eleneariel: (reading (jolly good))

1. Strings Attached, Judy Blundell
   Young adult fiction which I liked very much (Blundell has a way of making a creepy/sad/mysterious admosphere throughout her books that I really enjoy). Plot in a nutshell: small town girl moves to NYC to be a dancer, there are secrets and lies and an ex-boyfriend with a creepy gangster father and it's all very 1930s-noir and I LOVED it.

2. City of Glass, Cassandra Clare
   Losing interest in this series so fast. Jace is still being emo. Emo Jace is emo. See emo Jace run away from Clary ... AGAIN.

3. The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten
   A collection of Steingarten's articles as the food writer for Vogue. Hit and miss ... some of them are really excellent, but a lot appear dated (mostly the ones discussing health scares/fads we've all gotten over a long time ago.)

4. Johnny and the Bomb, Terry Pratchett
   Probably the best of the three Johnny book, although maybe I only think that because I'm into WWII.

5. The United States of Wal-Mart, John Dicker
I have neither loyalty to nor antipathy towards Wal-Mart, so I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to spend time reading this one. It was repetitive and openly hostile, but redeemed itself slightly when it called Nicholas Sparks an "emotion pornographer." haha, right on.

6. The Dead Beat, Marilyn Johnson

An obituary (at least a well written one) is a small slice of a life. Who was this person? What impact did they leave on the world? How old was he, where was she born, what did he do during his life, who did she leave behind?
In this book Marilyn Johnson has collected stearling examples of obituaries and the writers who craft them. I loved it!

   Clementine Werfel blessed priests at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville with heavenly desserts, memorable meals and seemingly miraculous coffee.
   The retired parish housekeeper, who died Aug. 2 at 96, routinely walked around the dining table in the rectory, offering coffee to each priest.
   "Would Father like regular or decaf?" the 4-foot-something Werfel asked them one by one.
   Regardless of the priests' individual preferences, she filled all their cups with coffee from the same pot. The coffee drinkers silently accepted what they got, as though Werfel really could turn regular cofee into decaffeinated, much the way the biblical Jesus turned water into wine.


7. Dying to Meet You, Kate Klise
   Really adorable kids book. Charming illustrations!

8. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery (audio book)
   By the time I reached the end of the first disc I was pretty sure I hated this book. It was a whole lot of wordy philosophical ramblings maskerading as a novel, with two main characters who pretty much sit around and think about how much better they are than the rich, shallow people around them. And oh yeah, the plot goes absolutely NOWHERE. For 3/4 of the BOOK.

And then the last fourth came along and broke my heart, in an i-see-what-you-did-thar-and-i-hate-you-for-doing-this-to-me-but-it-IS-brilliant way, if that makes sense. I know that's hardly a ringing endorsement, and I was SO MAD about the ending, but ... yeah. It was strangely worth reading. Er, listening to.

9. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Joshua Foer
   Journalist covering the US Memory Championship becomes interested in the tricks of the trade that allow the competitors to memorize 3 pages of unpublished poetry in fifteen minutes and the exact order of a deck of cards in less than two minutes, starts practicing these techniques and goes on to win the championship the following year. Interesting but not particularly practical unless you are insane, er, really dedicated.


Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily  and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear. That's why it's important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memeries stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.


 10. Blackout, Connie Willis
      I'm going to ditch any attempt at a real review (check here if you want that sort of thing) and just flail around saying that I LOVE this book, you should all read it, it is so real and vivid and wonderful, and captures the ordinary everyday heros of WWII, AND it's got awesome time travel, and I sort of know the ending of the second book already and that makes some parts of this one all the more poignant and yes, I did possibly cry over some of these characters.


eleneariel: (reading (keep calm))
1. The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak (audiobook - great reader!)

Read this because Mark Reads read it. At first I wasn't a fan - the writing was beautiful in a poetic way, but what does it MEAN? And the omnipresent narrator, out-of-order storytelling, and strange interjections were jarring. But then ... I started to get the hang of it, and I started to fall in love with it.

Basically, Zusak managed to rip out my heart and make me enjoy it. And all, somehow, without being overdramatic about it. For all the poetic imagery, it's a story told quite simply and matter-of-factly. It's heartbreaking. It's also beautiful. And it's a worthy addition to the WWII-fiction genre.

2. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

A reread, although the audiobook I listened to before was abridged, so this is my first time getting the FULL story. Controversy, blah
blah blah, I happen to like the plot and characters. (But I like Reardon a lot better than Galt. Heresy?)

3. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

I totally get why this won the Nebula! Like The Book Thief, it's a very powerfully emotional story, but simply told. It takes a lot of talent to write that clearly. I can't believe I'd never read it before now (thank goodness for friends who say READ THIS), but now that I have I'll be recommending it often to oh, just about everyone.

4. The Treasure is the Rose, Julia Cunningham
Step forward if you recommended this one to me! It was delightful - a really classic children's book. Lovely illustrations, clever story, and deeper than it appears on the surface.

5. To Timbuktu, Casey Scieskza and Steven Weinberg
World travel, falling in love, lots of food, new people, adventures ... in an alternate life, this might have been my story. So my practical side won't throw caution to the wind and leave for parts unknown, but I can certainly enjoy reading about it. Casey (Yes, Jon Scieskza is her father) provides the text and Steven the illustrations: a match made in heaven. 
6. The Green Mile, Stephen King

YOU GUYS LOOK I READ STEPHEN KING!! I'm having an identity crisis because I can no longer say that he's the one author I don't read. So, um, yeah. It was really, really good. I never want to read it again, but that's a testament to King's powers of description. If anything surprised me, it was the depth of the story - I knew King was an excellent writer/storyteller, but I didn't expect the emotional complexity that I found here.

