Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February Reading Reviews

February was a most fruitful month for my reading goal of 100 for 2007. Although the shortest month, I kicked it into high gear and read a book every 2 days with a few days off here and there, for a total of 12 books this month.

I have been considerably aided on my quest by PaperbackSwap--whenever I hear of a book that sounds pretty good, I order it on there when I have the credits and it comes and I'm ready to go. Additionally I took a little field trip to Riverby Books--the used bookstore here in town--and came away with several books. All in all, my "to be read" shelf is full with 20 books and I won't be bored for a while (plus I have 4 books on order from PBS).

Without further ado, the books I've read and what I've thought of them...

1. March by Geraldine Brooks. Again, this is a book club book, so I'm not going to say too, too much before our meeting on Monday. Suffice it to say that Geraldine is fast rising on my favorite authors list. When you finish her books, you really feel like you've accomplished something. Now, fortunately, there were only 2 or 3 words I didn't know in this book, and in typical grown up fashion, I did just skip them, I must confess.

March is the story of the father from the Little Women story, the tale of his early life before meeting Marmee and his entry into the Civil War. Towards the end of the book, the perspective switches over to Marmee's point of view as Mister lies unconscious in a hospital in Washington DC (I'm sorry, I truly don't know if Papa March has a first name or even if Brooks invented one for him).

Brooks has a true gift for painting pictures with her words and you could nearly smell the decay and disease in the hospitals, you could see the plantations and slave masters, you could feel the heat and the fear. I did take slight umbrage with one particular part, that being that Papa March takes up with a slave woman. I've never read Little Women, although I have seen the Katharine Hepburn movie several times, and in it and according to the letters March pens to his family in this book, his family is his top priority and they have little doubt of his love for them. Yes, I know, we're all human, but still, that seemed out of character to me... Here's a man so enamored of his wife and children that he carries locks of their hair with him wherever he goes, but when he comes upon a former slave whom he got into trouble, he can scarcely keep away from her... Something doesn't really jive for me with that picture.

Overall, an amazing book. Definitely recommended!

2 and 3. On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake. My Little House on the Prairie reading is moving along nicely. By the end of March I hope to have finished all 6 books. The first follows the Ingalls family as they move to Plum Creek to establish a wheat farm. Unfortunately for them, just as the wheat pops up and starts to look like they'll be rolling in money by the harvest, a plague of locusts swoops down and eats and destroys everything in its path. Despite the family's best efforts, the crop is destroyed and the Ingalls family has no way to pay their bills. Pa sets off to work in the east, leaving the women to fend for themselves, but when he returns, he's made enough money to keep them in their home.

Flash forward a couple of years, and you abruptly begin the next book. I can't really argue with the classics, but... Suddenly it is two years later, Mary is blind, and baby Carrie has a baby sister named Grace. The wheat crops have failed miserably, despite their best efforts, and then salvation arrives in the form of Laura's Aunt Docia, who arrives to offer Pa a job out west, working near where the new railroads are being built. Despite Ma's reservations, Pa immediately accepts the job and sells his farm to his neighbors. He uses the money to pay off their debts, and then heads west with Docia, sending for the girls later. They arrive and watch the great railroads arrive and the homesteaders come through in the winter, and Pa takes advantage and claims a homestead for his family as well. I must confess, Silver Lake has thus far been my least favorite book. Due to Mary's blindness, it spends a lot of time in description, as Pa tells Laura she must see with her words for Mary. At times, even Mary says she doesn't care to hear about everything Laura has seen, and I agree! The subject matter itself has been interesting enough, but I just didn't love it.

Still, I'm getting a real charge out of reading the Little House books, and if anyone hasn't, I'd recommend them!

4. The Mulberry Tree by Jude Devereaux. Ok, ok, granted, I've read this before. There are two books in my collection that I read occasionally when I need a light read and something kind of fun, and this is one of them. It is the story of Lillian Manville, the wife of billionaire James Manville, who is killed when his plane crashes in the middle of the night. He dies, leaving Lillian a decrepit old farm house and a mysterious note that reads, "Find out what happened." Lillian undergoes plastic surgery and moves to the farm in rural Virginia, trying to reassemble her life, which has been lived in the lap of luxury for 12 years. Now on her own, she relies on the strapping Matthew Longacre, her new boarder, and some friends to help her rebuild her life, discover the truth of what happened to her husband, and prevent her deceased husband's half-brother and half-sister from destroying the Manville empire with their narcissistic greediness.

I love this book. It is, in places, so beyond belief as to be grossly entertaining, and at the same time there are parts of it that I can't get enough of. Matthew Longacre is the leading man I love to hate--at one point he tells Lillian (who is newly-named Bailey James) that the pressure is off for them to be anything more than friends, and not two pages later, he kisses her in front of his whole entire family! Plus he agrees to rent one room from her and winds up taking over her whole entire house, and he is basically reverting back to his high school years while living at home licking his wounds from his failed marriage.

The half-brother and sister are so evil, and the people who rally around Lillian/Bailey are so overwhelmingly selfless and wealthy themselves, you really have to read this book with an eye to entertainment versus believability. James Manville makes Bill Gates look like a pauper. Seriously.

A fun, quick read, as close to a romance novel as I'll ever truly get and still enjoy it.

5. Murder in Foggy Bottom by Margaret Truman. Now, unless I'm mistaken, my parents went through a phase where they read many Margaret Truman books. So when I saw this one on the discount rack at B&N, I decided to take a crack at it, and thought Michael would enjoy it. Being set in DC and a mystery, it was sure to be his cup of tea.

The story begins with the murder of a Canadian diplomat in a park in Foggy Bottom, DC. Within 48 hours, three planes are shot out of the sky, and a whole pile of proverbial poo hits the fan. The story leaps from DC to the Pacific Northwest to Moscow, deals with a religious cult, environmental fanatics, terrorists, and everything in between. Throw in a couple of love stories and a vindictive ex-husband, and you've got Murder in Foggy Bottom

This book really lost me. I was not into it at all. Michael loved it. To me, it was just so, so scattered and way too all over the place. That's more or less all I have to say about it. I don't recommend it, but I'm sure Michael would!

6. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich. What can I say? I love Janet Evanovich, I love the Stephanie Plum series. It is the sole series of books that every single time I read them, they cause me to laugh out loud. Every one of them has been clever and well written and absolutely hilarious.

This is a "between the numbers" book, meaning she just wrote a small Plum book to keep us entertained after releasing #13 recently. In it, Stephanie agrees to help out a match maker with her most difficult clients, one of whom is her sister Valerie's fiance, who faints at the idea of getting married.

