Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas, Part 3

Today is my last day of work before the Christmas holidays. YAY! We were originally scheduled to work two more days after this, but they will be doing some sort of massive electrical repair, or something like that, so the president of Small Public Institution gave us two days off so that the electricians could complete their task before they took their holiday.

I had my picture in the paper earlier this month. I was interviewed because of my having read 52+ books this year. My friend Bret is friends with one of the hometown-paper reporters, so he contacted her about interviewing me. Bret and I chat about books at every social gathering. You can find the article at tiftongazette.com. Do a site search for "ABAC librarian." (I tried putting in a link, but it failed and I'm not computer-savvy enough to figure out why.) (My picture did not make it online, but, trust me, I'm as cute as pie -- NOT!) When I blogged with a list of all the books I had read during the year, I got comments from two of the authors, both Southern women. That was exciting. The year's not over and I'm still reading. I wonder if I can maintain the same pace next year.

I still have my Christmas knitting projects to finish, but I'm getting there. I hope I'm not up until the wee hours of Christmas morning getting them done. I bought too much yarn for one of them, but I'm not at all upset because I really like the color and softness of the yarn (Lion Brand Wool-Ease, color Pumpkin).

Pies will be baked this week. I had a hankering for cookies the other night, but I'm not sure I'll be making any. I only have so much ambition. Besides, I have other plans for my holiday break at home -- less fattening plans.

My Christmas wish again this year is for peace on earth. Wouldn't it be nice to see it in our lifetime? I hope your Christmas is peaceful and not too stressful. Relax, friends. Take it easy. Have fun. Hug all your relatives and tell them how much they mean to you. Go to church, if you're so inclined. If you are not of a faith that celebrates Christmas, happy holidays anyway. Peace.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas, Part 2

Richard and I usually pick a day in early December to go Christmas shopping. We take off work and start out early because the mall we go to is mostly deserted on a weekday morning. This year we did a bunch of online shopping before our shopping day out, so we didn't have a whole lot to buy at the mall.

Good thing, too. The mall was swarming with 6-year-olds -- four schoolbus loads of them. OMG! It really wasn't too bad. They were mostly in the play areas and food areas. We got our shopping done (Yay!), had a nice lunch, and went to a bookstore for one last gift and a little personal book shopping. It was unseasonably chilly for early December in south Georgia, but we survived it. The day was bright and sun-shiny and the wind was still.

Now, I just need a volunteer to wrap all the gifts. As usual, the volunteer will be me. I wrap and Richard writes the gift cards.

This year, again, we are bringing dessert to the family Christmas dinner gathering. We will be making an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. That's what we took to the Thanksgiving dinner and the family put in a request for the same thing at Christmas. Richard and I make good pies. I make the crusts and he does the fillings. I have no idea how he prepares the apples to go in the pie, but, come to think of it, I don't need to know. That's his job.

I hope your Christmas preparations are going well. I hope that your Christmas is as joyous and peaceful and beautiful as you wish for. And I also hope that Santa Claus is very good to you.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Merry Christmas!! (Part 1)

would have...

asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts...

and there would be


OK, I lifted this from a t-shirt ad in a catalog. You can find it here: www.acornonline.com. Do a quick catalog search for item number 14600. I would have just bought the t-shirt, but it doesn't come in my size. Rats!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fifty-two Books

Here are the 52 books I read in 2010:

1. The Black Dove, by Steve Hockensmith
2. Shem Creek, by Dorothea Benton Frank
3. Knit Lit, ed. by Linda Roghaar & Molly Wolf
4. The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
5. Home is Where the Wine Is, by Laurie Perry
6. He Who Fears the Wolf, by Karin Fossum
7. Fire and Ice, by J.A. Jance
8. Summer on Blossom Street, by Debbie Macomber
9. The Girl on Legare Street, by Karen White
10. East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson
11. Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear
12. Split Image, by Robert B. Parker
13. The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake
14. The Professional, by Robert B. Parker
15. Voices, by Arnaldur Indridason
16. Twelve Sharp, by Janet Evanovich
17. The Shape Shifter, by Tony Hillerman
18. Home Safe, by Elizabeth Berg
19. The Blight Way, by Patrick McManus
20. Death Without Tenure, by Joanne Dobson
21. The Crack in the Lens, by Steve Hockensmith
22. Laced with Magic, by Barbara Bretton
23. The Black Cat, by Martha Grimes
24. Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark
25. Hissy Fit, by Mary Kay Andrews
26. Nature Girl, by Carl Hiaasen
27. The Vintage Caper, by Peter Mayle
28. Lean Mean Thirteen, by Janet Evanovich
29. Return to Sullivan's Island, by Dorothea Benton Frank
30. Just Desserts, by Barbara Bretton
31. Time is a River, by Mary Alice Monroe
32. Changing Habits, by Debbie Macomber
33. The Scent of Rain and Lightning, by Nancy Pickard
34. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
35. Deep Dish, by Mary Kay Andrews
36. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, by Sharyn McCrumb
37. Fast Women, by Jennifer Crusie
38. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
39. The Goddess of Fried Okra, by Jean Brashear
40. The Spare Wife, by Alex Witchel
41. Thursdays at Eight, by Debbie Macomber
42. The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indridason
43. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
44. Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldman
45. Faking It, by Jennifer Crusie
46. The Blue Bistro, by Elin Hilderbrand
47. Crossfire, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
48. The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe
49. Compromising Positions, by Jenna Bayley-Burke
50. Painted Ladies, by Robert B. Parker
51. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
52. The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson

... and then I continued reading:

53. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson
54. Crazy for You, by Jennifer Crusie
55. The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen
56. Brilliant, by Marne Davis Kellogg
57. The Trouble with Angels, by Debbie Macomber

It's only December 1st, so I can probably read at least two more books -- as long as I don't neglect my Christmas knitting.

Every one of these books was good to read. Some I liked better than others, of course. I think my new favorite author is Mary Alice Monroe. Or maybe Jennifer Crusie. Or Marne Davis Kellogg. Oh, I don't know! Read them all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nearly Perfect

I had a great day yesterday.

Richard has a sailboat, which he keeps at a marina on Lake Eufaula. It was time to get the boat hauled out of the water and have the hull scraped (lots o' algae) and painted. The marina where he keeps the boat does not do that, so he had to take the boat to another place farther up the lake.

I took a day off from work to help him out. My part was to drop him off at his marina and then drive to the other marina to pick him up.

The drive from one marina to the other takes about 30 minutes, but it took Richard about four hours to motor his boat up there. Consequently, I had a lot of time to fill.

I took along two books and my knitting. I spent my four hours at the Lodge at the state park on the lake. When I walked in the building, there were a bunch of women at the front desk having a good time chatting, and they greeted me warmly as I came through the door. I told them I had some time to kill and asked if it was all right to sit in the lobby. They practically escorted me to a chair. I met the park manager. Her name is Annette; very nice woman.

The Lodge also has a dining room. Richard and I had arrived at the park at about 10:00 am (it's a two-hour drive from our house) so I was able to finish one of the books (Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie) before lunch. I finally hauled my self out of the comfortable chair and moseyed in to the dining room. Since it's the off season, I had my choice of tables, so I picked one near a window so that I could look out at the lake.

The waitress brought me a menu and some diet Coke and I picked out my meal. I realized later that I should have gotten a salad rather than a patty melt and fries, but you know what they say about hindsight. The service, even on a slow off-season day, was particularly slow, but I didn't really care. I had my book and still another couple of hours to kill so I started the second book I had brought (The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen).

