Modern Things, or Men with Balls
What Peace There May Be

Catching up on book reviews for:
Dearly Devoted Dexter
Missouri Homestead
Easier Than You Think
Sisters Grimm

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doing instead of writing

The main reason I don't have much to show for book-related output today:

I was here.

Not sure what the rest of the evening has in store, but I will try to make progress on reviews and read The Awakening.
I'm giving up on Heart of Darkness; I'm just not finding the time for it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Why Buy?

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

My book-buying and -borrowing goes in phases, and they also depend on what sort of book I want to read. Books that fall into the reference category are most likely to be keepers. I also tend to keep classics (yes, even the ones I can read for free online) and books that I want my kids to read (like the harry Potter series). I'll pick up titles in a series, assuming they're cheap (a buck or less); these are the most likely to be wild-released with a BookCrossing ID.

When I was much more active in book-trading and -releasing, I'd buy duplicates of books I'd already read so that I could spread the love of a good story... I don't do this anymore; money's tight and I have to get rid of many before I can invest in more.

The rest of my purchases are usually books that I've tasted, but can't find readily at my library; it's in a pretty small town, and it's improving in some ways, but not so much in acquiring books in certain of my favorite genres (like fantasy--their collection has Paolini and Rowling, but that's about it). The larger system serving the metro area has a much more extensive collection overall, but has had cutbacks in recent years (surprise! not!), and added a minimal amount of titles during that time.

I think the most basic reason I buy books comes down to two oddities I have in my head: poor impulse control (I don't want to wait for the book I want to read right nownownow, nor do I want an other-imposed deadline), and a deep-seated sense of lack, sort of a neurotic need to have things to make up for how I felt when I didn't have the books I wanted.

*cue music* " in a material world..." *fade*

So, yeah, I guess it boils down to mental illness. Unfortunately, this really cheeses DH off. But, I consider myself in good company.

I've also posted my Thursday 13 over on my other blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Write on Wednesday: Warm Ups

Do you do writing exercises or warm ups? Do you think they could be valuable? Have you found warm up exercises helpful in some other area of your life, e.g. art, music, athletics?

Extra Credit: Try one of Johnson’s exercises above, and post about your experiences. Or create an exercise of your own and share it.

I've been wanting to start the Artist's Pages on and off for a few years now. A friend of mine was going to "lead" a group of us with this, but had to put it off due to too much life happening at once. I should ask her if she's still interested. I'm sure that both kinds of warmups (freestyle and themed) are valuable, each in its own way, and this is probably different for each writer. I used to be a middle-distance runner (800m to 5K) in high school (which was 20+ years and 40 pounds ago), and I know that practice (from sprints to long-distance running) and conditioning (stretching for flexibility, and weights for strength) were crucial to my performance.

I think I will try one of Johnson's warm-ups, maybe for a week, and post those results a week from today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Tuesday, November 11... Where am I?

In real life, we're honoring veterans. There was a parade in Austin, and our high school is sponsoring and event tonight.

I'm at home, figuring out which chore I should do first, before I register some books for the MeetUp tonight.

In my book (Dearly Devoted Dexter), I'm sitting in a stakeout car, listening to a federal agent talk about the meth lab he just found while looking for a serial killer. The broader setting, is, of course, Miami, Florida.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Musing Monday (11/10)

If you keep your books, where do you keep them? And, if you give them away, who do you give them to? Do you participate in Bookcrossing, BookMooch, PaperbackSwap, or the like? Do you give your old books to family & friends, or donate them? Are any of your books in storage due to not having enough space for them all? Or, are you one of the lucky ones who has their own “library”? Feel free to share pictures, if you have them!

Unfortunately, they're all over our house: dining room, bedroom, hallway, utility room/office, and there's still some in Morgann's room (that aren't hers). I couldn't bring myself to put them in the attic, nor in garage storage. The heat would have destroyed them.

I still belong to Bookcrossing, and I've resumed going to MeetUps, but my days of trading are over for now.