Very short book, not overly taxing, but a whole lot of fun!!! If you love Plum, you'll enjoy this.

7. Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini. The second of the Elm Creek Quilt novels, the first of which I read last month. In this book, the Elm Creek Quilters have set up a camp in Sylvia Compson's estate, in which different quilters come to stay and learn quilting or work on quilting projects while learning new techniques. All of the Elm Creek Quilters work on their personal lives during this book. For instance, Sarah is shocked when her mother enrolls in the camp and decides to stay for several months and try to mend fences with her daughter, who wants nothing to do with it. Diane copes with the joys of being a mom to two radically different teenage sons, while Bonnie discovers her husband is having an affair with a woman on the internet. Judy receives a letter in the mail from her half-sister, her father's daughter (her father is a Vietnam veteran, her mother a Vietnamese woman, you do the math), while Sylvia is revisited by a blast from her past.

I enjoyed this book a whole lot better than the first one although it was still a bit saccharine. In this book, the women face real problems and go about rectifying them. I still cannot stand Sarah, I think she's the least sympathetic character in the books, and sadly is one of the main characters. In a funny bit of life imitating art, there was a scene in which Sarah's mother suggests that Sarah cut the carrots she's working on differently so that they won't roll around the counter. Just before reading it, Judy was making me some chicken noodle soup and zinging carrots all over the kitchen. I recommended she cut them differently. That kind of tickled my fancy.

So all in all, a good quick read, not one of my favorites for this month, but definitely a good one. Somewhere in the middle.

8. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. A winner of the Pen Hemingway Award, Housekeeping is the story of Ruthie and Lillian, two girls left orphaned when their mother drives herself off a cliff and into a river. They move in with their grandmother, who promptly dies and leaves the girls to the care of their two aunts, who are so anxious and nervous that they call upon the girls' mother's sister. Sylvie comes into town and immediately the girls lives are transformed. Not necessarily for the better. Eventually Lillian leaves and goes to live with a teacher and Ruthie becomes a younger picture of her eccentric aunt.

Housekeeping is one of the two best books I read this month. It was written like poetry, and the pages seemed to flow into one another like the river that plays so prominent a role in the entire book. Lillian and Ruthie's lives are disrupted by the deaths of the women close to them, and turned on their heads by this strange woman who has strange ideas about everything. For instance, when the town suffers through a flood, rather than go to a shelter or escape the waters rapidly rising through their home, Sylvie simply moves the girls to the second floor of the home and they live there until the floodwaters subside. Sylvie then begins to collect tin cans, and doesn't seem to mind that the girls are skipping school on a daily basis, even when the sheriff arrives. Eventually, Sylvie decides to leave town, and Ruth goes with her, leaving her sister, about whom she writes my favorite line in reading, "Having a sister is like a warm window in the dark."

I absolutely loved this book, go read it. Now.

9. The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg. This is my other favorite book of the month. I was feeling kind of pokey mid-month and didn't really feel like reading when this book popped into my mail box.

This is the second book by Berg that I've read after hearing her on the Diane Rehm show, and I absolutely love her. In Talk Before Sleep, which I read a couple of years ago, Berg explores female friendship in the face of terminal illness, a book that had me sobbing for a good hour.

In The Art of Mending, Laura Bartone is heading to her annual family reunion and looking forward to the fair and a fun and relaxed time with her children, parents, siblings, and husband. Upon her arrival, however, her black sheep sister Caroline makes some shocking allegations about their mother, and Laura must figure out how to deal with and come to terms with her sister's allegations. The matter is further complicated by a death in the family.

Berg is an amazing writer. She keeps you interested and entertained just long enough without dragging the stories out. One thing she did here that I found interesting was that she only told Caroline's stories about her mother's abuse in fits and starts, so until you read the entire book, you were never sure what the whole story truly was.

I could relate to Laura's reaction as the "big sister" to her younger sister's allegations, and when the truth of the matter emerges, to Laura's way of dealing with everything. Unlike Housekeeping, which I savored over the course of a week, I read this in one night. Couldn't put it down, and it jumpstarted my reading for the rest of the month.

Highly recommended!

10. Blessings by Anna Quindlen. I have wanted to read Blessings since it was first published some years ago and I heard an interview Anna Quindlen gave on Imus. The book was turned into a made for tv movie (I think it was a Hallmark Hall of Famer) and got rave reviews. I finally remembered to put it on my wish list and got it from PBS a week ago.

Blessings is the story of a wayward man who finds a home at Blessings estate after leaving prison. He is hired by Lydia Blessings, an elderly widow, to care for her family's home. One morning he wakes up to go about his duties and finds a box on the garage steps, and in the box is a newborn baby.

Skip attempts to conceal baby Faith from Lydia for some time, but eventually she does find out and helps Skip to keep the baby for her own reasons.

To be honest, I had built this book up so high in my head that it couldn't help but fall flat of my expectations. I liked it okay, but I didn't LOVE it. And I really, really, really wanted to love it. The story covers only the first four months of baby Faith's life, and I think I was expecting more of an epic story, that Faith would grow up and what would happen when she found out she had been abandoned, etc. None of this comes to pass.

The book was fine, but just nothing to scream about. Judging by user reviews on, I am in the minority on this one. But I've already re-listed it to send it back out. Not worth keeping on my shelves. I'm glad I read it and got it out of my system, but nothing I would return to again!

11. Double Shot by Diane Mott Davidson. I am a big fan of the Goldy Bear catering mysteries, although I must confess it's been a while since I've read one, and she's published two books since I last read her work! In this offering, Goldy is the prime suspect in the murder of her ex-husband, the Jerk, and I for one was cheering, as I was a bit tired of the Jerk showing up in every single book and being such a pain in the rear end.

I thoroughly enjoyed Double Shot, although there was a LOT of death in it, including the death of the town's gossip columnist, which I think could be a huge loss to the series. Of course, Goldy and Marla are up to their usual hijinx, and Marla is more and more a source of information, so perhaps she will become the new town gossip...

This was not my favorite book in the series, which remains reserved for Dying for Chocolate, with great literary character General Bo Farquhar. Still, it was a good read, and definitely a great addition to the Goldy Bear series. Goldy's son is becoming more human in his teenage years and it was nice to see Julian back a bit. The recipes look great, although I haven't yet tried them! I'm definitely going to make the almond cookies. Certainly worth the read if you're a fan of the series, if not, start with the aforementioned Chocolate.

