Monday, November 30, 2009

Finished a Challenge!

Today is the last day of S Krishna's COYSChallenge, so I spent it hurredly adjusting my score. (20% of my reading had to be books I owned on October 1st). Final tallies:

Books Read: 46
From my shelves: 12 (not counting the one I bought in November)
  1. Flint, Louis L'Amour (Western)
  2. Lord Caldwell and the Cat, Joy Reed (Romance)
  3. Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, M.G. Lord (Memoir & History)
  4. Fairest, Gail Carson Levine (kidlit)
  5. The Princess and the Hound, Mette Ivie Harrison (YA)
  6. Outlaws of Ravenhurst, M. Imelda Wallace (kidlit, Catholic style)
  7. The Noonday Friends, Mary Stolz (kidlit, Newbery)
  8. Kringle, Tony Abbott (kidlit)
  9. Star Trek 2, James Blish (SF/TV)
  10. Jip: His Story, Katherine Patterson (kidlit, Newbery)
  11. Left By Themselves, Charles Paul May (kidlit)
  12. Is Pluto a Planet?, David A. Weintraub (Science)
Percentage (drumroll please!): 26% I win! I win! I'd like to thank my parents, who I don't think know about this blog, and my agent, who is a figment of my imagination, and all my loyal followers (likewise fictional). And my children, who went to bed so I could quickly finish four books from my shelves and ensure my success. Not to mention bringing me a fork so I could eat pie in bed while reading the last Western.

Also, my family across the street, who gave me two of those books for my favorite birthday ever, and A-Z Wednesdays, which led me to the books for the weeks I, J, K, L, N, O, and P.

We will not look at what would have happened if I had been too busy to finish those last four books today. (19%! Failure! Didn't Happen!) And you can all count your blessings that I don't know how to rig this blog to play the theme from Chariots of Fire, let alone make it go all flashy and blinking lights.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Round-Up

What have I read? Which is a bit of a different question that what have I mentioned on this blog. In reverse order, since that is what I get from LibraryThing, I see:
Distressingly, only one of those is from my shelves; the others are all library books. I have one day left on the Clear My Shelves Challenge, and I think I need to read about three more shelf books. It's not a long list, but I also read a few hundred pages in other books without finishing them. I find Thanksgiving weekend to be rather distracting. Good food, though.

What am I currently reading? Well, from the library I have:
And I also have bookmarks in a few other books, ones without deadlines because I own them or borrowed them from people who won't hurt me:
  • Clutter's Last Stand. I seem to be reading this when I get the urge to clean. Actually cleaning would probably be more effective than reading about it, though.
  • Fairest. I'll finish this tomorrow to up my ratio.
  • The End of Racism. Lots of big words.
  • Dead to Me. Book I started at the airport while waiting for my children to drift by. Was I unreasonable in thinking "they'll come out on the first floor" to be a bit nonspecific about where my children would emerge from their transatlantic flight? The one that they took all by themselves? Thank goodness A remembered that we meet at the baggage claim even if you have no baggage, because the silly lady responsible for him kept trying to lead him goodness knows where. Anyway, I wanted a book that I wouldn't be too interested in, and this was perfect.
  • Whiskey and Water. All of Elizabeth Bear's books start slow for me, so I'm still nibbling a few pages here and there. Eventually I expect it to become all-consuming.

Underground in Seattle

Kat Richardson's mystery series about a private detective who finds that her near-death experience lets her see ghosts has a solid protagonist and sturdy, twisty plots, but my favorite part is the thrill of place recognition. The books are set in Seattle, and Underground, the third in the series, lets even a geography challenged type like myself feel right at home. Well, in my brother's home, since she lives in West Seattle, but I spotted lots of places I could find if given enough time.

