Recently I've had cause to rethink first impressions - one in a positive way, one in a negative way. It's always difficult to change our thinking about someone or something, particularly if we're lowering our previously good thoughts.

The positive? I knew a man, let's call him Robert. We met on-line years ago and, well, disagreed is putting it politely. It wasn't just that we had different viewpoints, it was his feeling that if you disagreed with him (or understood the opposite position) you were stupid and somewhat evil. Needless to say, not one of my favorite people. Recently, however, I've come to know him in a different context and, well, in this context what he has to say is not argumentative and actually quite thought-provoking. Luckily, "I am not I, you are not you and they are not they" or else there'd be trouble!

The negative? I loved the book Still Missing, and I've recommended it to others. Then, this past weekend, I watched an episode of L&O UK. This particular episode, "Hidden", was based on "Bitter Fruit" (L&O "original"), which was based on the Ellie Nesler case... which seems to have inspired Still Missing. Not realizing it at the time, I'm now a little less enthused about the book (and let's not talk about the cross-over to Room).

I guess it's a classic case of win some... lose some...


Silly me!

Today I received an e-mail from my father:

My ever-inquisitive uncle was asking about the sex life of books... something I, too, have wondered about over the years.  My response was that I'd thought the dust jackets might act as prophylactics, and that the children's/young adult books were just not developed enough.

Then I started thinking: shouldn't there be fewer murder mysteries than there are?  and what could possibly explain the missing history books?

What goes on in your library?


Blog Challenge

(ETA: Oops!  Forgot to take this out of draft)

Another "gulp!  how can I possibly answer this one" post - "What Book Made the Biggest Impact on your Life?" Because if you're a real reader, there isn't one book, is there?  There are books that, in what ever moment and a certain time, just make so much sense that your life is in some way changed.

Hard on the heels of this prompt came Cam's tagging me on Facebook: Rules:  Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

That's easier. So I'll combine the two, and in no particular order:
  1. A.S. Byatt
  2. Robinson Davies
  3. Julian Barnes
  4. Rex Stout
  5. Carolyn Keene (ok ok she's not a real author but work with me people!)
  6. S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders
  7. Abraham Kaplan's In Pursuit of Wisdom
  8. Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook
  9. Frank de Felitta's Audrey Rose
  10. Irene Hunt's Up a Road Slowly
  11. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
  12. Iain Banks
  13. C. S. Lewis
  14. Martha Gripe's Hugo and Josephine
  15. Noel Streatfield's Ballet Slippers
 There you have it - the authors and books I really couldn't imagine my life without; some for their ideas, some for the way in which my life was altered after reading that book. 


Notable Quotes

... I stared at the pictogram of a burger nestled between similar representations of shakes, sodas, and fries on the front of my register.  I wondered why humankind seemed so set on destroying all of its accomplishments.  We draw on cave walls, spend thousands of years developing complex language systems, the printing press, computers, and what do we do with it?  Create a cash register with a picture of a burger on it, just in case the cashier didn't finish the second grade.  One step forward, two steps back, like an evolutionary cha-cha.


Notable Quotes

Have you ever wondered what the stretch of time smells like? I can't say I had, not before I set foot inside Milderhurst Castle, but I certainly know now. Mould and ammonia, a pinch of lavender and a fair whack of dust, the mass disintegration of very old sheets of paper. And there's something else, too, something underlying it all, something verging on rotten or stewed but not. It took me a while to work out what that smell was, but I think I know now. It's the past. Thoughts and dreams, hopes and hurts, all brewed together, shifting in the stagnant air, unable ever to dissipate complet ely.
The Distant Hours, Kate Morton


Blog Challenge

This week's prompt is
What is your life as a reader like? Do you read for work, pleasure, instructions or emails? What is your favorite author and/or genre? What is your favorite reading spot? What did you like to read when you were the age of your students?
Wow. What a way to start... and I'm a little stumped. What is my life as a reader like?

Voracious. Necessary. Omnigenre. And faster than your average bear. Just look at the Notes from Bookpile posts.

