Thursday, December 18, 2008

Today's GN

Hays published three nonfiction books: "G-2: Intelligence for Patton" (1971), "Country Editor" (1974) "State Science in Illinois" (1980) and "A Race at Bay" (1994) and edited another nonfiction book, "Early Stories From the Land."

I am not sure that an inability to count is actually a grammar issue, but it is certainly an appalling editing issue. This in an article where a character in the book being discussed is referred to one time as D. J., and one time as J. D.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's grammar nazi

One of the rotating headlines on our local paper's website:

Watching the Looop

I know, it is tempting to just keep pushing that 'o' key once you get started, but really, why doesn't anyone READ these things before posting them? It's a major headline being featured on the website, for pete's sake. How long would it take to just look it over before posting?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oops, I missed one!

72 (which is really 71, but I forgot it). The Curse of Kings by Victoria Holt

Another one of the comfort reads. This one was pretty sad, with several deaths, but still a wonderful book.

Too much cooking and cleaning these days, I am forgetting entire books....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

71. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

This collection of essays and articles by Gloria Steinem was just what I needed to read at this time. It reminded me of many things I already knew, but in a much needed way. I had two big takeaway points from this book:

1. Steinem is a nice, normal person who believes in equality for both women and men.
2. It is frightening to see how easy it is to forget the past and have to fight the same fight over and over again.

The first point in relevant because that is not the image I had of Steinem at all from what I have soaked up from the popular culture. I mean, I didn’t really think she hated all men and thought they should be disposed of, if only we could find a way around that pesky reproduction issue, but I thought she was a lot more strident than she is. I should have been suspicious of this image, because I had never actually read anything she wrote, nor had I seen her speak, but it was one of those things I didn’t much think about. It was background noise. I wasn’t really paying attention, but I remember the huge media coverage when she got married for the first time at 66. It was reported on radio and television news and in newspapers—you didn’t have to be paying that much attention to notice the coverage. I didn’t really understand the point of all that coverage—noticing that marriage as an institution is set up for the benefit of the male partner that treats the female partner as less than a full person is not the same as saying that men are repulsive. But I really didn’t know much about her at the time, and I was too busy with my regular life to do much investigating.

Still, while I certainly agreed with her that women’s rights were/are not what they should be, I did think that she was perhaps a bit strident, and dare I say, shrewish. I thought the conventional wisdom exaggerated her demeanor in degree but not type. I was very surprised then, to read this book and find a woman like many that I know: strong, smart, capable, ambitious, but nice, non-confrontational, wanting to make people around her happy. She just didn’t want to have to sacrifice her sense of self to make those people happy, which seems pretty reasonable to me. She discovered, however, that a very small amount of self-assertion earns you a shrewish label when you are female.

She also points out several times that a strict patriarchal society limits men as much as it limits women. It doesn’t seem as bad, since men have more privileges and rights, but it is still limiting. Men are encouraged to suppress all emotion, and choose manly activities, which is fine if a man is a stoic type who likes sports, hunting and other stereotypically “male” activities, but if he is interested in sewing, flower-arranging or ballet dance, he is swimming upstream, and likely to be smacked back into place. A truly feminist society would allow for the full range of human possibility in both females and males, with no preference to any one style. So you see? It’s not man-hating at all.

The most chilling parts of the book, though, are the sections where she details feminist movements in the past, where significant advances were hard-won, only to be suppressed afterwards with hardly a trace. I had no idea that the suffragist movement was so all-encompassing, going well beyond the right to vote. When these things are not reported in our history books and our popular culture, it is easy to believe that the things that feminists ask are working for have never been rights that women enjoyed or even wanted. When you get female anti-feminists like Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, or Caitlin Flanagan, mainstream media has something to point to when they say that women don’t really want these rights. No one seems to point out that these women have lucrative, busy careers taking advantage of the very rights they claim not to want. If they really thought that women should stay home and take care of their families, leaving the outer world to men, I can’t help but think that they would be housewives who stayed out of the public eye.

Overall this was a fantastic book, although difficult to read at times. I had to skip most of the article on female genital mutilation for instance. I am glad that I read it, and determined to see what else I am missing out there. Also, I think I am going to start yet another blog, so that I can continue to explore these concepts. I will probably invite some friends to join me there. I’ll let you know when I get that going.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today's grammar nazi

In an article on Lori Drew's MySpace hacking trial:

The circumstances caused significant public outrage. But state and federal prosecutors here said they found no law that had broken.

Why would they be looking for a broken law? Don't they mean they found no law that had been broken?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grammar Nazi, taking over my blog...

Okay, when I came across the first really bad sentence on my local paper's site today*, I decided to ignore it. I mean, maybe I am being too picky. Sure, these people write for a living and the editors are specifically paid to look over these articles, but I don't intend to be mean about it. I know they have had a lot of layoffs over at the Post-Dispatch, and they clearly got rid of a lot of experienced (some might say qualified) people. So, I was going to just read on and get on with my life. Then I came across this gem:

Police arrested two of his sons -- ages 19 and 21. Police also took away a back of evidence.

What the heck is a back of evidence? Sure, I know they meant bag of evidence, so this may be quibbling, but really, why can't they say what they mean? It is not my job to interpret what the writer means, it is their job to be clear.

* In an article about goalball, a ball sport for blind people: And even though not all students at the Missouri School for the Blind play goalball, or are physically unable to because of other disabilities, the playing field remains even for players and spectators alike. I think it is pretty obvious that not all students at the Missouri School for the Blind are physically unable to (play) because of other disabilities, isn't it? Didn't the writer mean that even though not all students play, including some that have other physical disabilities that mean they are unable to play, the playing field is level? Whatever that means--the playing field is level for players and spectators alike? Except for those that can't play, I guess, and I have no idea what she means about the spectators.

And, in the same article: The kids who play goalball together since seventh grade form tight bonds,... I don't know the name of this problem, but it should be: The kids who have played goalball together since seventh grade have formed tight bonds, or Kids who play together for long times, some since seventh grade, form tight bonds, or something else. It would also help if we knew what grade these kids are in now, or if every team member has been on the team since seventh grade, which is implied but not stated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


67. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twelfth Edition, Edited by Gardner Dozois

Always a great collection, this one was particularly good. There was one story I didn't quite get, but many I really loved.

68. Eden Close by Anita Shreve

Short, a bit predictable, but gripping. I mean, I guessed what really happened the fateful night when the titular character was blinded in a tragic scene, but not every detail. I had trouble putting this one down.

69. The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley

I really enjoyed this, in an appalled sort of way. The book was frightening in it's parallels to our world, and in seeing a genuinely good person driven to commit terrible crimes because she really had no other way to affect the course of her own life or the lives of those she loves. I liked the way the end was both tragic and hopeful, although it was probably more hopeful than such a situation would be in real life, sadly. I thought the whole situation was handled very well, with things not being as black and white as they could be. This was definitely a book about male oppression of females, but the men weren't all bad, either. Some were good, some did terrible things without really thinking it through, but were capable of learning. Highly recommended.

70. The Marlow Chronicles by Lawrence Sanders

This was an interesting little book about a dying man and the effect of his death on his friends and family. I was expecting something different from this one, because Sanders generally writes about big conspiracy type things, like corporations or governments, but this was an intimate group. It was a fascinating look at how people get along with each other, how someone knows who he is, really, and what people who are close to each other really mean to each other. I really enjoyed this.


Let's see, between now and the end of the year, I am having a housewarming party, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, getting ready for Christmas with the kids at my house for the end of the year vacation this year, plus all the normal work, cooking, seeing friends, house-cleaning (and must finish unpacking!). I think that I am not going to read as many books as last year (93) or the year before (83). Still, I think I am doing quite well for someone who bought a house in the year! I will at least get to 73, within shouting distance of 2006, I believe. Sounds good to me.

Again with the Grammar Nazi

Two posts in a row on this! This sort of thing just drives me crazy!

