31 May 2010

Essays

I finished Chinua Achebe's The Education of a British-Protected Child today. It's a book of non-fiction essays. I've only read Arrow of God by Achebe but saw this at the library and picked it up. I enjoyed it. Some of the essays are lighter in tone, others are serious, all relate the reality of life and Africa. Check it out!

29 May 2010

Veggies!

So i picked up my first box of food from Delvin Farms today!

and since i'm doing pics...

here's my flower garden on the rails of my balcony.

for comparison, same shot of the same plants on April 4th when i planted them.

Geraniums

Mixed flowers

Nasturnium. You're supposed to be able to eat it.

and here are the tomato plants! The one on the left grew 4 inches the last 2 days, i promise! I watered it Thursday morning and it hadn't reached the horizontal rail yet.

Herbs: chocolate mint, sage, peppermint, garlic chives

more herbs. Rosemary, lemon balm, and a purple basil. and daisies.


Oh, and Chloe in her favorite spot!

I've only killed one plant so far, a gerber daisy that looked a bit sad when i got it. i've got some regular basil growing too. I hope i get to eat some of the herbs this year!

One Track Minds

I finished The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann this morning. I would call it a book of non-fiction short stories, all dealing in some way with an obsession.

Only the first story has anything to do with Sherlock Holmes though there are several people who could be called devils. There's a French man who impersonates teenagers, even being sent to the USA as the missing son of a Texas family. Did they accept him in their life because to deny he was their son might lead investigators to find they'd killed their real son? in another, a Polish man is brutally murdered and a novel published afterward leads the police to the author as a suspect. There's a story of Toto Constant, the Haitian dictator who lived for a while in Queens. The stories of a lawyer taking on the Aryan Brotherhood and another fighting the Italian mob are great crime stories. I learned about the James Traficant trial from the second one. Some stories aren't crime related but as a reader you know you wouldn't want to be the people in them. Sandhogs digging water tunnels in NYC, a firefighter who survived 9/11 but can't remember how, a biologist trying to capture a giant squid, all are men who've bound the meaning of their lives into some other event or object.

overall, a 5. one complaint is that most of the articles are several years old and only a couple have postscripts with updates on the people and events. I personally think the best chapters are the first two, dealing with the bizarre death of a Sherlock Holmes scholar and an execution in Texas of a probable innocent man. The fifth, of the NYC firefighter, is tragic and sad but also quite good.

28 May 2010

The Passage

Work was slow yesterday! I finished The Passage by Justin Cronin, which i got free from Librarything. It isn't bad. There were many things in it that i really liked. i just didn't love it.

Good but not great. the basic story is that the US Army is attempting to create a virus that will allow soldiers to heal quickly or, barring that, create a sort of super soldier. They start their human experiments on death row inmates but the last patient is a six year old girl, Amy. The convicts escape and release a plague of super strong, fast, blood drinking semi-immortals. Amy is immune to the blood lust but her aging practically stops.

Then, though, the story jumps forward 95 years and we meet several people who live in The Colony, a compound in California of survivors. The social structure is very rigid and they are surviving on technology salvaged from the past. Unfortunately, the smokes are still around and the equipment is slowly falling apart. The Colony won't be a haven for much longer. When Amy shows up, age 14 now, several people set out to discover her past.

The problem i had with this one is that Cronin spends the first 300 pages introducing Amy and her protectors and the convicts and the army personnel. so the jump to the future i felt was quite jarring and it took me a long time to really be interested in any of the future characters. He also has the habit of writing things like "if they had known it would be their last meal together, they would have talked more" before a chapter where bad things happen, which i really don't like.

One more thing: if you want to follow some advice, don't read the postscript. maybe it'll be important if this ends up being first in a series but it detracts from the really good ending just before this part.

overall, a 5 from me. If you like epic horror/sci-fi, you'll like this!

27 May 2010

BTT for 5/27

Easy one.

What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

i don't keep one by the bedside as i usually just go to sleep. but, overall i'm reading:
  1. The Passage by Justin Cronin- and ERC and i've only got 150 pages left. depending on how busy it is at work i should finish this in the next couple days.
  2. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann- non-fiction short stories. each chapter is a different story and not bad so far. I should also finish this book over the weekend.
  3. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest- just got it back from the library and i'm about halfway through. it's just slow going for me but i do want to finish it off.

also, i've got a few from the library i've not started yet.