I like how Harper approaches even the most surreal problems with grounded common sense and pragmatism. Her love life is fairly straight-forward and she treats it in an adult way -- even when a relationship has insurmountable problems. That is a nice change from most paranormal series, where it's mandatory for the girl to waver for eons between two hotties. I like playing around with the werewolf trope, and I'm interested to see if Richardson sticks to her guns in the next book. These are fun mystery stories with a paranormal twist, but no vampire lovers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Passive Prince in Princess and the Hound

Another A-Z Wednesday has come, hosted by Reading on the Beach. Although most people just pick a book from their shelves that start with the week's letter, I insist on reading the book that day. If I'm lucky, I can grab something from my currently reading pile, so I don't start from scratch. Or I find a kids book. Or I panic. I'm good at that.

Today I grabbed a YA book from my currently reading table, with a bookmark almost halfway through. And luckily for me, that's about when the plot of The Princess and the Hound, by Mette Ivie Harrison, really takes off. I found myself impatient with Prince George, the main character, who spends most of the book being restrained and inhibited. But after he meets the princess arranged to be his bride, he finds himself grappling with his emotions and preparing to take actions for himself. The princess was a bit too perfect, but I really appreciated how much slower she was to trust him than his feelings for her.

The back cover claims that it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but only if you squint sideways and are kinda drunk. But it does have a fairy tale flavor, and if you have a lot of patience for slow character building, it's a rewarding book. I finished it while waiting for my brine to cool enough to put the turkey in, so I'll give thanks that it was a good read, because on Wednesdays there is no turning back. B

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Strange Lessons from Schooled

Gordon Korman's book Schooled presents two different types of education. Cap Anderson has grown up on an old hippie commune, with his grandmother as the only other resident. Although he has seen very few people in his life, his first lessons were in responsibility and compassion for all humanity, both in the abstract and in the individual. The book instantly throws him from his sheltered existence into life at C Average middle school, where no one is encouraged to care about anyone else. Friendships are a matter of utility, and betrayals are expected and unremarked. This is not depressing or dark; it's just life at a typical middle school.

Cap's arrival changes things for many students, who eventually realize that he isn't faking things or trying to game them, and they tentatively explore the idea of thinking outside their own selfish needs. On his part, Cap welcomes the chance to meet more people, and never stops seeing the best in everyone, partly because of his inability to parse figurative language. Not only does he not recognize lies or sarcasm, he takes idioms at face value. I enjoyed the fun tale, especially the intrinsic kindness of Cap, which stays believable throughout. I was disappointed but not surprised when Cap ends up staying enrolled in public school. Does anyone know a story of a child getting a superior homeschooled education, sent to the shocks of school, and then getting to go back to homeschooling? B+

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Summary, Times Two

This week again seemed very long, but that's because I skipped last Sunday, so this week lasted fourteen days. Ah, the power of the internets. Since my reading pile barely moved, that's just as well. I think I finished a few books:
  • Serenity Found
  • The Magician's Elephant
  • Outlaws of Ravenhurst
  • Underground
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
  • Schooled
  • Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous Hair
  • The Noonday Friends
  • Child of Fire
  • Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things
  • Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash
I'm fairly happy with my reading; several nonfiction, some fun genre books (my favorite was Child of Fire), a core of kidlit. I'd better watch for my challenges; only two books weren't from the library.

Where are my bookmarks? Let me see:
  • The Prisoner Within. I've pushed along maybe 25 pages. Not really worth it so far.
  • Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. As much fun as I anticipated.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society. I took the recommendations of P.'s classmate and made him check this out for me. I had to twist his arm, the little skunk.
  • A Weed By Any Other Name. Why excessive lawn care is bad. This must be why I don't do it; I knew this instinctively.
  • The Necessary Beggar. Lovely writing, but a bit of a silly story.
From my home library, I have to finish some books to catch up my clear-your-shelves challenge. Maybe something for P day on Wednesday.
  • Powers. Bad stuff is about to happen, I can feel it.
  • Princess and the Hound. This one is getting interesting, now that we've met the princess.
  • Astroturf. I suspect there's only about 30 minutes left.
  • Fairest. Another book one real session from completion.
  • End of Racism. OK, one chapter a week is about my limit here, so no chance of finishing this.