I've passed several on to friends, my my family doesn't really have the same tastes as I do.

I think I have all of my books out of storage, but it's possible there's a box buried under other things.

A big part of my future office space will be for the library, but that building is several years out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, by Elizabeth Peters

"The aim of literature is to improve the understanding, not provide idle entertainment." (Amelia)

[to be continued, autosave seems to be on the blink]

Weekly Geeks #24: Fun facts about authors

From: deweymonster

How to:
1. Choose a writer you like.
2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.
3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.
4. Come sign the Mr Linky with the url to your fun facts post.
5. As you run into (or deliberately seek out) other Weekly Geeks’ lists, add links to your post for authors you like or authors you think your readers are interested in.

Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes was born on June 24, 1950, in Chicago.
She was named for actress Mercedes McCambridge.
She graduated from Purdue University in 1972 with a degree in biology.
In addition to her fantasy writing, she has written lyrics for and recorded nearly fifty songs for Firebird Arts & Music.
Mercedes has written nearly 70 books in a career that has spanned two decades.
She is married to author Larry Dixon, with whom she has written several novels.
She has also worked with fantasy authors Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Piers Anthony.
Her first sale was to Friends of Darkover.
Mercedes Lackey lives with her husband outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
She has won 5 Pegasus Awards, mostly for her songwriting.
Queen's Own is her official fan club.

Lackey is one of my favorite women authors, and I'm glad she's so prolific. My favorite series are:
Diana Tregarde (a trilogy, no more forthcoming)
Elemental Masters
Five Hundred Kingdoms

and I want to start reading:
Doubled Edge (a historical fantasy series based on Elizabeth I)

Here are links to a few other Weekly Geeks and the authors they chose (either favorites of mine, or ones I want to read):
Harmony (Anne McCaffrey)
Ali (Christopher Moore)
Jill (Neil Gaiman)
Juliann (Alexander McCall Smith)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Highly Sensitive Person

The physical book has been sitting on Mt. TBR for quite a while now, long enough that I've forgotten exactly how I came to possess it. It hasn't been registered with BookCrossing, and it doesn't have any store tags, so maybe it was a library sale find. Anyway, I rented the audio of this title, and I took the last few days to give it a listen. I have to say that I'm glad I have a hard copy, because there was just too much information for me to assimilate and remember it all.

Aron covers most of the major areas of life (and has written a few other books to elaborate on children and relationships): I found it to be pretty comprehensive, and hence useful in dealing with my own combination of sensitivities (I scored fairly high on her checklist). Someday, I want to go back and take a slower time with the book, and to pull some of the better quotes for further exploration.

Elaine Aron's site

Friday, November 7, 2008

The one where I post off-topic

Have been busy all day, and have not done much related to books. I did start a new audiobook for pump/nursetime: Sisters Grimm, The Fairytale Detectives, and am about 1/3 of the way through the first disc.

With any luck, I will have a little more breathing room tomorrow, and will have a little more substance to report.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Presents!

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

Growing up, I rarely received books as gifts (we made much use of our public library). It wasn't until came into being that I had a good way to let people know what books I'd like to have. Despite this useful service, I received quite the memorable book from my boyfriend (now known as DH) for his family's Christmas celebration.

Since early on in our relationship, S has strived to be helpful, specifically, to put those efforts into problem-solving. One of my "problems" is an (apparently) pathological lack of assertiveness. How better to gain skills than with a self-help book to that end? [he must have said to himself] I have to say that I took it pretty hard; I was incredulous. I think I even shed a few tears. At some point after we'd gotten home, I faked some power-assertiveness and gave the book back to him.

Aside from the fact that DH is now pretty much forbidden to buy me presents off-list, I'm sure I won't be acquiring books of any sort, for any occasion, for quite a while. Many of my bookshelves are double- and triple-stacked, so I have a fair amount of space to clear.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #11: 13 Jumps of Blog-Hopping

Not that I need to add this many new blogs to my reading schedule, but these are the ones I found when I started with a fellow Stainless Steel Droppings fan. I've included their description (when applicable) for ease of perusal. My descriptions are italicized. It really was a coincidence that I ended with another Chris.