After lunch I went back to my lobby chair and knitted a while. I'm working on a Christmas gift for my niece. While I was knitting, one of the park employees stopped, we exchanged a few pleasantries, and he then just watched me for a few minutes, apparently fascinated (and it wasn't even World Wide Knit in Public Day!). When I got tired of knitting, I went back to my book, keeping an eye on my watch so that I could get to the other marina before Richard was ready to go home. After finishing almost half the book, it was time to go. I went to the car, swatting gnats all the way and started a very pleasant drive.

The weather was perfect. I started the day wearing a woolly cardigan over a short-sleeved t-shirt, but I quickly discarded the sweater. I had some Google maps to guide me to the marina, and I managed not to make a single wrong turn. I arrived just as the boat was coming out of the water. I didn't feel like standing around watching such a slow process, so after I spoke to Richard, I went back to the car, lowered the windows to let in the breeze, sat with one door open and read. I sort of lost track of time, engrossed in my book as I was. Richard finally got through with the marina folks and we headed for home.

During my day I saw a Great Blue Heron (on the wing), a deer crossing the road and disappearing into the forest, and a Red-Tailed Hawk (also on the wing).

Did I say the weather was perfect? Well, it was. My day started out with a road trip with Richard, which I always enjoy; I got to spend time doing my two favorite relaxing activities; I saw wildlife; I had a leisurely lunch; I met nice people; and all in all it was a nearly perfect day. Oh, the being off work part was nice, too. When the boat is cleaned and painted, we'll get to do it again, only with different books and a different knitting project.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten Things...

I've been inspired by Bridget to write a list of Ten Things That I Am Afraid Of. She has some pretty creepy things on her list. We will have some overlap.

1. Getting stuck on a railroad track. When I was in high school, I was on a date with my then-current boyfriend. He was driving me back home and we were about to cross the railroad tracks in my hometown. I was yakking away about something, not paying much attention, when he stopped on the tracks and looked to the right. I turned to see what he was looking at, and had the bejeezus scared out of me when I saw the train, with its headlight on, not fifty feet away. The train was stopped, but that is beside the point. We're talking upwards of 200 tons of steel and a braking distance of far more than fifty feet. Ever since that night...

2. Aquatic creatures with teeth or stingers. As I've said before, I'm a great audience; I readily suspend my disbelief. I went to see Jaws when it first came out and that first scene when the shark attacks the girl swimming at night really gave me nightmares. I've seen snippets of Jaws since then, and I see just how fake the shark looks, but still, ankle deep is about as far as I go into the ocean.

3. Clowns. I'm with Bridget on this one. When I see a clown, I think "serial murderer of children." Creepy.

4. Snakes. Another one I have in common with Bridget. I don't think snakes are creepy, but I do try to avoid them. We had one in our garage one day so I couldn't get to my car. I still think about that snake sometimes when I go to the garage. Richard said it was harmless, but a snake is a snake.

5. Walking/standing on a surface I can see through. I'm not afraid of heights, as long as I'm standing on a solid, opaque surface, but I could not walk on a glass floor. I don't even like walking across grates in the sidewalk. I can be on tall structures and look out over railings and enjoy the view, as long as that floor is solid. You'll never catch me on that new Skywalk at the Grand Canyon.

6. Big spiders. Little spiders don't bother me much, but big ones, especially black ones with red hourglasses on their stomachs, creep me out. I am really afraid of them. I don't care for those large ones with furry legs, either.

7. Scary movies. When I was a child, my father worked in our town's movie theater. Sometimes he would take my sister and me to work with him. This particular theater ran a lot of those low-budget horror flicks, and I was a very impressionable little kid. I usually didn't sit in the theater when one of those movies was playing, but the lobby and auditorium were separated by only a curtain, so I could hear everything that went on, and sometimes my curiosity got the better of me and I would go look. Big mistake, because then I would have nightmares that night. I swore off scary movies at an early age. I have seen a few in my adult life, though, like the version of Dracula starring Frank Langella. That was a pretty classy movie, but I wouldn't watch it again.

8. I agree with Bridget on the Tea Party movement. Lord have mercy! Those people are scary.

9. Car trouble. I had a car one time that liked to eat alternators. I think it went through three of them while I owned it. I always feel so helpless when something goes wrong with my car. AAA and my cell phone are my friends, but I still have a feeling of panic.

10. Political attack ads. Both sides lie, or at least twist the truth, and it's not good for the country. Campaigns should be run on the issues and a candidate who has no useful ideas for improving things should not win elections. Politics is just a power struggle, and few of our politicians actually care about the people. We should have term limits so that we don't have career politicians lining their pockets with special interest money, and special interests should be banned from funding those attack ads. I could go on...

Well, that sort of turned into a rant, didn't it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Days, Three Books

I order to get to my goal of reading 52 books this calendar year, I have read a few relatively short books. When I get really involved in a story, it find it hard to put down, so I was able to complete three books in three days. That wasn't necessarily a goal but it worked out nicely. I am now reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire. This is book #52. I will probably exceed my goal this year (or I could quit after this book and concentrate on knitting).

The three books are:

Compromising Positions, by Jenna Bayley-Burke. Well, this was something different for me. I've been reading a lot of things classed as "romance" lately, and this one was an Amazon recommendation. I read the blurb, which warned that this book was "not for the prudish or faint of heart," and I felt challenged. No damn review is going to deter me if I can help it. Actually the review was pretty good. While the book falls somewhere between erotica and soft porn, it actually has a believable story. There is a lot of sex, but nothing you wouldn't expect from two characters who are falling in love. It is, however, vivid. There is a mystery, but nobody is murdered. It has humor, which any good love story should have. Sophie has been fantasizing about David since she was in her teens, but David is good at not forming emotional attachments. He meets his match when he is recruited to help Sophie teach a couples yoga class. It seems to take forever to get them into bed together, but when they finally make it, David is smitten, although he refuses to admit it to himself. David is also rich and pisses Sophie off by buying her expensive things and making decisions for her. She doesn't want to be his "kept woman." The story goes on pleasantly and, I will spoil it, but it has a happy ending. Of course, all romances have happy endings. If you're not especially prudish, you might enjoy this novel.

Painted Ladies, by Robert B. Parker. Spenser is hired by an art professor to protect him while he delivers a ransom for a priceless painting. The people who stole the painting were very clever and set up the exchange so that Spenser was neutralized. The professor, and supposedly the returned painting, are blown to smithereens as he's returning to Spenser's car. This does not sit well with Spenser, because he failed the professor. Of course, he has to investigate to find out who killed the professor. The investigation takes unexpected turns, but it also has a few "aha" moments. Very readable, as Parker's books usually are.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. This is a partially fictionalized account of Hemingway's early days as a writer in Paris. It was very compelling reading. We learn about his friendships with such famous people as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Beach. I bought the restored edition, which has a very long introduction and an equally lengthy foreword, which I skipped. I wanted to read Hemingway's writing, not some analysis of it. And when I say long, I really mean it. This edition also included some writing from later in his life, and you could tell a difference; I liked the early stuff better. It also included alternate beginnings and endings, of which he wrote many. I skipped those, too. Aside from all that unnecessary stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I may try some more of his novels. I read The Sun Also Rises, but I was disappointed by a lack of plot. Memoirs don't need plots, just some indication of change in the subject of the memoir. I may try A Farewell to Arms next.

