Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew!  What an end to the year... 400 books read, 91 in this quarter.  Reviews on the other blog. No other comments here: stay tuned for the year-end book posts!


Children's/Young Adult

Adult Fiction



  • That Mad Game
  • The Skull in the Rock, Marc Aronson
  • A Little History of Science, W. F. Bynum
  • The Pause Principle, Kevin Cashman
  • The Law of Superheroes; James Daily
  • Faces From the Past, James M. Deem
  • It's Raining Fish And Spiders, Bill Evans
  • The Split History of the Civil War, Stephanie Fitzgerald
  • The Wild Horse Scientists, Kay Frydenberg
  • Spirit Seeker, Gary Golio
  • This I Believe, John Gregory
  • The Warrior's Heart, Eric Greitens
  • Rescuing the Children, Deborah Hodge
  • Among the Islands, Tim Flannery
  • The Information Diet, Clay Johnson
  • Into a Paris Quartier, Diane Johnson
  • We Are Their Voice, Kathy Kacer
  • Dear Teen Me, Miranda Kenneally
  • Leonardo and the Last Supper, Ross King
  • So You Wanna Be a Superstar? Ted Michael
  • Young, Innocent and in Prison, Jeff Mitchell
  • When Organizing Isn't Enough, Julie Morgenstern
  • The Bronte Sisters, Catherine Reef
  • Inside Scientology, Janet Reitman
  • Growing Up Muslim, Ali-Karamali Sumbul
  • Fourteen And Sentenced To Death, Bill Swan
  • Effective Grading, Barbara Walvoord
  • Pier 21 and Children of the Titanic, Christine Welldon
  • Titanic, Philip Wilkinson

Speculative Fiction

A New Year's Meme

(inspired by Camillofan)

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I went to Dallas for a conference and enjoyed an Indonesian rice table (not in Dallas). Became an official Friend.  Other than that, same-old, same-old.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make resolutions, I had three guiding words. They'll guide me in 2013, because I haven't mastered them yet!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No. But Number Three niece is due to give birth in February.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.  An uncle and a friend from high school.

5. What countries did you visit?
France and the Netherlands.  Not sure Belgium counts, but I did take the train through it twice!

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Steady paycheck and a job that is challenging and fun.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None, really.  The date Amawalk Meeting approved my membership is probably the only real date that counts. The Trip, but that's a series of dates.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Reading 400 books.  Staying sane.  Joining the Religious Society of Friends.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not losing as much as I'd like, either from the physical clutter or the psychic clutter.  And not really working on the consulting thing (I'm such a Lazygal!)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
For the first time in a long time, not really.  Sniffles don't really count, do they?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I didn't buy much this past year ($$ being tight).

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Let me get back to you on that...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Just about everyone.  Romney v Obama, gun-control v NRA, fiscal cliff v working together.  It's just appalling how divided we are, how unwilling to actually work together as a society for everyone's good.  Neither side is completely right, both are somewhat wrong - it's time to get over the pettiness and spend time listening to the other side, accepting that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Living day-to-day.  Oh, and my Big Boy's new-found chronic renal condition.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The Trip.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Sorry, none.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
  i. happier or sadder?
 somewhat happier
 ii. thinner or fatter? thinner... not as much as I'd like, but still, thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? so very much poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Working on my consulting practice.  Decluttering.  Spending time with friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas Eve was spent at Meeting, with a short worship period and carol singing, then home for dinner and opening one present.  Christmas Day, Thing One and I had breakfast, more presents, and headed out for Chinese.  Couldn't find a good movie that would end in time for him to head home.

21. How will you bring in the New Year?
I'm guessing at Terminal 5, watching Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra play "Purple Rain".  If the show ends before midnight, then either asleep or on the subway to Brooklyn.  Then I'm having brunch with Aunt A.

22. With whom did you spend the most time on the phone in 2012?
Thing One.  We watch tv together (it's annoying when the shows aren't in sync).

23. Did you fall in love?
Um, yes, but not in 2012.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Why do we have to do one?  Different programs fit different needs: for information, Morning Joe; humor, Big Bang Theory; will watch reruns, Criminal Minds and Buffy. And then there's Dramaville on BBCA, which is hit or miss (love Whitechapel, The Hour and Luther, not happy about most of the rest)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Au contraire.  I've learned that someone I did hate has gotten their just desserts.  Good things gome to those who wait...

26. What was the best book you read?
These 31 books were the best of 2012 - I probably could narrow it down, but it'd be by genre and difficult.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I discovered anyone musically this year.