More Sammy: Wild Cash

I have officially caught up in Wendelin Van Draanen Sammy Keyes series, with the addition of Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things and Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash to my have-read list. Both were enjoyable, although the author is definitely running out of exciting things for Sammy to do, and the resultant strain on my credulity is severe. She hasn't met assassins or immigrant smugglers or even aliens from outer space yet, so maybe there are still room for more sequels.

I liked the idea of taking Sammy out of her comfort zone and into wilderness camping in Wild Things, and enjoyed watching Sammy wrestle with her conscience (best two falls out of three) in Cold Hard Cash. The best part of the series is still grounded in character development, primarily of Sammy, since her boyfriend Casey is too good to be true. Sammy is also a wunderkind, but we watch her struggle for it so I'll accept that in my protagonist. P is chugging along on book 3 of the series; we'll see if he has the stamina to go all the way.

Serenity Found is Found

Serenity Found is the second book of essays about the crew of the Firefly and the 'verse they live in. This collection was written after the movie came out. It was edited by Jane Espenson with Leah Wilson. I found it a bit too much of the same thing; I read it too soon after Serenity Lost, the book written before the movie. I do enjoy the idea of reading essays about entertainment, so eventually I'll probably seek out more of the Smart Pop series.

Honestly, my best memory of this book is that I lost it for several weeks, allowing my household to revel in an endless series of jokes: Is Serenity Found lost? Did you lose Lost? No, I lost Found. I found Serenity Lost but lost Serenity Found. Hey, I found Serenity Found! Always funny.

It was in my kitchen, in case anyone was wondering. B-.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Storm Season: The Name of the Wind

It was a bit hard for me to get into Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1), an epic fantasy complete with map in the front (although the mountains aren't marked with triangles). I checked it out the library, but never started. I checked it out again, renewed it twice, and finally finished it days before it was due for a final time. It wasn't a hard read; the pages turn quickly and the plot moved along; there were interesting ideas and a nice use of magic. It's a fun fantasy read, and I'll probably end up reading the next one, which I gather is due out fairly soon.

The book is written in a giant flashback. We meet our hero and his mysterious companion at the end of his life, when he has retired to run a quiet inn. There are hints that all is not over -- there is the mysterious companion, and he does sneak out to deal with various evils. Our hero is apparently not yet thirty, so there may still be a few drops of life in his worn out body yet. Hmm, perhaps that was one problem -- the book made me feel OLD. Most of the book is our hero telling his story to a traveling secretary, who collects stories. It covers his youth up to almost sixteen, as he loses his family, learns of the existence of ancient evil, and enters the magic university, which has more in common with the Unseen University than Hogwarts, despite the protagonist's youth. I didn't like the love interest, but I think that also came with being old and cynical -- I didn't believe in the girl at all, since the prism of a fifteen year old boy looking at True Love is so wildly distorting. I'd see if my kid wanted to try it, except it is due today so he'll have to struggle on with age appropriate stuff instead. B-.

Since I'm linking to Amazon anyway, I signed up for their associates program. When I remember, I do the link through them, so if anyone buys the book I may get something. I'm not sure what; probably a pony.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Library Haul, No Problem!

Sound the trumpets! I checked out no extraneous items today. Not only that, but we got no new music and no new picture books, because it's almost time for non-stop Christmas carols and my kids are going away for Thanksgiving week. I did have four books on hold, but most of them are kids books so I can probably read them very quickly the day before they are dueTechnically there are a few other books I checked out on my card, as well as a plethora of movies, but those were for my kids. Who are leaving on Saturday, so I'm not sure when they plan to watch these, but hey, not my problem. Things they got involving paper include:
  • Meteor shower messenger, by P.J. Rudi. I believe this is a Sonic the Hedgehog monstrosity.
  • Transformers : stormbringer / story by Simon Furman ; art by Don Figueroa. N likes the Transformer graphic novels. I don't imagine the stories suffer because he can't read yet.
  • Transformers animated : how to draw, by Sadie Chesterfield ; illustrated by Carlo LoRaso. I highly suspect N expects ME to master these, while I think it is time he stepped up to the plate. We'll see whose will is stronger. Better get good odds if you bet on me, though.
I am hoping not to read these books, although that hope may be unrealized for that last one.
I'll go sign up at A Striped Armchair to celebrate this day of glorious restraint. Oh sure, I was tackled twice by my burly offspring when they saw me heading for the new books section, but that's why I had kids, so it is all part of the Master Plan. My library list has me at 66, but that includes a stack of books I finished but didn't return because I haven't reviewed them.