From my local online paper:

The bishops discussed their failure to convincingly impress upon the country's 67 million Catholics the church's teaching that abortion (and, by extension, embryonic stem cell research) is "intrinsically evil" and must be the pre-eminent issue — above even than the economy — Catholics carried with them into the voting booth. [emphasis mine]

With a great amount of effort, I am going to put aside my feelings on the message of the sentence as a whole and focus on the grammar issue here. Above even than the economy? I think they mean 'above even the economy', or 'even more than the economy'. I am not sure if the issue is that the writer's grasp of English is that bad that he doesn't know the phrases, or if it is a editing issue, and I am not sure which is worse. I am guessing, though, that this is a careless editing mistake--switching from 'even more than the economy' to 'above even the economy' and forgetting to erase the 'than'.

Now, I do this sort of thing all the time in conversation. I have both phrases in mind, and I come out with a combination of them. But that's in casual conversation, not in a professional article that I wrote down, read over, and submitted to an editor. And, I wouldn't even care as much about it in the paper if it were a fluke (although I would still notice, because I am that kind of a picky person), but it's not, as evidenced by my second post in a row on this. I could come up with more examples off the top of my head, but I will spare you for now. I am sure there will be more examples to infuriate me soon, ;-).


Argh! I really don't go looking for errors on my local paper's website. I only read articles that I am interested in, and I am not trying to proofread them as I go. These things jump out at me, because they are so obvious and sometimes they are actually confusing. Here's another one, from a photo caption:

Michael Gerstner comforts Lisa Kaucher, a close friend, of his brother Mark Gerstner, who was remembered during a candle light vigil outside Steak N' Shake Tuesday night.

What is so hard about using commas properly? Putting 'a close friend' in commas makes it seem that Lisa is a close friend of Michael, but the sentence then goes on to say 'of his brother Mark', which means 'a close friend of his brother Mark Gerstner' is actually the phrase that goes together. As you can tell here, I am not an English teacher, and I don't know the technical terms that describe all of these grammar rules, but I know how to use English nonetheless. Why don't the people who get paid to work with words know how to use it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grammar Nazi (an occasional feature)

On the front page of my local paper's website:

Joe's Movie Lounge: The guessing game beings on holiday box office winners.

Ah, the perils of spell-check....

Or maybe it's just bad typing skills. Whatever. Doesn't anyone READ these things before posting them on the site?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Half-read books

I am not sure if the books aren't good, or if I am just not in the mood for them, but I have gotten about half-way through many books lately. I suspect it is my mood, because I usually stop well before the halfway point if I really don't like a book, but it is hard to tell. Here are a few books I may get back to someday:

Boomsday, by Christopher Buckley

I was really enjoying this book, until the guy about to be appointed the Papal Nuncio to the US let himself get snowed by some Russian hookers. The situation wasn't his fault, and it was one of those slapstick situations where he keeps trying to make the situation go away, and instead he makes it worse. Maybe Buckley was trying to give the Catholic Church the benefit of the doubt, but I find it hard to believe that someone that high up in the church hierarchy is so naive, though. Why didn't he call the cops and have them deal with it? If some high-up Cardinal calls the police and says during the course of the sacrament of Reconciliation, one of my flock got carried away and called an escort service, and now these people are bothering me, the cops would take care of it. Or, there are lots of other ways he could have exploited his much larger power base than this petty Russian escort service! All of a sudden, this really interesting book became farcical, and kind of unbelievable. I mean, it's satire, but there is exaggeration and there is mis-characterization. I just don't believe that men high up in Catholic hierarchy can't deal with this kind of political situation. I may go back to this book at some point, but I have lost all faith in the it at this point.

When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson

Seriously, when will there be? I generally love Atkinson, but this was just depression piled upon misfortune piled upon despair. I sat down to read this one night and felt like a big heavy blanket of despair descended on me, almost physically weighing me down, so I put it aside and picked up something more cheerful. I am sure I will go back to this sometime, because Atkinson is so good. But the writing was still good, it was just depressing, for no good reason that I could tell.

The Good Fairies of New York, by Martin Miller

I just don't like a lot of fantasy. This seemed like it could be good, and Neil Gaiman had a nice forward. I like Gaiman, so I thought maybe this would be my kind of fantasy, but I am thinking maybe not. Again, the writing is good, but the characters are a bit caricature-ish.

I think there are some other books I am forgetting, but I have to say, reading 200 or so pages of a book and then abandoning it is doing almost as much to keep my numbers of completed books down as moving did.

Monday, October 27, 2008

59 - 66

Two posts in one day! I have another one brewing in my head, too. And no, Hilary, my house isn't really settling down yet, I am just bursting with the need for some normalcy. I have missed blogging. I posted on my affluenza blog earlier this month, and I am going to get back to my food blog soon, too.

59. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon

I am so distracted by the house. I want all those boxes to be gone, dammit! So, it took me a bit to get into this. But, once I did, I loved it. I loved the alternate reality, and how well-thought out and believable it is. I loved the noir homage. I loved the gritty realism, and the scary worldview that doesn't seem quite so alternate after all. I loved the writing. And, most importantly, I loved the end of the book. Very impressive.

I could say a lot more about this one, but so many people already have, that I am afraid I would be boring. Suffice to say, this is one of those books that everyone reads because it is that good, versus books that are popular for some reason that I can’t fathom (like The Da Vinci Code).

60. The Phoenix Code by Catherine Asaro


I came across this while unpacking a box of books that has been sitting in my front closet waiting for new shelves for years now. I got new shelves several times, but never enough to get out the boxes from storage! Now, I got a LOT of new shelves, and I seem to be set for a while. Must do more cataloguing, though. Anyway, I really liked this book. It had a bit more romance than I generally like in my SF, but it had some fascinating stuff about the nature of humanity, sentience and artificial intelligence.

61. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

I was intrigued by this book, but kind of surprised at how good it was. In some ways it seemed like not a lot happened, but of course, a lot did. The main character, based on Laura Bush, is so calm and even-tempered that there was never really anything that created a huge spike in her life, good or bad, even though there were many big good and bad things. Well, that's not true, the part at the beginning where she is at fault in a fatal car accident, killing one of her classmates, was a pretty big spike. But many times I was afraid that some big fraught scene was coming that never materialized. So I was impressed at the level of tension that was maintained despite the very calm tone of the book. There was also a lot about the main character's internal thoughts, which I sometimes find a bit boring, but was fascinated by in this book. Highly recommended.

62. Darwin Awards 4: Intelligent Design by Wendy Northcutt

These are always a lot of fun, and this was no exception. This was a nice, light read, and very amusing.

63. More Sex is Safer Sex by Steven E. Landsburg

Economics book. This was interesting, but a bit superficial, in a way that made it difficult to follow his arguments. I often found myself a bit lost because he seemed to be jumping around a bit, and demonstrating the opposite of what he said he was demonstrating. That said, Landsburg is clearly very smart and a rigorous economist, and some concentrated thought on the topics he raises would be rewarding I think, and clear up some things. I just wish he had been a bit more down in the details, and a bit less high-level.

64. Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin

Interesting little book about changing planes (of existence) while waiting to change airplanes in noisy, boring difficult airports (I know, that was redundant). This was basically a bunch of short descriptions of alternate human societies, both warlike and peaceful, and was very good. Le Guin is good at world-building, so this was a treat.

65. Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Lately I haven't read lot of recent sf that I am really enjoying. I read a lot of older stuff that I missed, but when I head the bookstore and look at the current stuff, I have a hard time finding something new I want to read. This was an exception: I REALLY enjoyed this book. I liked the way he explored gender politics from the standpoint of a future where gender doesn't matter in society, but people still tend to self-identify as one sex primarily. And then, he put these people against their will into the opposite sex, and in a historical simulation where they are in a present-day society, albeit an exagerrated one, where people are controlled by societal norms including sexism. It was fascinating. And, on top of that, the science of the future society is intriguing, and he explains just enough to get the idea across, and mostly through the actual story, rather than exposition. I found it slightly disorienting, in a pleasant way, the way I found my assumptions being challenged by this book. Definitely recommended.

