Wednesday, November 25, 2009

happy thanksgiving!

I will be without computer access for a few days so I am taking this opportunity to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving! If you are going out shopping on Friday, you are insane!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Having read The Glass Castle and ReAlLy liking it (despite my doubts about its authenticity as a "memoir"), I was terribly excited to hear about Walls' first attempt at biographical fiction. Half Broke Horses is a fictionalized account of the life of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Lily was raised on a ranch and became a rancher's wife. Along the way, she earned a college degree, taught in one-room schools, drove a hearse around to pickup the school kids, mended fences, branded cattle, learned how to fly an airplane, and just in general lived her life to the fullest. Proud of her dentures, concerned that her kids learn life's lessons, and eager to build a life of stability, Lily bulls her way nonstop through life's challenges.

I liked this novel very much but it is rather choppy. If you've read The Glass Castle, this will definitely make you want to read it again and if you haven't read it, it would be a great follow up to this. I don't envy you the job of whittling out fact from fiction but both books are incredibly engaging reads!

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

In Her Fearful Symmetry, the twins have been estranged for over 20 years, Elspeth in London and Eddie flown off to Chicago with her twin's fiance. Now Elspeth has died and left her flat in London to Eddie's twin daughters, Julia and Valentina, under the conditions that they live in the flat for one year and that their parents never set foot in it. Eddie is NOT happy with the situation but sees no way out of it. The twins are desperately curious about what led to their mother and aunt's separation, but Eddie isn't telling.

Julia and Valentina are mirror twins, meaning that while all Julia's insides are where they are supposed to be, Valentina's are just the opposite and there are some health consequences for her such as a heart murmur and asthma. Julia has always been her caretaker and protector and Valentina feels smothered. This sensation only increases once they move to London and Valentina becomes attracted to her aunt's bereaved lover, Robert. Robert lives in the same building in the flat below Elspeth's and their is an upstairs neighbor, Martin, who has troubles of his own since his wife left him because of his exhausting OCD habits. Robert is a tour guide at Highgate Cemetery, which neighbors the apartment building, while he finishes his doctoral thesis on a history of the cemetery and Victorian funerary practice. Meanwhile, Elspeth is still hanging around. She is determined to alert Robert and the twins to her presence and so the haunting begins.

If this sounds convoluted, that's because it is. Several weeks later and I still can't quite decide whether I liked this book or not. I like the historical bits about Highgate Cemetery and the Victorians (Niffenegger is a tour guide there and her love of it shows!) but the characters, with the exception of Martin and his wife, are just kind of icky and unlovable. The ending was a disappointment of epic proportions but with a solution like Valentina comes up with, I never imagined a tidy denouement. It just felt choppy and rushed...sort of tacked on at the end rather than really brought to a satisfying conclusion. The Time Traveler's Wife was not my favorite book either but the overall writing and character development were much tighter and more involving for me as a reader.

aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh...the freenssssh!

Thanks Amanda!

Enter the spoof:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

! ! ! this just in ! ! !

KT has car trouble this morning so I swung by her house and picked up the whole gang! We were putting Toes' booster seat in my car and Scout had already climbed in when I heard her say, in an amazed tone of voice, "Ooooh, Aunt Holley! What is this right here?!" When I turned to see, she was pointed at the handle to roll down the window. I replied, "That's to roll down the window. Welcome to your ride in the past, Scout! It's almost like a covered wagon!"

On a similar note, at The World's Most Least Successful Yardsale this past weekend, KT's mom put out a typewriter. When the girls got there, of course they had to marvel at all the stuff they'd not noticed in their Nana's house that we were now attempting to get rid of. They crowded around the typewriter and said, "Oooh, look! A cash register!"

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

that is all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

luck is a lady

and hopefully she looks favorably upon me :-)

Yesterday's adventures included going to Georgia for sinful lottery tickets, lunch in Anniston, and a look through an antique mall.

I've already looked at the GA lottery website today but the drawing for numbers hasn't taken place yet, that'll be tonight. The jackpot is 12 million. Here's hoping. I also played one of the little scratch off cards to no avail, but it was an intense 2 minutes of anticipation and fun :-)

I love antique malls. I don't go through them too often because I have a bit of the impulse shopper coursing through my veins and I am unable to control it very well in such places but I kept it to a dull roar yesterday. It was the Apple Barrell antique mall in Anniston if any of you know of it. There are a couple of other places I would have liked to look in, but we ran out of time so I'll have to go back another day. I bought a set of three pictures of wine grapes...I have that sort of themed thing going on in my kitchen. What is in there now are color copies of the backs of Cooks Illustrated magazines and some really crappy paintings of herbs straight from my own considerably untalented hands so these will fit in perfectly. i also got a 6 candle tiered stand to put in my fireplace since I don't lay actual fires there. I tried it out as soon as I got home and it was very nice and almost like a real fire IMHO.