12. Rotten Rejections, edited by Andre Bernard. With the spectacular crash and burn of chapter 1 of my novel in the recent contest in which I entered it (I think I ended up with a less than 5 star rating), when I saw this book in Riverby's, I had to pick it up. It is a compendium of all the rejection letters publishers wish they had never written. It made me feel quite good about my own tentative forays into the world of publishing, as I learned through the book that many authors have self published to begin with and moved on to bigger and better things once their book has been read. More and more I'm sure that's what I'll have to do, although I will submit it to a few places that are accepting books right now, just to see. Among the authors whose letters are listed are E.L. Doctorow, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Rudyard Kipling.

My personal favorite was a rejection George Orwell received for Animal Farm, which stated: What was needed was not more communism, but more public-spirited pigs.

It was a really fun and quick little read and I agree with the reviewer who wrote, "the perfect book for any writer, amateur or professional."

So, a great month over all... To break it to down:

Great Books:

March, Housekeeping, The Art of Mending, and Rotten Rejections

Good Books:

On the Banks of Plum Creek, The Mulberry Tree, Plum Loving, Round Robin, Double Shot

OK Books:

Blessings, By the Shores of Silver Lake


Murder at Foggy Bottom

Totals for the year:

February: 12 books
2007 Total: 18 books

February # of pages: 3461
Total # of pages: 5413

Upcoming reads...

Well, as I said, my TBR shelf is quite full. I'm looking forward most especially to Unless by Carol Shields, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (book club selection of the month), The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel, and Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley.

A lot of reading, but it'll be fun! (I'm giving my brain 2/28 to recharge)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

BookMooch v. Paperback Swap

On my quest to get some free/cheap books for my 100 Books for 2007 goal, after hearing about PaperbackSwap, I signed up for it, and then Lesley told me about so I've signed up for that one as well. It's been a couple of weeks since I've used both sites, and I'm here with my pros and cons of each one!

I signed up for and listed 15 books with each site. This gave me 3 credits on PaperbackSwap and 2.7 credits on

Ok, so here's the deal. I like certain aspects of each site better than the other. If they could combine their two ideas into one site, it would kick tail.


On Paperback Swap, you get your initial 3 credits for posting 9 books. You can post 100 more books and get no more credits for posting books. I find that disappointing. I've now posted 30+ books on PaperbackSwap and have zero credits, since I've requested several books. The only way I've found to add credits to my account so I can get more books, apart from swapping books (I'll get to that), is to purchase quick credits for $2.75 a piece. Now, that's not bad for a book, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than $12 for a paperback or $24+ for a hardcover. But still, I'm contributing a pile of books to your site, and by rights, I should have at least 9 credits for all those books, and instead have zero.

BookMooch is the same. You get your initial credits, and then that's it, until your books are requested. However, what's slightly different about BookMooch (and slightly better) is that if you contribute to the site in some way (leaving feedback, for example), then you get 1/10th of a credit. For instance, I received a book in the mail a couple of days ago, and just logged on to say how I felt about the transaction, and they awarded me 1/10 of a point for the effort. The downside is that I don't really see what I can get for 7/10 of a point I have at the moment.

Still, on this one, I give the slight edge to BookMooch.

Ease of Use

Both sites have their ups and downs.

For my money, BM is a little bit clunkier. You have to log on in one of those pop up windows each time you go to the site after shutting your browser, while PBS remembers you.

The colors are nicer on the BM site, and I like their 3 book logo better than the 3 recycling arrows of PBS. BM's navigation menu is in tabs across the top, while PBS's are larger and along the left hand side of the site. Neither one is difficult to read, but PBS's are ever so slightly easier.

I'm giving this one to PBS, but only by a hair.

Searching for Books

The minute you open the PBS site, you can do a search from the homepage. With BM, you have to log in and then click on "Browse" and then you can search. However, with BM, once you're logged in, your information is immediately displayed on the main page (# of credits, # of swaps, etc.). On PBS, you have to click on "Name's Account" before you can see your credit and swapping information.

Where their search pages are concerned, the BM site is a bit more spartan. When logging on to search for books, you can search the site, search or search a particular member's book shelf. Those are all the options listed.

When clicking on the search page for PBS, you can search by title, author, or ISBN, click a new tab and search by member, or browse genres (they also have subcategories), click by letter to search by title or author (if you're too lazy to type it in), or you can see the most recently posted and popular books. If you do a search and the book you want is not listed in the system, you can do a search of "unposted books" and add the book to your wish list.

Now, I've done a basic search on the book The Ha Ha by Dave King, which is a book I'm dying to get my hands on. When I search "The Ha Ha", it is the first book that comes up on the PBS site. When I search for it on BM, it does not come up at all. So I also search Dave King. Dave King doesn't show up on BM. However, at the bottom of the BM search results page, I can "search unavailable books" and when I do so, Dave King's The Ha Ha comes up as the first book. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say, I did find the book on BM a couple of days ago and ordered it.)

So on this one, I must say, PBS wins for being more intuitive and less work.


Each site makes it fairly easy to swap. Obviously, since this is the whole point of the site, but once you've navigated the search and found your book, all you do is click on "Order this book" or "Mooch this Book" and you move on to the next step.

PBS puts "Order this book" in a great big button right on top of the book description, while BM's button is smaller and off to one side.

Now, as the sender primarily, since I haven't built up a lot of credits right now, I'm going to tell you that I *heart* PBS's mailing system. Once you get an email that a book on your shelf has been requested, it gives you a two step process. Number one, print out a wrapper. The wrapper is pre-addressed and the postage pre-measured for you. You print it out on standard computer paper, tape the paper around your book, add stamps and shove it in the mail. When done, you confirm that it has been mailed. When received, the person requesting it goes on and clicks a button that says the book has arrived, and you get your credit. You get email reminders every step of the way.

BM's is more "labor intensive"... Wrappers are not included, so you have to wrap the book and address it yourself. Once you've mailed the book, it's on you to go back on the site, find the 'confirm mailing' button, and say it's been mailed.

I've only just mailed my first book for that site, so I'm not sure what will happen once the book is received. We'll have to see.

One thing about BM is that once you agree to mail the book, you get your credit. So really, there's no impetus on the mailer to mail the book... you have your credit, so why bother. On the other hand, with PBS, if you request a book, not only is the credit removed from your account, but it is not given to the mailer until you confirm that the book has arrived. That way, everyone is responsible.

Additionally, BM doesn't make you guarantee that the condition of your book is any good. Consequently, the first book I received from BM was stained with coffee. All the books I've received from PBS have been in excellent condition. You must confirm before listing that your book is in good shape with no visible damage and the covers are in tact when you list with PBS. That is not the case with BM, and I'm sad to say that the book bears this out.

So again, on this one, PBS gets it right.