66. The Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt

I do love me some Victoria Holt books. They are all gothic and creepy, but with sensical protagonists. I can't get too creeped out, because I know they always end well, but I do like reading the twists and turns of the plots. This is what I call comfort reading. The books are old fashioned, yes, but the heroines are never the type that passively accept their fate, and they are always engaged and striving for happiness and fulfillment.

Grammar Nazi

These things drive me crazy! Take a look at this cartoon:

For those of you who come by after this link no longer works, the punchline at the end is: I’m so boring that if I were ever in eminent danger, somebody else’s life would flash before my eyes.

What the heck is eminent danger?


high in station, rank, or repute; prominent; distinguished: eminent statesmen.

conspicuous, signal, or noteworthy: eminent fairness.

lofty; high: eminent peaks.

prominent; projecting; protruding: an eminent nose.

Doesn’t sound very boring to me.

Now, obviously, the cartoonist meant imminent danger (which would make a life less boring as well, but let’s not quibble…more than we already are…), but that’s not what was said. This kind of thing drives me crazy. I don’t make my living with words, but I know the difference between eminent and imminent. Why don’t they?

Honestly, I don’t expect everyone to have perfect grammar and word choice all the time. When people send me emails or instant messages or (especially) text messages, I don’t think poorly of them if there are a few misspellings or grammar errors. Casual conversation is not terribly formal, and I don’t think people should necessarily spend a lot of time making sure their writing is perfect. But when you are publishing something formally, it should be right! Drives me crazy!

So, in order to get this out of my system, I am going to start posting examples that I see here. I know, this is only tangentially related to books, but it is about reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Impossibly long, yet again

Here it is—the reason I have been away so long. It’s lovely, but a lot of work. One month in, and I am still drowning in boxes. But the mountain IS shrinking, slowly but surely.

Here is what I have been reading (since before the move, when I was already behind here, but hey! I was packing! And purging!) (with current comments):

41. Spin Control by Chris Moriarty

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't expecting it to have so much spy thriller in it, but I love spy thrillers, so it was good. I like that Moriarty's books make me think about many things, genetics, politics, sociology, interpersonal relationships and more. Highly recommended.

42. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

This was a re-read, and I remembered who did it, but it was still a fun read.

43. Lost and Found by Carolyn Pankhurst

This book was very different than what I was expecting, and it was very good. Reality shows provide the potential for real drama, but you don't always get it, since people are always aware of the cameras. I liked the way this story tried to get into the brains of the contestants in a reality show, and show the real drama (although fictional, of course) that could be there. The characters are very believable, and three dimensional, except for the ones that were believably less developed because they were still immature people. I really enjoyed this one.

44. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I really enjoyed this, although I think I did like the blog better. This was more about the project itself, and less about the food. Which is fine, I guess, but different. I like Julie a lot, she reminds me of myself. I like that she is a bit rough, and that she found something to do rather than wallow in unhappiness when she didn't like the way her life was going. And I am impressed with the sheer size of the project. This was a fast, fun read.

(When copying these from my LibraryThing thread on what I am reading this year, this is where I found the note that I was starting to look for a house—June 25th. The whole house hunting thing was something of a surprise. I was seriously looking last year, and I decided to give up and keep renting. I wasn’t finding anything I liked that I could afford, and a three bedroom apartment opened up in my building, so I decided to wait. Then, I saw a great condo near my apartment that had enough space for us that was actually in my price range! Of course, someone beat me to it, but by then I had talked myself into the whole house buying thing again, so I kept looking.)

45. Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Very good, as usual for Pratchett. I am so sad that he has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. I think that must be particularly hard for someone who works with words.

46. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

When I picked this up at the beginning of the year and just couldn't get inot it, it was definitely because I was feeling slumpish, I know now. This was so suspenseful, I had to force myself to slow down and read it all toward the end, and this depsite having seen the movie. Very fun!

47. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Still fun, very interesting. If they make more movies, I have no idea how they are going to be able to avoid pissing off the Catholic Church or any Christian Church, but I am sure they will figure out a way. That girl who played Lyra in the movie really was perfect for the part. She really captured the character.

48. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

I have to say that The Golden Compass remains my favorite of this series, but I liked reading through until the end. I liked the ending, although it seemed a bit anti-climactic in some ways. And, the writing was not as tight, and it was much more sentimental. But it was a good read.

(I am including this editorial comment from the original post: Still packing and submitting paperwork and getting ready for the move. But once I move, I will have to stay at home and read all the time. Unfortunately, it turns out that I am staying at home and unpacking all the time….)

A slight diversion, with an attempted read: I started The End of Mr. Y, but I couldn't take it. I am sorry, but the narrator describes herself as a binge reader who used to spend entire days at the library as a kid, reading as much as she could cram in her brain. Then she finds a book that she has been searching for, and really looking forward to reading. She stays up late that night, gets up early the next morning, and reads all day until 4:00, stopping only to make a simple lunch, and then she gets 133? That's when I completely lost all respect for the book. Especially since they had excerpts from the book, and it was not a difficult read. I just couldn't take it anymore. I need to mail it off soon (because someone sent it to me from Book Crossing, which was wonderful of her), once I get it entered on Book Crossing and get the next address.

49. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Wonderful book. What a great writer Murakami is. At first this book was a little confusing, but it quickly became more clear. I thought the concepts were fascinating.

50. Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark

Fast read, suspenseful. Not great literature, but a nice escape read.

51. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Very interesting. Savannah has some pretty quirky residents, and Berendt is a very good writer. The mystery was interesting, and the character sketches were fascinating.

(This was posted Aug. 4th—I am leaving in a lot of these moving things because it helps explain how very far behind I am on my goal…) I spent much of the weekend either taking stuff to Good Will, throwing stuff away, packing, or helping a friend move (I want help with my move, too!). I will be so glad when this move is over, but I have to say, it feels good to get rid of a bunch of stuff. We still have too much stuff, but we have quite a bit less that we used to have. I figure we will get rid of even more as we unpack, but I am running out of time to be sorting through stuff--I need it all in boxes, ready to go.

52. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Very good book. I am reading a lot of books with my daughter and it's funny reading these books as an adult. Partly from growing up, and partly from having a lot more experience reading books, it is interesting to see what the authors are doing in these books, and how differently I view the characters than I did when I was a kid.

53. Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

Now I need to re-read Neuromancer and Count Zero. Still, even though I think this would have been a bit more clear if I had recently read those books, it was good. I really like Gibson's ability to take seemingly disparate stories and weave them together without seeming totally disjointed. Just disjointed enough to keep you off-balance ;-).

54. The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

Fun book about the trials of having a large kitchen garden and orchard. Since I am buying my own house, I can do a little bit of gardening, although I don't think I will ever be the kind of person who devotes all of my free time to the garden, no matter how good the food tastes. Still, some fresh herbs and tomatoes would be nice. And maybe a blackberry or raspberry bush...

(Hey, there is already a raspberry bush at the house! Yippee! And tomatoes! And lots and lots of basil!)

55. The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum

I love Ludlum books. This one was very suspenseful, even though I figured a lot of it out early. I figured it out, but then I started to doubt myself, so it was interesting reading through to see if I was right. It was also very thought-provoking, especially the moral quandary of where to draw the line with the ends justifying the means. I loved the ambiguous end.

(September 5th, although the wallowing in boxes thing is still pretty much true, despite MANY actual unpacked boxes) I am still wallowing in boxes, which is no fun. I love the house, though! Still haven't touched the yardwork, either. I am almost done with another book, though, thanks to the longer commute.It seems pretty much a foregone conclusion I am NOT going to make 100 books this year. That's fine, though, I wasn't planning on buying a house when I set the goal. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I will see how far I do get.

56. The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Once again, I love Lionel Shriver! What a fantastic book, and so very thought-provoking. Irina's relationship hits a crisis point, where she is tempted to kiss another man. The book proceeds in alternating chapters where she did kiss him, and where she didn't. The chapters are very similar, with the same words and scenarios repeated in drastically different ways. When Irina writes a children's book with a moral that directly comments on her life, I thought it was a bit obvious, until I read about the book she writes in the parallel world, with a different moral that also applies directly. Alone, the morals seem like spoon-feeding the reader; in counterpoint, they add to the complexity of the comparison.

