eleneariel: (Wish)
Dare I hope that LJ is on the mend?


But I hate to post anything of substance until I know LJ is back up for real and everyone can read.
eleneariel: (Default)
Hello, LJ refugees. I'm apparently on Dreamwidth now, although I plan to flee back to LJ as soon as possible.

However: tell me more about this back-LJ-up-to-DW thing, please?

- the one also known as eattheolives
eleneariel: (reading (jolly good))
1. All Clear, Connie Willis

Basically refer to whatever I said last month about Blackout, only more so because taken together, these two books are AMAZING. And I wondered some throughout about the pacing, but in the end it made sense - although my gosh, these two books need diagrams or cross references or something.

2. ...And Furthermore, Judi Dench

This is written just like she talks, so you can almost just imagine she's sitting in the room with you, chatting away. It's long on theatre stories and short on personal details, and will mean most to people who have some interest in and knowledge of the English theatre world. I enjoyed it, but it left me wanting more - more explanation of theatre things she takes for granted that the reader will know, and more information about what she was doing between shows.

3. Your Brain At Work, David Rock
Although the writing style and before-and-after dramatizations seemed a little hokey, this is full of really scientifically researched information that is helpful for understanding and improving brain function at work.

4. My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
I can't remember who recommended this (unless it was Nancy Pearl), but it 1) wasn't what I expected, and 2) was AWESOME. It was written by the youngest son in a Cheaper By the Dozen-type family who move to Greece on a whim and have adventures and collect animals and it's just really whimsical and fun.

5. At Home, Bill Bryson (audio book)
Bill Bryson has a genius for taking any subject, weaving a whole ton of rabbit trails into it, and making it all fascinating. In this one he uses the rooms in his old rectory in England to explore architecture, social customs, and a lot of random history.

6. The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure

Like many children, Wendy McClure grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. But unlike many of those children, her interest in the world of Laura never really went away, and as an adult she found herself revisiting the books with new interest. It started small: she ground her own wheat berries to make bread like they did in The Long Winter. She learned to churn butter. She started a Twitter account called @halfpintingalls. But before long she was visiting historical sites relating to the series, ranging from Pepin, Wisconson to Springfield, Missouri – at least seven in all.

With equal parts humor and introspection, The Wilder Life explores the uneasy relationship between the real Ingalls family history, the book series, and the television show … and why we still are enchanted by the Ingalls family after all of these years.

I grew up with these books and Laura was often my pretend playmate ... I've even been to her homestead/museum in Missouri. I HAVE SEEN PA'S FIDDLE, GUYS.

7. The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

Really REALLY liked this one. Gawande is a doctor who took the type of checklists used in aviation and figured out how to use a similar system in hospitals. He was able to prove that using simple checklists cut the rate of infection dramatically and made operations safer.

8. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente

Just absolutely fell in love with this one. It looks on first glance like Alice in Wonderland style silliness, but there's a lot of depth and beauty in those pages.

9. The King's Speech, Mark Logue and Peter Conradi (audio book)

Still haven't seen the movie, but at least I've read the book! The audio book is great because it starts of with a real recording of King George VI speaking.

10. Blood, Bones & Butter, Gabriella Hamilton

I'm not quite sure why this has gotten as much attention as it has - as foodie memoirs go, it's not bad, but there are many better. And when it strays away from food and into Gabriella's personal life, it just gets odd. She enters into a marriage of convenience with an Italian so he can get a green card and doesn't take the marriage seriously at all, but then the next chapter she is moaning about how much she loves him and he doesn't love her back? Not to mention that for the entire preceding portion of the book, she was a lesbian?

11. The Skin Map, Stephen R Lawhead

I'm starting to get disappointed with my man Lawhead. He was positively brilliant with the Song of Albion series and the Pendragon Cycle, and perfectly acceptable with Patrick: Son of Ireland and the Crusades series, but everything I've read after that has been mediocore at best. This book has an interesting premise (certain people can travel both geographically and through time using ley lines, the ancient lines of energy that Stonehenge and other standing circles were built around) but the characters are cardboard cutouts, no dimention whatsoever, questions are raised and never answered, and one particular character who finds herself transported back to medieval Europe without warning or explanation spends NO time angsting about the hows and whys and immediately fits and AND introduces the idea of the coffee shop to poor pre-coffee Europe. *headdesk*

12. The Time-Traveling Fashionista, Bianca Turetsky

Such a great idea (a vintage dress that transports the wearer back to its original time period - the Titanic, in this case), such poor execution. =\

13. Death Cloud, Andrew Lane (audio book)

Alternate title could be Sherlock Holmes: the beginning. Sherlock is 14 and though bright, not possessed of the extraordinary skills we know he'll have as an adult. By the end of the book, we starts to get an idea of how he acquired those skills. It's a perfectly acceptable book, but not brilliant.

14. Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks, Terrance Dicks

Came upon a 10-volume set of Doctor Who books from the 70s, had to read at least one. They're ... not very good. But it's the Doctor!

15. Manning Up: how the rise of women is turning men into boys,  Kay S. Hymowitz

Along the same lines as Save the Males, but better. I think the title says it all.


Jun. 16th, 2011 02:44 pm
eleneariel: (Water nymph)
"When you are born," the golem said softly, "your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living. So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

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.



Jun. 2nd, 2011 02:37 pm
eleneariel: (Cooking (hands))
So that five hour stretch of cooking I did last Sunday? Here's what I made:
Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms   
Chocolate Orange Bread (this is SO good eaten with marmalade)
Persian Kotlety (added fresh mint)
Scored Potatoes (ditched the seasoned salt and used butter and herbs instead)
Rosemary Filone (my favorite artisan bread!)
Rosemary Apple Tart
Roasted Carrots with Dill

My herbs are starting to really take off now - except the basil, it's been too cool at night until recently for it to really start growing - so I wanted to make things that would take advantage of all the fresh parsley, mint, rosemary, dill, and oregano available.

If you only try one of these, make it the rosemary apple tart. It's very simple and such an unexpected - but completely delicious - flavor combination!
eleneariel: (USA)
Someone expressed shock that I had no Plans for the long weekend, and I was similarly shocked that given a chance to have three solid days at home, one wouldn't wish to take it.

I took it, my friends. I haven't gone anywhere at all since Friday.

I knocked out so much of my to do list. I took early morning walks, and evening walks. I cooked for five hours straight and then read Blackout for almost that long. I napped under trees with kittens curled up by my side. I listened to chattering birds and tended the herb patch and watched a Bourne movie without even ever figuring out if it was the second or third. I baked bread twice and drank a total of about three pots of coffee.

I thought a lot about London.

I saw the same rabbit three mornings in a row.

And I slept with the windows open.

eleneariel: (art in the everyday)
In my personal experience, the world can be divided into two groups of people:

1. Those who look at my clipboard and find it interesting or helpful (or at least in some way understandable)

2. Those who do the same and say in genuine confusion, "You know you could just buy a day planner, right?"

Mechanics first: plain small clipboard ($2.50 at Wal-Mart), covered first in tissue paper (to create texture), then torn bits of an art book, then painted, then sealed with shellac. Sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper cut in half fit perfectly (I use blank-on-one-side paper that's headed to the recycle bin).

You who have known me for awhile know that I'm reliant on lists. Not kidding: they keep me sane. Each day has a page, and I can jot down note and reminders as I think of them. Towards the back are sheets for shopping lists, future travel plans, even movies I want to see/music to buy/books to find.

Each evening I look over and add to the following day's page. It starts out as a neat list of things to do, but by the end of the day it will be a mess of scrawled notes, crossed out (I hope!) tasks, reminders, and notes in RED for the really important bits.

And to all those who have suggested a day planner: my clipboard is endlessly reusable, frugal, expandable, earth-friendly, flexible and able to adapt to my changing life, AND has personality. Why would I WANT a day planner?
eleneariel: (art in the everyday)
Part one: Weeks ago I stumbled upon a picture in Decorology - a home office, the decor of which didn't appeal to me, but a printed-out quote stuck in a frame did. I didn't know what it was from (How I Met Your Mother, it turns out), but I liked it and I liked the offbeat inspiration it provided.

Part two: sometime later I was looking at a really awful cheap print hanging in a staff area at work, all mauve and teal and looking like something you'd find hanging in a nursing home (God bless 'em, but they aren't exactly examples of wonderful interior design). And I thought ... what if I ripped out that print ... and cut out some letters with the Cricut... and put it all on a craft-paper background ...

Part three: I picked up a tiny oval frame somewhere either free or almost free, and I kept meaning to design some sort of miniature collage or something else awfully clever to go in it , and I kept not doing anything and it kept sitting there all empty and sad. And then ...

Now it sits on my dresser and reminds me to be awesome.

(I feel compelled to point out that this isn't my natural handwriting. I was deliberately going for the sort of loopy unevenness, and I DO know how to capitalize things.)
eleneariel: (lily of the valley)
I don't make logical decisions when I'm half-asleep. In fact, logic doesn't seem to play a part in my thought process at all. I'm not sure how difficult it is to think "get one of the blankets from the stack on the end of the bed" when one wakes up cold in the middle of the night, but my sleepy solution is never that.

It's apparently to see how tight of a ball I can curl up into, like a pitiful little puppy huddled in a cold corner.