I'm rather proud of myself for being so close to reaching my goal. The Girl Who Played with Fire (#52) is, as expected, good reading, so I have no doubt I'll finish it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Retirement Fantasies

I'm getting to that point where retirement is the light at the end of a lo-o-ong tunnel. I'm looking forward to it and occasionally counting the days, although really it's several years off yet.

In the meantime, around this time of year, I get to have a few short pretend retirements: the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Because I work in a state-supported academic institution, I get the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week and about a week to ten days (counting weekends) at Christmas. I look forward to these holidays, for reasons more than that I'm a child at heart.

It's a time to imagine what retirement will be like. I've been looking forward to it for so long. I'm a little burned out on my career as a librarian and I'm looking forward to being a part-time sloth. There are books to read and knitting to get done; cats to cuddle; and the possibility exists that I may want to go back to writing some.

If I don't have to sit at a reference desk for most of the hours in any given day, then I'll have the energy to accomplish some things at home, run errands, take walks, go shopping just for the fun of it. I haven't strolled around a mall with no purpose in years. I'm always there to get something and get out.

I keep thinking of things I won't do when I retire, but I'm not carving anything in stone. I may develop whole new attitudes toward things. I repeatedly tell people, "You couldn't pay me to go back to school," but who knows; I might find something else I want to learn about. I've done enough traveling alone, but I might like to take some weekend trips with Richard. (A friend calls him "that pig" because he didn't take me to Australia when he went there for an international scientific meeting; but it would have been like traveling alone again as he was busy in meetings and conferences every day.) I still want to see New England, preferably not in the winter. I'd also like to see the Grand Canyon, maybe ride a mule down into it and back.

Richard's father, when he retired, took off his watch and doesn't bother much with what time it is. I can see me doing that. In fact I take my watch off now (for practice) when I get home from work on Fridays and if I need to know what time it is when we're out somewhere, I ask Richard.

It's going to be a frabjous day in my own personal La-La Land when I retire.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weekend in Athens (Georgia, not Greece)

Well, we did have dinner on Friday night with a Greek. Takis and his wife Judy are two of our dearest friends, as is Diane, who was also at dinner. Diane is a fellow librarian. We all got together at one of my favorite Athens restaurants, DePalma's, a wonderful Italian place. For an appetizer, we got some of their spinach and onion breadsticks to share. A full order was just right for the five of us. For my entree, I had the Pasta DePalma, which is capellini with a rosemary cream sauce and artichoke hearts (and of course cheese). It was very tasty. Dessert for me was canolli. We spent a good two and a half hours talking and laughing (lots of laughing). It was a good way to start off the weekend.

On Saturday, we drove out to Winterville to have a look at our old house. The new owners have made some changes, but at least they haven't chopped down any of those nice hardwoods. We also visited a bookstore (Barnes & Noble). Because Tifton has no bookstore, wandering around in B&N was a real treat.

Next we went to Main Street Yarns and Fibers in Watkinsville. I bought some Ella Rae superwash wool in a nice rust brown to make a sweater or something, and some bright red tweedy stuff to make a scarf. Richard sat in a rocking chair while I fondled yarn and shopped.

For lunch, we were going to go to Gautreau's, a rather wonderful Cajun restaurant, but at the yarn shop we found out that they had closed. The owner's wife died, so he closed the restaurant and moved back to Louisiana. I felt very sad for him. We did eat at another "Cajun" place, The Big Easy Cafe, and I wasn't impressed. I ordered the shrimp and grits, and while it was technically shrimp and grits, it still missed by a mile. They used those little baby frozen shrimp and I think all they did was to thaw them out and throw them on top of some plain grits. Yuck. Richard had a fried shrimp po'boy. I snatched one of his fried shrimp and it was nowhere as good as the ones he makes at home. What a disappointment.

After lunch we went to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. What a lovely place. Richard is more interested in plants than I am, so I sat outside the visitor's center and read my book. I had a nice shady spot near a fountain and it was so restful. Richard wandered around the grounds and collected a few seeds. Afterward, we went inside the visitor's center where they have an interesting tropical garden. It's very lush and beautiful. The garden is divided up into areas such as spice plants, medicinal plants, food plants, etc. They even have a breadfruit tree. Here are some pictures I took.

The fountain outside the Visitor's Center.

A cone flower near the fountain.

The Tropical Garden path.

Don't know what this is, but it's awfully pretty.

Sadly, because of all the budget cuts for state government institutions, they have had to let a few of the collections go. Richard was telling me that the rhododendron collection is all overgrown and some of the bushes are already dead. That's really too bad.

Late Saturday afternoon, we went downtown and had us a little pub-crawl. We stopped in at the East West Bistro and had a little refreshment. We looked at the menu, but nothing really jumped out at us as something we'd like for dinner. Just our mood, I guess, because that place has really good food. Next we wandered over to the Copper Creek Brewing Co. and had a little more refreshment. This place has a 30-foot bar that is covered in pennies. I asked the bartender how many pennies were imbedded in the acrylic bar top and she said it was about $300 worth. They were all heads up, and Richard and I were discussing just how anal a person would have to be to arrange 30,000 pennies all heads up, facing in the same direction, and in order by date. We decided it would have just been too OCD to do all that. I thought it was amazing that they got them all heads up. I think I would have placed just one tails up and whoever spotted it got a free beer.

On our way to Copper Creek, we encountered a young man with his solid white bulldog puppy. The little thing was so adorable I couldn't resist petting her. She was as soft as a bunny. The guy seemed a little abashed that so many people, especially females, were stopping to admire and pet his dog. When Richard and I started to walk away, the puppy fell into step right beside me. What a cutie!

We moseyed back to our car and went back to the hotel to freshen up. Dinner was at the Olive Garden. I know it's a chain, but they have awfully good food. We sat at the bar while waiting for our table and had a little more refreshment. For a Saturday night, we didn't have to wait too long. I had portobello mushroom ravioli and Richard had the chicken Marsala. One thing I like about Olive Garden is that they don't overfill your plate. It's a reasonable amount of food. It leaves more room for dessert. I had the tiramisu and Richard had a chocolate cake concoction that looked just yummy.

Unfortunately, neither of us slept well that night, even though we had the World's Most Wonderfully Comfortable Bed to sleep on. I'm sure the "refreshments" had something to do with that. They (whoever "they" are) say that alcohol disrupts your sleep. Also, other hotel guests kept coming in at all hours and talking loudly in the corridor. And about 3:00 am, there was a fight brewing out in the parking lot (and we were in a nice hotel!). One guy was offering to rearrange the face of another guy, and we could hear much of the conversation. We finally crawled out of bed at 8:30, or at least Richard did. I stayed where I was until after he took his shower. When we finally got up and going, we went to an IHOP for breakfast, then we hit the road for home. When we got back to Tifton, I helped unload the car and then I settled in the recliner with the footrest up and slept like a log for a solid three hours. We had planned ahead and only had to heat up our dinner.

Even though we enjoyed the hotel mattress's comfort, we were glad to get back to our own bed. All in all, it was a great weekend and I think we should do it more often. I love Athens.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gotta Blog

The weather has improved tremendously. Yesterday it was in the 70s rather than the 90s. What a relief! It's not fireplace weather yet, but I'm starting to look forward to it.

I'm still reading, trying to make it to 52 books before the end of the year. I think I'm in the middle of #47 (or maybe #48; I can't remember and I forgot to count). I usually have two books going at once: one at home and another for my lunch break at work.

At home I'm reading Crossfire, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis. I was looking at the Dick Francis website the other day and Felix hinted that he was going to continue his father's work. That will be nice. Crossfire, as with the rest of the Francis books, is a page-turner.