7. The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown

This book contains three sisters, one Shakespeare-scholar father (who mostly communicates in the words of the Bard), and a mother with cancer. I don't usually go for the human-drama kinds of books, but this one was really excellent - real without being a downer, funny without being over the top, sad without making me break out the tissues. How's that for a recommendation?

Also the cover art is perfection.

8. One of our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde

If you've read Jasper Fforde, then you know what to expect. If you haven't, I won't be able to describe it. But if you like books and you like speculative fiction, you should try this ... because Fforde is BRILLIANT, and because I said so.
eleneariel: (Fashion (glamour))
Random quotes from the Bombshell Manual of Style, just because.

(I'm not a bombshell, but boy can I relate to certain aspects of this!)

Bombshells don't sit exactly. They perch, curl, curve, and occasionally fling their legs up over the arm of the chair of back of the sofa. This also goes for seats on airplanes, cars and trains.

Bombshells always exit with an inhalation as if something wonderful is about to happen.

No matter how mundane the occasion, the Bombshell has an outfit in mind. She plays dress up every day.

Bombshell footwear always looks like it's about to be kicked off or as if it's been hastily slipped on after getting out of the tub. Any peekaboo sandal will be the first choice of a Bombshell, even in the coldest of weather. The Bombshell favors an open toe - she does this, confident people will take care that she is warm. (The Bombshell prefers bare legs, of course, to stockings of any kind, despite the cold.)

Most of all, the Bombshell enjoys her own company. She is not afraid to be alone.

Any Bombshell will tell you that she eats, not out of unhappiness, but out of joy.

When the Bombshell tries to be grown up ... she goes for a classic martini. Never a twist, she wants the olive. ... She would never order a Manhattan, but she'll pluck the maraschino cherry out of yours.

All the cliches are true. A Bombshell enroute is ready for anything and has the luggage to prove it. A Bombshell doesn't know the meaning of traveling light. The Bombshell travels with what might seem an excessive amount of luggage, not because she is a prima donna, rather she has no idea what may happen and has brought everything.

The Bombshell gets a kick out of life.
eleneariel: (art in the everyday)
- improvising with hummus: because I found out the hard way that hummus doesn't really work in traditional blenders, at least not mine. But a mortar and pestle and a little elbow grease does. Nope, it's not perfectly smooth, but it was a lot less angsty than working with the blender, and it's good enough for me.

- anyone want a half bottle of Slatkin & Co "creamy nutmeg" home fragrance oil? I broke my oil warmer this weekend (it took up too much room anyway) and I hate to just throw away the rest of the oil. I'll mail it to anyone who wants it. :)

- I read The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown) over the weekend. It wasn't what I expected but it was wonderful. And I marked so many passages, including this one:

She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly, how many books she read in a year. "A few hundred," she said.

"How do you have time," he asked, gobsmacked.

She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don't spend hours flipping through cable complaining there's nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? Because I do not spend every night drinking overpriced beer [...]? Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces? I am reading!

"I don't know," she said, shrugging.
eleneariel: (reading (keep calm))
Reviews may be even shorter than usual this month (busy! lots of books read!) but as always, feel free to ask for more details about any of them.
1. The Price of Everything: solving the mystery of why we pay what we do, Eduardo Porter
Not as compelling as some of the other similar books I've read (the titles of which I cannot remember now, of course). But certainly interesting as far as talking about the psychological aspects of spending.

2. The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, Sheril Kirshenbaum
Surprisingly boring. I know, RIGHT?

3. Maskerade, Terry Pratchett
Hahahaha, Opera Ghost! Or rather, Opera Ghost!!!!! <----- five exclamations, notice. Classic Pratchett, excellent as both a spoof of Phantom of the Opera and a straight-up British humor/fantasy book. Again I say unto you: if you've never read a Terry Pratchett book, DO SO NOW. Thank you.

4. Black Heels and Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond
Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman, is hilarious. Her love story isn't high literature and there's a fair number of eye-rolling parts (how many times to you need to tell us how great MM looks in tight jeans?), but ... well, she's our PW, and we love her. I laughed out loud so many times during this book.

5. City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
After Clockwork Angel I was eager for more of the Shadowhunters world. But City of Bones started out and it was so modern-day and there were people in nightclubs and riding motorcycles in leather miniskirts (or was it the people in nightclubs with the miniskirts?) and ugggh. The first half draaaaged and it wasn't really the book's fault  - it was mine for expecting it to be all steampunk like Clockwork Angel. But then I got into the characters more and by the end I couldn't wait to get to the sequel. [see #8]

6. Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis
THE ENDING YOU GUYS. Give me sequel. NOW. Definitely some creepy alt.history (WWII setting: what if the Germans had created a strange race of superhumans? And what if the British had warlocks on their side?) It took a little time to get really interested in it, and I would have left out the strange warlocks-of-Britian bits, and I wanted more details on the experiments that created the superhumans, but basically ... I just want more of the story. Also, it totally wins for Awesome Cover Art.

7. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
Audio book, read by the author - a real treat, although there is something odd about Bryson's accent that would catch me off guard now and then. Basically, I love how he can make any topic interesting... Including weeks and weeks of hiking. I almost wanted to go hike the Appalachian Trail after finishing the book ... but notice I said "almost."