O! Scots for the Blessed Mother! Outlaws of Ravenhurst

Today, Wednesday, is Reading on the Beach's A-Z Wednesday, which compels me to inflict another book upon y'all. I had several choices and I went with the one I've been carrying around the longest: Outlaws of Ravenhurst, by Sister M. Imelda Wallace, S.L. I'm a bit concerned by the lack of an imprimatur, but I have to believe the Catholic Authors Press wouldn't be selling anything that doesn't deserve one.

This book was a delight. The purple prose that the first sentence promised cheered me tremendously. ("Night lay on the long swelling waves of the Chesapeake Bay: no wind, no star, a murky darkness." Not too much, but just enough.) Our hero, George, finds that he is really the lost Scot Earl Gordon, not merely a poor American frontier lad. This is no happy Fauntleroy tale, however. Gordon's evil uncle has embraced PROTESTANTISM and is horrified by Gordon's devotion to the true church. It is the reign of Charles I, and Roman Catholics are hotly persecuted in Scotland. Will Gordon's faith be strong? Has his mother really forgotten him in a whirl of parties, or has the uncle locked her in a dungeon while forging those frothy letters? Shall we stop the narrative right after the confrontation between uncle and boy so we can read along with Gordon in his sixty page book of family devotions? Yes, yes we should.

There is a good amount of action and skulduggery, and also a lot of Catholic propaganda (hint, if a character isn't R.C., DON'T TRUST HIM). A bit of history as well; if I got my kids to read it they'd know something about the English Civil War, Scotland, and the founding of the American colony of Maryland. They'd also know a bit about Catholic traditions. Sadly, they are Greek Orthodox, not Roman Catholic, so I'm not getting a nibble, although P thought the idea of a book within a book very funny (especially the part where a character in the inner book told a long story). I know I would have loved this book as a kid. B+

PS. There is also a study guide, but I don't have that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Library Haul, Belated and in Denial

I've been avoiding this post, as it again represents a drastic failure of purpose. Because of the attempt to switch library day to Monday, I've been going twice a week since many books still come due on Thursday. Sadly, those second trips are by myself, and there is no one to prevent me from picking up a book or so extra. My children are trained in throwing themselves between me and the books and preventing detours to extra stacks or recommended shelves or award displays or... For a brief and shining moment all my library books fitted in the box allotted to them, but that is no longer the case. Oops.