Between the antique mall and trying my candle stand out, I had book group. Can I just say how much I love book group and the friends I've made there? If you aren't in one (and for librarians, outside of the one you may lead at work), you should definitely think hard about it. Great friends AND discussions!

Alright! I am LEAVING this house immediately or I will sit here all day!

I haven't done anything today except farm on Facebook. My staycation is rapidly drawing to a close and I have been loving it! Some friends are having a yard sale tomorrow so I'm taking a few things over and will help out some...if I can leave this house anytime soon :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

staycation hump day

I'm having a fabulous staycation so far and am about to get the dreaded house cleaning underway. My plans for the day fell through so I've decided it will not be a complete loss. I need to do some serious scrubbing and today is the day!

Monday Mom and I met for lunch and saw the new 3D Christmas Carol. It got sucky reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes but I loved it and would definitely see it again. Just a note for anyone with young children thinking that because it says Disney everything is okay, there are some dark and rather creepy better check it out first, I'm just saying. Otherwise you'll have a kid screaming in the middle of the night saying a ghost with a ripped off bottom jaw is dragging chains up the stairs and screaming in their face. You decide.

Yesterday, we again met for lunch then went the Birmingham Museum of Art to see the Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness exhibit from the Yale University Art Gallery. I had the great pleasure to take a group of library patrons to the exhibit last week where we had a special private tour of the exhibit from the head curator of American Art at the museum and it was FaBuLoUs! I tried to remember for Mom all of the inside stories he had to share about the artwork on display. The docents in the exhibit wear "Ask Me" buttons, but they don't wait to be asked. I really wanted to say, "Thank you but we had a private tour from Dr. B last week." Unfortunately, I'm not that brave so we were followed around and talked to most of the way. They were knowledgeable and polite, but I didn't really want the help and I sure didn't ask for it.

After we finished the exhibit, I took Mom around and showed her some of my favorite things from the permanent collections. We were in the pre-Colombian section when I heard the tale-tell sounds of a drip. In my previous manufactured home, affectionately referred to as the crack house, I developed severe roof leaks which have left me with a preternatural awareness of the sound of dripping water. I knew this was not a tick, but an actual in-the-room drip. I hunted the little bastard down and it was dripping directly on to the case for a 1000 year old (or somewhere thereabouts) Incan statue. I admit it, I lost it for a few seconds. 9-1-1 was very briefly considered before my rational brain took hold and I tracked down a museum employee. Before you could blink a veritable army of curators and custodians were wheeling the case aside, drying it off, then convening to stare in puzzlement at the ceiling. It did rain unceasingly yesterday and was very gusty as well.

My good deed for the day done (and, I admit, feeling quite proud of myself), Mom and I parted ways. She didn't want to drive home in dark AND rain and I had an invite to KT's for dinner. With a couple of hours to kill, I took myself to the movies and saw Law Abiding Citizen. It has a well-earned 23% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes but it's Gerard Butler so who cares. It could have been dubbed in Korean and I would barely have noticed and certainly not cared much. He'd better watch it though, and carefully consider the beleaguered career of Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Dinner at KT's was goat cheese, red wine, and ravioli. We drank and watched hilarious videos on youtube of Flight of the Conchords songs and people being stupid. I have included one for your viewing enjoyment!

Now, sadly, grown-up life intrudes and I must clean the house. It's beginning to look a little gross. Binky seems embarrassed.

With the Lightnings by David Drake

*sigh* Disappointment. I do like military sci/fi, honest. Witness my near fangirl love for the Old Man's War universe and Robert Buettner's Orphanage series...but With the Lightnings, I just can not love. The characters are okay but there are way to many paragraphs that end with something along the lines of "it was a matter of honor and Daniel Leary was nothing without his honor!" I put quotations on it but it is not a direct quotation, or maybe it is..I don't remember. I noticed in the Pub Weekly review that his name is listed as Cassian Daniels but it's Daniel Leary in the book. I have no idea why there is a discrepancy.

The book is described as a space opera and I'll go one step further and say space soap opera. Just too many episodes of pat drama where I could imagine a tight close-up of a face twisted with confusion and self doubt, some music swelling in the background. I also notice in this PW review the phrase "crisply delineated space-age equipment." I found it just as coherent as one of Tristan Tzara's cutup poems. I blame my inability to understand complex math and science reasoning. I struggled to finish as this book just did not resonate with me.

I'll let Amazon take it from here via Publisher's Weekly since they seemed to enjoy it more than I did.