Listing Books

Both sites make it easy to list your books. Simply flip your book over, type the ISBN number into the box, and the book pops up. Confirm it's the book you have and it's listed!

One downside of PBS is that if you have multiple copies of the same book, you cannot list it twice. You must wait until your first copy is requested and mailed, and then re-list the second copy. This is not the case for BM. If you have multiple copies, list them all!

Additionally, if you don't confirm that you have mailed a book, and the book request expires, you must re-list the book, ask the person who requested it to please re-request it, and then confirm the sending. This happened to me, and fortunately the requester was gracious about it. I had put the book in the mail, just hadn't clicked the button to confirm it had been sent. (This refers to PBS--BM doesn't seem to have a timetable for confirming that you've mailed a book...)

For that reason, I give the edge to BM in this category.



Both sites offer users the chance to create buddy/friend lists of other users. Since two girls in my book club use PBS, they are both listed on my friend's list.


BM offers the chance to donate your points/credits to charity or to a friend.


PBS has a "fun and games" section where you can play 20 questions surrounding books.

PBS also offers a kiosk where you can purchase PBS items, including points, mugs, mousepads, hats, shirts, pencils, etc.

PBS also offers the "box of books" program. You sign up and agree to swap entire boxes of books with a fellow member. The downside (if there is one) is that you do have to take those to the post office and mail them media mail, rather than just slapping some stamps on the box and sending them.

PBS is much more of a community site. There are discussion forums and there's a chat room, whereas BM is more of a list 'em, mail 'em business type of site. PBS even has a writer's forum where you can submit your writing and have other writers critique what you've done.

Advantage: PBS--it's more fun.


Both sites have definite advantages and disadvantages. I'm more in love with PBS. There's more to do, they seem to have a broader inventory, and it's easier for me to use on most accounts.

In a perfect world, if I were combining the two sites, here's what I'd take from both of them...

1. Get more credits for participating in the site.
2. All the community benefits
3. The charity donation option
4. The decorations of BM with the ease of use of PBS
5. The ease of listing, and the ability to list multiple copies
6. Mailing wrappers available for printing
7. Responsibility on both the sender and the receiver

Overall, the advantage goes to PBS, but I will keep my books listed in both places, so that I can hopefully get rid of the 35+ books I want out of my house. Thanks to Lesley and Maritza for recommending both.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Farewell to Rocky...

...the road to finding bunny homes has been long and arduous. Today, Rocky's journey came to an end, as I dropped her off at Riverbend High School, where she will become one of 6 or 7 bunnies (including a GORGEOUS velvety brown bunny and a GORGEOUS velveteen rabbit) who resides in the small animal classroom for the FFA club. There they learn about caring for small animals and enjoy socializing the bunnies, chinchillas, turtles, parrots, and a lizard named Frank.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the classroom--it was immaculately clean, did not smell at all, and all the animals looked happy and healthy. No dissections or vivisections, just 150 kids who adore small animals and learn about them in school. The woman who runs the program was a doll, as was her 5 year old son, who took an instant affinity to Rocky.

Rocky was a bit nervous and peed all over me as my reward for finding her so great a place to live, so I just cried the whole way home to make up for it. TomTom and Suisse aren't entirely sure what to think now that their room has one fewer bunny, but they'll adjust. Michelle (Mrs. FFA) has assured me that they may be able to help find a home for Suisse after we ensure she is not pregnant... (GOD FORBID)

It was a lot harder to give up Rocky than anticipated, but I know she's in amazing hands and I know she'll enjoy her life as an FFA bun. She was one special little sweetheart, and deserves every bit of happiness she'll enjoy there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Life Meme

Stolen from Karen

1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink - Nope, I'm not the bar type
02. Swam with wild dolphins - Sadly, no. Would like to
03. Climbed a mountain - I climbed Bear Mountain in Cranberry Lake, NY when I was in 5th grade as our field trip that year. I hated every minute of it.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive - Nope, I'd be petrified
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid - Nope, have never been to Africa (yet)
06. Held a tarantula - God no. And no desire to.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone - Nope--although the General and I hot tubbed under the stars, so that's close
08. Said “I love you’ and meant it - Yes, and often.
09. Hugged a tree - Yes. I'm just that kind of girl.
10. Bungee jumped - No, and I have no intention of doing so!
11. Visited Paris - Yes. When I was 15. No desire to go back.
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - YES! At Myrtle Beach. It was beautiful.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise - Yes, back in the day...
14. Seen the Northern Lights - No, sadly
15. Gone to a huge sports game - Nope again. Boy, I've got some stuff to make up for.
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa - No.
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables - Yes, and they were delicious!
18. Touched an iceberg - No
19. Slept under the stars - Yup, but only once... I've camped a lot, but that was in a tent.
20. Changed a baby’s diaper - Yes, I sure have.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon - No. For some reason it doesn't really appeal to me.
22. Watched a meteor shower - Yes.
23. Gotten drunk on champagne - Yes. But I'm not crazy about champagne, so it didn't do much for me
24. Given more than you can afford to charity - Yes. And I've never regretted it.
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope - Yes, my father was Mr. NASA. He got us a telescope for Christmas, but I think it was more for him than us.

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment - Yes! I had the lead in the school production of "Twelve Angry Women" and on opening night, just as I was preparing to give my first monologue, I got the giggles right on stage, and could do nothing but put my head down and laugh for literally 10 minutes. My junior (?) year of high school, my best friend Pam and I got the giggles during the spring concert--we were singing in the chorus and for some reason the choral director decided "More Than Words" by Extreme would be a great choral tune, so when it was heart stoppingly awful and we finished, Pam leaned over and whispered, "Well, that f***ing sucked"... I'm giggling now as I type this... And then, we had to go up on stage and try to follow two cheerleaders who had choreographed a dance routine at the last minute and didn't teach the rest of the chorus. We were twirling around with black construction paper "top hats" smeared in glitter, giggling our heads off... The singing was awful, the dancing atrocious, the giggling divine.