  1. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  2. The Children's Book by AS Byatt
  3. The Education of a British-protected Child by Chinua Achebe- nonfiction for the POC challenge
  4. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

so that's my list as of today. I am really hoping to finish up the Cronin book today or maybe tomorrow. It's been pretty good.

I realized i forgot to answer part of the question! My books are on two bookcases in my living room, stacked on my desk, lined up on my windowsill in the bedroom, a couple B gave me to read on the dining room table, and in a couple boxes in the bedroom too! I've got 131 to read according to my Librarything page. Why the hell am i on the web? I need to be reading! :)

20 May 2010

A Movie, a Comic and BTT!

Iron Man 2 is quite good. B and I saw this one Wednesday afternoon. Besides nibbling off my fingernails, always a good sign, I didn't even realize the 2-odd hours had passed until the movie was over! a 6.

I finished Walking Dead Vol 10: What We Become today. More journeying. a 5. and now i have to wait and wait for the library to get 11. *sigh*

BTT!

What’s the most useful book you’ve ever read? And, why?


I'm not sure? I've read a few basic cookbooks which i'm sure have helped my kitchen skills. The Hobbit for lessons about life: riches are found in home and family and friends, not in a dragon's horde. Fast Food Nation- don't eat McDonald's. Collapse- we can only push the environment so far, we've done it before and lost that game. The God Delusion- my first angry atheist book, i really realized there were other people who had some of the same thoughts.

hope those make some sense!

18 May 2010

Alien Luv

I finished an old sci-fi book, The Lovers by Philip Jose Farmer. The hero is Hal Yarrow, a linguist. He lives in a dystopian future earth where everything in his country is run by the Sturch, a state-church conglomerate. The Sturch teaches that everything bad that happens is you fault because you unconsciously wanted it to happen. If you stub your toe, you must have wanted it, if you can't have a child you must not be sure you will have one, if you die in a plane crash, you and everyone else must have wanted to. The Sturch controls all aspects of life: where you live, who you marry, your career. everyone is expected to report on others misbehaviours; when Yarrow swears his wife gets angry because now she must report him.

Yarrow is stifled and hates his life. he seems to really enjoy his work, correlating and researching languages. He gets an opportunity to go into space when a spaceship returns after finding a new planet with intelligent life. Freed from the dreary marraige, Yarrow still contends with his gapt, or the man who watches him almost constantly, but is otherwise enjoying learning about the wog language and culture. Then, while looking at a wog temple, Yarrow sees a humanoid female, Jeanette. The title gives away that they fall in love but doesn't give away the best parts of the story.

The culture is pretty frightening. I see it as all the things the religious right wants in the US, taken to the extreme of law. The biology is a bit sketchy but this book was written in the early 1950s. I give it a 5 and recommend it if you like old science fiction.



16 May 2010

1% and a Mystery

I joined the 1% Well Read Challenge again, trying to read 13 books by April 2011. No specific to read list but all have to be off the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. I'm sloooowly working on that one anyway!

And i finished the second Flavia de Luce mystery last night. Or this morning. It was like 1 am when i finished up. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley picks up just a few weeks after the first volume ends. Flavia is playing in the Bishop's Lacey churchyard when she hears a woman, crying. She finds Nialla, a young woman stuck in town with her employer, Rupert, with their van broken down. Rupert is actually a famous puppeteer on that new-fangled gadget, TV. To pay for getting their van fixed and camping in the churchyard, they agree to put on a puppet show for the town.

As the murder didn't actually happen until about halfway through the book, i don't want to give much more away. I was actually interested in trying to figure out who it was that was going to die. Flavia is the star of the story of course. She knows that as she's eleven people either ignore or dismiss her and she plays that up for all the advantages she can get. She's brilliant, in the mental way and the slang way. We get some more information about her family, by way of Aunt Felicity, her father's sister who comes to visit. I am sure if we get enough books we'll see the mystery of Harriet unfolded. I do wish we had a little more info about why the de Luce's have money problems. The excuse the father gives is that Harriet dies without a will so lawyers have been haggling for the last 9 years. but even if the property didn't go to the husband, wouldn't it go to the girls in some sort of trust?

It is strange to read about life in 1950 Britain though. Flavia rides all over the countryside on her bike without a worry. The family doesn't have a tv and the girls aren't allowed to use the telephone. They only own Harriet's old car but don't use it, they walk most places and occasionally hire the one local taxi. It's just so different. I can imagine living then myself, but just barely. in another 25 years from now it will be even more difficult for people to imagine this time.