1. Chris A guy from New Orleans examines all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Magical, Musical, Visual, and Appealing along with interesting tidbits from everyday life.

2. Jean My business card lists me as: Mom (full-time); Data Analyst, Writer, Editor (part-time); Fiber Artist (spare time). I stepped off the full-time career path years ago and have no burning desire to get back on.

3. Debi Nothing of importance (my everyday blog). Sometimes it might be important to me, I suppose... but even that's not guaranteed.

4. Megan I'm a twenty-something college grad with a BA in Political Science and a lot of time on my hands. I like to read almost as much as I like to collect books, and like to write when the mood strikes me. My aspirations for this blog include reviewing or at least commenting on every book I read, writing a little about that pesky real life that keeps sneaking up on me, and doing some musing about books in general.

5. cj I'm a 49 year old, single, female who is a writer by desire and a public safety officer because I need to pay my bills. It makes the people I owe money to happy when I do.

6. Sarah A book reviewer and artist, I originally "met" her through BookCrossing.

7. Michelle I’m 38 years old, I’ve been married for 9 years to my hubby and we have been together for 12 years. We have a 4-year-old little girl. It’s hard to keep up with a four year old. I’m a city girl born and raised, that moved out to the country about 10 years ago and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m driven buy my passions for food, wine, art, music and great conversations with intelligent and honest people that enrich my life.

8. Journeywoman Motherhood has been a journey, not a destination.

9. Cecily The rantings of a foul-mouthed liberal, feminist, fat, recovering alcoholic, mother, wife, woman, and writer.

10. Dawn writing, mothering, and writing about mothering

11. Jody My name really is Jody, but everyone else has a pseudonym. My spouse is a professor, my children are in grade school, and I'm writing a dissertation in U.S. history.

12. Linda A mom of twins, and a bonus girl.

13. Chris From North Carolina, with the following interests: Dressing my children in clothing that doesn't match, spouting off about politics, silently judging you for driving a Suburban, obsessively cleaning my house.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. (leave your link in comments)

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! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Pearl Diver, by Jeff Talarigo

I started reading this book via the DearReader book club emails I've been receiving for years, and when I found it available through my audiobook rental club, I was glad to be able to finish the story.

Talarigo tells the tale of a woman who spends the better part of her life in a Japanese leprosarium. Vignettes regarding different aspects of her ordeal are introduced by descriptions of artifacts (presumably found by a historian as the colony shuts down).

The author crafted this story around real events, and one can appreciate the details he included from his research. At first, the choppiness between the vignettes annoyed me, probably because the beginning (when she first notices symptoms) was presented without interruption. Once I realized that he'd made a switch, I resigned myself to reading with a new mindset. Patient rights is an underlying theme throughout the protagonist's tale, and at the end, when the author introduces us to an HIV+ character, he demonstrates yet another instance in which the current culture has not learned enough from our history.

From the author' site:
"In 1948, a nineteen-year-old pearl diver's dreams of spending her life combing the waters of Japan’s Inland Sea are shattered when she discovers she has leprosy. By law, she is exiled to an island leprosarium, where she is stripped of her dignity and instructed to forget her past. Her name is erased from her family records, and she is forced to select a new one. To the two thousand patients on the island of Nagashima, she becomes Miss Fuji.
Although drugs arrest the course of Miss Fuji's disease, she cannot leave the colony. Instead, she becomes a caretaker to the other patients, and through the example of their courage, she gains insight into the deep wellspring of strength she will need to reclaim her freedom. Written with precision and eloquence, The Pearl Diver is a dazzling meditation on isolation and community, cruelty and compassion.
Jeff Talarigo won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for The Pearl Diver."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mailbox Monday