From Publishers Weekly
Veteran military SF author Drake (the Hammer's Slammers series) launches an unlikely pair of star warriors at the far-future and evil Alliance of Free Stars, which is locked in mortal combat with the Republic of Cinnabar over the wealthy trading world of Kostroma. Cheeky young Cinnabaran Lt. Cassian Daniels has quarreled with his powerful and merciless father, who has tossed him out and left him to his own slim devices. Spunky young librarian Adele Mundy is the sole survivor of her Cinnabar clan, which was wiped out in a conspiracy led by the elder Daniels. After some colorful initial posturing, Cassian and Adele pool their familial pride and anti-totalitarian views in Cassian's impromptu first command, a scratch crew trapped ashore in an Alliance coup. Together they outwit (Cassian's doing) and outshoot (Adele's forte) the bad guys. Updating dashing Horatio Hornblower tactics and vintage John Wayne heroics with crisply delineated space-age equipment, a convincing extraterrestrial setting and formidably battle-hardened female NCOs, Drake gives a familiar plot a full measure of appealing derring-do. This surely shouldn't, and probably won't, be Cassian and Adele's last adventure together.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


...another Saturday at work nearly done and thankfully it's been pretty slow. I'm petsitting so I have a steady block of Dirty Jobs to watch last night and who even knows what I'll find on the telly this evening! I don't consult lists or anything because then it would be too much like work. I'll just roam around and find something that catches my fancy...several things more like. I'll be back home tomorrow evening and then....*sigh*, then a whole week's staycation! Whatever will I do with myself? As I posted on Facebook last week, sadness is watching the very last episode of True Blood that Netflix can send you :-(

Maybe I'll order them all over again and start over as I don't imagine that Season 2 will be here any time soon. I could just read the books of course, and I will, but that takes a little time as there are a few others interested in the series right now as well. I'm equally sad because these are not widely available on preferred mode of hammering out some quality reading since I'm in the car, uninterrupted, for at least 2 hours every day.

Anyway, I am sorry to be so absent except for book reviews but my life has been fairly monotonous of late. Work, sleep, rinse, repeat...that's pretty much it. Hopefully the next week, in which I spend copious amounts of time with my mom, will yield some simply fantastic blogging fodder. Mom is usually pretty good for that, even if she doesn't know it.

And hey! I need to share Halloween photos too! Me and the new laptop will get that figured out immediately.

Gotta go. Time to shut 'er down!

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

This great, fun little adventure is a book of what I’d call biographical essays. David Sedaris is funny, wicked, irreverent, and heartbreakingly honest about the pros and cons of growing up in a (to me) large and somewhat unusual family. I have only recollections of my own family with which to compare and we were an unusual lot too, but Sedaris’ kin are just a little farther out there.

From therapy for a lisp and guitar lessons with a midget to the fastforward existence of a life lived on speed and crystal meth and the ultimate in total immersion French lessons, Sedaris has done it all. I laughed out loud regularly while reading this and am definitely interested in reading some of his other work. Another similar book that I heartily enjoyed (maybe even a little more than this one) is Jenny Lancaster’s Pretty in Plaid.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is another bookgroup selection. This is what happens when you are in three bookgroups; personal reading takes a back seat to required. It’s kind of like being in school except there are not really any tests and you frequently are provided with wine and other refreshments. That’s school I can deal with and I’m fairly certain Mr. Sedaris would agree.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Kitty marries Walter Fane more out of a need to be wed before her dull and unattractive sister than from any great idealist love for the rather dour bacteriologist. When they journey to Hong Kong, Kitty rather quickly falls into an affair with a well to-do politician, Charles Townsend. Walter learns of the affair and offers her an ultimatum: travel with him to work in a cholera-ravaged village or he will pursue the public scandal of divorcing her for adultery.

When things with Townsend don’t go as she’d planned, Kitty is forced to travel with her husband to the afflicted village. Dealing with the specter of death and her husband’s cold disdain lead Kitty to many realizations about herself and her life.

My bookgroup at work is reading fiction set in an Asian country so I was thrilled with reading The Painted Veil because I loved, loved, loved the movie! Since the book is usually better than the movie, I picked it up with much anticipation. Just to top things off, the audiobook has a fantastic narrator!

Neither the book nor the movie has what I’d call a happy ending, but the movie ends on a much more positive note. I think, possibly, the book ends more realistically. TPV was published in the mid-1920’s so it has a sort of Great Gatsby feel to it, especially as Kitty relates her upbringing and how she came to marry Walter.

I waffled back and forth between liking and hating all of the characters at one time or another and I count that as a serious point in Maugham’s favor; to be able to make the characters so real and malleable. A spoiled, yet redeemable woman, an irreverent playboy, a rigidly reserved and complex man…such is the stuff of which good drama is made! I love this book and look forward to a re-read. I did listen to it but I do own a paperback copy as well and it is one classic I’ll be holding on to for future enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

for sure not in kansas anymore

I LoVe indie horror! This is one making the festival circuit right now.

Monday, November 2, 2009