27. Had a food fight - Yes, with my sister just before the wedding. She and I had a cake fight so the general and I wouldn't have to.
28. Bet on a winning horse - Nope. Maybe when we hit Vegas :)
29. Asked out a stranger - Nope
30. Had a snowball fight - Yes, and it's the most fun you can have in the snow.
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can - Yes. Sometimes nothing else will do.
32. Held a lamb - Nope
33. Seen a total eclipse - Yes, the night the Red Sox won the world series there was a total lunar eclipse here in DC.
34. Ridden a roller coaster - I HATE ROLLER COASTERS.
35. Hit a home run - No, but I hit the mother of all foul balls one time
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking - Yes. When I lived in Utah, when the girls I lived with were stressed out, they would put on a Riverdance CD and we would all do jigs around the living room. At first I felt a little foolish, but more and more as we did it, I loosened up and it was great. I should get one of those CD's...
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day - Yes
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment - Yes, but I'd like to even more
39. Had two hard drives for your computer - Heck yes... And thank God too!! We've had a few crashes and never lost anything.
40. Visited all 50 states - No, I'm about to break the 40 mark though. WOO HOO!
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk - Definitely have done that... I carried Joe back to his place one night when he told me he was the Grand Pagan.
42. Had amazing friends - The friends I have now are the most amazing of my life... Even if I don't get with them as often as I'd like.
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country - No.
44. Watched wild whales - Nope, but apparently right now they're around the DC area... Field trip anyone?
45. Stolen a sign - Yes. Although it was more of an advertising poster. From the NYC Subway system.
46. Backpacked in Europe - Nope. I've traveled Europe, but not by backpacking.
47. Taken a road-trip - Definitely. Hope to plan the big one next summer. Anyone want to come? A bunch of friends, an RV and some tents. The continental US. Summer 2008.
48. Gone rock climbing - No
49. Midnight walk on the beach - Yes, and it's as wonderful as I'd hoped
50. Gone sky diving - No. Might try indoor skydiving in Vegas, but I'm rethinking the actual skydiving skydiving thing.
51. Visited UK - Yes.
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love - Heavens yes. And boy, does that ever suck.
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them - No, but I wonder who I'd meet if I did
54. Visited Japan - Nope
55. Milked a cow - Nope
56. Alphabetized your CDs - Of course. They didn't stay that way...
57. Pretended to be a superhero - Who hasn't?
58. Sung karaoke - Nope
59. Lounged around in bed all day - Yes, but not on purpose... For about 2 months last year.
60. Posed nude in front of strangers - Eww, no.
61. Gone scuba diving - No
62. Kissed in the rain - No, but this is going on my "HAVE TO" list
63. Played in the mud - Definitely have
64. Played in the rain - Yes, and I love it... I love being out in the rain.
65. Gone to a drive-in theater - No. I've been to outdoor movies, but not a drive in.
66. Visited China - No
67. Started a business - No
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken - Yes.
69. Toured ancient sites - I toured the underground city at York, England in 1998. AWESOME... Truly awe inspiring. Probably York is my favorite place I've ever been.
70. Taken a martial arts class - No
71. Played a game for more than 6 hours straight - Monopoly and Civilization.
72. Gotten married - Yes, and it's for keeps
73. Been in a movie - Only home movies
74. Crashed a party - Please, I was never that cool.
75. Gotten divorced - No and hope I never do.
76. Gone without food for 5 days - No way.
77. Made cookies from scratch - Yes. And do I ever do it in spades at Christmas time!
78. Won first prize in a costume contest - Never, ever.
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice - Again, sounds cool, but no.
80. Gotten a piercing - Yes. But they're closed now. At one time, I had 3 holes in each ear.
81. Rafted the Snake River - Nope
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert” - Nope
83. Got flowers for no reason - Nope.
84. Performed on stage - Yep. I was in chorus in high school and college and joined a community chorus in Boston, where I performed once. I love singing.
85. Been to Las Vegas - Nope, but that's about to change!
86. Recorded music - Nope
87. Eaten shark - Nope
88. Had a one-night stand - Nope, close, but nope
89. Gone to Thailand - Nope. (I've never been much on visiting the Asian countries for some reason)
90. Bought a house - Yes, sitting in it right now.
91. Been in a combat zone - Nope
92. Buried one / both of your parents - Nope.
93. Been on a cruise ship - Yes, in high school. I pretty much slept the entire time.
94. Spoken more than one language fluently - I came close to being fluent in French.
95. Performed in Rocky Horror - Nope
96. Raised children (or…raising children) - Nope
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour - Nope
98. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country - There's nothing exotic about bicycles.
100. Picked up and moved to another city to start over - Yes. And hated it every time.
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge - Nope
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking - As often as I can.
103. Had plastic surgery - Nope
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived - Yes... I really think my guardian angel was in the car that day.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication - I was published in Parade Magazine.
106. Lost over 100 pounds - No.
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback - No.
108. Piloted an airplane - No.
109. Petted a stingray - Nope.
110. Broken someone’s heart - Yes and it was liberating but guilt-ridden at the same time.
111. Helped an animal give birth - Haven't helped, but have seen it happen
112. Won money on a T.V. game show - Always a viewer, never a contestant.
113. Broken a bone - Dear God yes.
114. Gone on an African photo safari - Nope.
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced - NO
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun or pistol - No
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild - Um no, I like to live.
118. Ridden a horse - No
119. Had major surgery - Tonsils and leg. Neither life threatening, but they were both major to me
120. Had a snake as a pet - No way
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon - Nope, but I"ll be helicoptering on down there soon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours - Yes
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states - No. I have a ways to go
124. Visited all 7 continents - Nope
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days - No, I'm really not outdoorsy
126. Eaten kangaroo meat - No way!
127. Eaten sushi - Yup, and didn't really like it.
128. Had your picture in the newspaper - Yes, growing up... Usually related to Girl Scouts
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about - No, I'm not persuasive or argumentative
130. Gone back to school - Yes, and maybe again one of these days
131. Parasailed - Never, but would love to
132. Petted a cockroach - Eww, eww, eww!!
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes - Yeah, but didn't like them
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer - Yeah, but didn't like them ;-)
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read. - Yes, JD Salinger.
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - No
137. Skipped all your high school reunions - Only had one so far, and I think pretty much everyone skipped it
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language - Yes, in Germany back before I spoke German. We went in a cafe to get some food and the guy didn't speak English and we didn't speak German, so he took us into the kitchen and we pointed to what we wanted to eat.
139. Been elected to public office - No way. I haven't even run!
140. Written your own computer language - Nope
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream - Yes
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care - Thankfully, no.
143. Built your own PC from parts - No, but I've been part of the process since I've been with the General
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you - No
145. Had a booth at a street fair - Nope, not crafty enough.
146. Dyed your hair - Yes.
147. Been a DJ - No.
148. Shaved your head - No.
149. Caused a car accident - Yes, but it was really the ice's fault
150. Saved someone's life - No.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Capitol Hillbillies

Yesterday, I was determined that no matter what, I was going to have a pajama day. I got up, finished reading a GREAT book, sat around in my PJ's for a while, scrounged up some lunch, and cleaned the house, all in my pajamas. I even met several Freecyclers in my PJ's, one of whom showed up in HER PJ's...