I used to receive books in the mail on a fairly regular basis, first from book "clubs" (when I felt OK about spending money on brand-new books... no longer), then from BookCrossing trades, and then from publishing companies and authors wanting me to review their books. All those sources have pretty much dried up (for now), but I do still receive rented audio books. These two came in the mail on Friday:

Jeeves and the Song of Songs A collection of Jeeves short stories, including: The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy; The Kid Clementina; Indian Summer of an Uncle; The Yuletide Spirit; and The Impending Doom

Dearly Devoted Dexter "Dexter Morgan has been under considerable pressure. In trying to avoid the deep suspicions of the dangerous Sergeant Doakes-who believes Dexter is a homicidal maniac (which, of course, he is)-Dexter has had to slip further into his foolproof domestic disguise. While not working as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, he now spends nearly all his time with his girlfriend, Rita, and her two children. But how long can Dexter play Kick the Can instead of Slice the Slasher? How long before his Dark Passenger forces him to drop the charade of family life and let his inner monster run free? In trying times, opportunity knocks. A particularly nasty psychopath is cutting a trail through Miami-a man who "slices and dices and leaves vegetables behind." Dexter’s dark appetite is revived, but it’s not until his nemesis, Sergeant Doakes, is abducted that Dex can finally throw himself headlong into the search for a new plaything. Unless, of course, his plaything finds him first..." Yes, I started this series by watching the tv show first, and no, my daughter is not named after him.

Monday's Musings

Do you know of any young boys who do not like to read? Why do you think boys so often don't? What can we do to encourage them to read more?

My kids (and the few children in our peer group) are technically too young to be concerned about this issue--the oldest is a girl who will be 5 in May--so I don't have any current personal knowledge of reluctant readers. My son (who just turned 3) is well on his way to making the letter-sound-word connection. I can only answer this from 2 perspectives: evolutionary and former teacher/librarian.

For starters, reading is not a natural activity. Written language is a comparatively new construct when one takes a long view of human development. Knowing this, I can readily see how individuals (regardless of gender) might not be able to achieve the fluency necessary to enjoy the process itself, or appreciate the information available through books. In my opinion, many of the same kids who "do not enjoy reading" seem to do just fine when the same material is presented via the internet. Said opinion is prejudiced by my observation of DH, and confirmed by commenters all over the web., so YMMV.

For those personality types for whom "action" is the preferred mode of being, reading is mostly likely too passive to be considered a legitimate activity. For those whose nervous systems aren't wired for prolonged periods of concentration, reading can be painful and torturous. And, for those who believe they don't need what books have to offer (true for both fiction and nonfiction), reading is a waste of their time.

Since there are various sorts of reluctant readers (those by choice and those not), there is no one solution. In general, though, I'd find reading material geared to their interests, I'd encourage them to advance their gross-motor skills through reading, and I'd find good role models (people they already respect, or ones they would be likely to) who could be a direct or indirect influence. For ann older (10+) child, I'd start having conversations about livelihood, whether that would necessitate a college degree, and talk about the literacy needs of a functional citizen (filling out job applications, reading operating manuals, understanding what issues one votes on, etc.). [ok, maybe that last one is asking a bit much... *wink*]

Sunday, November 2, 2008


my brain, that is...

It's been too long a weekend, and I'm really wiped out. I will report back on yesterday's book festival tomorrow. Here instead is a book review:

The Blessing Way, by Tony Hillerman (first in the Joe Leaphorn series)
finished 10/30/08

I've been slowly acquiring the books of this series, and had planned to start reading them after I'd caught up with at least two more of the other mystery series I follow. However, when a friend informed me of Hillerman's recent passing, I thought it would be a fit tribute to him to read and review it now. I listened to the audiobook over a 3-day period while I either pumped breastmilk or nursed my daughter to sleep. That has (so far) been the only way I could get through any books, and to even think about reaching my goal total and various challenges.

Aside from Hillerman's portrayal of the crimes to be solved (which was complex without being confusing), I really enjoyed the way he shared the Navajo culture, history, and spirituality in a genuine, respectful manner. Hillerman's approach to telling this story was a new style for me: the reader doesn't see everything through the sleuth's (Leaphorn's) eyes. Considering the foundation/background mystery, it only made sense to show the appropriate events from McKee's perspective.