My parents taught me to read early - very early. My first book was a vanity press book called Bobo the Clown, written, designed and published by Mike Milder. I think my parents still have it. Honestly, I don't remember a time when I didn't (or couldn't) read. When I was younger, books were better friends than most people. And yes, I started 'cataloging' and organizing my books early on.

In 1973 I was introduced to a world of reading beyond that in SmallTown - we lived in Geneva Switzerland that year and I found Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. I've collected their works ever since. I also read the old-fashioned books that my parents had read: Louisa May Alcott's books, some of the Pollyanna series, Hans Brinker... Because the Scholastic Book Club was around back then, I also picked up books like Shadow Castle (one of my favorites). And then there was my aunt, who gave books as gifts (although to this day I'm stymied as to why anyone would think that the transcripts of the Commission on the Attica uprising was appropriate for a middle school student). I also remember a contest my fifth grade teacher had where we reported how many pages we'd read each week; she didn't actually believe I read things like The Count of Monte Cristo in three days.  Oh - and Audrey Rose gave me my life-long interest in Jungian archetypes (thank you Robertson Davies for the Deptford Trilogy!)

By the time I got to high school, I was reading just about anything - and lucky for me the books assigned in class were challenging. I also dabbled quite heavily in "bodice rippers" and porn (hey, it was an all-girl's boarding school - sue me). College was a time to branch out, and I remember the look on one friend's face when I read the first of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenent the Unbeliever overnight.

My first job out of college was working in a box office: long hours all alone waiting for someone to buy a ticket. Solution? The secondhand bookstore in town, where I was able to buy just about every Nero Wolfe mystery written. Since then, I've put over 3000 books into The Collection. While I read a great deal of Children's/YA literature, my preference is for dark mysteries... although I love Wendy's comfort reads, interesting vampire books (more Tanith Lee and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, less Stephanie Meyer), non-fiction about personal passions (like the Acadians). See? Omnigenre.

The 321 books on Mt. Bookpile are from all genres, and I'm looking forward to curling up in bed or in front of my fireplace, with The Boys, and reading all of them. Heaven would be an all-expense paid sabbatical to just read read read.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Yep, here's my quarterly round-up. Reviews are over on Killin' Time Reading...

Children's/Young Adult
Science Fiction/Fantasy

Books on Mt. Bookpile: 322
Added: 7
Net gain/loss: 60 loss(!!)


Number 9... Number 9...

What is it with New York State and Route 9? Just recently, I've driven on the "real" Route 9, Route 9H and Route 9G. In the past, I've been on Routes 9A, 9B, 9D, 9N and 9R.

Of course, that's not the only thing I was pondering during my recent drive. I passed through the Town of Clinton, in Duchess County. This is not to be confused with the Village of Clinton, which is actually located in the Town of Kirkland (Oneida County), 140 miles away. The Village is the home of Hamilton College, which is not to be confused with Colgate University located in Hamilton NY (21 miles south). The Village of Hamilton is located in Madison County. No idea if it has any bridges...



My drive to and from work is along roads that range from rural to suburban, and few have sidewalks let alone shoulders.

So imagine my surprise and consternation when I saw a woman yesterday walking with traffic, reading. Completely engrossed in her book. Not paying attention.

Now, I'm a reader. I admire other readers. But this? Not exactly my idea of a time to read.


My new life goal

In a couple of weeks, the people I went to public school with will be celebrating their 30th high school reunion (as readers know, I've already had mine). To be honest, of the 450 people that I would have graduated with had I stayed there, I only remember five. Recently I commented on one of those friends FB page; that night there was a message from another classmate who clearly remembered me but of whom I had no recollection. The other night I couldn't sleep, thanks to a midday latte, and I found myself looking in the basement for my 9th grade yearbook. Even with the photo as a prompt, this person's name wasn't ringing any of those memory bells! (take that, Thing Two: I don't have perfect memory of everyone and everything)

Reading the comments was interesting. Some were unreadable, because thin pen over a photo doesn't lend itself to reading. Most were of the "you're a good kid... have a good summer..." variety. So yes, I was a loser with few friends back then. There were a few "we had so much fun in [subject] class - never forget [name of teacher]". If my life depended on it I can't remember that teacher, or the class in which I apparently had fun! And then there were the comments that scared me.