My conclusion is that I am an idiot. At least when mostly asleep.
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: (art in the everyday)
Hang out at home. Pay bills. Laugh a lot. Drink cup after cup of coffee. Do the unthinkable and use scotch tape to hold a vintage map together. (Remember with guilt all the times scotch tape was declared the Supreme Evil in archival classes.) Go for a walk and marvel at the sight of setting sun glinting off newly-formed leaves. Burst out with "I LOVE SPRING" about a dozen times. Hold kittens.

Laugh at the Chinglish (Thailish?) on the menu from Thai House II. (Thai iced tea with no iced ... $2.50. Add extra sauce or something else, the price will be adding it up to original price.)

Try to answer some of the 40+ emails waiting for me, because I apparently FAIL at answering emails in a timely manner.

Listen to The Cat Empire and have flashbacks to Des Moines and music shopping at B&N.

Oh, and write blog posts.
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: (Roses)
Friday I found the best kind of estate sale of all - an elderly lady with great taste, artistic talent, and a lot of traveling under her belt who is moving from a large house into a small apartment. For $16 I got a tablecloth with handmade battenburg lace, one of those really old fashioned sturdy wooden spoons (extra-long handle all the better for stirring bread with), a large framed print of Young Girl Reading (the frame was worth ten times the price I paid, at least) and an assortment of vintage pins and necklaces. And a box that contained Spanish Toilet Soap back in the 1930s, but now had three sticks of chalk, a keyring, some pencil lead, and a thumbtack. (Discarded everything, kept the box in all its gorgeous red-and-black art deco glory.)

What I wanted and did not buy was the set of three stained glass window rubbings. Back when she lived in England, some churches would allow people to come in and make rubbings of the windows. These were beautiful - charcoal on art paper, very lovely and medieval. But not lovely enough for me to drop $150 on the set ... alas.

But I'm very happy with my Young Girl Reading, which is destined for my library one day.

eleneariel: (Pirate)
Currently: I have a new haircut, matzo ball soup on the stove, and a tattoo of a parrot on the back of my hand. Also a wicked headache, because SOMEBODY has for TWO DAYS IN A ROW been so busy that she forgot to drink anything until mid-afternoon. This person is hereby notified that this is UNACCEPTABLE and must CEASE.
eleneariel: (Pratchett (logic))
I heard a little NPR blurb advertising their morning news show ... "We'll catch you up on everything that happened while you were asleep!" It made me wonder when this idea started that we have some sort of an obligation to keep informed and appraised of so much. 

I like news. I like information. And I think it's good to be interested in more than just your local happenings - keeping an eye on national and international stories gives a sense of perspective.  But their innocent little promo made me realize that underneath my interest and enjoyment, I do feel like I'm "supposed" to keep up, and an underlying and subtle sense of panic if I don't.* I go to sleep listening to the BBC. I wake up to more international news. I check google reader and twitter and news sites throughout the day. Sometimes I listen to Deutsche Welle radio in the evening. I catch talk radio whenever I can, read newspapers, read magazines, read anything and everything interesting that I find online, read books on all kinds of subjects. If I can't do these things for whatever reason, I feel like I'm falling behind - like I have to catch up.

In conclusion, to myself: Self, it is good to be informed. But stop this senseless feeling of obligation.

*on the other hand, I feel panic about a lot of things, mostly variations on "must do ALL the things during my lifetime."
eleneariel: (Cooking)
Nevermind. I made a pot of curried peanut soup and ate two bowls.
eleneariel: (Roses)
I cooked most of the weekend (banana & blood orange crepes, cheesecake, caramel sauce [no recipe required], some killer mashed potatoes and even more killer black pepper gravy [there is an ART to gravy, you see], french puffs [twice] and other stuff that I have forgotten, because it has been consumed and is long gone) but really all I want to do is go out and make more noms. But then I would need someone to eat them, for I'm neither hungry nor needful of the calories.

My mother's birthday is today, and I overheard her telling her brother she figures that maybe now it's time to be a grown up. Then later we decided that nah, neither of us would ever grow up. It's more fun to stay perpetually 21. And Younger Brother is 20 as of tomorrow. How did THAT happen?

Note: Even though the clocks went ahead an hour, I feel like it's later than it is. It's only 8:30 but I feel like it should be bedtime.

Mom, Dad and I finished Cranford this afternoon. We agreed that entirely too many people died. I LOVED it, and I never want to see it again. So is the general consensus that Mary  ends up with the spectacle-doctor? Perhaps this is addressed in Return to Cranford?

I keep trying for weeks to read fewer than 8 books at once (and I've finished 8 this month already), but it keeps not happening.

Have I mentioned: RENFAIRES!!!! Less than a month away. So happy. So many plans.

Ha! It just started raining, big plump pattering drops. This, I think, is my cue to crawl in bed with some of those 8 books.

July 2011

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