The hold shelf yielded a few, manageable treasures:
  • Forest Born by Shannon Hale. I like her YA fairy-tale themed books.
  • Angels' blood / Nalini Singh. This is one of the authors from the M book last week.
  • Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy / Wendelin Van Draanen. For my son.
P and I selected a few picture books. A usually reads next to us while we read aloud to each other, but then he'll grab the book and read it himself in bed.
  • Bat's big game / retold by Margaret Read MacDonald ; illustrated by Eugenia Nobati.
  • Blueberry girl / written by Neil Gaiman ; illustrated by Charles Vess.
  • Dad, Jackie, and me / written by Myron Uhlberg ; illustrated by Colin Bootman.
  • Fat chance Thanksgiving / by Patricia Lakin ; illustrated by Stacey Schuett.
  • My name is Sangoel / written by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed ; illustrated by Catherine S
  • Take care, Good Knight / Shelley Moore Thomas ; pictures by Paul Meisel.
  • The getaway / Ed Vere.
A picked up a book for himself:
  • Sonic the hedgehog archives. Volume 6 / editor, Mike Pellerito. Bleh.
And then I was sent by myself to drop off a few books, and I happened to remember some authors I had heard of and saw a few books on the New shelves:
  • Captain Alatriste, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Historical fiction recommended by author Elizabeth Moon.
  • Life without friends, by Ellen Emerson White. I'm tracking down all her works.
  • Where have all the flowers gone? : the diary of Molly Mackenzie Flaherty. Another Ellen Emerson White book, this time from the kid books section.
  • In the stormy red sky, by David Drake. A silly SF space-war series book.
  • Scepter of the ancients / Derek Landy. In the running for some kidlit prize.
And I'm pretty sure we got some music, too. Library Elf puts me at 78. But remember, many of those are picture books and music. And a few are for my children. So I probably only have 30 or so actual books, and some of those are kid books. I'm OK. I can do this.

I'm going to go sign up on Reading Adventures for this Library Loot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best Sister Award: Noonday Friends

This Wednesday I went back to my kidlit piles for A-Z Wednesday, the weekly challenge hosted by Reading on the Beach to spotlight books starting with each week's letter. I was hoping to find a kidlit N book about soldiers in some form, but that proved too specific a request for my disorganized piles. So I grabbed Noonday Friends, a Newbery Honor that I either completely forgot or somehow missed reading (it's copyright 1965). My cover is older looking; I prefer it.

Mary Stolz mostly writes family stories about children growing up in the city. In this case, Franny's family is poor and teetering on the edge of worse, with a well-meaning dad who loves to paint but isn't that good at holding a regular job. Her twin brother Jimmy cares for his family but doesn't really know how to show it. Her little brother idolizes her and doesn't really understand the problems his family faces. Franny worries about her father's health, her family's instabilities, and her friendship with girls in her class. It's an excellent mix of big and little problems, with Franny child's eye view rating them according to their emotional impact, not any exterior scale. I'll put it out for my boys, but it's probably not plot driven enough for them. B

Shelf Challenge

Time for another challenge, because all the cool kids are doing it. At least until they hear I've joined in. And I have the key book already -- I'm about to start Shelf Discovery, and Booking Mama has announced a challenge to read six books from the many described in there. So I browsed through the table of contents, and found the books that I either haven't read or can't remember squat about.

My six picks for the challenge, taken one from each chapter, are:

1. Ludell. I've put in an ILL, but just in case, the backup book is Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself, which I cannot remember an iota of.

2. To Take a Dare. On hold. There are two others in this section I haven't read, but that's a later challenge. (Sister of the Bride and Caroline, if you are wondering.)

3. The Grounding of Group 6. I think this is the one I always meant to read but didn't, so I've summoned it via the magic of the library. The others I can't remember are: Daughters of Eve, Summer of Fear, and Secret Lives. I'll hold them in reserve in case I find I remember the 6.

4. Beat the Turtle Drum. The Gift of the Pirate Queen will be a good reserve.

5. Don't Hurt Laurie! is a book I heard about somewhere else lately, so it beats out Are You in the House Alone? despite the name Richard Peck on the cover.

6. I've, er, read all of these. I liked them all, too.

7. Hangin' Out with Cici will be my sixth book, although there are three others I don't think I've read here: Stranger With My Face, Jane-Emily, and Down a Dark Hall.

The other chapters will be optional extra credit, depending on my whim and OCD desire to check off at least one from each list.

8. Ooo, ick, love stories. I'll try Happy Endings Are All Alike but if it's too sappy I have In Summer Light and To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie as possibilities.

9. Um, read them all again. What a nifty feeling.

10. I can't believe how few of the naughty books I've read. I'll try Domestic Arrangements because I trust Norma Klein more than V.C. Andrews (Sweet Audrina), and I suspect I've just repressed Wifey.