A 6 from me. Part 3 coming out next year, called A Red Herring without Mustard.

15 May 2010

Cold


I wish i had held back on this book until August! Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places by Bill Streever is about, obviously, the cold! Each chapter is titled after a month of the year, starting in July and finishing in June. The subjects in each chapter aren't specific to each month though, as the author lives in Alaska he does detail the seasons as they pass in his state.

The stories Streever tells wander around; if you are looking for a straightforward beginning to end book you won't find it here. For instance, the history of scientists' attempts to get down to absolute zero is spread over several chapters. He discusses how geologists realized that glaciers once covered Europe and North America, the men who failed and succeed reaching the North and South Poles, the history of refrigeration, the structure of synthetic fabrics and the biology of Arctic animals. He goes into more mundane topics, like how skis work and ice hotels.

The scatter-shot way the book flows is one thing i had a hard time with. I would start to get into a particular storyline only to loose it for another chapter or two. It also covered so much; there was breadth but not depth in the book. I could read an entire book on those explorers, or how people from various cultures handle the cold, or the history of weather prediction. Overall, i do recommend it for general knowledge reading. a 5. and hey, my first book for the Science Book Challenge!

13 May 2010

BTT for 5/13

What influences your reading?
Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?
Do blogging acquaintances count as friends? if so, then i do get a good number of recs from friends. Family not so much because my mom reads a lot of romance books. my mom has given me a couple of Pride and Prejudice continuations to read that i haven't started yet that i will probably enjoy. I pull ideas for further reading from all over though. i get recs from Amazon.com, Entertainment Weekly, the Nashville Scene, book bloggers, books i read, other non-book blogs, the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, The Daily Show, and B. all over!

09 May 2010

More Reviews!

Whew! It's not that i've read so much the last couple days, it's that i've finished several! and these two are for challenges.

For the YA Challenge I finished This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I actually think i like this one least of the three in the series (so far? are there to be more?). Of the previous ones i liked the one with Miranda the least and we are back to her diary entries on this one. Just as things are starting to get better with her family's health and food situation, her father returns with his new wife and baby as well as three other people. Alex Morales and his sister Julia joined the group as it headed back northeast. Of course, Alex and Miranda fall for each other, though other than being non-related and the same age i really don't know why. I just really don't like Miranda much. So it's a 4 from me and if you really liked the first book you'll probably like this one better.

For the Once Upon a Time 4 Challenge I listened to Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman on audio book in the car. I did about half of it on my drive back from Louisiana and the rest piecemeal since then. Mr. Nancy from American Gods is the father of Fat Charlie Nancy. Fat Charlie isn't even fat anymore but when Mr. Nancy gives something a name, it sticks. Charlie hasn't spoken to his father in years, not since just before his mother died. When his father dies, Charlie finds out he has a brother, Spider. Spider is cool, has powers of persuasion and is always at ease. He tells Charlie that their father was a god. When Spider starts messing with Charlie's life, falling for Charlie's fiancee, Charlie gets other gods involved to try to get back to normal.

It ended up being a 6. At first i didn't like it much, Charlie is so passive and apologetic about everything that you just want to shake him! But then he starts to figure stuff out, accept himself, and begins to act. There are just so many lines that were so great. I keep giggling over "You left your lime in reception" even now!

So, um, does anyone else watch Lost? I caught up on the last two episodes last night and i'm teary and drained and shaken and sad. Good stories do that. I actually listened to the end of Anansi Boys as i was driving back from some friends' house, just after watching Lost. In a way, listening the end of the book at that point made it so much better. Some stories are sad. Some stories are happy. Stories and songs and poems make you feel, make you learn, make you discover yourself. Could you do what Sayid does? How would you choose your way? I both can't wait until the finale and don't want the story to end.

08 May 2010

Catching up

I've finished several books the last couple days so i'll be doing a few mass review posts!

What an awesome name for a heroine! Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old English girl, the leading character in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I loved this weird little mystery. And i've already got the next one waiting for me at the library! Yay! The book is set in 1950. Flavia is brilliant and passionate about chemistry and fights incessantly with her older sisters. Their mother died several years before and they live with their father in their old country house. One night Flavia hears her father arguing with a strange man and the next morning she finds the man as he dies in their garden. His last word, "Vale", sets her on a mission to discover the killer.

That's the only bit i didn't like. I knew who the killer was very early on. I did like all the little side tracks and clues and how Flavia goes about her quest. I could see Flavia and Hermione Granger getting along very well! Overall, a 7.

