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

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!