I haven't forgotten my other challenge. I'm still clearing off my shelves, sorta. In October I read about 23 books, 5 of them old. So I'm on track with my 20% goal. Of course, this recent glut of library books isn't helping. Maybe I should count books I've had out for over six weeks...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dated But Readable: Ring of Fire

Anne McCaffrey writes science fiction and science fantasy, usually with a strong romance component. Her YA Dragon books are wonderful for kids; I think Dragonsinger may be the perfect comfort book for a middle school girl. She also wrote several mainstream books, most of which I enjoyed. I saw a new one in the library, and saw that it was only new to me -- the copyright of Ring of Fear is 1971. It reads like a gothic-y romance, with horses rather than ancestral buildings.

There's the young girl, struggling against adversity, with only her cat and two great horses on her side. There's the older man (about twice her age, but who is counting? Besides me, disapprovingly, I mean) who sweeps her off her feet and rescues her from danger and poverty. There's the wicked relatives, the horse only she can tame, the scheming nemesis from the past, the happy guard dogs, and the loyal retainers. All good stuff, if you like that sort of thing. I know I do.

And there were the 1970's stuff. The first love scene that skips that whole pesky consent thing. "This won't be rape, Nialla, because you'll want me as much as I want you... So I'm going to make love to you. And you're not going to resist me, because, dear heart, you can't." Um. This is what they were talking about back in Beyond Heaving Bosoms, in the rape chapter. There's a spanking scene later, where she disobeys his order to stay inside because she notices that the barn is on fire. The spanking proves he really loves her.

On a different level, another hindrance to my taking their romance seriously was his clothes. Our hero dresses very stylishly, for 1971, and McCaffrey's description is clear enough that even I saw him clearly. I'm not a very visual reader, but "the elegant dark red pongee jacket had been built for him, and the gray pants flared in swinging bells over the darker gray leather boots" had me giggling for twenty pages. It's funny how Regency clothes are quaint, but hippie era clothes are hilarious.

If you can swallow the conventions that horrify us today, it's a fun read. I have a different cover, which shows off Nialla's eyeshadow better. B.

Sunday Summary: Lost and Found

This week has seemed very long, which is odd because I don't remember anything happening. Maybe I wasn't sleeping enough? Maybe it's my micro-novel that I am poking at during NaNoWriNo or whatever this write-a-book-in-November thing is called (mine may turn out to be more picture-book length). Regardless, I'm not sure what I've read. Thank goodness LibraryThing remembers for me.
  • Saplings: Four happy children made miserable through good intentions.
  • The Name of the Wind: Magician reminisces on his early training.
  • Must Love Hellhounds: Four tough women meet strange dogs.
  • Ring of Fire: Horses, danger, and True Love, back in the bad old days.
  • Grave Secret: Harper Connelly learns a few secrets. I forgot about this one since it went straight to my sister, do not pause on the "read-it" pile.
Wow, I just realized that there is not a kid's book in the batch! This may be a first for me. I hope it's not a sign that I am growing up. Only one book is shelved in the "fiction" section (well, possibly two), so I think I'm safe.

Bookmarks still lurk in a few library books:
  • Serenity Found. Still missing. It wasn't under the couch. Darn.
  • The Prisoner Within. I really wish this had been the one I lost. It's still dragging.
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I'm savoring this one. I even went and bought new sneakers just in case I start long distance running.
  • Underground. Third book in a paranormal series.
  • Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things. Finally a kid book!
I'm still pushing bookmarks along in a few other books, but the library crisis overshadows any home reading.
  • Fairest. I'm grumpy with the protagonist.
  • Flint. If L'Amour doesn't kill off the hero, I'll be disappointed. I bet he saves him, though.
  • Astroturf. Now we are at gay rights in the space industry.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Missed Wednesday: Must Love Hellhounds

Well, last Wednesday was A-Z Wednesday, but it was also an all-day volunteer day at the school, as well as a hectic evening. So sadly I did not finish my M book on time. I should have gone for a kid book, but instead I grabbed a library hotspot, Must Love Hellhounds, a new book of paranormal novellas (not short stories, which was my downfall) with Charlaine Harris headlining. The cover was a bit racy to let the school kids see, which hindered my reading on the volunteer job. Many of the kids showed up at the vision screening with books, because their teachers made them carry books around. "Me too!" I'd pipe, pointing at my carefully face-down paperback on the desk.