Scared me how? Reading between the lines, back then I was smart, assertive, and hell on wheels. Plus ça change, right? Aren't we supposed to grow and change as we get older?

I mentioned this to Thing One, who said "I wouldn't say hell on wheels - you're more like purgatory on a unicycle." Maybe in another 30 years, I'll be "limbo in Topsiders." Certainly a goal to strive for.



One of the joys of Netflix is being able to watch old series that you missed the first time around  or those you'd like to rewatch (although why Mother Love and Die Kinder aren't available is beyond me: I'd love to see them again!). Along with all my reading (35 ALA-gotten ARCs down, 25 to go!), I'm watching many movies and series during my long weekends this summer.

The current Netflix is Poldark.  Now, I remember when it was on Masterpiece Theatre and I remember my mother refusing to let me watch any of the episodes.  So of course I've had an incredible curiosity about why.  I should have learned my lesson when I finally saw Upstairs, Downstairs (don't get me wrong, it's a great series, but there's nothing there that a teen in the 1970s should have been shielded from!)... but noooooo.  I'm watching the series (anyone else notice the resemblance to Penmarric?  or is that just me?) and, well, I'm underwhelmed.  1700s Cornwall-based soap opera?  Definitely.  But it's basically G rated, with the occasional PG moment. 

So why couldn't I watch Masterpiece Theatre when I was younger?  Anyone?


Culture Vulturing on a hot summer's eve

In the late-80s, David Johansen was playing seemingly weekly at the Bottom Line, and Thing One kept promising that one day he'd take me.  It took 20 years, but finally!  Don't know who David Jo is? Think New York Dolls.  Think Buster Poindexter.  Think Hot Hot Hot (on second thought, don't - I think we've all heard that song 50 times too many).

So, on a scorching night in NYC, off we went to the Highline Ballroom to finally see him in concert.  I don't know what type of a crowd Thing One expected, but a bunch of off-duty cops/firemen in their 50s wasn't quite top of my "this is the David Jo crowd" list!  The only song we knew we didn't want him to do was That Song, but Thing One did have hopes that we'd get "Hit the Road Jack" and "House of the Rising Son".  No such luck.  Instead we got "Funky but Chic", "Frenchette", "The Rope" (among others) and covers of "Rocket 88", "Boom Boom" along with some new stuff.  He was remarkably adept at ignoring the yelled requests from the audience, although he did allude to That Song with the casual remark "it's a living".  There was no band, just Brian Koonin on guitar, and the rock portion hearkened back to the 50s in tone.  All-in-all, a fun concert... almost.

The "almost" was the part that was ruined by David Jo's hairdresser, Sheridan, who was also part of Vaughn's birthday party.  No idea who Vaughn is, but he and his crew had one of the banquette areas of the Highline filled, and they were acknowledged by David during the concert.  Sheridan (also acknowledged as the one that comes to do his hair every day) was one of those fashionably chicly dressed types, and apparently is so used to her boss' music that she didn't feel the need to modulate her tones when arguing with someone at the party - those of us on that side of the room could hear her during several songs.  Then, during the second encore ("Heart of Gold"), she was at the bar, talking over the music to some guy (who had the good grace to notice that perhaps those closest weren't interested in whatever Sheridan's issues were, and be slightly embarrassed by the attention).  I didn't give in to my intense urge to stand up and ask Mr. Johansen to restart the song after his employee finished her conversation, but I did thank her for her contribution to my evening's entertainment.  

It was really too bad that such an enjoyable evening was ruined by such an inconsiderate person.  If I ever get the chance to see him perform again, I really hope she's not in the audience.


Happy Birthday!!