My lunchtime reading is On Folly Beach, by Karen White. It's not quite as exciting as a Dick Francis novel, but so far the story is good. Karen White likes to toss in a good mystery, although the novels are not strictly mysteries. They're more mainstream, women's lit.

Here are a few of the books I've actually finished:

The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indridason. I don't know what it is about Scandinavian writers, but they certainly can turn out a good mystery. In this story, a skeleton is found in a lake near Reykjavik that is mysteriously draining away (the draining is not germane to the story). The remains are tied to a Russian listening device, of the type used for espionage. This clue leads Erlendur and his colleagues to the 1970s, during the Cold War. The flashbacks in this particular story are of the politics in Leipzig in East Germany. There was a socialist movement in Iceland at the time, and some of the Icelandic students went to study in Leipzig. There was a scary picture of life under communism of that time. (Makes me glad I'm a capitalist pig, not to mention a bleeding-heart liberal.) Erlendur has to hunt down former Icelandic students who went to Germany in the 70s. The ending is a good surprise when they find out who the skeleton is. If you haven't read any of Arnaldur's books, I highly recommend them.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. What an absolutely wonderful book. Very upbeat and positive and worth reading again and again. That's all I have to say about this book besides, "READ IT!"

Faking It, by Jennifer Crusie. Once again, I've lifted a review from Amazon. If you like fun stories, you must read this one.

"Mural artist Tilda Goodnight is struggling to pay off the mortgage on the family business and keep the Goodnight secrets safely hidden. Juggling her life gets even more complicated when she hides in Clea Lewis's closet and collides with sexy Davy Dempsey. Tilda is in Clea's bedroom to steal back a forged painting; Davy's there to steal Clea's account codes and retrieve the $3 million the larcenous blonde stole from him. Somehow, Tilda finds herself exchanging a mind-blowing kiss with her fellow burglar, and when Davy follows her home and rents a room from her mother, she's forced to deal with the charming con man. Everyone in Tilda's world is pretending to be someone else, including her daydreaming mother, her split-personality sister, and her cross-dressing ex-brother-in-law. All of them, including Tilda and Davy, are Faking It. What will happen when all the secrets are out and everyone knows the truth about everyone else? Will Davy recover his 3 million? Will Tilda recover all the forged paintings and find her true artistic calling? Will Tilda's mother run off to Aruba with a hit man named Ford? And exactly what is the difference between a man labeled a "doughnut" and one who deserves the title "muffin"? Faking It is a hilarious, warm novel with a cast of quirky and wonderful characters that endear while they charm." --Lois Faye Dyer -- (Amazon review.)

Faking It would make an absolutely wonderful movie, although the sex scenes would have to be toned down quite a bit. Crusie describes them vividly. Those scenes are not gratuitous, though. They are definitely part of the story.

The Blue Bistro, by Elin Hilderbrand. "Hilderbrand sets her sophisticated romance novel against the glamorous backdrop of Nantucket Island. Adrienne Dealey is anxious to put Aspen behind her, for it was the scene of her latest disastrous romance with a man of dubious character. Her previous stint as a concierge lands her a job as hostess at an upscale oceanfront restaurant. Charming, boyish owner Thatcher Smith has put the multimillion-dollar property up for sale and intends to close the Blue Bistro for good by summer's end. Other restaurant workers include a handsome, flirtatious bartender; his jealous, hardworking girlfriend; and a publicity-seeking pastry chef. As the romance between Thatcher and Adrienne heats up, his close, secretive relationship with reclusive, enormously talented chef Fiona Kemp, with whom he eats dinner every night, becomes a problem. Hilderbrand keeps things moving briskly in between sumptuous descriptions of food, drink, and tableware, throwing in an in-depth lesson on the restaurant business for good measure. Fun, stylish, and absorbing vacation reading." --Joanne Wilkinson-- Copyright © American Library Association. (Booklist review.)

The love story in The Blue Bistro is almost heartbreaking. This is the first Hilderbrand novel I've read and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I want a sequel. I want to know what happens afterward. I think I will be reading some more of this author's novels.

When I was growing up, there were always books in the house. My mother subscribed to a book club. I remember having a laughing fit over Kipling's Just So Stories, especially "How the Whale Got Its Throat." I thoroughly enjoyed the two-volume novel The Tontine, by Thomas B. Costain. And one year when we went to the beach in the summer, I took along Gone with the Wind. My mother fussed at me for staying inside reading, but I was engrossed in that book. I read Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor, a book in which the text on the pages was in two columns rather than spread across the whole page. Several times I read a novel called Freedom's Way, whose author I can't remember, but I loved that book. Books were my entertainment and sometimes my refuge.

I hope you have been happily reading. I know it's one of my favorite activities.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Change of Seasons

Today is the first day of autumn.

And there will be a full moon tonight.

Do you think this is an auspicious coincidence?

Maybe some astrologist could clue me in.

I was looking back at some of my older posts the other day, and found a mention of last fall's first chilly temperature. It was October 19, 2009, and the forecast was for a low temp of 38 degrees. That's delightful night-time weather. It means we can get out the snuggly, fuzzy blanket, and the cats will want to sleep on the bed with us. I'm looking forward to fires in the fireplace and warm, woolly sweaters. Hot soup with toasty garlic bread. A big bowl of chili with some sweet cornbread.

This is going to be another random post, but I did want to celebrate the first day of fall.

A friend of mine was in the hospital for a week while the doctor waffled between "does she have diverticulosis?" or "does she have appendicitis?" Meanwhile, she was in a great deal of pain, and then had an apendectomy. The pain almost immediately went away and then they kicked her out of the hospital. (Isn't that just the way now: yank it out and kick 'em out?) Anyway, she's all better.

All this is leading up to a conversation I had with a coworker. I was telling him about my friend, and he got into a rumination about the difference between diverticulitis and diverticulosis, and went into some graphic detail. I interrupted him and told him I was glad it wasn't lunchtime while we were having this conversation. He saw the humor in my comment because neither of us is especially squeamish, and we had a nice chuckle.

Then I went to lunch.

I was sitting there in the Cheese & Feed (really, that's the name of the restaurant) enjoying my sandwich of ham and cucumber slices and cream cheese spread on a croissant, and at the table next to mine were three businessmen (they all had on white shirts and ties) talking about their colonoscopy preparations. I mean, really? Over lunch? In public? Just for the fun of it, I seriously considered pointing out that there were other people present who could hear them, but instead I went back to eating my sandwich. When I got back to work I told my coworker about it and we had another good laugh.

I'm excited. Richard and I have planned a weekend trip to Athens. When we go we're hoping to meet some old friends for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. We'll also go to the yarn shop in a nearby town and probably to the beer store. We have other favorite restaurants in our plans as well. One is Cajun, where we may get fried shrimp po'boys. The weather should be pleasant, too. It will be a nice trip.

This is the first year I have ever knit in the summertime. Before, it was always something I did only between October and March. I also used to knit exclusively with acrylic. Now I've discovered cotton. I've also discovered merino and have found a yarn on Webs that is 80% merino and 20% silk (Berroco Inca Gold). I haven't actually personally touched this yarn, but it sounds so yummy that I'm going to have to buy some of it for something. It comes in lovely colors, all named in Spanish. I'm currently drooling over granate (garnet). Shopping on the Internet is frighteningly easy.