The four stories all had to involve a scary hellhound, either as a good guy or a bad guy. Harris's story picked up on some minor characters in her Sookie Stackhouse books; the Britlingen bodyguards take on a client who is even more trouble than a vampire. Nothing fancy but a fun story with a tiny hint of love interest and some fun name dropping. Nalini Singh's story was clumsier, with an annoying instant attraction between the main characters that kept me from enjoying the plot. On the other hand, her setting is so crazy that I may seek out some books just to revel in the wackiness (see, vampires are created by angels, bossed by archangels, and with special human ninja types to keep them in line!).

Ilona Andrew's piece had another of the annoying attractions, when the protagonist spends so much time thinking about how hot the man is that she can't consider minor issues like whether he has a personality. And the special creatures of her story are were-hyenas, which are original but rather icky. Finally, Meljean Brook's story of an ex-CIA butler and her client's blind nephew gave a fun finish, as the characters were actually fleshed out and the story and world interesting.

I was expecting another lighthearted book of loosely themed stories, such as Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (werewolves at Christmas), but instead I think this is a book of introductions to an author's world, such as Mean Streets did with Jim Butcher and all. And it seems to do a decent job of this, although the only author I'm familiar with is Harris, and her story had little to do with her series. I'm interested in seeing what is happening in Singh's books (although I shall probably laugh in all the wrong places), and Brook's writing was good enough that I'd pick up more, so for me this book succeeded in its intentions.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tiny Library Haul

Scheduling reasons force me to move my library day from Thursday to Monday; this long and complicated move takes several months to complete, as I tend to procrastinate on reading my library books until the week they are due. This means that during the painful process of transition I am often forced to go the library twice a week. Oh, the agonies of the brier patch!
On the other hand, I have almost 80 items checked out. At some point nasty reality intrudes. So I'm practically on a library fast, where I barely check anything out. Unless it's on the hold shelf for me. Or it's a picture book. Or I might need a bit more music...

This week we got a few picture books:
  • Best loved tales from Beatrix Potter. Turns out my P doesn't know Beatrix Potter, seeing as he was pre-verbal the last time I read them to him. Must fix that.
  • In our mothers' house, by Patricia Polacco. P's class is studying her, right after we accidentally read one of her books. So I got another.
  • When lightning comes in a jar, Patricia Polacco. And another.
  • When the library lights go out. I have no idea what this is about, but it seems to involve a library.
  • Bobby Bramble loses his brain
  • Sloppy Joe
  • Sugar Would Not Eat It. P picked out these three; I didn't even see them.
The hold shelf had a few goodies for me. And for my nephew:
  • Transformers Armada. Battle for the mini-cons [videorecording]
  • Transformers. Season two, volume one [videorecording]. This four DVD extravaganza may require him to take a leave of absence from school, but he assures me it is worth it.
  • Poison Study by Maria Snyder. I've read this YA book about a girl forced to be the poison tester for a dubious king, and now my book club is reading it.
  • Storm Glass by Maria Snyder. Fourth in the series, but the first is the best.
So, the library shows me with 72 books out now, but I know it's at least down to 68 because the ones I turned in this evening aren't clear yet. I'm at least below my mother's age, if not at the official goal of my own age. I'll sign up for Library Loot at ReadingAdventures.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blight the Branch

Noel Streatfeild is primarily known for her children's books, but she started out in the adult fiction world. Persephone Press started reprinting forgotten books, and picked on of hers. I'm a big fan of the Shoes books (Ballet Shoes, Tennis Shoes, etc.) about independent children who excel at something, so I put in a library order for Saplings.