Today is the day we celebrate the birthdays of three of The Gang: Bogie (14), Mallory (11) and Greta (3). I don't have birth certificates for them, but going by the age the vets think they were when they joined the family, mid-July seems appropriate as a birthday (in case you're wondering, Francis is a Thanksgiving baby, and he'll be 3 this year).

We'll be having salmon and perhaps some ice cream. And cuddles. Lots of cuddles.


Notable Quotes

It's bittersweet (without the sweet)
Honey from the rock (without the honey)
Was never absolutely clean
Never really love's young dream:
A pair of fairly fucked up bunnies.
Bittersweet, Shriekback


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Just got a new batch of ARCs during ALA Annual, and have already dived in. Let's see if I can finish them by the end of Q3. Reviews are all over on Killin' Time Reading.

E.B. White; Scott Elledge
Episodes; Blaze Ginsberg
Julie and Julia: Julie Powell
Mistress of the Monarchy; Alison Weir

Children's/Young Adult
Young Samurai; Chris Bradford
Tenth Grade Bleeds; Heather Brewer
Thirteen Days to Midnight; Patrick Carman
Matched; Ally Condee
Nightshade; Andrea Cremer
13 to Life; Shannon Delany
Theodore Boone; John Grisham
Blood Feud; Alyxandra Harvey
Guardian of the Dead; Karen Healey
The Color of Water; Kim Dong Hwa
Scumble; Ingrid Law
Lord Sunday; Garth Nix
Sisters Red; Jackson Pearce
Museum of Thieves; Lian Tanner
Guardian of the Gate; Michelle Zink

Espedair Street; Iain Banks
The Yiddish Policeman's Union; Michael Chabon
Beautiful Maria of My Soul; Oscar Hijuelos

Nightshade; Harvard Lampoon

This Body of Death; Elizabeth George
The Black Cat; Martha Grimes
The Man in the Picture; Susan Hill
The Cruelest Month and Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny

Wicked Good Year; Steve Buckley
The Americans; Alistair Cooke
Lost London; Hermione Hobhouse
This Book Is Overdue!; Marilyn Johnson
Digital Revolutionaries; Steve Lohr

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Hastur Lord; Marion Zimmer Bradley
Dragons of Darkness; Antonia Michaelis

Books on Mt. Bookpile: 375
Added: 76
Net gain/loss: 41 gain


New Blog Alert

After bragging about my friend's blogs, the least I can do is promote my uncle's blog, Anchises - An Old Man's Journal. He's a wonderful writer (even his scholarly works are readable to a non-scholar like myself!), and this journal of his adventures in old age is filled with interesting insights and thoughts.


Six months of music

It feels like every time I start this post, another culture vulturing adventure is just on the horizon and, well, why not wait until that's done with before I post? But here it is, mid June and it's time to finally push the “publish” button on my activities over the past six months.

There's been a lot of music, some old... some new... In order:

Sybarite 5. (Full disclosure: one of the violinists was a student of mine) Taking popular music and translating it for classical instruments has been done before, but this quintet is fun and dipped into a number of different genres: Astor Piazzola, Radiohead and Led Zep. With the exception of the last, I'd never heard the originals (ok, knowingly heard the originals is perhaps more accurate) so there were no expectations. As for Led Zep, well, you'd basically have to have been dead for the past 30 years to NOT have heard some version of “Stairway to Heaven”. I mean really? Haven't they done anything else in their long, storied careers?

Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton. I've seen Clapton before (he did a month-long gig at Royal Albert Hall in the early 90s), and he was better then. According to Thing One, Beck was better during his earlier gig at Irving Plaza, but I dunno. He was pretty amazing here. As I told people, Beck brought 12 kinds of awesome to this show... Clapton not so much. Still not sure why Beck has felt the need to play “Nessum Dorma” on the guitar, but what the hey. The ending, with both playing on stage, highlighted the difference between them: Jeff Beck was playing, Clapton was mostly phoning it in. And when God phones... On the other hand, I recognized “You Need Love” (the precursor to “Whole Lotta Love”) well before Thing One did!