My PJ's consisted of a blue nightgown with little pink flowers on it, and a pair of gray sweatpants with paint splatters for entertaining my freecycling visitors.

Then I decided I should figure out about the General's shower curtain, which I had heard reports of as being extraordinarily nasty. I must say, the reports were grossly under-represented. It was pukifyingly gross.

I threw it in the washing machine with some bleach, set it on the cold cycle, and when I pulled it out, it had a gigantic hole in the middle of it. The General would be needing a new shower curtain.

So, I pulled a red, blue, and yellow plaid coat on over my blue floral night gown and gray sweatpants with paint splatters, wrapped a bright rainbow scarf around my neck, threw on the closest pair of shoes to the door, which happened to be my good black work shoes with happy silver buckles, and headed for Walmart. Really, I didn't think much of it. All I thought was "comfort, comfort, comfort." But I started getting some strange looks in the store. Looks that either said, "Someone give this poor woman a $20 so she can clean up and get a hot meal" or "Someone let the inmate out of the asylum."

So I hightailed it home with the new shower curtain, and then decided I'd head for Judy's so that we could take some clothes to the Goodwill bin, since she and I had both done a major clean out of our closets/dressers/etc. I arrived in Alexandria, and she came out to let me into the garage.

We headed back to her apartment to load up, and Joe said he'd come help since he'd been in the house all day and wanted to go for a ride. But first he commented on my lovely ensemble. :-)

We loaded up two big bags and a box, and headed for the Safeway where the Goodwill Box was located.

As we pulled up, we saw a woman of indeterminate national origin standing at the Goodwill box, going through everything. It appeared to me that perhaps someone was actually IN the box helping her get stuff out.

So I was slightly concerned. But I roared up to the curb--I was kind of feeling my oats--and jumped out and Judy threw her door open (she was wedged between the big box and the front seat), and Joe threw his door open. I hopped out and asked Joe rather loudly, "Hey, is someone in that box?!" The woman starts looking at us, rather nervously.

Joe hits the pavement wearing a dark blue shirt, plaid pants, and pink fuzzy slippers. He giggles nervously and asks, "What should we do?" Judy immediately screams, "Get me the hell out of this car!!!"

So Joe starts wrestling with the box, and it pops free, and Judy just about falls onto the sidewalk, wearing her footie pajamas, her DIA jacket, and her hair in wild disarray flying every which way around her head. She's about hyperventilating now that her lungs are free to expand, and Joe and I are nervously sizing up the woman at the Goodwill box, who is nervously sizing us up, particularly Judy who is sporting an official looking jacket with a federal government seal.

"What should we do?" Joe asks again.

"I don't know," I reply, "I really think there's someone in that box. Do you think they work for the Goodwill?"

Finally Judy takes the lead, and starts hurling our bags of clothing in the general direction of the box. Joe moves the box of clothes slightly closer, while this poor woman stands there debating if we're going to nab her for larceny of the Goodwill box, and I, in what can only be described as some sort of hallucinatory state, stand and stare into the Goodwill box, trying to determine if the Oompa Loompas are actually in there.

Joe and Judy finishing pushing the clothes up as close to the bin as they dare to get, and I smile in what I hope is a friendly manner to the poor woman who hasn't dared to breathe since we arrived on the scene.

"Well, I guess that's about it. There's no one in the box."

We all hop in the car and roar off into the night.

When we get home, we sized up our appearance and about fell over laughing. That was one donation that poor woman is not likely to forget.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Vegas Update

Well, the hotel and flight are booked and we've got tickets to two shows... Michael's destination of choice? The Barry Manilow lounge lizard show... (His Valentine's Day present)... And I got tickets for Celine... WOO HOO! I know, pretty much no one respects me at this point, but damn I'm excited.

Next month we'll book our Grand Canyon tour, and then we're good to go.

Oh my God, I am so excited... I can barely stand it. Vegas, baby! YEAH!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

We're Going to Vegas!


I'm pretty excited.

The General and I just booked a trip to Las Vegas for our 5th anniversary, which is in April... I've never been, but already can't wait. Seems like everyone we know has been at least once... Now will be our turn!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mardi Gras Pancakes

Growing up, my family followed a lot of traditions surrounding food throughout the year... Mostly, I recall that these came from my father. My mother's traditional meal came on Christmas Day, when we ate prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, and for dessert enjoyed trifle--something I made for the first time this year. I can't imagine any other Christmas meal, and the two times I spent with my in-laws when we ate lasagna, turkey, ham, and fish, but no roast beef, I felt like I really was missing out on something.

I guess those traditions really mean a lot more to me than I've realized, but now as an adult, I try to carry out most of them. My husband thinks that many of them are silly, and some of them are to two people who are no longer practicing Catholics. We don't bother trying to remember not to eat meat on the Fridays of Lent and Advent. Particularly since neither of us likes fish all that much, and you can only eat so many fish sticks. I'd make my mom's tuna casserole, which I LOVE, but Michael hates noodles/pasta, so it's just me.

Anyway, I was under the mistaken impression that yesterday was Mardi Gras. I suppose because Nancy's Mardi Gras party was this past weekend, I thought that it must be this week. So I announced that we'd have our traditional Mardi Gras pancake feast for dinner last night.

I cooked up some bacon and whipped up some Bisquick pancakes. My father, I know, would be shocked that I stooped to use Bisquick, as he has revealed his top secret recipe for pancakes from scratch to me. I think he may have doctored the recipe, however, since my pancakes from scratch are always runny and hard to flip. The Bisquick pancakes may not taste as good, but they cook right. Decisions, decisions.

At my childhood home, my father was king of the pancakes. When we were little, he would get really fancy. Not content to make round silver dollar pancakes, my sister and I would be presented with strange shaped lumps arranged on our plate and informed that it was a teddy bear, a bunny, a heart, or (the piece de resistance) our initials. I recall once or twice he got really fancy with the hearts and added a bit of red food coloring, but I think this may have been over the top for even the Pancake King, as he only did it a time or two.

When Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday as he calls it) rolled around, it was pancake supper night... I'm not sure how this came about, and I don't know of any other family who had/has this tradition. Dad would come home from work, put Mom to work frying up bacon or sausage, heat up the electric frying pan, and drop pancakes by the dozen, until we couldn't eat any more. It was our indulgence, our way of really getting in up to our elbows in butter and sugar and meat and all that other "bad stuff" before Lent began the next day.

So imagine my surprise last night, when halfway through a stack of pancakes, I glanced through the calendar, and noticed that Mardi Gras is NEXT Tuesday.