I love how the situation is not as straight forward as it seems at first, and how neither situation is obviously much better than the other one. Life is complicated, with some good and some bad in every situation and relationship, and you have to determine your priorities as you go. Also, the idea of comparing the consequences to two sides of a choice is fascinating. In real life, obviously, you have no way of knowing what would have happened if you made the opposite choice, but people always wonder. Overall, highly recommended.

57. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf and others who I can't remember off the top of my head

This was a re-read. I came across this while unpacking, and felt the need for a refresh. I always struggle with the line between having enough and having too much. Do I really need all this stuff, or will it make me happy? After moving WAY TOO MUCH STUFF, this is on my mind even more than usual.

58. You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen

Interesting book about communication between mothers and adult daughters, where it goes wrong, and why it is so confusing for all parties. Being an adult daughter of a mother, I found it interesting, although I think I had figured out a lot of the issues I have with my mother. Of course, it is easy to forget cool reason in the heat of a difficult conversation, so it helps to be reminded. I am also hoping it will help me to have a good relationship with my daughter as she gets older; something to look forward to as we approach the rocky teen years!


So, yeah, not going to make 100 books this year. Maybe next year.

My secondary goal for the end of this year (because I am not holding a lot of hope for the read more than I buy goal that was my originally secondary goal) (oh, and I'm not making my primary goal either, so maybe this should be the primary goal) (whatever!): post here more often. No more insanely long posts!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

29-40 (very long, again)

I know, I am SO behind. The end of the school year is busy and hectic, and on top of that, I got a PMP certification in mid-May, which took a lot of my time. I did get a fair amount of reading done, but I didn't have any time to post. I had a lot of book-related thoughts, too, so I need to find some time and energy to get here more often...

29. Three in Death by J.D. Robb

I could have done without the ghostly aspects of the last story, but I am glad that I am not totally up to date in this series.

30. Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin

This was three short novels together in one book. Since there were only 370 total pages, I am counting this as one book.

These stories are loosely connected by one world that figures in all three novels, with long periods of time in between the stories, on the order of hundreds of years. These books were not as complex as her later books, but they were definitely very good. I particularly liked the third book; the characters were very well-developed, and I liked the way that the people evolved their control of their mind power. I found this book because of the series feature here at LT, because I didn't know about it before I went to see what I had in this series, and I am glad that I did find it.

31. A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

This is an author I found here on LT, and I am so glad I did! This was a fascinating investigation of what a fully female world would look like, and how they would interact with another world. Slonczewski was very effective at making her main villian less than totally villianous. I totally believed that the character of Berenice could fall in love with him, even though he was so condescending and sexist. And, you could see him clearly struggling to do what was right, even as he made the wrong decisions. I also like this kind of feminist book where there are men who are not sexist, and women who are not wonderful--I can't stand the kind of book that paints all men as evil, which is clearly not true.

Shora, the watery world where the women of the book live, is a wonderfully realized world, with an incredibly detailed ecology. It's amazing that Slonczewski could express so much about the world without breaking the pace of the story--I never felt lectured to by the book.

32. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Eh. I persisted in reading this book because some people I like on LT (although no specific names spring to mind) said it was good, and I was mildly interested in where the bishop's bird stump would turn up, but it was a bit of a struggle. The storyline was needlessly convoluted--all the sections where the hero sits down and attempts to puzzle out how all the time contimuum stuff would try to correct itself, I just skimmed. Who cares? Also, could these people have been any denser? The whole book drove me crazy while they tried to figure out who Tossie should marry, since it was blindingly obvious from practically the first scene with her in it. All the craziness they perpetrated while trying to figure out the identity of her future spouse? Made me want to just smack them.

So, when they get to the end and Ned figures it all out (or mostly--and I hate that kind of ending, where they throw in a maybe-there-is-one-more-element-we'll-never-be-able-to-know wrench in the works), I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that Ned can find the door to his room when he wakes up in the morning! Too complicated, too irritating, too glib. Oh, and when they figure out what happened--the thing that caused everything to go wrong--they decide it's great that they can do it again and again. Hello? Haven't they noticed 400 pages of craziness, with people trapped in the past and Europe being potentially lost to Hitler to tell them this was a bad idea?

And the foreshadowing was pretty intense. If I hadn't been skimming whole sections and just trying to get through the book quickly, I would have figured out the entire plot well before the end (rather than the 75% of it I figured out without trying).

There were some redeeming qualities to the book, though. Willis is a good writer, and things moved along quickly. I liked Verity (although she was pretty stupid, too). The stuff about butlers was very amusing. Some of the characters were caricatures, but some of them were very well realized and interesting. I found myself liking the characters, even as I wanted to inflict bodily harm on them. The scenes with the animals were well-done. There is enough writing skill that I might be willing to try another Willis book in the future, but I can't recommend this one.

33. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Fantastic. Deeply disorienting, as it deals with homeless people and mental illness. I wasn't particularly surprised by the "twist" at the end, but it was still just a fascinating book. It is hard to say much about this without giving away the twist, and I don't want to ruin this for someone else if they want to read it and be surprised, but this was really, really good. Bohjalian has some weird quirks, like referring to his main character as "the social worker" a lot, but that may have been a bit of a plot point, come to think of it. Also, there were a lot of references to eyeglass frames, and whether they fit the age of the person who was wearing them. Weird. But overall, it was beautifully written, and I had trouble putting the book down.

34. Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Deeply disturbing. I feel that I understand Islam fundamentalism a bit more, and also how women can possibly be fundamentalists, even though I still think it is a terrible idea. Of the many things I am grateful for in this life, high on the list is the fact that I was not born as a woman into a fundamentalist Muslim family and society. Although, come to think of it, I am glad I am not a man in such a society, either. Scary, scary stuff.

35. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

I love Kate Atkinson. You can't expect her books to be firmly grounded in reality, although some of her more straightforward mysteries are more realistic. This was a bit of a combination--there was a fairly straightforward mystery in one sense, but it was a bit separated from reality, too. I love the way Atkinson tells the reader things that the characters do not know, and how she experiments with reality. Also, how things that are not real give us information that is really true. It is fascinating figuring out the interaction between the real world inside her story and the imaginary--because there are connections, the imaginary is a commentary on the real. I am very interested in the nature of reality, personally, so I love to read Atkinson's investigations of the subject.

36. Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan

I somehow had the idea that this was about Indian immigrants, but it is actually about Sri Lanka. I learned a lot, but in a very interesting, incidental to the story sort of way. The structure was a bit odd, with no quotation marks to indicate for sure when people are talking, for instance, but it flowed very well.

That said, the end of this book was disappointing. The story just kind of ended, with no real conclusion to justify the tension that was built up as I read. Because there was a build up of tension, very subtle, that had me racing to an ending that was distinctly underwhelming.

Ganeshananthan is definitely an author to watch out for. I am sure that she will mature as a writer, and her future books will be even better than this one, which did have a lot to recommend it. The characters are very realistic, and their relationships were fascinating. As a Westerner, I don't have much experience with arranged marriages, and the various gradations between a completely arranged marriage and a love marriage chosen only by the couple involved. The information on the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict in Sri Lanka was illustrated through the impacts to the various characters in a way that imparted a lot of information without making the reader feel like the book is a textbook or a newspaper. Overall, I do recommend this book, but don't expect a fantastic ending.

37. Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

This was certainly better than What Came Before He Shot Her, but it is far from a return to George's earlier brilliance. I figured out the end to the mystery on page 384 of a 603 page book, without really trying. The characterization was a bit unrealistic to me. Lynley finds a body while he is wandering off mourning his wife and child, and the detective in charge of the murder investigation puts him in charge of key parts of the investigation? At least Havers points out how irregular this is, but still, it's not believable.