AIR. I'd heard their first album, which was pretty good, but the middle stuff was unknown to me. This was in support of their most recent album, which apparently has gotten the rave reviews that the first got. Live, on the other hand, was not an amazing experience. The venue was Montreal's equivalent of Roseland or Irving Plaza, and the oh-so-hip crowd was there (Thing One and I were among the oldest). Perhaps it was the set list, or the acoustics, but neither of us were blown away by what we heard.

Larry Coryell. Still around, still good, and touring with a couple of Indian musicians. Their influence on his music was interesting – still not sure how I feel about it. He ended the first set with a guitar version of Bolero, worthy of inclusion on the 10 soundtrack (yes, that's dating me; on the other hand, we were among the youngest in the audience, only one night after raising the average age at the AIR concert!). I'd like to listen more to his stuff before passing judgment.

Charlotte Gainsburg. So disappointing that the majority of the crowd was there to hear her do her father's stuff (she did one song) and not her own. She was stiff, and looked as though she was reading from a lyrics sheet – with only two albums, that didn't seem right. Her voice is also thin (just listen to the albums), and perhaps Webster Hall wasn’t quite the right venue; a larger Feinstein’s might have worked better. I was also disappointed in her choice of songs, because there were some on both IRM and 5:55 that would have been great in concert. IMVHO, if she’d added “Time of the Assassins” and “The Songs That We Sing” it would have been a stronger set list. “Trick Pony” got the most applause of her songs (possibly because it was what she sang on Letterman). It must be difficult being the daughter of such a musical icon, particularly since the crowd really didn't seem to want to hear her do her songs.

Rachid Taha: Odd place (Highline Ballroom); odder crowd. The Highline is very much like the Supper Club in set-up, and not like Irving Plaza, which seemed to be a better fit for him. That night it was filled with a mix of Arabs; we were at a table with Moroccans, in between a table of Jordanians and another of Egyptians. His patter was mostly Arabic or French ("Fuck BP" being the exception), and he was seriously toasted. At this point in his life, he comes across as an aging Tom Jones, mixed with Gene Simmons (what was with the tongue wagging? Is it an Arabic thing I just don’t understand?), rather than the sexy Rachid of, say, the 1-2-3 Soleils concert. He didn't do a few songs I thought he'd do, given his political stances (with what’s going on in Arizona, why no “Voila, Voila”?), but did play a number of the songs from Bonjour, his new (and lesser) album. It was cool to see the crowd switch from the arab/belly dance style when he played "Habina" and "Ya Rayah" to punk dancing with "Rock el Casbah". It was a short-ish concert, about 90 minutes, and the audience clearly wanted more.

So that’s it for the time being. We’ll see what the rest of the year brings.


Comment commentary

Every so often I see people posting on their blog's comment policy, and it's probably a good time for me to do so.

When I started, this blog was open to all. Over the past few years, I've blocked one or two IP addresses, and I started to ask for work verification for comments. Then I blocked another couple of IP addresses and started moderating comments.

Why? Because this is my blog. It's my personal rantings, ravings, musings and ephemeral thoughts. Some posts are more random than others, granted, but the important thing is that they're mine.

Some comments have been, well, mean-spirited. Being a Pollyanna, I'm glad that people are reading and participating, and perhaps they've meant something as a joke and I'm just missing that. But if a comment strikes me as detracting from the blog, it's not getting posted. Simple as that.


A very productive weekend

Thing Two is fond of asking "did you have a productive weekend?" when I speak with him Sunday night or Monday. Most of the time, the "yes" depends on your definition of "productive". For example, I think that reading a book (or two) and napping is really quite productive. YMMV.

This past weekend, however, was productive in the non-reading, non-napping sense, mainly because my parents were visiting. By the weekend's end, I'd*:

Gotten a new car

Weeded the Back 2 1/2 (feet, that is - the "plot" is perhaps 6"x5' max)
Planted impatiens in the Back 2 1/2

Bought two hanging plants

Hung a hanging plant holder on the deck

Fixed the screen door to the deck (I can now leave that door open)
Took delivery of my new, custom built and designed, mahogany-and-maple end table

Fixed the toilet in the guest bathroom

Left unfinished was setting up my new printer/scanner/copier and organizing my closets.