28. What did you want and get?
Time with friends.  Losing weight.  Losing clutter.

29. What did you want and not get?
A steady paycheck...

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw so few movies this year!  Liked A Late Quartet, but not at that price ($13!!)... Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Footnote, Hilary and Jackie and the various Discworld adaptations were great Netflix rentals.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Nothing, really.  Birthdays aren't that big a deal to me - celebrating getting older is ok, but it doesn't have to happen on The Day.  It was a Sunday, so Meeting... playing with The Boys... you know, normal stuff.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A steady paycheck.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
I undertook Project 333 and have pared my closet down to classics and really grubby lounge-around-the-house wear.

34. What kept you sane?
The Things helped... ditto The Herd.  Going to Meeting was also important to my sanity.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 
There are some people I enjoy watching (Shemar Moore, for example), but fancy?  I'm not sure anyone fills that niche.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Dunno if this qualifies as an "issue" but I'm so angry at the state of politics in this country I'm almost incoherent.  I have friends on both sides of the major issues, knee-jerk liberal Democrats and near-birther Republicans and they all need to just SHUT UP and listen to each other.  We're doomed as a country if they can't.

37. Whom did you miss?
The Breakfast Club.  Mornings just aren't the same without them.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I didn't really meet anyone new this year... pathetic, really.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
I didn't learn it in 2012, but the deaths of my uncle and my friend reemphasized how important friends and family are, and how critical it is to spend your time with them rather than worrying about anything else.

40. A song lyric that sums up your year.
Really?  ONE song lyric?  I can think of snippets that have summed up moments, but nothing that sums up the entire year.

41. What was your favorite moment of the year?
This is a tie, of sorts.  The Trip, obviously, counts as a Favorite Moment.  I'd also say that being accepted as a member of the Religious Society of Friends was a definite high.

42. What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Can I pick a timeframe?  October/November, when a friend from high school and two uncles died.  One death left me pretty much unmoved, but the other two were deep losses in my life.

43. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2012 and change something, what would it be?
Rescheduling The Trip so I was there when my uncle died.  Beyond that, nothing much.

44. What are your plans for 2013?
Hoping to finish my decluttering project: less weight, less stuff, less emotional baggage.  Get a steady job (consulting's fun, but...).


Best Reads of 2012

Looking over my reading from last year, I'm a little surprised at how many 5-star books there were 31 of them.  And I thought I was getting more critical in my old age!

Here's how they break down:

Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult (all genres)
Speculative Fiction


A lucky Lazygal

Back in 1984, just after college, I had some "mad money" and bought a 13" black-and-white tv (the rest of the money went to taking Thing Three to see the RSC's productions of "Much Ado" and "Cyrano", starring Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusak).  That was the last tv I bought.

No.  I don't still have it.

Yes.  I do have a tv.

As I said, I'm a lucky Lazygal.

In 1987, my parents were heading to Europe after a few months in South Carolina and they gave me the 13" color tv they'd bought there.

In 1989, as recompense for helping clean out my great-aunt's apartment, I took possession of her 19" color tv.

In 1998, my parents bought Thing One and me a 35" tv.

(I gave the two 13" tvs to my aunt and uncle when they moved to Brooklyn from Israel)
(Thing One kept the 35" when I left Brooklyn for The Cold Cottage From Hell)

In 2006, when the 19" gave out, Things One and Two bought me a 32" (which answers one of Aravis' questions about my life)...

And today my father asked if I'd like to take their 39" flat screen now that they were upgrading the one in the family room.  I may be Lazy, but I ain't stupid, so tomorrow I'm heading home to the Lazyhouse with a new (to me) tv - and I didn't pay for it!!  All I'll need to do is rearrange some furniture and somehow get it from the car to its final destination. 

Then it's back to being Lazy... with a new tv!!



At this time of year, those of us with mortgages may receive a refund check for our escrow accounts.  It's not really a refund, more like "we don't want the overage".  Anyway, in previous years my check has ranged from a couple of hundred to a little over a thousand.  This year?

Yes, a whopping $.07.  And how much did it cost to mail?

No wonder the banking system is in trouble...


Notable Quotes

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
How did I know that the shooter would be another isolated, middle-class white male who spent his days on his computer playing violent video games? how did I know that it was far more likely that he had a mental condition than a rational motive? and how did I know the end of this story before the real reporting even began? I knew the ending of this story because we've all seen it too often.... For the sake of my children and yours, I choose life and I choose change.
- Joe Scarborough, Morning Joe

(we can't let this happen again.  we simply can't.)



There's a group I belong to, the Plain Language Association, dedicated to promoting clear, plain language over jargon, not just in the legal field (where the movement began) but everywhere.