That said, I did read it compulsively to the end, and there were mysteries about the characters that I did not completely figure out until they were explained (although that may have been partly a matter of will on my part). I hate to be critical of an author that has written many excellent books I have really enjoyed; I know this is a very difficult thing to do well, but I have to admit I am a bit disappointed. I really hope that she continues to get better as she puts the self-indulgent mess that was What Came Before He Shot Her further and further behind her.

38. Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

Funny, interesting, a quick read.

39. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Although it has been over 20 years since I read this book, I remembered who did it right away. It was still an excellent book.

40. Shadow's End by Sheri S. Tepper

I could have sworn I already had this book, but I picked up a used hardcover anyway, since I figure hardcovers are always better than paperbacks. But when I started to read it, it was completely unfamiliar. Not like I didn't remember how it ended, but like all new information. And I couldn't find the paperback on my shelves, so maybe I never did read it. Or maybe it's in a box somewhere.

Anyway, I liked this book. It is very similar to a lot of Tepper's other books, and relatively low on the preachiness scale. Tepper is a bit more into religion and gods than a lot of science fiction writers, which can be a bit jarring to someone who isn't expecting it, but she is really good at world-building and creating real characters. I really cared about these people.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Top 106 unread books on LibraryThing

I picked this meme up from Writing Grandma’s Book. Below are the top 106 books tagged “unread” in Librarything. I am so not in the loop with other book bloggers, because LibraryThing takes most of my online time, so I am not tagging anyone. I do read other book blogs, but I rarely comment, so I am sure anyone I pick would not know who I am, or be here to read it! Anyone who wants to join in, please do, and let me know!

The rules:Bold what you have read, italicize books you’ve started but couldn’t finish, and strike through books you hated. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your tbr list.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell

* Anna Karenina

Crime and Punishment—but in high school, and I don’t remember much; I liked it, though


One hundred years of solitude

Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion

Life of Pi: a novel

The Name of the Rose

Don Quixote

Moby Dick


Madame Bovary

The Odyssey—read parts for different classes

* Pride and Prejudice

Jane Eyre--I tried to read this when I was about 13, and I just didn't get it; I might get back to it one of these days to try again

A Tale of Two Cities—I started reading this in earnest the night before it was due in high school, and got about 250 pages in; I meant to get back to it, but never did

The Brothers Karamazov—I read about half of this last year, and then just lost interest; maybe it was just a slumpish time, though

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies

War and Peace — I read the first 600 pages earlier this year and then started reading other things; I am planning on getting back to it soon, though—I really was enjoying it!

Vanity Fair—technically I have started this one, but only like 30 pages, so I am not counting it

The Time Traveller’s Wife

The Iliad


The Blind Assassin

The Kite Runner

Mrs. Dalloway

Great Expectations

American Gods

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius

Atlas shrugged

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Memoirs of a Geisha



Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury tales

The Historian

A portrait of the artist as a young man

Love in the time of cholera

Brave new world

The Fountainhead

Foucault’s Pendulum



The Count of Monte Cristo


A clockwork orange

Anansi Boys

The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible


Angels & Demons—I have no interest whatsoever in this one

The Inferno

The Satanic Verses

Sense and sensibility

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

To the Lighthouse

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Oliver Twist

Gulliver’s Travels

Les misérables

The Corrections

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

* Dune

The Prince

The Sound and the Fury

Angela’s Ashes

The God of Small Things

A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present

Cryptonomicon—no interest in this one, either, although I do like Stephenson; I prefer his science fiction


A confederacy of dunces

A Short History of Nearly Everything


The unbearable lightness of being


Slaughterhouse-five--I think

The Scarlet Letter—I read just enough of this to convince my high school English teacher I read the whole thing; after hearing it discussed on NPR’s In Character segment, I am thinking about trying again, though

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake : a novel

Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed

Cloud Atlas

The Confusion



Northanger Abbey

The Catcher in the Rye

On the Road

The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Aeneid

Watership Down

Gravity’s Rainbow

The Hobbit—I loved The Lord of the Rings, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about this book

In Cold Blood

White teeth

Treasure Island

David Copperfield

The Three Musketeers

Interesting, if not terribly useful. I am not updating my TBR list based on this exercise (No more adding to the list! Take a deep breath and step away from the bookstore, Susan...), but it is fun to see how my reading compares to what others are reading, or planning to read.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The reading chair, take two

I got a table to put next to my reading chair, so I don't have to use the top of my radiator as a beverage holder. Of course, it is getting to be spring, finally, so the radiator wouldn't be so warming, but I still think the table is better. I like the artwork, too.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some statistics

What is the point of having a big geeky spreadsheet of what I read, if I don't go do analysis every once in a while? LibraryThing is a big help here, too. I am aware that this type of thing puts me well into geek territory, but I find it very interesting, so I don't mind ;-).

First, about my purchases:

Total books purchased in 2008 (so far): 49
January: 19
February: 9
March: 11
April: 10

As you can see, I really do have a serious problem. January involved some pent up desire to purchase, since I did hold off in December, while I was busily purchasing gifts for other people (plus, Christmas tree ornaments; I have a serious problem with those, too). As a comparison, some numbers around what I have read so far this year:

Total books completed (so far): 28
Books purchased in 2008 that I have read: 18
Number of books I purchased that are not going on the TBR list: 4*

So, that means that of the 45 books purchased this year that I actually intend to read all the way through at some point, I have read 40%. I also read 10 tbr books that I already owned before this year, reducing that number from 106 to 96, and leaving my total TBR list at 123 (96 from before this year, plus 27 remaining from the books purchased this year).

Now on to the books that I have read:

Science fiction: 9 books, or 32.14%
General fiction: 7 books, or 25%
Non-fiction: 6 books, or 21.43%
Mystery: 6 books, or 21.43%

Not a bad distribution, I think. It always amazed me, though, that I consistently read more science fiction than any other category, but my largest category of books in my LibraryThing library is Mystery, and always has been. I think part of this is that box of books in my closet, which I suspect has quite a bit of Science Fiction in it. I think it has a fair amount of Agatha Christie books, too, though, so who knows what is up with that. Maybe it is partly that I am more likely to re-read science fiction than any other category.

I am slightly behind pace, with 28% of the book goal completed, with just over 29% of the year over. I am not worried about this, though, because the summer is usually when I read a lot more. I may even make it past 100 books this year!

*2 cookbooks, 1 complete works of Shakespeare, 1 book I had already read that I bought in hard cover because I found it on the bargain table


26. Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler

I have already talked about this in the posts below, about the reading I went to, but I will say again: very good.

27. Spin State by Chris Moriarty

Great book. I love this kind of hard science book that also looks at relationships and the human implications of our increasingly advanced technology. By that I mean that this book explores artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation, what makes a sentient being human, fear of the unknown, and how people set up artificial lines between us and them. Fascinating stuff.

28. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Okay, this was only 55 pages long, but it was in its own book, and I am way behind pace here! Great story, although very sad of course. I never saw the movie, and I don't think I will. I am sure it is good, too, but so depressing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Reading

I did go to see Karen Joy Fowler discuss her new book last night, and I am so glad I did. She was very witty and interesting, which is really no surprise, since I love her work. Also, I mentioned that the line between reality and fiction is blurry in Wit's End--it is even blurrier than I realized, because the cult that she mentions in the book, along with a lot of the details of the cult founder and the place they lived, are actually true. Fascinating stuff. I also find cults very interesting (I did a research paper on mind control as practiced by cults for my high school Psychology class), so I totally understand how she could get caught up in that kind of research.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time I have been to a reading by an author that I know and like (or any author, for that matter). I am not big on talking to "celebrities" in general, because it seems weird to me to talk to people that seem like people you know, but that are, in fact, strangers. A co-worker was telling me about meeting some professional hockey players, recently, and going out to lunch with them, and I was frankly mystified as to why anyone would want to do that. Granted, I am not a hockey fan, but I would feel the same way about baseball players, or actors, or anyone whose work I admire and enjoy. They are strangers. You know you have one thing in common, sure (love of hockey, certain types of movies, whatever), but then what? You can only spend so much time saying "Wow, I think you are great," before you need to move on to other conversational topics, and what would those be? I am not good at talking to strangers. And it's even weirder if you do know personal details about the person--because it seems weird to bring those up to a stranger, without any of the small talk that usually gradually brings you to those details, after you are more comfortable together. Intimacy should be earned, I think.