8. City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare
[See #5] I need book three now but it's checked out. =\

9. Anne of Windy Poplars, L. M. Montgomery
Obviously a re-read. I used to read the entire series every October until I was overcome with panic at Too Many Books Too Little Time and stopped rereading things unless I had a really good reason to. So I hadn't read them in years and I was missing them and finally realized you don't have to read the entire series at once, it is perfectly acceptable to pick one at random and read it alone. So I did.

10. The Girl in the Gatehouse, Julie Klassen
Oh good GRIEF. Why do I do this to myself. It's Christian romance, the lovely cover art of which tempted me into listening to the audio book. I found the reader annoying, which didn't help, but the story was about twice as long as it needed to be, and was full of all kinds of un-period moments and attitudes and just ... ugh. Skip it.

11. How Young Ladies Became Girls, Jane Hunter
A bit on the dry side of intellectual as far as reading for pleasure, but what a collection of information regarding the changing status of girls/young women in the Victorian period. Highly recommended. And now I'm going to go sell my copy on half.com because it's apparently assigned reading in a lot of women's studies college courses, and thus will fetch me much monies. (YAY half.com.)

12. Only You Can Save Mankind, Terry Pratchett
Pratchett wrote best for kids in the Tiffany Aching books, but this series isn't bad. Cool idea (video games might be ... reality? At least for the characters inside them?) and full of the usual wordplay.  [see also #16]

13. Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
A lovely collection of exquisite things (lingerie, red lipstick, pillow books, the art of hot-air ballooning, water fountains.) Gentle, thoughtful, and contained within two gorgeous red-and-silver covers.

14. Among Others, Jo Walton
This wins Book of the Month. Such a beautiful, moving book - and one that really shows (as if we doubted) that fantasy can be literary too. I'd compare it to Thirteenth Tale or The Swan Thieves except that it's nothing like them save in quality of writing and the ability to keep you up late, late into the night, reading yourself into this haunting and wonderful world.
My love for this book is also not hurt by the fact that Walton dedicates the book thusly: "This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people." Awww. In a way the whole book reads sort of like a love letter to libraries, in appreciation of how even the "weird kids" can find a sense of belonging and acceptance there among the stacks.
Also, Walton is clearly a huge sci-fi/fantasy buff, and the book are full of moments that will have other such fans geeking out.
I did not buy a book called Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson, which has the temerity to compare itself, on the front cover, to "Tolkien at his best." The back cover attributes the quote to the Washington Post, a newspaper whose quotations will always damn a book for me from now on. How dare they? And how dare the publishers? it isn't a comparison anyone could make, except to say "Compared to Tolkien at his best, this is dross." I mean you could say that about even really brilliant books like A Wizard of Earthsea.

I read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in bed last night. I intended to read it quickly and be able to thank Deirdre for it, but it turns out to be hilarious and also wickedly clever, so I could thank her sincerely, because I'd never in a million years have picked it up for myself, as it looks like total tosh. I wonder if the book group have read it?

Finished LotR with the usual sad pang of reaching the end and there being no more of it.
Ya'll, I love this book. Read it.

15. Pop Goes the Weasel, Albert Jack
A collection of histories behind popular children's rhymes and songs. It seemed largely anecdotal, with little in the way of hard facts. The author was always saying "It seems to me ..." or "I think that ..." and therefore while it was interesting to think about some of the conclusions, I accepted very little of it as being actually likely.

16. Johnny and the Dead, Terry Pratchett
[not quite as good as #12. But yanno, it's Pratchett, therefore it's good. Why no, I'm not biased. He's just bloody brilliant, that's all.]

17. Bittersweet: thoughts on grace, change, and learning the hard way, Shauna Niequist
I find myself thinking of Ms. Niequist as the female version of Don Miller. She's so honest and real, with none of this "If you're a Christian, everything will always be okay, life is great, I have no worries" kind of attitude. She lets you know that it's okay to hurt, it's okay to mourn, it's okay to cry, life isn't always perfect but we cling to Christ anyway. Also, she's just a really great writer, and I'm always happy to see really great writers who just happen to be Christians. [see #10 for the opposite. And don't get me started on my Why Is Christian Fiction So Poorly Written, Really Shouldn't We Be Doing BETTER in the Arts than Secular Folks rant.]

18. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
I think this one has garnered a lot of controversy for no reason - it's not nearly the kind of book it's been portrayed as in a lot of reviews. Would I want Amy Chua as a mother? No. But then, I think I was happier as a child pursuing 2340923 different random interests rather than focusing on becoming the next violin prodigy to the exclusion of almost everything else. But is Amy Chua a horrible mother? Also no. And while I wouldn't parent the way she does, she makes some points worth pondering:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it's crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because children will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up.
To be honest, I sometimes wonder if the question "Who are you really doing this for?" should be asked of Western parents too. Sometimes I wake up in the morning dreading what I have to do and thinking how easy it would be to say, "Sure Lulu, we can skip a day of violin practice." Unlike my Western friends, I can never say, 'As much as it kills me, I just have to let my kids make their choices and follow their hearts. It's the hardest thing in the world, but I'm going to hold back. Then they get to have a glass of wine and go to a yoga class, whereas I have to stay home and scream and have my kids hate me.

eleneariel: (Pratchett (anthill inside))
Are Physical Interfaces Superior to Virtual Ones?