Well, I hope the first day of fall is auspicious for you, in a good way, of course. It's one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love the crisp air and the bright blue sky.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading Goal and Other Random Stuff

Quite a few years ago I decided I wanted to read an average of one book per week for an entire year. I never did reach that goal. BUT... this year I have it in the crosshairs. Here it is the middle of September and I've already read 44 books. I have about 19 weeks left to read the other eight. I think I'm gonna make it.

One year, I was feeling quite stressed and I read a lot of books as an escape. I read Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels like they were going out of style, but I still didn't make it to 52 books.

I'm working on book #45, Faking It by Jennifer Crusie. Crusie has become one of my new favorite authors (thanks to Lene) and I find myself adding more and more of her books to my wish list.

On a different subject: yesterday at work, I had a patron who was your basic know-it-all idiot. I wanted to vault across the desk and throttle him until his eyeballs rolled back into his head. I didn't. But I did tell my friend Theresa about it (we were chatting via e-mail) and she wrote "death to all who don't think you know what you're talking about." It was gratifying and soothed my ruffled feathers.

Speaking of Theresa, she no longer works at the library of Small Public Institution. She is now employed at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village. This facility is like a theme park, but is not gaudy like one. Several farmhouses have been moved to GMA and you can see how people lived in the 19th century. They have cows and goats and other animals, a turpentine still, a small steam train, a church, and a store, among other farm-related things. They grind corn and you can get some stone-ground grits. It's a very interesting place. Theresa is run ragged, but she loves the job and is never bored.

This has been one of the hottest summers I have ever experienced. If you pay attention to national weather reports, you know that the South was not the only area affected. It has consistently been in the high 90s most of the season. We're finally getting some relief. Temps are down to 90, but it feels good. I got really tired of last winter's cold weather (very unusual for me) and was looking forward to summer. This turned out to be one of those "be careful what you wish for" situations. I'm glad it's September.

On a sad note, we lost another kitty. Bennis got sick and the vet could not figure out what was wrong with her so we did the humane thing. This happened a couple of months ago, but I was too distressed to write about it earlier. But I'm thankful we still have Lila, Dashiell, and Bagheera. We have Bennis's ashes in a little urn, sitting right next to Fido's ashes. I wish we had been able to have our dog, Brandy, cremated too, but she's buried in the woods behind our old house in Athens. I'd like to retire to Athens, and I think it might be nice to move back into that house.

Do you realize it is only 100 days until Christmas?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

If Not Knitting, Then Reading

Here's a few of the books I've read lately. I'd recommend every one of them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. OMG what a wonderful, and wonderfully written, book. In one of the reviews on Amazon, the reviewer pointed out that you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. Her name is Lisbeth Salander and she is a computer genius. She can find out anything about anybody.

Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist who is about to go to jail for a few months, is hired by Henrik Vanger to find out what happened to his great-niece Harriet four decades earlier. She just disappeared and no body was ever found. Mikael takes the job, reluctantly, because the powerful person he "libeled" is threatening to close down his news magazine if he does not quit the organization. Mikael hires Lisbeth to help him. They have to delve into Vanger family history, which makes a few people quite nervous. Mikael and Lisbeth uncover all kinds of things about the Vanger family; some are sad and some are shocking.

Lisbeth is a strange person. Labeled as mentally handicapped when she was a child, she has been under the supervision of a guardian all her life. When her old and benevolent guardian retires, she gets assigned to a new, and unscrupulous, one. This man violates her in several ways. Lisbeth is absolutely not mentally handicapped and sees the world quite clearly. She decides to teach her guardian a lesson he will never forget and she manages to scare the ever-loving shit out of him, thus neutralizing him. That scene alone is worth the price of the book.

Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004, was a talented storyteller, to put it mildly. He wrote mysteries at night to relax. I have yet to read the other two books in the series, but they are definitely on my reading list.

Changing Habits, by Debbie Macomber. This was an interesting novel to read, but it is not one of my favorite Macomber books.

Three young women enter a Minneapolis convent: Angelina, who believed she was called by God; Kathleen, whose devout Irish Catholic family always assumed that she would become a nun; and Joanna, who is trying to escape the heartbreak of having her fiance come home from Vietnam with a pregnant bride. These three women spend years in the convent, all as teachers in the convent school. They each face a crisis and finally decide to return to the secular world. Most of the book is taken up with their lives as nuns, then the action jumps to a reunion that marks the closing of the convent, long after they have settled back into society. The ending was satisfying but you see it coming.

Fast Women, by Jennifer Crusie. This was a rollicking good mystery slash love story. Nell Dysart, recently divorced, gets hired at a run down detective agency, owned by Gabe McKenna and his cousin Riley. Nell and Gabe each think that the other will be easy to handle, but boy are they both wrong! Nell wants to spruce the place up, but Gabe wants everything left the way it is, as his father left it. There is a butting of heads but also some sparks flying. In her efforts to clean the office, Nell finds some interesting stuff, which brings up all kinds of questions. Bodies start hitting the floor, adding to the other questions.

I enjoyed this book, and I will read more of Crusie's novels. It was funny, well-written, had a good love story, and the mystery part was excellent. Go read it.

The Goddess of Fried Okra, by Jean Brashear.

(I confess. I lifted this review straight out of Amazon.com.)

Grief. Hope. Love. Sword fights. And the crisp glory of fried okra. Ex-cocktail waitress and "convenience store professional" Eudora "Pea" O'Brien is filled with grief and regret, low on cash and all alone. Headed down the hot, dusty back roads of central Texas, Pea is convinced she'll find a sign leading her to the reincarnated soul of the sister who raised her. A sign that she's found her place in the world of the living again. At least that's what the psychic promised. In an unforgettably funny and poignant journey, Pea collects an unlikely family of strays--a starving kitten, a pregnant teenager, a sexy con man trying to go straight, and a ferocious gun dealer named Glory, who introduces Pea to the amazing, sword-wielding warrior goddesses of Texas author Robert E. Howard--creator of the Conan the Barbarian novels-and celebrated in festival every year. Six foot tall, red-headed Pea looks good with a sword in her hand. Glory, the goddesses, and a grandmotherly café owner become Pea's unlikely gurus as she struggles to learn swordplay and the art of perfect fried okra. She'll have to master both if she's going to find what matters most--her own lost soul. "Jean Brashear writes with warmth and emotion truth. The depth of her understanding of human nature marks her as a writer to watch, a writer to read and a writer to enjoy." Cathy Maxwell.

This book was one of those serendipitous finds on Amazon. I was browsing and this one came up as a FREE Kindle edition. I read the reviews and decided I might like it. And it was FREE. (I don't know why it was free, but it's not now.) Anyway, I downloaded it and enjoyed it very much. Brashear really draws you into the story.

OK, that's enough for today. I'll have some more later. Y'all take care!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Love Bacon

Bridget passed on the Ten on Tuesday 10 Reasons to Love Bacon because she is a vegetarian. But I am an omnivore, so I think I'll give it a shot.

Breakfast. This is a multi-part reason because I am a breakfast freak.

1. Bacon, eggs, and grits: This is a classic. You can get it in Waffle Houses and Denny's all over the place, but at home is best. I like my eggs either scrambled or over easy; butter on my grits; and my bacon crisply fried.

2. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich: When I was living/working in Charleston, the marine lab where I was employed had a snack bar and the nice lady who ran it would make sandwiches and hot dogs to order. Her bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches became legendary. I used to skip breakfast at home, just so I could have one of those sandwiches. (I also gained a lot of weight on them, not that I needed to.) They were a gastronomical delight.