So yes, Thing Two, this was a very productive weekend!

(* by "I", I mean "most of this was done by my father as my mother and I looked on")


Notable Quotes

Patience is just procrastination without the anxiety.

Harry, MI-5


Notable Quotes

It wasn't that I actively disliked myself, just that I wasn't as interesting and find and noble a person as I'd thought I was. I used to think that all I needed was the opportunity, and I'd blossom, I'd flower, I'd spread my wings and fly... but discovered in the end that I was a weed, and that some buds just never open, and that some caterpillars were only ever worms with an identity crisis.

Iain Banks, Espedair Street


You don't know me, do you?

The other day at MPOW a colleague said to me that I was one of the least stressed people he'd met, that he'd never seen me stressed in the five years we'd known each other.

Say wha???

Me, not stressed?  Ever?  Really?

It could be that he's not paying close attention... or it could be that my way of stressing is less obvious than the ways in which he sees people stress (remember, we both work at a school, filled with teenage angst)... or it could be that my goal of not bringing That Stuff to work with me has been met.  Or it could be all three.  Because believe me, I do get stressed (just as The Things). 

Quaker Meeting does help, as does having The Boys around to cuddle before I head in to work every day.  But it's also important to me to not bring stress, or despair, or other non-sunshiney elements to work: it's not fair to my colleagues, it's not fair to my students.

Still... that anyone could suggest that I'm never stressed just makes me chuckle.


A Question of Style

Yesterday I was talking with Aravis and, as all good co-dependent bibliholics do, we talked about books. I mentioned my current read, Episodes, and said that I really didn't like it.

When I read a "meh" book, I question why the publisher decided to waste time, effort and trees on that particular publication. In this case, I know why: the author is a high-functioning autistic. This book is supposed to give us insight into what life is like for someone with that type of mental process - in Blaze's case, he apparently sees things as discrete episodes in various television series (for example, his freshman year of school). As Sondheim wrote, you gotta have a gimmick, and the conceit here is that the book is written as though it were a large TV Guide or retrospective of some television show.

So reading this, not being particularly excited by the content and being annoyed by the gimmick, I felt guilty. As I said to Aravis, I feel a little like someone that sees a mediocre painting and then learns that it was painted by a blind person: does that mean it is somehow elevated from mediocre? Should we hold that painter (or author, or composer, or whatever) to a lower standard, or can we say "this doesn't do it for me"?


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

I'm not done with the Midwinter ARCs yet, but I'm getting close! Only 48 read this quarter... reviews are all over on Killin' Time Reading.

Sir Charlie Chaplin, Sid Fleischman

Children's/Young Adult
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tom Angleberger
Ship Breaker, Paulo Bacigalupi
The Wide-Awake Princess, E.D. Baker
Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, Andrea Beaty
Eleventh Grade Burns, Heather Brewer
Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanon
Starlighter, Bryan Davis
Kyle's Island, Sally Derby
Rules of Attraction, Simone Elkeles
The Midnight Curse, L.M. Falcone
Incarceron, Catherine Fisher
Faithful, Janet Fox
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green
Hearts at Stake, Alyxandra Harvey
Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja, Simon Higgins
Aries Rising, Bonnie Hearn Hill
The Popularity Papers, Amy Ignatow
Liar, Justine Larbalestier
The Carbon Diaries 2017, Saci Lloyd
Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta
Evermore, Alyson Noel
Smudge's Mark, Claudia Osmond
The Thin Executioner, Darren Shan
Anxious Hearts, Tucker Shaw
The Grimm Legacy and Enthusiasm, Polly Shulman
A Whole Nother Story, Cuthbert Soup
The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The March, E.L. Doctorow
The Quickening Maze, Adam Foulds
The Queen of Palmyra, Minrose Gwin
The English Teacher, Lily King
The Long Way Home, Robin Pilcher
Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Girl with Glass Feet, Ali Shaw
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Ladder of Years, Anne Tyler