I also finished up I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes by Hemant Mehta too. Mehta is the Friendly Atheist and i really enjoy his posts and articles on his blog. The book recounts how he visited several churches throughout the country after a pastor bought Mehta's soul. (heh, it is still a funny gimmick). He also talks about how he grew up a believer in the Jain religion and lost that faith as a teen. Mehta has a great voice and i enjoyed the book. However, the target audience for the book is actually believers, especially ones who have some power to make changes at their churches. so, while it's a good read, I'm just giving it a 5.

2 more tomorrow!

07 May 2010

Weekly Geeks 15-2010

I haven't done one of these for a while.
  • What series do you read where you have had an issue with one of the books in the line-up?
  • Do you cut the author loose after one miss, or do you have a limit of failed books in a series before you toss in the towel?
  • What's your suggestion for that book that you struggle with in a series.
Hmm.

I guess I would say i've a very loose, two bad book limit for authors in general, which would include series. if the series has been really enjoyable and i don't like one book, i'll probably still give the next a try. Unless it's gone off in a direction i don't like.

For example, I don't know that i will read any more of Mercedes Lackey's new Valdemar books as they've become really repetitive. the last 3 or so have been disappointing so unless she goes back to some previous characters i'll not bother. I've tried a few time to read Robert Jordan's Eye of the World series but they are so long and, well, slow. I read a couple, then need to take a break, and then can't remember a damn thing about them except they are long. so i'm done with that too. I'm actually trying to remember a series where i didn't like a middle book but enjoyed later ones and i can't do it! hmmm.

Fables 13-Crossover

I didn't really enjoy Fables Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover. The book brought characters and events from the Jack of Fables series back to the original Fables world. I've only read the first 2 books in the Jack of Fables series because i didn't like Jack and the snarky tone his books have. I do get meta-textual things but since i dislike Jack so much it makes the books unenjoyable for me. So there were many references to previous events in those books that i didn't understand. and the snarky tone permeated the whole volume which made it a downer. a 3 from me.

06 May 2010

BTT for 5/6

on finishing what you don't like.

So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half.

What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens?

Or, cut your losses and dump the second half?


It depends on what book it is. How much more do i have left? if it's a short book then i might finish it up. Is it a "classic" or for a challenge? then i may go ahead and try to tough it out. I'm currently not in school but i know i used to be required to finish those books! If B handed me one i'd also probably try to finish even if i didn't like it, at least to be able to say why. Otherwise, i've really got no problem dropping a book. The worse it is the faster i would probably stop.

05 May 2010

Nashville Update


Parts of my town are pretty bad off right now. Pictures are by my previous boyfriend, R. Here's his flickr page.

Middle TN Red Cross. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

Country music star slanted article on CNN.
Good people are doing good stuff. I'm overwhelmed. I could literally drive a mile or so down the road and stop to help at house after house. This weekend I'll be volunteering somewhere.

Article from Boston.com
with some amazing photos.

My place and those of my friends are fine. The apartment complex had some downed trees and apparently a few roof leaks but nothing serious. We're short on water as one of our plants is under water so we're "letting it mellow" at my house, using paper plates/cups, and taking navy showers. It's bizarre that so many places are destroyed but so many others are fine. The library where B works had some minor flooding and he spent Sunday hauling books and equipment upstairs

One thing many other people are also talking about is that there is apparently little coverage on many of the national news broadcasts. Unfortunately, the failed bombing in NYC is a much bigger deal because of the terrorism angle. I called my parents Sunday to tell them i was fine and neither of them had even heard about the storms! So, I'd like for anyone who reads me to please post a link to some big news site on their blog. I don't want you to link to me, just say "hey, parts of Nashville, TN are destroyed. Look here" then send people to The Tennessean or something. Please.

Thanks. Thank you.

02 May 2010

Floods

I don't know how much this is being covered nationwide. Parts of Nashville and the surrounding counties have had over a foot of rain in the last 40 hours. I'm fine camped on my couch and watching tv. I'm ripping some video from a local news station.

a couple people died when this trucker did this. insane. the river that is flowing over Interstate 24 is normally several feet under the roadway. that median is probably 3 1/2 to 4 feet high.



same spot but a little later. this is a portable classroom from a nearby school that floated onto the interstate.

so this is pretty bad.

Donations to Red Cross.
The Community Foundation of Middle TN.