3. Bacon alongside a stack of pancakes, with maple syrup drizzled on both. The combination of sweet and savory makes my mouth water even as I write this.

OK, enough with breakfast.

4. BLTs. Bacon, lettuce, and ripe, red tomato slices on whole-wheat or 12-grain bread. Plenty of mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. This is best made at home, too.

5. Clam chowder. The first ingredient to go in the pot is bacon. After it is fried crispy and drained, the rest of the chowder is assembled and the bacon goes back in at the end. Twenty minutes of simmering and you have a nice, thick pot of heaven.

6. Canadian bacon, pineapple, and mushrooms on a pizza. I came up with this combination when I was in library school in Seattle, and I asked Pizza Haven (on The Ave), to put mushrooms on my Hawaiian pizza. I liked it so well that my Hawaiian pizza now always has 'shrooms.

7. I love the aroma of bacon frying. I would rather my house smelled of bacon than cookies.

8. Bacon grease cooked in green beans. Richard and I are Southerners, so we don't really love crisp green beans, though we will eat them with gusto when presented with them. But at home, we cook our green beans to death, with chicken broth and bacon grease. Yummy.

9. Similar to #7, I love the smell of onions cooking in bacon fat. It's usually the beginning of a recipe that may eventually turn into something like a pot of chili.

10. As Emeril Lagasse is always telling us: "Pork fat rules!" He has never explained what the pork fat rules are, however.

From this list, you might think we eat bacon and its by-product on a regular basis, but we don't. We use far more olive oil and canola oil than we ever would of bacon or bacon grease. But we do break down and indulge every two or three months.

Bacon is a good thing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How Does Grown Up Feel?

I rolled over another birthday recently.

When I was in my early thirties and my mother was in her middle fifties, I read an article in a women's magazine about being a grownup. The main point of the article was the author's wondering when she would feel like a grownup. I realized then that I didn't feel like a grownup, had no idea what that would feel like.

I told my mother about the article, and she said, "You know, I've been wondering about that, myself." Well... I was surprised that Mama did not feel grownup yet, and I felt a sense of freedom, that I really didn't have to worry about it yet.

As this recent birthday passed, I got to thinking again about that conversation with Mama. I think I have achieved grownupedness. I feel mature enough to deal with life. I'm less intimidated by those above me in the pecking order. New situations don't scare me. I am no longer a person to be messed with.

I am one of those post-WWII baby boomers. I grew up during a time when children were seen and not heard and men were believed to be superior to women in all areas (if that ain't a load of horse manure, I don't know what is). Now that I've gotten over those crappy societal expectations, I'm a happier person.

However... though I feel grown up, I do not feel old.

Growing old is inevitable; growing up is not.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Is A Romance?

At one time I thought I knew the answer to that question.

Two blog posts ago, I wrote about trying to read a romance. I had always thought that "romance novel" = "dismally bad writing, and even worse storytelling," the kind of writing that made your stomach turn over. The book I tried to read a couple of weeks ago was like that: really horrendously bad writing and a thin story line. I couldn't finish it, even though the author is a New York Times bestseller. (I'm still shaking my head about that one.)

Lene, bless her heart, thought I was lumping all romances into that bad, dominant male/wimpy female category. And I was. She suggested that I read Jennifer Crusie's Fast Women. So I did.

Well... Jennifer Crusie can write. I enjoyed Fast Women immensely. It had good prose, lots of action, believable romance, mystery, danger, conflict, and character growth. I think the key for me was the believable romance.

If Fast Women is an example of good romance writing, then I've been reading quite a bit of it lately. I just thought I was reading good books.

I have some more thinking to do.

Whatever you do, I'd recommend NOT reading that author I mentioned in the other blog post. She might be a very nice person and she might live in my mother-in-law's hometown, but I don't think I'll be looking her up the next time I go there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Wanna Go To New England

I have never been to New England. The farthest northeast that I have gone is New York. No, wait; I lied. I did change planes at Logan in Boston on my way to London, but it was nighttime and I didn't even get to see any of the landscape, or cityscape for that matter.

So I took a virtual tour of sights in New England by going to Google Images. Here are a few of them:

Clam chowdah! I make clam chowder, and Richard and I think it's quite tasty, but I want to have some chowdah, made with fresh clams in New England by a New Englander.

Since I started out with food, I'll continue with that theme for a bit. Here is some nice blueberry coffee cake. It's nice that something that is so good for you is also very yummy. (Now you know I'm not taking about the cake part, but the blueberries.)

I've never had a lobster roll. I'm saving myself for the lobster roll I'll get in Maine.

Of course I have to see the autumn leaves and the picturesque towns. The southern Appalachians have nice fall color (take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in October), but just because you've seen one location's fall foliage doesn't mean you've seen them all.

Visiting some coastal wildlife would be fun. A whale-spotting tour on a boat could also be fun.

I'll bet spring in New England is gorgeous.

And, finally, it would just be wrong to go to New England without visiting a few lighthouses.

If anybody reading this has any suggestions for what else I should see in New England, I welcome the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Tried To Read A Romance...


I came across a romance novel in the library last week and decided to give it a try. The cover was attractive (no ripped bodice or washboard abs) and the first page showed promise. The last time I attempted to read a romance was 1994. I had just met the author so I bought one of her books. The first page was horrendous, so I closed the book and I have no idea where that book got to.

The book I picked up last week is Dangerous, by Diana Palmer. The whole first chapter is blatant exposition. For those who don't know what that means, exposition is the "telling" of backstory rather than "showing." (Major rule of writing: Show, don't tell.) In this case, characters are having conversations in which they are telling each other things that they both already know. This is a weak device for getting across backstory. I could have tolerated it if there was a half page or less of it, but it went on and on and on and on.

I kept reading (sort of like watching a NASCAR race to see who crashes and burns first) because I kept telling myself that I should give it a chance. Along about page 50 we got our first intimate scene where the enigmatic cowboy kisses the shy girl, only he doesn't just kiss her, he "ground his mouth into hers."

It's hard to laugh out loud and gag at the same time.

When I got to the next page, where he is being manly and she is being meek and submissive, I slammed the book shut and tried to get the contamination off my favorite bookmark.

This book was so badly written, it's hard to believe that Publisher's Weekly said, "Palmer demonstrates, yet again, why she's the queen of desperado quests for justice and true love." The publishing industry must have very low standards for romance writers, and what does that say about the readers who are addicted to romance novels?

It boggles the mind.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Latest in My Long List of Book Reviews...

Nature Girl, by Carl Hiaasen. Honey Santana thinks people should just act right. When a clueless telemarketer, Boyd Shreave, calls her during dinner, she tries to teach him some manners and he calls her a “dried up old skank.” Honey, who frequently hears two songs playing in her head at the same time, cooks up a plan to really teach Boyd something. She tricks him into coming to Florida by pretending to be a telemarketer herself and offering a deal he can’t pass up. When he gets to Florida, Honey takes Boyd and his girlfriend to one of the Ten Thousand Islands, hoping he will learn to appreciate nature and goodness, but Boyd is bulletproof and behaves like a spoiled brat the whole time. Things are complicated by an unwashed (literally) fishmonger/stalker named Louis Piejack; a half Seminole and his “hostage;” and Honey’s ex-husband Perry and her son Fry. They all end up on the island and Hiaasen’s hilarious ridiculousness ensues. Things get resolved -- mostly -- and I found this novel to be quite a page-turner. Very enjoyable.