But, this was still worth the time, and not as strange as I feared it would be. Ms. Fowler spoke a bit first, and several people asked questions, so there was a nice give and take. And she was very gracious and welcoming. I think I will try to go to more of these author visits. Michael Chabon is coming to St. Louis next month, I would love to get my copy of Yiddish Policeman's Union signed!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Catching up

Okay, I did make lots of progress in War and Peace, but then I got really mad at Prince Andrei and had to take a break. Sanctimonious, sexist, idiot jerk. But, I figure being too involved with the book is better for my prospects of actually finishing it, than not being involved enough.

In the meantime:

21. Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

I LOVED this book! I love the idea of wearable computers. When I think about how much more advanced my BlackBerry with an internet connection is, compared to what my life is like just 10 years ago, I get even more psyched about the idea of what that kind of connectivity could do for society. I also thought the characerization was very well done. Robert Gu's transformation from a complete jerk to a pretty nice guy was actually pretty believable, which is quite an accomplishment, especially when you consider how really terrible he was at the beginning.

22. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Another fantastic book. Set in a near future when genetic modifications of fetuses are widespread and a profitable business, the book explores what would happen if we could modify children to not need sleep anymore. Of course, prejudice rears its ugly head fairly quickly when people realize how much more someone can do without the need to sleep. The main character has a twin sister who was unexpectedly conceived, and who does not receive any modifications. She loves her sister, but her father, who chose to make his daughter Sleepless, does not. He considers the unmodified child inferior. I can't even begin to narrow down my thoughts on this wonderful book, but it was hard to put down. The characters were well-drawn, and I found myself sympathetic to most of them, even when I completely disagreed with their points of view. The political and social environment of the book was well-thought out, and intriguing. The story was just fascinating. Also, I think it is very hard to convincingly write about characters that are smarter and wiser than most people, or that are advanced beyond the current state of the human race (I am thinking about the Supers that the Sleepless breed later in the book here), but Kress managed it. I did feel that the Supers really were superior, even while reading about their learning processes and insecurities.

A couple of thoughts about the last two books I read:

* I thought it was odd that I read two books in a row featuring a young, gifted girl named Miri, since that is not a common name. Not that this is meaningful, it was just a funny coincidence.
* I recognized elements of both of these stories as being from short stories I had read in the past. When I read big compilations of science fiction short stories, I wonder if I really retain these, but when I got to the parts of the books that drew heavily from those stories, I recognized them right away. That was kind of cool.

23. Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

This is the sequel to The Sparrow, which I read earlier in the year. I thought this book was more interesting, and more nuanced. It was a little bit less dark, although still pretty tragic. I liked learning more about the alien characters, and the way that they were shown to be more complex than originally supposed. Sequels can be a bit of a risk, but this one definitely didn't rest on the laurels of the praise received for The Sparrow, and it had many interesting things to say, still. Great book.

24. Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb

The title of this one is rather clever, as this is actually a cosy, small-group-of-people-who-know-each-other murder, unlike some of the in Death books, where it might be anyone in New York City. I thought this one was stronger than the last one, with a slightly lower eye-rolling, Eve-Dallas-is-really-badass quotient. Fast and fun.

25. My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox

Re-read. I loved this the first time, and I loved it again. The author is making up a memoir of a 100 year old woman in one night, so the pace was a bit frenetic, but in a good way. It was amazing how he was able to make the woman both obviously fake, and yet seem very real. Even as it becomes obvious that the woman does not exist, and he starts talking more and more about his (fictional) own life, she has a recognizable voice, and really does seem to be a separate person. The end was really great, too. I picked this up off of a bargain book table, and I am glad I did.


According to LibraryThing, I have 40 books purchased this year. That's wrong, though. I loaned my CueCat to a friend, so I have to type in ISBNs, and I didn't feel like it last night. If I am remembering right, I have 5 books to add still, although it might be 6. I need to lock myself in my apartment and read, read, read! I have lots of books I am excited about, but not enough time to read them all, and no willpower to stay away from the bookstore until I catch up (HA!).

I had to go to the bookstore to get Karen Joy Fowler's newest book, Wit's End, because she is coming to St. Louis tomorrow. The kids will be at their dad's, and going to a book reading is the kind of fun thing I don't often get to do (I missed Kate Atkinson last fall, much to my dismay). I wanted to at least have the book, but I think I might be able to get it read, too--it's very good. The line between fiction and reality is really blurry in this book, and it is quite disorienting. I feel almost dizzy as I read it, trying to figure out what is real, and what is fictional (within the fictional novel, of course). It's very heady stuff. I hope the reading is not too crowded, and I can get my book signed!


I am slightly behind pace for 100 books for the year, but way ahead of where I was last year at this time (16). So, that goal is looking good at least.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Health reading

I wrote these two paragraphs at separate times, obviously. I think I may be just about ready to move on from the diet books this year, although I am sure I will be dipping into all of them throughout the year to keep my motivation levels up at a high level.

19. You: On a Diet by Michael Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz

Are you seeing a trend here? This is my third book on food and diet this year. I think I have it down now. I have actually even lost a little bit of weight. I am doing this weird thing: eating less food. It sounds simple, but it sure has taken me a long time to figure it out. I'm also focusing on the healthy stuff and doing more cooking at home. This book helped to solidify my new habits from the previous two books this year (In Defense of Food and Does this Clutter Make my Butt Look Fat?).

20. Ultrametabolism by Mark Hyman

Obviously I was wrong last time when I said I had this diet thing down. This was yet more good reinforcement, with good information on specific issues that might keep someone from losing weight, and how to address those issues. Also, a lot of good information on why people aren't just fat because of a deficiency of willpower, but that there are things you can do to re-train your body. This was an expensive book for me, though, because I ended up buying a bunch of supplements at Whole Foods this week!

I am nearly halfway through War and Peace now. I really do enjoy the book; the main reason it is taking me so long to read it is that it is just so darn heavy. Lugging it around is some real work. I did bring it on the train with me this morning, though.

Number of books purchased in 2008: 32
For reference, number of books read in 2008: 20

This is not a good ratio. I must stay away from the bookstore! Must! Must! Must! Unfortunately, I cannot even pretend to blame my friend, it is all me this time. I just can't seem to stop myself. I suppose there are worse addictions I could have, but I need to buy new furniture, and I want to go on vacation, and I don't even have enough shelf space already. I am keeping an eye on this, but we'll see how long I can stay away this time.

Oh wait, I need a new book to study for my PMP certification. There is not much hope for me.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A new picture go with my new living room furniture. I have to share it because not only did I come across completely by luck, when I was shopping for something else entirely, but I got a fantastic deal, too. I was at Bed Bath and Beyond getting some things for the house, and I had already paid when I spotted this picture near the door. It was marked at $49.99, and I decided to think about it for a bit. I am trying not to rush into so many expenditures. I decided it was so perfect, though that I had to go back and get it. When I did, it rang up at $12.49! What a deal! So, I had to share.
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Monday, March 03, 2008

Re-visiting an old friend

18. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

I came across this book a long time ago, I don’t even remember when. It wasn’t great literature, and I would have to make a pretty long list of my favorites before this would occur to me, but it was a really nice book. I’d call it a comfortable read. It didn’t change my life, but I remembered it, and I read enough books that remembering large parts of the book 15 or 20 years later is actually quite a testament to the book.

I came across a copy of this at one of the periodic used book fairs different groups at work hold to support some charity. It seems like a great deal for the charities and the groups supporting them—they solicit donations through emails and bulletin board postings, then organize all the books and sell them in a conference room for a day or two. I am sure it is time-consuming, but all of the money goes to the charity, so it’s a nice deal. I love browsing through these fairs, seeing what people have donated, and finding books to try. Books are generally $1 or less, so it isn’t that risky to try something new. But occasionally, I come across an old friend, like this book.