This book was nominated for a Best First Novel Edgar, but he only had to wait until his next book (Dance Hall of the Dead) won a Best Mystery Edgar to join the ranks of the lauded.

These websites are full of good information about the man and his books:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Texas Book Festival 2008, Capitol grounds, Austin

I'll be bringing Morgann to her first book festival later on in the morning, but have a lot of planning (and dishes) to do now, so this is a relatively short first post of NaBloPoMo. Our chosen sessions start at 11, I have a few errands to do beforehand (including a 'scrip pickup), and I've no idea what sort of parking will remain by the time we arrive. I'll be packing as much food as possible for myself, so I won't be tempted to spend money on eating (I'll save it for fry bread at the Pow Wow later in the afternoon). Anyway, these are the sessions we hope to attend:

11-11:45 Reading the Classics This is not your father's list of classics. In the delightful essays in Classics for Pleasure, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda introduces nearly 90 of the world’s most entertaining books. Writing with affection as well as authority, Dirda covers masterpieces of fantasy and science fiction, horror and adventure, as well as epics, history, essay, and children's literature. Organized thematically, these are works that have shaped our imaginations. Love's Mysteries moves from Sappho and Arthurian romance to Soren Kierkegaard and Georgette Heyer. In other categories Dirda discusses not only Dracula and Sherlock Holmes but also the Tao Te Ching and Icelandic sagas, Frederick Douglass, and Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Whether writing about Petronius or Perelman, Dirda makes literature come alive. Classics for Pleasure is a perfect companion for any reading group or lover of books.


Jim Hightower National radio commentator, writer, and public speaker, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. His book Swim Against the Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow tells the stories of mavericks who have broken free of the corporate tentacles, free of business-as-usual politics, free of top-down elites, revealing paths that regular folks can use to escape those rigid, hierarchical structures and discover a bit more satisfaction in life. As political columnist Molly Ivins said, "If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child – mad as hell, with a sense of humor."

[I'll have to see what sort of mood I'm in when we get there]

12-12:45 Mother on Fire: A True Story About Parenting Sandra Tsing Loh is the fiercest, funniest, and most incredibly honest and self-deprecating voice to emerge from the “mommy war” debates. In Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting!, she fires away with her trademark hilarious satire of societal and personal irks large and small. Prompted by her own midlife crisis, Loh throws her frantic energy into the harrowing heart of contemporary, dysfunctional L.A. life. When she realizes she can’t afford private school for her daughter, her only alternative is her neighborhood’s public school where most of the kids qualify for free lunches and the academic quality is less than stellar. In a theater-of-the-absurd-style odyssey, Loh documents her “year of living dangerously” among pompous school admissions officials, lactose-intolerant, Prius-driving parents, mafia dons of public radio, vindictive bosses, and old friends with new money as she first kisses ass — then kicks it.

1-1:45 Slob-Proof: Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions Debbie Wiener presents her practical home-design book, Slob Proof! Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions, that offers realistic, attractive, and comfortable design solutions to families overrun by messy kids, muddy dogs, and sloppy spouses who make beige carpeting an endangered species. What these families (and even sloppy singles) need are reasonable, no-nonsense design choices that can withstand the wear and tear of real everyday life and still look great.

3-4 Memo to the President-Elect Whichever candidate wins the presidential election the Tuesday after the Festival weekend, he is going to inherit a raft of problems to solve – among them, the need to attempt to unify the country. The writers on this panel, some of the nation's most astute political observers, will offer their insights about the first steps our next president should be taking. David Patterson, senior editor at publisher Henry Holt & Co., moderates.

Authors: John Stauffer
Reihan Salam
Bob Moser
Ross Douthat

I still don't know if BookCrossing is going to have a presence like they did last year. I'll still bring books to release, and I'll grab a program to see if they're listed.