Something's been bothering me ever since I started reading books, especially non-fiction, on my Kindle:

I can't remember where anything is. Physical books are full of spatial reference points; an especially beloved book is a physical topography in which we develop a vague sense of which chapters contain relevant information; even where, on a page, a particularly striking sentence or diagram lies.

Ebooks have none of these referents. They're searchable (or at least, some are) which mitigates this issue somewhat. But I'm unlikely to remember that a fact was at "41% through a book" for one simple reason: my hands never got a chance to find out what 41% through a particular ebook feels like.
The entire article is very interesting, but these paragraphs in particular caught my eye - finally, an articulation of one of the main reasons I find myself dissatisfied when reading in any kind of digital format.

book talk

Mar. 4th, 2011 09:45 pm
eleneariel: (Reading (garden))
Also, I am just about to die with how badly I want to reread certain books. I just saw a photo of a particularly wonderful Art Deco skyscraper, and it made me want to spend a week reading Atlas Shrugged. Earlier I realized how long it had been since I read other old favorites - Gone with the Wind, which I used to chain read. The Godfather. The entire Anne of Green Gables series, which I used to read every October. Lord of the Rings, which was every December. And then there are just so many really excellent books that I would like to savor again.

I rarely reread anymore because of how huge my stack of new reading is. But tonight ... you know, I'm looking at my shelf of Pratchetts right now, and I think it's imperative to my health and well-being that I read one of the Witches books tonight. And I have just now picked Maskerade (loosely - very loosely - based on the Phantom of the Opera), mainly because of sections like these:

Ahahahahaha! Ahahahaha! Aahahaha!
Yrs sincerely
The Opera Ghost


"What sort of person," said Salzella patiently, "sits down and writes a maniacal laugh? And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head. Opera can do that to a man."


"Well, basically there are two sorts of opera,' said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. 'There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh, I am dyin', oh, oh, oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely."
eleneariel: (reading (jolly good))
1. Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare

I (rather surprisingly) LOVED this book. A clever mix of supernatural and steampunk, hilarious characters, enthralling plot. I make no claims that it is well-written, but something about it really caught my fancy and I flew right through it. In contrast, I'm currently struggling through the author's City of Bones, without making much headway. I just can't get into the story... so maybe it was the steampunk-ness of Clockwork Angel that I liked. 

2. Dilemma: a priest's struggle with faith and love, Fr. Albert Cutie

I approached this with a good deal of skepticism; I've generally not been impressed with religious figures who seem to court the media, so the fact that Fr. Cutie used to be called "Father Oprah" for his tv talk show didn't win him any points with me. I sympathetic with his struggle and am truly glad he's found both love and new home in the Episcopal church as a married priest, but I was not impressed  by what seemed his attempts to justify and excuse his actions...and I had to laugh when he described his (at the time future) wife as someone who would "never tempt a priest" when in practically the next paragraph he says, after they realized they were attracted to each other, she sent him a letter asking to become better friends, whereupon they went out to dinner in a secluded restaurant and generally acted as if he wasn't a priest who had taken vows of celibacy!  Also troubling was his obvious bitterness towards the Catholic Church - understandable, given that he was treated more harshly than some priests who had committed illegal acts, like child abuse, but still... not a very Christian attitude to display to the world.

All in all, very interesting.

3. Real Life Journals: designing and using handmade books, Gwen Diehn

Gorgeous ideas for handmade books. I'm not sure if I'll ever attempt any of the more ambitious projects, but they sure are pretty.

4. Year of Disappearances: an ethical vampire novel, Susan Hibbard
I would describe this book as vague: vague writing, vague plotting, vague characters. There's a lot left unexplained, little character development, and a plot that drifts about without reaching any real resolution. The thing that annoyed me most was the vampires-are-better-than-thou tone, liberally sprinkled with environmentalism, as evidenced by the last paragraph:

"Meanwhile, I dedicate this book to mortals, and I leave them these questions: Are you comfortable with the values your society holds dear? When's the last time you looked deep into your own eyes? Do you know the limitations of your vision?"

Poor little book. It's trying so hard to be intelligent, Serious Literature, and just ... isn't quite there.

5. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

Many years ago formerly-of-LJ Alissa W. (anyone remember her?) recommended this one. In book #9, Susan Hill made a comment to the effect that Graham Greene is one of the few writers who can write convincingly about all forms of love, and this book has it all - lust turned to love turned to revenge. I wouldn't say I enjoyed reading it so much as I just marveled at the craftsmanship of a true wordsmith.

6. Coptic Egypt: Christians of the Nile

Just a little book but informative. I didn't know much about the Copts, but now I do.

7. Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell

I had the opportunity to watch the miniseries again, which made me want to read the book again ... so I did. The Squire = <3. He's precious! Forget Roger. ;)

8. The Unidentified, Rae Mariz

I liked this dystopian tale of education turned into a giant corporation-sponsored Game. My attempts to describe this have all been made of FAIL, so do yourself a favor and check out the blurbs on goodreads or amazon - it was unique, fast-paced, and used jargon well. The ending seemed a little rushed and unclear ... but then again, maybe I read it too quickly, since I couldn't seem to put it down.

9. Howards End is on the Landing, Susan Hill

Really, what do book-lovers love to read about more than books about books? Susan Hill decided to spend a year reading books she already owned rather than buying or borrowing new ones, and this book grew out of what she encountered that year.
eleneariel: (Default)
Greetings, salutations, and all that jazz.