I snapped the book right up, thrilled to have come across it by chance. I haven’t been looking for it, I just recognized it. I didn’t read it right away, though. As usual, I had several books that I was excited about in my TBR stack (mountain…), so I put it aside. It made me happy to have it, though. Last week, I was looking for something light and quick to read while the kids were at their dad’s for the evening, so I picked up Thornyhold.

It was just as good as I remembered it. Geillis is an amazingly strong character, glossing over her very difficult childhood with a no-use-crying-over-what-can’t-be-changed attitude. Even when describing highly emotional events, her common sense shines through. When she falls in love with her handsome neighbor, and he smiles at her, she makes a comment about the sun coming out and all the birds bursting into song in a way that pokes gentle fun at her own out of control emotions.

The witchcraft plot was a little silly, but nothing too outrageous. As a whole, the book was so charming, I am willing to overlook a few minor faults. And, I am inspired by Gilly’s can-do attitude to make her home her own—my own home is in better shape because of it! I hung a picture and some curtains (see post below) and cleared out some clutter this weekend. So, that’s a definite good effect of the book.

Highly recommended, but remember, don’t have high expectations of great literature. That’s not what this book is meant to be.

What I did while taking a break from War and Peace this weekend...

War and Peace really is good so far, but my arms needed a rest from holding it up, so I broke out the power tools (well, just the drill and the hammer and screwdriver) and started hanging stuff in my bedroom. I got the picture at World Market on Saturday, and the curtains from Target quite some time ago. I have been putting off hanging them for no good reason, but I am glad to have them up now. The whole room looks different! I don't have any tall furniture in there, so there was no color in the top half of the room. The ceilings look higher now that the color draws the eye up.

This picture looks so nice, I want to hang more and more pictures! I am going to get some nice frames and put up pictures of the kids, along with some of their artwork. I'm also keeping my eye out for artwork that I like. It is so much fun making my home look nice, but this is yet another thing pulling me away from reading. On the positive side, though, I enjoy being home and sitting around and reading more now. When my children are at their dad's house, I don't feel the need to leave all the time. So, maybe it isn't hurting my reading time as much as I fear.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How do I get so behind here?

It's all that time spent reading....

10. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

I loved this at the beginning and the end, but the middle dragged a bit. It didn't end the way I thought it would, which is always a good thing. I liked the way the book used people in the past and the near future/present to demonstrate that even at our most advanced, people have prejudices and biases that they are not aware of--bits of knowledge that we think are already decided, so we do not investigate any further. Very interesting book.

11. The Lighthouse by P.D. James

I have two problems with this book: the description on the back tries to make it sound more lurid than it is, for no real reason (what is with these descriptions that have little to do with the actual book?), and it is the last book out there by James. She is 88, I am very afraid there won't be more, but I hope that isn't the case. (Update: apparently she has a book due out this year!)

The book itself, though, was really excellent, as usual. The characters were wonderfully drawn, as usual. The mystery was satisfying, and the personal quirks of all the detectives were interesting as well. In the hands of a skilled and disciplined writer, having a series with ongoing characters allows for gradual character development and growth without spending a lot of time away from the main story (as an aside, ihat's one of the reasons I keeping reading those J.D. Robb books--she does that well).

12. Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh

Nothing earth-shattering in here, but it is a good reminder. I like the way Walsh adresses the underlying issues for both clutter in our homes and on our bodies. It's a good reminder.

13. The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3

Great stories, wonderful essays about Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin that made me tear up, and a Tiptree story. Just wonderful.

14. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

This book was about religion as much as it was about first contact with an alien species. It was also about how difficult first contact situations are, and how much information you need to absorb very quickly, and how easy it is to get everything tragically wrong. I really enjoyed this book, although it was very difficult. I will probably read the second book at some point, but not for a while. I found it hard to believe that this was Russell's first novel--the writing was very mature.

15. The Sculptress by Minette Walters

Very good book. The mystery was intriguing, but also, the commentary on the people's lives was fascinating. Did Olive commit the crime she confessed to (killing her mother and sister and chopping them into pieces)? If she did, how much culpability does she really bear? Rosalind Leigh, the author who undertakes to write a book about Olive against her will, is an intriguing character as well, who convincingly works through her demons at the same time that she investigates Olive's. I will definitely be reading more of Walters' books.

16. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent

Excellent book. I liked the way that Vincent confronted her pre-conceived notions with an open mind and was really willing to learn. It was a very difficult process for her, obviously, which was interesting to read.

17. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Wonderful. I loved this book so much, I read it very quickly. I loved the characters, and the end was fantastic. I am so glad I got this book, based on many recommendations from the 50 Book Challenge board on LibraryThing.


I am working on You: On a Diet, and then I am tackling War and Peace. I have read long books before, but this one is intimidating me a bit. And, it's not going to good things to my pace! It will do wonderful things to my average page count statistic, though, so I should not complain.

Friday, February 08, 2008

My reading chair

This was the first piece of furniture that I bought brand new because it was exactly what I wanted. Of course I had to get something stylish and comfy to sit in while reading. Next to it is my shelf of science fiction, which only has space available momentarily, until I get my books out of the closet, and read a few more from the TBR shelves.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A picture of my new shelves

Didn't I tell you they are beautiful? Special guest appearance by the edge of my new living room couch.
This was taken not too long after I got the shelves; there are more books on there now, although I am trying to leave some decorative space on these shelves. Every time I get a new set of shelves, I realize I need at least one more set.

Catching up on the books

Now that I have played around with my new blackberry a bit (and I am sure there will be more of that coming--I foresee a blog focus that is slightly relaxed here), I figured I should do something about the fact that I have read 7 books since I posted a book update here. Here it is:

3. The Murder Room by P.D. James

Another great book from James. Very suspenseful at the end--I kept having to go back and actually read a paragraph that I had only hurriedly skimmed.

4. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

A few years ago, I lost a bunch of weight. I didn't follow any particular pattern of eating, ie. Weight Watchers, Atkins, etc. I had some simple rules around the way I ate: I only ate food that I really enjoyed. I tried not to choose fattening foods very often, but when I did, I enjoyed them and didn't feel guilty about eating them. I ate slowly and really paid attention to how full I felt, and the the taste and enjoyment of my food. I cooked real foods at home as often as possible, and kept lots of whole fruits and veggies on hand for occasional snacks. I avoided processed food as much as possible. I ate at the dinner table with my family and friends.

I lost so much weight, that I really started to pay attention to the way that I was eating, the specific foods. I joined Weight Watchers, and I counted points. I lost five more pounds, but I was anxious about food a lot. I was also hungry. I spent a lot of time thinking about food, and I didn't enjoy what I was eating. I bought little chocolate cakes, put out by Weight Watchers at only one point that tasted a lot like chocolate sawdust, and told myself it was a treat. I then started gaining weight.

Now that I have read this book, I can see the clear differences between the two styles of eating. When I focused on eating real food and enjoying eating, I lost weight, without putting much effort into it. When I focused on losing weight, I thought about food all the time, I didn't enjoy my food, and I gained weight. This book was helpful in reminding me of my own experiences with food and weight, and showing why things happened that way. It was short book, but very interesting, and full of information. Highly recommended.

5. Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson

This book had a lot of interesting information about the increasing complexity of popular culture, and the positive affects on our intelligence. Johnson certainly does not say that sitting around playing video games and watching tv all day long is good for us, but he makes a convincing argument that doing these things sometimes can be good for us. He cited an impressive amount of research to support this theory, although much of the justifications for his view are more theoretical than proven at this point. It does open up quite a few interesting questions for further research, though.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I stayed up too late to finish this one. It was just as good as I remembered. I found the Historical Notes at the end particularly creepy, when the academics studying the supposed manuscript go out of their way to talk about how the oppression of women in the Gilead society is part of a different culture, so they cannot make value judgments about it. So many people say that now about cultures that viciously oppress women, as if that makes it all right to conduct activities like honor killings, or punishing women for adultery when they were raped. I have been listening to NPR lately about how Germany refuses to uphold their own laws when it comes to crimes against Muslim women because that is a different culture, so this is not a fictional device. Scary stuff. Excellent book, I am glad I read it again.

7. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb

I needed something easy to read, because I was sick, and this fit the bill. The eye rolling quotient of these books is high (Eve Dallas is tougher than you, no matter who you are), and there is no interaction between characters that goes unexplained, but the mysteries are fun, the characters do grow and change, and I really enjoy these.

8. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

This was just a lovely read about reading can change anyone, even the Queen of England.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry

This was the most recent book that my 10 year old daughter and I read aloud to each other. We both cried quite a bit near the end of this. We are going to get the other books in this series. It was a great book for talking seriously with my daughter while still being very enjoyable.

Playing with mobile blogging

I got a Blackberry! It is so much fun figuring out what I can do with it, although it is cutting into my reading time. I surfed the web and read email and texted my friend Bambi on the train this morning, which is usually prime reading time. I imagine this will die down after I get more used to this, though.

In the meantime, I am having a blast! Here is picture of the view from my desk at work.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

A slow start

I haven't gotten very far yet this year, but I got off to a slow start last year, so I don't think the goal is in jeopardy yet. In fact, even though I have only finished 2 books so far this year, I think I will end January with more than the 4 I had last January, so I should be a bit ahead. I have about three books going now, and I have been reading a lot faster in the past week or so than I did in the first week or so.

I find it interesting that my reading seems to be changing now that I am keeping track. I have been consciously searching out some more good science fiction since I started the list, so I am not surprised to see that I am reading more of that. But, some of my more guilty pleasures (J.D. Robb books, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series) have fallen off. I don't think it is because I don't want to write them on the list--I don't really care if anyone approves of my choices. I think I have just found it easier to get good suggestions for books I want to read more than that kind of brain candy. I have a long list of higher quality books fighting for a spot on my tbr list, so this kind of thing gets pushed down to the bottom. Maybe this is cyclical, too, though, and I will get back to them in a few months or so.

I am so loving this long term list of books I am reading. I am totally geeking out on the thought of more data to analyze as time goes on. There is no hope for me.

1. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Good but not great. Sad. A bit overwrought in the middle, but enjoyable. Not Atwood's best.

2. Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James

Great. Good development of recurring characters, without taking a lot of time away from the main focus of the book--the mystery. The story was compelling, although it was a bit odd how sympathetic everyone was to the pedophile priest. I thought it was odd that they equated the murder victim's dislike of the pedophilia (although it may have been more accurately pederasty, which involves post-pubescent children, which, while still being totally wrong, is not quite as repellent) with prejudice against gay people. Being gay and molesting children are two entirely different things, regardless of the gender of the children abused. But, the rest of the story was very interesting, and the conclusion was satisfying.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I got new bookshelves this weekend!

And, they are gorgeous. I'd put a link here, but Costco doesn't seem to have them on their website, which is a shame. So, I will have to make do with describing them, at least until I unpack enough boxes to come across the software and cords to download pictures from my digital camera.

The shelves are double wide, about 48 inches, and made out of dark wood. There are six shelves on each side of the middle divider, with the top two shelves having glass inserts. There are lights in the top molding that shine down through the glass, and there is a touch pad to turn the lights on and off. It's a lot of shelf space, and I am sure I am FINALLY going to be able to get all of my books on shelves, rather that stacked on top or or in front of other books. For a while at least.

The most fun part of all of this is that I finally get to organize all of my books. When I first moved into this apartment and got my new shelves up, I wanted to get everything in some sort of order, grouped by genre and author. But I was moving and I was in a hurry to reuse the boxes in which I had carried the books to the new place, so I just grabbed books and put them on shelves. It has bothered me that my books were all jumbled ever since, but I was putting off rearranging, in the hopes that I could channel that organizing energy toward unpacking the mound of boxes and making our home look presentable. Now that I have new shelves, though, I HAVE to move all the books around! After all, I do have to put some of the books on the new shelves. I suppose, in theory, I could have just grabbed all the books that were on top of or in front of other books and put them on the new shelves, but I could not restrain myself any longer. My books were crying out for some order, and I could not ignore them.

This is so much fun! I am putting non-fiction on my new shelves. I don't have enough non-fiction to fill them, but that is good, I have room to grow. I have been picking up big armfuls of books and moving them from room to room. Science fiction is going on the shelves next to the reading chair. Mysteries will be in the other set of shelves in the front room. I have two shelves in the family room that will be devoted to unread books. Or, maybe not. Maybe I will just put all unread books in their categories, but put them over to the right, or something like that. Actually, that sounds like a good idea, both because it will be more organized, and because I am afraid all of my unread books won't fit on two shelves. I think I will have to try it both ways, and see which one is better.

All of this empty space is great, too. My shelves were getting seriously crowded, and I was wondering where I would put new books. Not that I need to buy any, with all my unread books, but let's be realistic; I am going to buy new books. I bought 5 new books tonight*, and I haven't even finished my first book of the year yet. I love having the books around, and I will read at least some of them. Some day when I have more time to read, I will get through my whole tbr list, a thought which actually fills me with a bit of anxiety. Fortunately, I am kidding myself--there will always be more books to buy!

Oh, and I saw that the shelves that I bought at World Market are on sale! I don't actually need more shelves right now, but I do want to get another set of these eventually. This is such a good price, I think maybe I should go ahead and get them now, but I am not sure I want to. For one thing, I don't know if I have the energy to carry the shelves up to my third floor apartment. I can't carry the whole box up, even with a friend helping, so it means multiple trips up the stairs with pieces of the unit. Then, I have to put it together, which is not undoable, but it is time-consuming. And, I would need to clean some stuff out of my bedroom, where I want to put the shelves. That's not the end of the world, but it is one more thing to do. I like to do some relaxing on my weekends. Still, I am thinking about it. I need an excuse to buy more books. Don't I?

*Mandy, again, although I have to admit, the bookstore was my idea. She wanted to go clothes shopping, but I figured the bookstore was less likely to make me feel fat.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Year End Statistics

I hit 93 total books in 2007, 10 more than 2008. I am a little bit surprised at how much reading I got in, because it was a busy year. I moved to a new apartment, which was very time-consuming. I made a big push to de-clutter my apartment and start doing the regular cleaning maintenance more regularly. Although, it seems like I spend more time cleaning these days, because I do some every day rather than waiting for the weekend, but I never spend 3 or 4 hours in a row cleaning anymore, so that may actually have been a net gain in time. I have had a very active social life, because I was starting to get worried that I did too much by myself. My job has been very busy, with some overtime, although not a lot. And, I started my third blog in 2007, and did more blog posting in general. This is not even getting into all the time I spend on Library Thing.

Even so, I got in more reading than ever. Part of that is all the time I spend at Library Thing, which seems counterintuitive, but makes sense when I think about it. First of all, posting about what I read makes me think a bit more about what I read, which actually makes me enjoy my books more. Also, all the great recommendations make me anxious to get through my reading list and get to even more great books! So, I am going to increase my goal for 2008 to 100 books, but first, a look at 2007 through statistics.

Total number of books: 93
January: 4
February: 4
March: 7
April: 5
May: 9
June: 7
July: 10
August: 11
September: 9
October: 10
November: 7
December: 10
Total number of pages: 33,276
Average number of pages per book: 361.70
Science Fiction books: 39, or 41.94%
Non-fiction books: 15, or 16.13%
Mystery books: 21, or 22.58%
Re-reads: 7, or 7.53%

Since I read a lot more toward the end of the year than I did at the beginning, I think I can easily add in the 7 books I didn’t have to make up the 100 in 2007. I am glad to see I got in quite a bit of science fiction this year, although that is partly fantasy, actually. That is only a few books, though, because I am not a big fantasy fan. I found a good list of science fiction classics this year, and I have been trying to work my way through that. I am going to try to get a little bit more non-fiction books read in 2008, I think.

Overall, this looks like a pretty good year’s reading to me. Now, I just need to get my first book for this year completed!