Watchlist: A Serial Thriller, Jeffrey Deaver
Eye of the Red Tsar, Sam Eastland
A Question of Belief, Donna Leon
Still Missing, Chevy Stevens
Hush, Kate White

Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year, Laura Brodie
31 Bond Street, Ellen Horan
Making Toast: A Family Story, Roger Rosenblatt

Science Fiction/Fantasy
The Prophecy, Dawn Miller
The Eternal Ones, Kirsten Miller

Books on Mt. Bookpile: 334
Added: 61
Net gain/loss: 13 gain


Breaking with cybersources

As I ease back into the world I left last week, I'm going through my e-mail and RSS and all the other cyber sources I have. Even better, I'm taking the time to evaluate them and unsubscribe from those that are no longer giving me what I need. Sometimes I think we all follow a blog or twitter feed because it's a good idea to be following them - everyone else does, so you should too. And if you're caught not following? Well, *that* could be embarassing (or something).

But if that source isn't giving you ideas, or if you spend more time saving the read for later (and later gets later and later)? Just say "no". Get rid of it.

Since my return home, I've broken up with 25 RSS feeds... 10 twitter feeds... and two e-lists. And you know what? My life is going on just fine.



Please help me out: why is Monday "delightful" while Tuesday is merely "nice"?


Book trending

A while ago the "microhistory" trend took off - books like Salt, Cod, Coffee and Aspirin flew off bookstore shelves into our collections. I'm seeing a variant on the trend, as yet unnamed, which I'll dub the "annual history": books like 1492 (and the "prequel" 1491), 1968, 1789 and other memorable years.

Perhaps history writ large is too much for our ADD-based lives? Or is there another reason? Anyone?



Recently I asked a friend to wish me luck with something - her response was "I'll hold my thumbs for you". Wha??

You don't know what that means? To me it means one thing: you haven't read Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes. And between readers, there's no better shibboleth than that word or phrase that says "I read it, too".


Thing Two asks

At the end of his comment here, Thing Two asks:
PS - Apropos of the "not the intended audience" thing. I am interested in the mental gymnastics which older readers mus go through when they read this stuff as part of their job. Is this a learned behaviour which comes with training, professionalism and experience?
Now, he knows that I read many, many books for which I am not the intended audience. So, how do I do it?

Well, part of it is what C.S. Lewis once said:
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
(ok, he said two things. sue me.)

Thing is, I do sometimes question what I've read. Is it a bad book, or is it that I'm just too old to appreciate it? Often, as in The Case of Origami Yoda, I can see why younger readers will like it even if it doesn't really excite me. A book like Savvy, on the other hand, can interest both me and teen readers (even though a year or so later, we now remember the interminable bus trip and little else). Sometimes I check my reaction by asking students at MPOW what they think (there's a great group of readers I can led ARCs to when I'm puzzled); it's rare that we have wildly divergent opinions.

Maybe that means that I'm not a good reader. Certainly I'd fail as a reader in the way the English teachers would like for me to read: I don't care about most of the elements that they want students to find and analyze. "Close" reading is beyond me. And maybe that's a good thing given the books I read.

I dunno. What do you think, reading peeps?


Don't yell at me!

I'm not talking to you, gentle reader, but to authors. Two authors specifically, but others have also crossed the line. What line? The line between writing and yelling, between forcefully making a point and polemic that hurts to read.

During my recent Winter Break, I read Doctorow's Little Brother and then recommended it to Thing Two. His feeling was that the points being made (about security and privacy) were being made Forcefully, and that perhaps he (being almost exactlly my advanced age) was not the intended audience. That ties in to my reading of the book: its hyperbolic stance on privacy and the overreaching of government agencies in the name of security are intended for a younger audience, and one that is less well-informed about what's going on in the world today. Goading readers into being informed and involved does not always make for a good read.