I hate jargon and when I edit people's work I tend to change things like "stakeholders" to "community" (unless, of course, they're talking about people building fences, tying up plants or hunting vampires, in which case "stakeholders" is absolutely the right word).  I change "impact" to "affect" or "effect", depending on which is correct.

If you were to watch tv with me, you might have to cover your ears when I yell at the announcer's sign-off (usually you hear "for Tom, Dick and Susan, I'm Larry", which implies that for everyone else, he's Dave or Joe; what he means to say is "on behalf of...").

So you can imagine how I responded to reading this in my e-mail this morning, part of a message enumerating upcoming changes to a social media site I use:

a simplified design, provides deeper insights, and surfaces new ways to connect and build relationships. 

I'm not even going to start....


I know I'm not a failure but...

We all have days, weeks, moments where we feel like a complete loser.  It may be when we lost a job, broke up with the love of our lives, failed the big test - one of those moments where we could have (should have) done better and just, well, failed to.  They're never easy and take time to recover from, with the pain and angst slowly receding as life moves on.

And then, suddenly, it's ok again. Until, of course, something or someone reminds you of that failure.  It can be running into a former colleague who asks what happened to you at work, or someone mentioning your former supposed soul mate.  Or it can be an anniversary.  

Today is one of those days for me.  Yes, it's Pearl Harbor Day.  And it's the anniversary of a Huge Personal Failure.  If the HPF had happened some other, random day, it might not feel quite so bad and I might be farther along the path to healing than I am.  It's been seven years, after all, and in most respects I'm in a good place in my life.  "Comfortable in my skin" as the French would say (well, ok, they'd say bien dans ma peau).  And there are other HPF's that have happened but those were on random days that don't have hoopla or ceremony attached.  

So today, while others are remembering the events of 71 years ago (and I have a friend who was there, in Hawaii, near the naval base, back then) I'm remembering my HPF and repeating "I'm not a failure... I'm not a failure... I'm not a failure".  And tomorrow, I'll be ok.


Giving to yourself

My friend Irene found this on Facebook and I just had to share:
This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then, on New Years Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year. 
What a wonderful gift to yourself or to do as a family! (and if you know someone who needs a little love, consider KindNotes - or make your own)


Notable Quotes

I am always intrigued to hear from men and women facing retirement that they will get a chance to read the books they never had time for. I don't believe this, unless they mean read more steadily, for longer periods. Reading -- like those more frivolous lifelong pursuits, singing in tune, or driving, or roller-blading -- is either an early acquired passion or not; there is no in-between, no catching up in one's later years.

-- Carolyn Heilbrun, Last Gift of Time



Recently I've read a few posts - on Facebook, on twitter, on blogs - that made me upset.  What upset me was the mixture of content (do you really want to be posting that in a relatively public forum?) and the level of personal involvement the poster has with something that is, well, in the grand scheme of things, unimportant.

Here's an example: the personal goal setter.  If you're setting the goal of finally conquering your addiction to drugs or alcohol, I'm there for you in whatever way I can be - and if you slip, I'll be there to help you back up.  If the goal you've set is that this is the year you'll win the Nobel Prize in  [your field], I'll be happy if you win but be skeptical that you'll actually manage to hit your goal... what will worry me more is that you tie your self-worth into getting the prize.  Most goals are somewhere in the middle, but my worry is still the same: if you don't lose the weight/get out of debt/make VP or partner/run a marathon/etc, will you assume that 1. you're a failure and 2. that I think you're a failure? Because my feelings for you aren't so conditional - if there are good feelings now, there will be good feelings later.  Beating yourself up over not making the goal hurts me as much as it hurts you.

Another example: the overly sensitive type.  This is the type of person who take offense when none is there, who holds onto hurt or implied insults far beyond what seems to be healthy.  The fact that the PATH train is late is not The Man out to get you.  Yes, it's rude that that woman with 20 items in her cart is in the 12 Items Or Less lane, but it's not the end of the world.  That really popular person in high school or the BMOC in college isn't going to suddenly want to be your BFF because you've had a letter to the editor printed in the paper (they've forgotten you - do likewise).  Someone abusing a hashtag on twitter doesn't need a tweet tirade correcting them.  In other words (and again, it's a matter of health) Let It Go.

Final example: the didact.  Let's face it, we don't always agree on things - politics, religion, which book should win the Printz (ok, maybe there's more agreement on that than the others), how many supplements you should take to stay healthy.  Insisting that your source of news (NPR, Fox, God, smoke signals from the neighboring village) is The Best, that You Know What's Right/True (even if there's evidence that you don't have the whole story) and castigating those who don't agree is just unhealthy.  Who can carry around that heavy a load of self-righteousness and anger against those who don't "get it"?  It's not healthy for you, it's not healthy for your relationships.