The Vintage Caper, by Peter Mayle. When a hot-shot Hollywood lawyer's most treasured and expensive wines are stolen, his insurance company calls in Sam Levitt, a gourmand and lawyer-of-all-trades with a varied background, to investigate. The investigation takes Sam to Paris and Bordeaux, where he hooks up with the elegant insurance agent Sophie Costes, a fellow wine and food snob. The trail finally leads them to a man named Francis Reboul in Marseille, and soon, with the help of Sophie's journalist cousin, Phillipe, they get an in with Reboul and close in on closing the caper. While the plot may be predictable, the pleasures of this very French adventure—and there are many—aren't in the resolution, of course, but in the pleasant stroll through the provinces and in the glasses of wine downed and decadent meals consumed. (Publisher’s Weekly review)

Lean Mean Thirteen, by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum works as a bail bondswoman for her cousin Vinnie in Trenton. She's mostly in love with Morelli the cop, who calls her Cupcake, but she's also mesmerized by Ranger, who works serious security and calls her Babe—a split in nomenclature that aptly characterizes this delectable long-running series. Ranger needs Stephanie to plant a bug on her ex, the ever-smarmy attorney Dickie Orr. When Dickie goes missing, a lot of bad people and places start to blow up, burn up, and turn up. Evanovich smoothly slips from the hilarious to the hair-raising, from the erotic to the familial, carrying the running jokes we love so well: exploding taxidermy (a regular plot point here); waiting for the cable repair guy ("those fuckers!" say at least half a dozen characters); Stephanie's oddball assortment of colleagues, buddies, and relatives. Stephanie saves herself in the end, as usual, but both Ranger and Morelli mop up the mess, also as usual. We end with pizza and a tangled tale of underwear. (Booklist review by GraceAnne A. DeCandido) I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found myself laughing out loud frequently.

Return to Sullivan’s Island, by Dorothea Benton Frank. Frank creates a world in which aspiring writer Beth Hayes, whose chirpy internal monologues and quiet uncertainties make her easily endearing, is as much a character as the house she lives in. After graduating from college in Boston, Beth returns to the South to spend a year house-sitting her family's home, Island Gamble, while her mother, Susan, visits Paris. Frank's portrayal of a large and complicated family is humorous and precise: there's Susan, adoring and kind; Aunt Maggie, a stickler for manners; twin aunts Sophie and Allison, who run an exercise-and-vitamin empire; and uncles Timmy and Henry, the latter of whom has ties to Beth's trust fund. Frank's lovable characters occasionally stymie her pace; there's almost no room left for Beth's friends or her love affairs with sleazy Max Mitchell and cherubic Woody Morrison, though these become important later on. Frank is frequently funny, and she weaves in a dark undercurrent that incites some surprising late-book developments. Tight storytelling, winsomely oddball characters and touches of Southern magic make this a winner. (Publisher’s Weekly review) I found Beth to be flighty and somewhat immature for a 23-year-old, but overall I enjoyed reading this novel.

Just Desserts, by Barbara Bretton. Finn Rafferty shows up at Hayley Goldstein’s bakery in New Jersey to order a cake for a world-famous rock star’s concert after-party in Atlantic City. Hayley is a little skeptical at first, but the contract is negotiated and Hayley and her staff start designing the cake. This is the chance of a lifetime. She can afford to upgrade her baker’s kitchen and pay off a few bills. What Hayley doesn’t know is that she is the aging rock star’s long lost daughter. Finn, attracted to Hayley, promises not to tell her even though he hates keeping it from her. When she finally finds out, her world is turned turned upside down, and Hayley will need help letting down her guard and hanging onto the things that matter most. And the rocker's lawyer, Finn Rafferty, may just be the man for the job.

Time Is a River, by Mary Alice Monroe. Mary Alice Monroe is becoming one of my favorite authors. Years ago I abandoned mainstream novels for mysteries, but I’m finding lately that I’m enjoying them again. Time Is a River is the second of Monroe’s novels that I’ve read (the other was Last Light Over Carolina, which is coming out in trade paperback). Mia Landan is a breast-cancer survivor. Her older sister sends her to a retreat in the mountains outside of Asheville, NC, called Casting for Recovery where she learns to fly-fish and shares her feelings with other breast cancer survivors. The retreat makes her feel much better and she goes home to Charleston a day early and surprises her husband in bed with another woman. Mia runs from the house, gets in the car, and drives back to North Carolina. She stays in a small cabin that belongs to Belle Carson, her fly-fishing guide and the leader of the retreat. As Mia lives in the cabin and goes fishing on the river, she begins to learn who she is and just where she fits into her own life. As she gets to know the people of Watkins Mill, the small mountain town near the cabin, she learns of a mystery that has cast a pall over the town and especially over Belle. Even though Belle tells her to leave it alone, Mia must find out the truth. Along the way, she makes friends of many of the townspeople. The town librarian and the local newspaper editor/town historian help her in her quest. As she gets to know the focus of the mystery, she learns more about herself and nature and fly-fishing. There is a romance in this novel, but it is not the main plot. It's handled beautifully. It’s a heartwarming story, well-told and well-plotted, and it has a very satisfying ending. Mary Alice Monroe is an excellent writer. I’m going to read more of her novels.

I swear, I'm going to get some knitting done and try to tone down this reading frenzy. I'm making a sweater with a peace symbol knit into the front. I've finished the back and I'm almost to the point where I have to start the design on the front. The yarn is a lovely green called malachite, and it's made of Pima cotton and Tencel (50/50). Very soft and silky. I'll have more information later on.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cat Behavior 101 (and other stuff)

On Saturday I wanted to knit on my sweater, so I settled in the recliner (my favorite place to knit), got out the knitting, saw that I was near the end of the skein, and tied on a new yarn end. Just as I was getting ready to start a new row, Bagheera jumped into my lap. I put her on the floor and, just like a yo-yo, she jumped right back up. We went through this several times, and then I thought, maybe if I moved the knitting a little further down on my lap, she'll see there is not enough room for her and go away. So I tried that. She jumped up on the arm of the chair, assessed the situation, and then climbed onto my chest and settled down. I decided I didn't want to go through this routine for the rest of the afternoon, so I gave up and put away my knitting. Of course, Bagheera jumped down then and ignored me for the rest of the day. I didn't dare pick up my knitting again because I knew she'd start all over. Damn cat.

Lila had to have knee surgery. She did the same thing that Fido did: she blew out a ligament. Richard took her to the vet and I picked her up the next day. She's doing fine, but with her hind leg shaved rather drastically, she looks like she has a raw chicken leg hanging off her hip. Cat hair grows pretty slowly so it'll be a while before she looks normal again. The nice thing is that she is no longer limping. She's not jumping up on the bed any more. I guess she realizes her limitations. Her new thing, when she wants on the bed in the middle of the night, is clawing the box spring on Richard's side of the bed. He eventually wakes up and lifts her onto the bed and she is so happy. She gets between us and purrs very loudly.

I am now addicted to my Kindle. I just downloaded another two books today. I won't ever grow averse to reading an actual hard-copy book (which is a good thing as not every book comes in a Kindle edition), but I do look forward to saving space on the bookshelves. I've started selling my books on Amazon, and while there is not a mad rush to buy my books, I did sell a few recently. That was gratifying.