I've been caught up in Wives & Daughters (watching the miniseries AND reading the book) most of the weekend, so everything sounds British in my head. But I've been cooking quasi-Turkish, having discovered a spice blend that comes passably close the seasoning at that Turkish restaurant in Albuquerque. Baharat seasoning. Easy to make, tastes yummy. And Turkish, although it is still not to be compared to [livejournal.com profile] ransomedsea 's lamb. Thus continues my quest to eat my way around the world without leaving my kitchen.

Currently on facebook: an experiment in plovers, statii, and mysteriously changing friend counts.

It was 77* today but only 47* is predicted for tomorrow. But, having spent most of Friday going hither and yon (hither defined in this case as a town thirty miles away, and yon as another entirely different area, not a town but entirely in the middle of NOWHERE the same distance away but in the opposite direction) to find a car part that is outrageously expensive ordered from the dealership and outrageously cheap found in a salvage yard ... I have now forgotten completely where I was going with that sentence, or how it connected with the weather. At any rate. It is warm now, won't be tomorrow, and with any luck I should have Sir Galahad back in fully functioning form within a day or two. Also I stood up to salvage yard guys were all patronizing and trying to tell little old female me that I didn't need X, what I really needed was Z, and I was all OH NO YOU DON'T.

I won.

eleneariel: (reading (keep calm))

1. Loose Girl, Kerry Cohen

    A "memoir of promiscuity", this book is nothing but sad. Although Ms Cohen eventually realizes how deadening and empty her life of casual sex was, she never really grasps WHY promiscuity isn't fulfilling. That leaves the ending almost as sad as the rest of the book. (warning: though tastefully presented, the subject matter means that this is not a book for everyone.)

2. Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
    Best book I read this month - and I read it online for free, thanks to Doctorow's views on copyright, for which I love him forever. In a way I think it's a present-day version of 1984, and most worthy of reading for the moral and political issues discussed alone - nevermind that it's also a cracking good read.

3. For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn
    So I found a stash of Christian relationship books for cheap at a thrift store, right? And usually I'm not too impressed by them, but I'm always curious what they say, and I knew I could sell them on half.com or trade them at Paperbackswap. This one ... eh. Fairly shallow, with no startling revelations but several good reminders. She speaks very much in generalities, and I would suggest giving it to your guy and see where he thinks it applies to him ... and where it doesn't. Men are individuals too, you know. =P

4. Remember Me? Sophie Kinsella
    A fluff of a read that was adiquate as a time-killer but, in retrospect, lacking any real worthwhile reasons to read, considering my other options.

5. Boy Meets Girl, Joshua Harris
    Okay, those who told me this was better than I Kissed Dating Goodbye were right, and I so much appreciate that he does admit that different people will have different circumstances and that there's no One Right Way to have a relationship. But the principles he sets forth are good and worthy of pondering how to implement them in your own particular circumstances.
6. Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan
    An old one, a good one, and one worthy of rereading.

7. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
    Why yes, I prefer to wait to read massively popular books until the series is complete. :) Okay, maybe that's not my official modus operendi, but it's worked with Harry Potter and Twilight and now these. I certainly enjoyed this one (read it in basically two days) - it's fast-paced, thoughtful, and keeps the you on the edge of your seat - but I wouldn't say that it grabbed me in the way that my very favorites do. I liked Katniss and Gale and Peeta, but I don't feel compelled to pick a team. :)

 8. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
      Finished this last night at midnight. NOW SOMEBODY GIVE ME MOCKINGJAY.

Books from the stack: 3


eleneariel: (Reading)
1.   The Year of Eating Dangerously, Tom Parker Bowles
      A foray into the world of extreme eating - from super hot chilies to dog meat to insects. Moderately entertaining and slightly more interesting once I realized whose son the author is, but the main thing I took away from this book - after reading time and time again his distress in waking up feeling the ill effects of over indulgence in food and drink and promising himself never EVER to do that again - was that the author needs to learn a little self-control.

2.   The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
       Fun and thoughtful, humorous and serious, sweet and snarky. That's really all you're going to get out of me as far as a review goes. :)

3.   Byzantium: surprisingly life of a medieal empire, Judith Herrin
      A nice overview of the Byzantine empire designed for the layman. Neither too shallow nor too bogged down by details.

4.   Hiding the Elephant, Jim Steinmeyer
      Read this if you have even the slightest bit of interest in magic! The extent of my interest was a sort of "whoa, how'd they do that?" reaction to the movie The Prestige, and I whipped through this book in about two days, so ...
It gives away just enough secrets to be interesting and keeps just enough secrets to remain mysterious. Excellently presented.
From the forward: "Hiding the Elephant is less like a history book than like an unforgettable all-night conversation with a fascinating stranger." Very true.

5.   The Autobiography of the Queen, Emma Tennant
Very much like The Uncommon Reader in tone and content - the style was pleasant but the presentation seemed a bit awkward and disjointed.
6.   Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquievel
      I have mixed feelings on this book. I liked - even LOVED - the style and tone, and the food, and the magical realism. But Pedro was just annoying, and while I had sympathy for Tita, I also wanted to tell her to stand up straight and MOVE ON ALREADY. I didn't buy their great "true love." Doctor John was the only really morally upright character in the whole book.

7.   The Help, Kathryn Stockett
      I was surprised by how much I liked this book.  It was a tricky sort of book to write, and for the most part I think Ms Stockett pulled it off.