"Oh well, honey," I said, "Next week, I'll make sausage instead of bacon."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Couple of BookCrossing type sites

These are new to me, maybe they're new to you too!

The first is called You go on and register your books (paperback or otherwise) that you'd like to get rid of, and people request them. You print off a pre-printed media mail wrapper, wrap the book, add the postage and send it off. It's kind of like BookCrossing, only without the "dropping off a random book in a public place" kind of thing. This is strictly by request only. I have already gotten one book requested, and it was a real strange book that my sister got from a library discard bin, so you never know who's looking for what! You earn points for each book you swap, and I guess you can use those points to request books for yourself. I'm still exploring the site. :-)

The second is, which is a site for "bookcrossing" audiobooks. This is of particular interest to me, as Michael and I love to read together, but sometimes it's nice to let someone else do the reading! I've just registered with it tonight, and I'm going to enjoy looking for some great audiobooks in the area.

So just a couple of more options if you've got books lying around the house that you want to get rid of!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pet Peeves and General B***hin'

Ok, here's a question for you...

When you click "Remember me" to add a cookie to your computer so you don't have to constantly re-log in to a website, say...oh, I dunno...BLOGGER OR MYSPACE...why doesn't it remember you??? Why do I have to re-log in every stinkin' time I come on here? And you know how you tell Microsoft to "remember my passwords"???? It doesn't. I'm a product evaluator for PineCone research, and I swear, I've told it to save my Pinecone password about 6,000 times, and it never does... Nor does it remember my Blogger password.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), we're supposed to get the mother snowstorm. And tomorrow (Tuesday) is one year since I've broken my leg. What do you want to bet we don't get so much as one flake? Everyone I work with is counting on a day or two off, planning what to do with their free time--we've been planning these days for weeks, because every week for the last month, we're supposed to get a storm. And every week, nothing's happened. And I'm darned near willing to bet it'll be a big zero tomorrow too.

I hate being sick. I just wanted to re-iterate that.

I hate my own disorganization. I went to a client's the other day with some paperwork for her to fill out, and didn't take it in, so I told her I'd bring it with the equipment tags I needed to give her. Today I arrived with the equipment tags and not the paperwork. AUGH!

The bookshelf saga continues.

Tonight we drove over to Walmart and I got 2 bookshelves, very similar to the ones I already had, for a grand total of $60 (the Ikea shelf was $185). Michael and I get it out to the car, and he misunderstands what I'm telling him about putting the shelf in the trunk of the car, and the cart tips over, the shelf goes on the ground, and when he and I both dive to try and get the shelf picked up, we smack heads.

I get the shelves home, we haul them downstairs, and I put the first one together. I'm thinking this should be about a 20 minute job--I've put them together before.

Nope. The first one alone took me an hour. I put it together upside down, backwards, and inside out. I got so pissed off after putting the first one together that the second one is still in the box. A project for another day when I feel better and I'm not tired.

I miss my PopPop, he died 14 years ago tomorrow. I would do damned near anything to talk to him again. F***ing cancer. I hate it.

I really, really, really feel sh***y about missing Nancy's party. Everything feels like it's falling apart. The couple formerly known as our friends have disappeared off the face of the earth while they plan to get hitched up and haven't bothered to tell anyone for some reason, and Judy's depressed about being unemployed, and and and! And then some stupid broken bookshelves and a stupid stupid head cold prevented me from going to see one of the best friends I've ever had. Yeah, thanks a lot, Fate.

Ok, and I have a "to read" pile of about 15 books at the moment, and there is one person who lent me a book, and every time I see them, they ask me "Did you read that book yet?" No, I haven't read that book yet. I'm currently trying to get through my freakin' book club book. Your book is on the pile. PATIENCE. I only have 2 eyes and 2 hours a day to read.

So, it's 10 past 10 on a Monday night. I'm sitting here in my home office, crying my eyes out, missing my family, wishing I could talk to someone, anyone who'd understand and listen and not say, "Well, this is how I feel" or "This is what's going on in my life" or "I don't know what to say"... Don't say anything if whatever you think you might say might piss me off. Just listen. Say, "I love you" and let it go.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My sister's house is making me sick

Whenever my sister has a party lately, I come home sick as a dog.

During the annual Christmas party, in the middle, I suddenly started coughing, and had a really bad sore throat. Next thing I know, I have a full on bout of laryngitis two days later.

Friday night, she hosted a party to celebrate the end of working for that b***h at Firefly. I was just sitting there, and I noticed I was getting a sore throat.

Yesterday was busy. She came down and we decided to go to Ikea to buy me some more bookshelves. So we went up there and came back with a beautiful set of shelves, opened the box, and the bottom of the shelf was all smashed to pieces. It was 4:30 and we were supposed to go up to Nancy's for Mardi Gras.

Well, I was starting to feel kind of stuffy, and we knew we couldn't fit all 3 of us in the car with these shelves that took up the whole back seat, so the plan was to go back to Ikea and then go home, get Michael, and go to Rockville.

By the time we got home, I couldn't stand it any more--the pain in my throat was so bad. And I was starting to get sinus congestion.

So we went to the store, I got some NyQuil and Vicks and Cepacol, and spent the whole night tossing and turning.

I've just woken up with a fever, I'm completely stuffy, and my throat is KILLING me. Judy said she'd make me some chicken soup today and I'm hoping that will help. Otherwise, I'm just going to lay on the couch and watch TV all day and be a bum. I am about sweating to death and I feel like crap. I HATE being sick. I was sick all of November and December, and now February dawns with another freakin' cold. AUGH!

And it's all Judy's house's fault.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Vote For Me!

HI Everyone!

It's official!!! The first chapter of "Maggie of Mulberry Creek" has been published on

If you would take a moment to please go and vote for me (by rating me a 10!!! hehe) at I would sincerely appreciate it.

To vote for my book, you will have to sign up for a free account. You will then be able to rate the chapter and make comments.

The top 20 highest scorers will move on to the next round, then 15, etc. till there is 1 winner who will get a publishing contract.

It's foolish to think my book will get that far, but we can all dream, can't we? So please help me out and vote for me!!!!


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oh dear God..

I submitted my manuscript to the First Chapters challenge. I feel like I'm going to puke... I'll let everyone who's interested know when the voting on it begins... Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Eight Years Ago...

Eight years ago tomorrow marks the day that my husband and I met. We've been talking about those eight years--how hard it is to believe it's been that long, and what changes have taken place since then.

The one that really sticks with me is that I was 23 years old. Damn! TWENTY THREE! That seems so stinkin' young... Where the hell did my twenties go?

Other changes...