The other book was Lionel Shriver's So Much For That, which I actaully could not finish. The characters appeared to exist only to advance his cause (the inequities of the health care system), with diseases and problems so intense that they couldn't possibly have been created for another reason. There was no moderation here, no character that made me, the reader, feel that I was seeing the action through their eyes. Instead, the constant lectures made me run as fast as possible to another, calmer read.

I'm not saying that having a cause, or that the need to inform/cajole is a bad thing when writing. But to me, the best books are those that don't make that their only raison d'etre. Those books that do owe their lives to a cause don't feel organic, they feel forced. The characters are there to serve the cause - rarely living in my mind as I'm reading.

So please, authors, if there's something that you desperately need to convey to your readers, consider waiting until a story happens; hammering a square character into a round plot just leads to dead trees and weary readers.


Notable Quotes

Most people want to connect with authentic people. People they can be themselves with. Not people they feel they need to compete with.

We run ourselves down trying to keep up with our image. When the image is just a mirage anyway. And our bodies become weary, our souls dry until there is even less of our real selves.

Soon only the image remains.


Notable Quotes

The margins of a book can be well trodden pathways, where there is always the chance if an unexpected meeting


Year End Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3773 books left to read, I've got 3581 more books enjoy. 319 of them are sitting on Mt. Bookpile as I type!

What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2009 reading analysis (2008 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2009: 192 (180)
best month: March - 35
worst month: September - 7
average read per month: 16 (15)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 17 (6)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 51 (65)
mystery as percentage of total: 5 (13)
Advance Readers Copies: 115
books read that were published in 2009: 140
books that will be published in 2010: 10

Five star reviews: 12
One star reviews: 10

192 books... Never thought I'd top last year's 180, but, well, I did (yay me)! What will 2010 bring? Fewer, I suspect. Of course, my goal of eroding Mt. Bookpile down past 300 was not met. No, sadly, I added 185 books, so there was a net loss of 8; at this rate, I'll level Mt. Bookpile in, oh, 2040.

Other reading/book round-ups:
Asking the Wrong Questions
So Many Books
Core Collections
The Guardian (two articles!)
Hey Lady, Whatcha Reading?
Bookgirl's Nightstand
Bookshelves of Doom

And many, many links at Semicolon


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Another mild quarter: 44 books read. All reviews over on Killin' Time Reading.

  • Finding My Place; Traci L. Jones
  • Lit; Mary Karr
  • Under a Red Sky; Haya Leah Molnar
  • Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda; Omar Nasiri
  • I'm Down; Mishna Wolff
Children's/Young Adult
  • Candor; Pam Bachorz
  • The Time Pirate; Ted Bell
  • Stealing Death; Janet Lee Carey
  • School of Fear; Gitty Daneshvari
  • The Magicians; Lev Grossman
  • The Thirteen Treasures; Michelle Harrison
  • Freaks and Revelations; Davida Wills Hurwin
  • Fallen; Lauren Kate
  • The Faceless Ones; Derek Landy
  • Birthmarked; Caragh M. O'Brien
  • Witch and Wizard; James Patterson
  • The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To; DC Pierson
  • The Book of Samuel; Erik Raschke
  • Keeping Corner; Kashmira Sheth
  • The Rescuers/Miss Bianca/The Turret; Margery Sharp
  • When You Reach Me; Rebecca Stead
  • Kiss; Jacqueline Wilson
  • Everything Asian; Sun J. Woo
  • War Dances; Sherman Alexie
  • The Dower House; Annabel Davis-Goff
  • Little Brother; Cory Doctorow
  • So Much for That; Lionel Shriver
  • An Irish Country Doctor; Patrick Taylor
  • The Way We Were; Marcia Willett
  • The Chosen One; Carol Lynch Williams
  • The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire; Trisha Telep
  • The Brutal Telling, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder and Still Life; Louise Penny
  • Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes; Theo Aronson
  • Walking Chicago; Ryan Ver Berkmoes
  • Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online; Anastasia Goodstein
  • Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend; Irene S. Levine
  • American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work; Nick Taylor
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Nation and Unseen Academicals; Terry Pratchett
  • Things We Didn't See Coming; Steven Amsterdam