8.   If You Could See Me Now, Cecelia Ahern
      Clever premise, awkward execution. Pardon me if I can't believe a love story between a grown woman and an invisible man who is supposedly in his thirties but talks and often acts like a five-year-old.
9.   Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, Lauren F. Winner
       I have issues with the way many Christians talk (or rather, don't talk) and think about about sex, and this book is an excellent answer to what I see as a common mistakes Christians make when it comes to sexuality. Although the primary reason for the book is a discussion of chastity (what it is, why God calls unmarried Christians to practice it, why it's important), Ms Winner also goes into what I felt were excellent chapters on how to talk about and do sex in a Christian context. Excellent book: this gets five stars from me. I wish all Christians would read it. :)

10. Arthur, King, Dennis Lee Anderson
      Basic plot: King Arthur appears during Britain's hour of greatest need during WWII, takes the roll of fighter pilot, meets a modern-day Jenny (Guenevere), defeats Mordred (fighting on the side of the Huns, of course), and saves England. It was better executed than I expected, but stylistically lacking.

Books from the pile of To Reads: 3

eleneariel: (Reading)
A short list this month because I spent so much time on the road. I always think of travels as times to read more, not less, but I forget this doesn't really work when you are the responsible adult driving, and not the kid hanging out in the backseat with nothing to do but read.
1. Teaching True Love to a Sex-At-Thirteen Generation, Eric & Leslie Ludy
    I've heard about the Ludy's for years and thought it was time I read something of theirs. This one is billed as being for parents teaching a true and healthy view of sex, romance, and godliness to their children, but I found plenty of convicting and encouraging things for myself. I would definitely reread this if I someday have children. However. There's something about this book and almost all the others like it (Joshua Harris, John and Staci Eldridge, etc.) that I've read that rubs me the wrong way. It makes me squirm uncomfortably in the same way reading Lori Wick does. I don't even want to get in to the reasons why this might be - I'm not completely sure, and I don't want to offend anyone while I'm trying to figure it out. :)
2. Authentic Beauty, Leslie Ludy
    See above!
3. Heist Society, Ally Carter   
    After hearing this described as the "female version of Ocean's 11" I had high hopes - too high. I think if I had gone into with fewer expectations I would have enjoyed it more. It was fine for what it was, but I'd hoped for a little more depth and details, a little more of the dash and romance of crime.
4. Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl: wide-eyed wonder at God's spoken world, N. D. Wilson
    I loved this book so much. I can see how others could have quite different reactions, but I loved the unorthodox, almost chaotic style: it reflects the world we live in, God's world, a world that is like like a tilt-a-whirl you can't get off, but can find beauty and joyfully wild abandon in anyway, at least if you'll only open your eyes and see.
5. This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all, Marilyn Johnson
    I liked this book solely because I am a librarian, and I like reading about libraries and books and people who work in and with them. Other than that draw, the book is poorly organized, disjointed, and wanders rather pointlessly.
6. Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz
    I'd always heard that Koontz was a readalike for Stephen King (and he is), and since Stephen King creeps me out, I had also avoided Koontz. Actually, let me rephrase. Nothing so strong as "avoided" - I had never even given a thought to reading him at all. That changed because of reading the graphic novel prequel to Odd Thomas last month, where I discovered that ... Dean Koontz has a sense of humor! This book is still suspenseful, but somehow the humor saved it from being creepy or gruesome to me (I won't vouch for your experience, however.)

Cut for spoiler )
7. A Sweet and Bitter Providence, John Piper
    First time I've ever read Piper. I liked it! He has a pleasant way of writing, and of course it didn't hurt that the book of Ruth is one of my favorites.

Books from The Pile: one.
eleneariel: (Imaginary men)

 1. Service Included, Pheobe Damrosch
Yet another inside look at food service, this time from a server's POV. It does provide an interesting look into the workings of a 4 star resturant, but compared to some of the other similar books I've read, it seemed to fall flat. There was a bit too much about the author's personal life, for one thing. That's not to say it's a bad book. It's just not as good as some.

 2. Emma, Jane Austen
I shouldn't have taken the time to reread this, but I was watching the Masterpiece Theater version and wanted a refresher. (Also I just wanted to read it again, because I like it.)
3. The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Gene Veith
If you recognize Gene Veith's name, it's likely for his work for World Magazine or his association with Patrick Henry College. I picked this up because I'm always interested to see what Christians have to say about fantasy books (I often don't agree), and the second half of this one compares and contrasts Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. This was fairly light-weight and didn't tell me anything I hadn't heard before. 
4. Need, Carrie Jones
Twilight-wannabe FAIL. And not only because the writing includes such gems as "His voice frustrates out..."
5. What Einstein Told His Barber, Robert Wolke
Quick, fun answers to science questions. But the drawings are GOOFY.
6. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
7. Ayn Rand, James T. Baker
I finally worked up the nerve to read Atlas Shrugged. I went into it knowing only that it was very, very long, and controversal, and being talked about. I wanted to be able to talk about it too, so I read it. What surprised me most is that ... I was engrossed by it. I got so interested in the characters. I was expecting to have to struggle through the 1000+ pages, and instead I dreaded getting to the end.  
(I listened to the audio book, which was somewhat abridged. I've ordered an actual book copy which I'm eager to read as soon as it arrives.)
After finishing it I read a quick biography of Ayn Rand (her life, works, and philosophy). What I quote from below is taken from that book by James Baker, my comments in parentheses.
After the Bolshevik victory her father's business [in Russia] was nationalized, and the family's comfortable life abruptly ended. She would never forget or forgive this reversal of fortune, and she would argue that the most repugnant of Marxist doctrines was the secular altruism that called for the sacrifice of the individual to the common good.
(What I do like about her philosophy is her stirring defense of capitalism, and reading about her background makes it that much more clear why she felt so strongly about it.)