All the strength of characterization is there -- the book follows four children from their happy beginnings in England before the start of WWII, complete with nurse, governess, boarding schools, and other accouterments of prosperous middle class life, and then follows the mostly unfortunate turns that the war forces upon them and their parents. Streatfeild gives time to each of the children as well as the adults who care for them, rarely judging but also not hiding the unpleasant parts of both the children and the adults. The mom is unstable and narcissistic, who can't cope alone after the father dies. The children mostly manage to lose themselves between their mother's unsteady care and the misunderstandings of the boarding school authorities. Without a stable home, they find themselves unable to build themselves into successful adults.

It's well done, but very sad. There are a few corners of happy endings, but not for the children we met so happily on the beach at the start (shades of Snicket here!). In his afterward, Dr Jeremy Holmes claims that "by the end of the book misery is forgotten" and I really have no idea what he is talking about. At least three of the four children are utterly miserable, with little hope in the near future, and the fourth is heading off to a superficial success that will ensure he never deepens his personality. B.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Summary

Another week, another few books read. Although I also saw a movie, Zombieland, which was fun and silly. And I watched an episode of Stargate, so I'm all over the cultural literacy thing. Hip, even. Wave those jazz hands!

From my library collection, I have a few bookmarks still in:
  • Serenity Found. I probably would have finished this one, but I put it down somewhere. Kevin, is it in your car? I think it's somewhere in my kitchen...
  • The Prisoner Within. I wish this had been the one I lost. It's dragging a bit.
  • The Name of the Wind. It's a fun read, but the tones of impending epicness make it fairly easy to put down after a hundred pages or so.
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I'm enjoying this quiet memoir themed around long distance running, although I feel a bit of a fraud since my block is a long distance run for me.
This week I finished:
And thank goodness that was all, since I'm running out of adjectives that start with "i." Librarything says I read twenty two books in October, and I think that is more than I purchased. All finished books this week were library owned, because I can't fit my books into the library shelf, which is a Bad Sign. I hope to fix that by next week.

Saturday Catch-up: Books Are Great

I don't actually have to catch up, since I only have one book left. I didn't read much today, as I was cooking a bunch of food for my Halloween party, which I cleverly held at my sister's house to make clean-up easier. First, I'm not cleaning my kitchen until tomorrow, and second, I flitted off from the debris of the party itself. It was fun -- I tried making pumpkin puree for the first time in my life, and found it quite easy. I used the pumpkins from the carving party last weekend, added some of the sweet pumpkins from the school movie night, and made food. Wow! Who knew those things were edible?

Then I added the puree to a soup and to some muffins. The muffins were fun -- they had a cream cheese filling and a crumb top, so I felt all foodie. P came along to help, first showing me how to turn whole cloves into ground cloves with a hammer (I had been trying with the flat of a spoon), then creaming the filling and spurting into the muffins with our pastry thingy. Oh, and finding the pumpkin pie spice which I had hidden in my cupboard. Then I had some orange cheeses, some spinach balls, some of X's cookies, and a leftover pumpkin pie. And everyone brought tons of food. Yum. We played Apples to Apples and What Were You Thinking, and the kids trick-or-treated and then happily watched TV until very late at night. A final wrap-up with Rock Band, and then I dragged my tired sons home by midnight. Or almost.

The one book left over from this week is The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller. Mainly intended for teachers, it describes a language arts class without class books; instead each student must read 40 books a year, from a variety of genres. The students are in an elementary school 6th grade, and many of them typically read three books a year. Miller's point is that many of the traditional techniques in classrooms do not promote reading, and that reading is the best way to improve reading skills. So she sets up a classroom where everyone reads. It sounds wonderful, and I hope the approach becomes more common. The book also made teaching sound like great fun, which reminds me that I should get myself eligible to work as an aide or a sub in the schools to see what it's like from the inside. And I got some good book recommendations. A.