Eight years ago, I did not have my master's degree. I had not lived in Arkansas, Massachusetts, or Virginia.

My parents were separated, but not divorced.

My sister was still in college.

I was living at home. With Spiegel and Midnight and Jammer and Tibbs. None of whom are around any more.

I was working as a substitute teacher.

My dad still had his apartment.

My mom had not moved to Florida. She had not met Jerry yet.

Michael was twenty four.

He was working for Shititas. He was sleeping on a mattress on the floor at his sister's roommate's house, looking for an apartment.

I was driving the old Mercury.

I was calling his parents Mr. and Mrs. Kosior.

I was not a member of a book club. I was not in touch on a regular basis with Joe. I did not know Heather and Nancy, my girls. I did not know Mike and Lesley, our dearest friends. I had never gone geocaching. I had not written "The Book."

Today? Yup, got that ole master's degree. I'm 31 (yikes). Michael and I have been married almost five years. We own "home" now. We have rabbits. We drive a Saturn. He works for the federal government, I work for the state of Virginia. We've moved 6 times since we met (in case you're counting: Allston, Brighton, Acton, Rosslyn, Centreville, Fredericksburg). I've been through 2 jobs and an internship. My parents are divorced. My sister has lived in China, Russia, and is now in DC. My mom is divorced again and flying solo in the Sunshine State. My dad is back in the house, and flying solo in the Empire State, having said good bye to Barbie. The Book is written, I've got some of the best friends of my life,

So to celebrate? I'm going to my book club. We're celebrating a day early--and neither of us has any idea what we want to do! And trying to figure out what the heck might happen in the next 8 years. For once, we're truly stumped. But excited about what it all might mean...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Featured Again on

My below blog entry, "January Reading Extravaganza", will be featured on today between 9am and 1pm. If you're on line and want to share in my 15 minutes, check me out over there :-)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

January Reading Extravaganza

Well, it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to believe, but January 2007 has been and gone. Honestly, I do not have any idea where the time went. Seems like just last night I was celebrating New Year's Eve with my girls and now...I'm getting ready for Valentine's Day.

As you may or may not know, I am busily working on reading 100 books this year. Kind of, but not really, a resolution. So, at the end of each month, I'll post a little something about the books I've been reading and my tally for the month and the year. January will be easiest. :-)

This month I read:

1 & 2. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie also by LIW. I am reading these as research for my own book, which no longer has a title. I'm trying to get some idea of what kind of dialogue/language might have been used back then, and several people who have read "The Book" thought of the Little House series while reading them. I used to own the entire collection as a child, but don't know where they've gotten to and never read them, so I used a Christmas gift card to buy the 5 book set. They are WONDERFUL! Of course today, we would be shocked at the terms and characterizations for "native Americans" and other non-PC things that LIW wrote, but that was the vernacular of the time. The stories are charming, funny, and in some cases rather nerve-wracking (although I knew they would survive, I was a bit nervous when the Ingalls family contract malaria--what a page turner!). I am hoping to get my hands on book 3 (yes, Melissa, I'd love to borrow it next time I see you!) soon to continue reading the series.

3. The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini. My sister brought this book home from Florida and ranted and raved about it. I thought it was "cute" although not something I couldn't put down and pick back up if so desired. It is the story of a young woman named Sarah, who moves to a small Pennsylvania town due to her husband's job. She can't find work (gee, this is sounding awfully familiar), but eventually secures a job helping an elderly lady clean her family home for sale. The woman is a master quilter, and agrees to teach Sarah to quilt as part of her compensation. Sarah meets up with a group of quilters who have formed a quilting bee in town, and this sets up what will become an additional 7 or so books in the series, presumably one about each member of the bee. Anyway, the old lady has a secret, harboring back to WWII, and Sarah is determined to help Mrs. Compson shed her past and embrace her future. The book is written VERY simply, but if all you're after is a good, cute, quick read, then this may be the book for you. It's not going to win any major literature prizes, but judging from Chiaverini's website, she's got a nice little niche she enjoys and people are enjoying this book quite a bit. I'm looking forward to book two for the simple reason that I won't have to think too hard to read it.

4. The Innocent Man by John Grisham. I blogged a brief entry about this before, but will come back to it, as it was a New Year's read. Grisham's first foray into the world of true crime/non-fiction writing is a stunner. Literally, we could not stop reading it. The book is the story of a mentally ill young man in Oklahoma who is accused and convicted of a murder he did not commit. There is no doubt from the first that he and his friend are innocent, but due to inept defense lawyers, crooked prosecutors and investigators, and a skewed system of justice, two men are convicted of the murder and sent to prison. Ron Williamson awaits the death penalty in a penal system that makes his schizophrenia worsen, while Dennis Fritz serves his life sentence actively trying to learn the law and get an attorney to take his case. Enter the Innocence Project. Until I read this book, while I was leaning away from supporting the death penalty, I couldn't say firmly that I was opposed to it. This book really tipped the scales (pardon the pun) for me. An excellent read.

5. Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson. Our book club selection of the month. We will be meeting to discuss this one on Feb. 5 (Monday), so I don't want to say too, too much about it, since the girls deserve my comments first! But, suffice it to say, the first 25 pages are deathly slow, then it picks up during "Part One" and about half of "Part Two" and then falls apart again. I suppose I was meant to cry and be shocked and outraged and also feel joy for the women in the book, but it was a struggle a lot of the time to stay awake. Perhaps if I were Swedish, I would have enjoyed it more. I don't know...

6. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. This was this month's selection for the book club, and it was a WONDERFUL book, even if I had to read the Oxford English Dictionary at the same time. Loosely based on a true story, YOW is the tale of a small village in England in which the plague breaks out. The town's minister convinces the majority of its residents to stay put in the village and not risk infecting and spreading the contagion to those outside the confines of the village. What follows is the town turning in on itself, madness and mayhem reigning. The story is told through the eyes of Anna, the minister's 19 year old servant girl, a widow whose two young sons are among the first felled by the plague. The writing is vivid, colorful, and full of words that I didn't know. Yes, I could figure many out by context, but what's the fun in that? So I created my own glossary--and there's a glossary for the book on line. If you decide to read it and want to have a copy of my glossary, let me know, and I'll send it to you. A great read, I'm looking forward to reading March in...well, March.

So, I think that's it for January, and it's not looking real good for 100 books this year, but I'm going to keep plugging along. On my "to be read" shelf are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (yes, still trying to get into it), Anybody Out There? by Marion Keyes, and I'm in the midst of an AMAZING book called Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, which is like a novel comprised of beautiful poetry.

Till next time, I'll see you in the stacks!