In describing the different types of people who were attracted to Rand's fiction: They [...] were attracted by the strength and resolution of her heroes and heroines, those men and women motivated and directed by rational self-interest. They like the clear eyes and smoke-filled hair and absolute certainty of egoists like Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart. It may have been a task at first to adjust to seeing such figures in modern rather than the usual midieval settings, as titans of industry rather than knights on horseback [...] but once they came to recognize her characters as modern guardians of romance, they delighted in her certainty and adventure. These fans never go deeper than the story line. They read Rand's novels but not her philosophy.
(This pretty much sums up where I am. I like the fiction. Not the philosophy.)

...Rand once again tends to limit rather than expand the human spirit. What was reasonable to her should not be taken as the standard for all men. As a workaholic, she assumed that being a workaholic was rational; and perhaps it is, despite medical evidence to the contrary; but it should not be the only path men of reason are told to take.

(As a philosopher Rand seems to have - not surprisingly - blind spots. Everything is based on her experience, without accounting for different temperments. She also seems to have a conveniently selective memory - she repeatedly stated that when she came to America, a stranger in a strange land, she asked for and expected no help - never mentioning the many people who did help her, and especially those who were instrumental in getting her jobs. )

In short: I love the story of Atlas Shrugged. I love the defense of capitalism (even though I don't agree with all her methods.) I do not love her rejection of religion, I strongly question her portrayal of romantic relationships, am confused by her portrayal of Dagney as both strong independant woman and submissive female, and I roundly ignore the rest of her philosphy as being unimportant to my chief aim in reading Atlas Shrugged: to enjoy the story. 

 8. No Wind of Blame, Georgette Heyer

A lovely little mystery in the spirit of Agatha Christie (now with more quirky humor!)

9. At the Corner of East and Now, Frederica Mathewes-Green
I love love love Mathewes-Green's writing. She is wise and humble and funny and most of all real. I would read anything she wrote, even if it was about paperclips or the color orange.
10. The Illumined Heart, Frederica Mathewes-Green
A very tiny book (perfect for carrying in one's pocket) full of very big wisdom.
11. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
12. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
Classic twenties noir! And one of the original hard-boiled detectives (Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon) and the most famous of inebriated literary couples (Nick and Nora in The Thin Man.) I had so much fun with these two books. They are witty and clever and keep the reader on his toes.
13. The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain
This is a collection of various pieces Bourdain wrote for other publications (mostly some years ago, it appears). He appears arrogant and brash and way too often foul-mouthed, but I can't help liking Tony; it didn't hurt that he mentioned in the afterward that he knew, reading the pieces again, that he was arrogant and brash and a punk.) All the same, it's not nearly as strong as his other books and lacks cohesion, what with being  a collection of "Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones".
In January I said:
One of my goals this year is to make my To Read Stack* smaller. To that end I have purposed to eschew library books and focus on my own books. Um ... I didn't do so well so far. Only three this month were from the Stack. Better luck in February.
I did NOT do better in February. Only Service Included and The Nasty Bits came from the stack. Sigh.

eleneariel: (This road is long - Fullmetal Alchemist)
I've decided to add Portugal to the list of places I want to visit.

An interesting bit of word-lore, courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love:

The word amok, as in "running amok," is a Balinese word, describing a battle technique of suddenly going insanely wild against one's enemies in suicidal and bloody hand-to-hand combat; the Europeans were frankly terrified by this practice.
eleneariel: (reading is the key)
Although not common on Discworld there are, indeed, such things as anti-crimes, in accordance with the fundamental law that everything in the multiverse has an opposite. They are, obviously, rare. Merely giving someone something is not the opposite of robbery; to be an anti-crime, it has to be done in such a way as to cause outrage and/or humiliation to the victim. So there is breaking-and-decorating, proffering-with-embarressment (as in most retirement presentations) and whitemailing (as in threatening to reveal to his enemies a mobster's secret donations, for example, to charity.) Anti-crimes have never really caught on. 

Reaper Man
, Terry Pratchett

Evan came out to watch me. Something about me on a ladder always seemed to draw his attention. He stood in the shade in the yard on the other side of the driveway. Toddlers never sit when they are spectators. Invariably theystand. Something in their legs gives them the impulse to participate, even as their consciousness refuses to explain this. They watch, imagining imitation, and bouncing imperceptibly to its rhythm. In this regard, at least, I was an excellent father. I was forever providing a live imagine of something a small boy might wish to try himself, something involving a hammer or a saw or an act of suspension ten feet in the air or something generally dangerous or violent or related to wet paint.

All the Way Home, David Giffels

This man had Rod Stewart's hair. I don't mean this figuratively, as in, "he had hair very much like that of pop singer Rod Stewart." I mean he appeared actually to have purchased the scalp of Rod Stewart on the black market and had had it surgically affixed to his head.

All the Way Home, David Giffels

In this book, we'll examine the inherent danger when the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred; when the public becomes accustomed to seeing celebrity disfunction or acting out portrayed as sexy, compelling, and dramatic; and when these corrosive behaviors are increasingly mirrored in our lives and those of our children.