Last Friday was a very high-calorie day. First off, we had a staff meeting to which our director brought Krispy Kreme donuts. I think I had four or five (love me some Krispy Kreme donuts). I thought I was safe for the rest of the day, but Theresa invited me to go out to lunch to celebrate Debbie’s birthday. We went to the King Buffet (Asian food), where I had only one plate of food, but then somebody broke out the birthday cake, a chocolate-on-chocolate, multi-layer cake from Mi Lady Bakery. Debbie cut me a sizeable piece, which I polished off. Along about 2:00 pm my stomach was feeling a little over-sugared, but I wasn’t done yet. For dinner, Richard and I went out with a crowd to celebrate Renata’s and Joe’s birthdays. We went to the Coconut Asian Bistro. I had my usual egg rolls and shrimp fried rice. Coconut is kind of a noisy place when you get twenty people at one long table, all talking at once and shouting from one end of the table to the other. After a while, the restaurant staff brought out the two cakes that Bret had procured: a chocolate cake and a caramel cake. I was going to forego cake but there was a spare piece of caramel floating around, so I said, “Oh, what the hell,” and I ate it. After abusing my stomach all day, I had to take several doses of bicarbonate of soda to be able to sleep that night. I ate lightly for the rest of the weekend and I have recovered. I will try never to do that again. (Famous last words…).

As you can see, nothing exciting has happened to me lately (except for the dealings with Amazon), but I hope you have been mildly amused. I try.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Apparently, All I Do Is Read

Here are some more book reviews. Happy reading!!

The Crack in the Lens, by Steve Hockensmith. This is the fourth installment in Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series. Set in 1893, a few weeks after the events of 2008's The Black Dove, Hockensmith's excellent fourth mystery to feature Otto Big Red Amlingmeyer and his older brother, Gustav (aka Old Red), takes them to San Marcos, Tex. The laconic Old Red, whose life took an unexpected turn after his brother introduced him to the deductive methods of Sherlock Holmes, reveals that the love of his life, hooker Gertrude Eichelberger, was murdered in San Marcos five years earlier. The pair's efforts to investigate put them at odds with the local pimps as well as the law. The brothers discover that Gertrude was but the first victim of a serial killer, who modeled his crimes after Jack the Ripper. The personal stake Old Red has in catching the murderer adds an emotional dimension to the puzzle, which Edgar-finalist Hockensmith nicely leavens with witty prose and cliffhanging chapter endings. (from Publisher’s Weekly, lifted straight from Amazon)

Laced with Magic, by Barbara Bretton. Laced with Magic is Bretton’s sequel to Casting Spells. Half-sorceress Chloe Hobbs and policeman Luke MacKenzie, the only humans in the sleepy Vermont town of Sugar Maple, face worldly and unearthly challenges in this sweetly charming sequel to 2008's Casting Spells. When Luke's ex-wife, Karen, shows up in town claiming that their dead daughter is trying to ask them for help, Chloe must deal with smalltown gossip and fix her relationship with Luke while she battles her old Fae enemy, Isadora, over the child's spirit and the future of Sugar Maple. Bretton seamlessly blends a playful world of eccentric and meddling supernatural creatures living in the midst of New England with a warm, natural and romantic story and just a hint of mystery. Scenes in Chloe's yarn shop and helpful knitting tips hold extra appeal for yarn aficionados while never distracting from the plot. (ditto)

The Black Cat, by Martha Grimes. I think Martha has been reading too much Rita Mae Brown. In The Black Cat, animals talk to each other and try to send telepathic messages to our hero, Richard Jury. Harry Johnson (from The Old Wine Shades) appears in this novel also, and Jury really wants him to turn out to be the killer. Many of the clues point to Harry, but Jury can’t quite pin him down (read The Old Wine Shades; you’ll see why). The victims in this story are all call girls from different escort agencies, so finding something in common besides their call-girl status, proves very frustrating. The linking clue comes in an unexpected way and Jury is finally able to solve the murders. Publisher’s Weekly didn’t like it very much, but I enjoyed this book.

Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark. I had never read any of Clark’s novels before and I enjoyed this one, for the most part. There was a subplot that could have been left out altogether and it would not have made a bit of difference in the novel. Other than that, Clark weaves a pretty good story. County prosecutor Emily Wallace is involved in a case trying to convict a man of shooting his ex-wife, a famous Broadway actress. Her star witness is a career thief who testifies that the husband, Gregg, paid him money to off his wife, Natalie. The thief also testifies that he did not go through with the job because he was a thief, not a killer. He has a piece of information that seemingly clinches Gregg’s fate. The suspense continues through the whole book and when you find out whether or not Gregg did the deed, it’s a good surprise. I think the story was well-plotted (except for that unnecessary subplot) and fast-paced and I did actually enjoy it.

Hissy Fit, by Mary Kay Andrews. I used to read Mary Kay Andrews’s books when she was writing as Kathy Hogan Trocheck (Callahan Garrity mysteries). Now she’s writing mainstream romances with a little bit of mystery thrown in and it really works. This is the first book I read on my Kindle and I love that thing. In the novel, Keeley Murdock, at the rehearsal dinner for her wedding to A.J. Jernigan, finds A.J. screwing her maid of honor and supposed best friend on the table in the board room of the country club. Keeley pitches the hissy fit of all hissy fits, calls off the wedding, and storms out. She lives in the small town of Madison, GA, and word is all over town before she even gets home. She gets a ride from Will Mahoney, who was at the rehearsal. Will wants Keeley, an interior decorator, to help him restore an antebellum mansion outside of town. He needs the job to impress a woman he’s never met, but only seen on TV, enough that she will want to marry him and settle down in the house. Keeley of course thinks he’s lost his mind, and she declines, mostly because she is so distraught about her ruined wedding plans. Will has an impossible deadline, too. Suffice it to say she comes around and agrees to do the job, insane deadline and all. The mystery in this novel is that Keeley’s mother, Jeanine, disappeared 25 years earlier, and everybody thinks she ran off to parts unknown with Darvis Kane, a car salesman. The story gets into town gossip about all the illicit affairs of various prominent citizens. Keeley becomes determined to find out what happened to her mother, and gets the help of her best friend, florist Austin LaFleur. Andrews brings all the plots and subplots together nicely, writes a good story, and winds it up to a very satisfactory ending. I was enjoying this book so much, I was a little bereft when it ended. Needless to say, I will be reading more of Mary Kay Andrews’s books.

I am loving the Kindle and I'm glad I bought it. Kindle editions are cheaper than hard-copy books, there are no shipping charges, and no waiting days for books to arrive in the mail.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Giving In

I have been resisting buying a Kindle, but because of all the books I have cluttering up the house, I may have to go that route. I'm going to try selling my books online. Not all of them, of course, but most of them. Maybe then I can afford the Kindle.

I have many first-edition mysteries, all with the book jackets intact and all in like-new condition. I love the feel and smell of a brand new hardback book. I like turning pages. I like looking at the place where my bookmark is to see how long it will be before I find out whodunit or whether or not the lovers unite (not meant as a double entendre, Theresa). I love settling down in my chair with a cat and a book.

But, Lordy, I have a lot of books!

This is one of two bookcases in the house that Richard did not build. It has space for a few more books, but not many, as you can see.

This is the bookcase in the breakfast nook, with most of our cookbooks on it.

The wall of bookshelves that Richard built.

The bookcase with all my writing books in it.

Bookcase #1 in the bedroom.

Bookcases #2 and #3 in the bedroom.

All these bookcases that Richard built are about seven feet tall, except for the wall of shelves which goes all the way to the ceiling.

This is the bookcase in the guest bedroom, which my grandfather built.

Do I have a lot of books or what??? So you can see why it's time to give in and get a Kindle and pass on most of my hard-copy books.