The Mirror Effect, Dr. Drew Pinsky
eleneariel: (Bond (hold me))
Because I opened the book and saw these words: 

"Hello, Chief of Staff, er, Bill. Hello, James." M said, smiling broadly at the two men. She was glowing with happiness. Bond immediately confirmed his earlier suspicion. M was in love.

"Good evening, ma'am," he said.

"Oh please, we're not at the office. Call me Barbara," M said.
Also, I stopped reading We Bought a Zoo as soon as I realized the guy's wife was going to die of a brain tumor.
This will leave me more time to finish The United States of Arugula before the end of the month, because I'd dearly love to have it make April's booklist - I want to talk about it.
And yesterday morning I read Psalm 107, which is very beautiful with its refrain of give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love, and his wonderful deeds for men.
eleneariel: (always)
I'm finally almost done working my way through Mapping Time (by E.G. Richards), and while intellectually I understand how it works, stuff like this still BLOWS MY MIND:

[discussing corrections made to various ancient calendars when they got off track with the lunar and seasonal cycles, as they invariably did, nobody having noticed yet that the length of a year is closer to 365.24222 days than any whole number]

Thus 46 BC contained 445 days. [...] This mammoth year was known as 'the last year of confusion.'


It is unfortunate that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 BC [...] Caesar was unable to oversee the proper working of his new calendar and the pontifices, as usual, misunderstood their task and interpreted their orders to insert an intercalary day every fourth year as one every three years using Roman inclusive counting. Once more the calendar began to slip.

Then there's always the period when England and her colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in September of 1752:

Wednesday, 2 September, was followed by Thursday, 14 September, and the intervening 11 days just did not exist in that year.

I understand it but I still can't wrap my head around it. Where did those days GO?
eleneariel: (reading (N&S))
1. Chosen, PC and Kristin Cast
The anti-Christian message seems to get stronger with each book. The plot and characters are strong enough to carry the series without resorting to stereotyping and denigrating an entire religion, and it's disappointing to see the authors take the easy way out.

2. Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: why evangelicals don't think and what to do about it, Os Guinness
A quick read pointing out how far mainline protestantism has come from the deep thinkers of past centuries, but I didn't find much in the way of ideas for how to change that.

3. Whose Body, Dorothy L. Sayers (audio book from librivox.org)
I don't read enough Lord Peter books. Great British mysteries.

4. Stardust, Neil Gaiman
I recall hearing rumblings *looks in the general direction of [livejournal.com profile] equuschick * that the movie is far and away better than the book, but I found it a charming bit of storytelling with, perhaps, a childlike feel but a sprinkling of decidedly unchildlike content. If this is the way Gaiman can tell a story, however, then I need to explore his work more. The only other thing I've read (besides his collaboration with Terry Pratchett) is Coraline, which is also very good.

5. Villette, Charlotte Brontë
Okay, so I knew Villette wouldn't replace Jane Eyre in my affections, but I did expect a little more out of this. It's generally dark and bitter in tone, and it took me almost the entire book to really care about any of the characters. In the end, though, I did care - and so what a unsatisfying end!

6. Stretching for Dummies
Very helpful ... and self-explanatory. :)

7. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
I'd heard about this book over and over again as an antidote to the vampire image put forth in Twilight. It's very different. There's a facinating post-apocalyptic world, and very clever takes on the supernatural, and the inhuman aspects of vampires are amazingly well portrayed. I didn't really buy it as a love story, but it worked on every other level.

8. The Open Door, Elizabeth McGuire
A depressing and rather boring book based (loosely?) on the relationship between Henry James and Constance Fenimore Woolson, but notable for its portrayal of the collapse and death of a friendship - something not often discussed in fiction.

9. The Second Shift, Arlie Russell Hochschild
Studies on the emotional toll (especially in relationships between spouses) when both parents work outside the home, with the woman assuming most of the household duties as well. Interesting. Depressing.

10. Eating my Words, Mimi Sheridan
Ah, another food critic book. :) Mimi Sheridan was a resturant critic for the New York Times during the 70s and 80s, and of course she has lots of interesting stories to share.

11. Untamed, PC and Kristin Cast
SOMETIME during the month I read this book, but I neglected to record it either in my paper notebook or online. Ironically, I thought it was the best of the series - finally, something interesting happens. All of my earlier criticisms still stand, though.

On time

Feb. 8th, 2009 06:35 pm
eleneariel: (I came)
Right now I am reading a book called Mapping Time which is mostly about calenders and clocks and other time-keeping methods throughout history. It contains such sentences as

The lunation refers to the mean synodic period of the moon, and the year to the mean tropical year; both show small secular changes. The day shows a variation in the course of a year of about 50 seconds and also a small secular change.

It is relevant to note that one second of time is about 0.000012 days.
It is endlessly facinating, and now I almost understand Universal Time and the corrected versions UT1 and UT2 and International Atomic Time and Co-ordinated Universal Time and Greenwich Mean Time.

eleneariel: (imagination)
Just as, at least in one religion, accidia is the first of the cardinal sins, so boredom, and particularly the incredible circumstance of waking up bored, was the only vice Bond utterly condemned.
                                                                                                From Russia, With Love, Ian Fleming

Do you know, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've been truly bored? For that, at least, I can thank my imagination. It does give life continual interest!

And then there's the whole theory I have about men like Bond and why they live the way they do, and how if you really get into their heads you find that ordinary life isn't enough for them, and they abhor boredom and sameness above all else and thrive on danger and unpredictability. But that's another story for another day.

July 2011

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