The past few days, reading some of these... I've started to get sucked in.  "OH NOES!  A failed goal/idiotic political comment/hashtag abuser/etc"  My blood pressure rises, I feel the other person's anger and pain... and that's not good for either of us, it's a feedback loop that just enhances the issue.To preserve my own health, I'm divesting myself of these people.  It may mean not reading a blog post (or ten... or all).  It may mean blocking them on my FB News Feed.  It may mean dropping their twitter feed.

I don't love or like you less, I just love our mental health more.  Here's to a happier, less stressed, emotionally lighter end of the year and 2013.


I thought I was special

Found in today's e-mail:
hello my one and onlyTo: [undisclosed recipients]
From: woman [email address] via alice.it
Good afternoon. I would love to meet you and get to know you more as I think you're a good person. I live in Russia. I am open to talk to you my name is Elena. I will be very glad to your answer. And we can continue our acquaintance with you.
This reminds me of the Tom Lehrer bit on his live album: I know some people feel that marriage as an institution is dying out, but I disagree. And the point was driven home to me rather forcefully not long ago by a letter I received which said: "Darling, I love you, and I cannot live without you. Marry me, or I will kill myself." Well, I was a little disturbed at that until I took another look at the envelope, and saw that it was addressed to 'occupant'... (dmdb.org/lyrics/lehrer.tw3.html)


A Tale of Four Uncles

This time last month, I had four uncles (I think... more on that in a moment).  At the risk of sounding careless, I've since lost two of them.

When I was born, I had three uncles: two were my mother's brothers, one was married to my aunt.  My aunt divorced and remarried, and that's where some of the confusion is.  You see, she (and my parents) were clear that her first husband was no longer my uncle, while my cousins were quite certain that their father still was - and that her second husband was not.  Let's say everyone's right and that I ultimately had four.  All of whom were living as of mid-October.

One, The-Uncle-Formerly-Known-As-Anchesis, was in hospice and wasn't expected to live much longer.  My mother's other brother is still with us, relatively healthy.  My aunt's first husband has just died, and her second is alive, married for the fourth time.  Of the four of them, I knew Robert best and will miss him most.  The most recently departed was a man I'd not seen to speak to since the mid-80s, and hadn't seen at all since my aunt's funeral in the 1990s; I haven't seen her second husband since a few years after the funeral, nor do I want to.  She had bad taste in men, sadly, and while the first made a happy second marriage, the second was (and remains) a complete creep.

We all have those relatives who cause us to roll our eyes: the second cousin who says indiscreet things at the Thanksgiving table, the uncle who hugs his nieces a little too closely and for a little too long, the aunt who kisses and then needs to scrub your face to rid it of the nice lipstick marks.  There are the ones who try to dictate how you live your life, the ones who are such know-it-alls that they brook no discussion of ideas contrary to their own, and the ones who are so meek that they barely make an impression except to apologize for existing.  I've got all those and more in my family - and I feel very blessed to have had at least one uncle who was truly a wonderful man, friend and relative, embodying none of those traits. (since this is about my uncles, i won't comment on my aunts here)

This morning, following Meeting, we're having a Simple Lunch around the theme of gratitude for friends, family, health, hearth.  I'll be thinking of my loss and of the family they've left behind.  I'll also be thinking of the remaining two uncles, trying to come to peace with their failings as uncles and lack of meaning in my life.


Voting for groceries

Woke up early today, grabbed the handy dandy postcard that gave me my new district information, and headed out to the not-so-local high school to vote (by quirk of county configuration, I have a street address of SmallTown1 but pay taxes and vote in SmallTown2 and am in SmallTown3's fire district - if I had kids, not cats, I'd have to petition to get them into the Middle School literally across the street, because it's in SmallTown1!). Anyway.

The first election I "voted" in was 1968, when I proved to my mother that clearly nature was winning over nurture: my choice was the guy whose name was nearly a palindrome and had that cool x in it. Folks, I was in kindergarden. And in Ohio. Do I need to say more? The incredibly sophisticated voting method our teacher used was to have us raise our hands while she pointed to (and probably said) the name.


Notable Quotes

Presence is a noun, not a verb; it is a state of being, not doing. States of being are not highly valued in a culture that places a high priority on doing. Yet, true presence or "being with" another person carries with it a silent power -- to bear witness to a passage, to help carry an emotional burden, or to begin a healing process. In it, there is an intimate connection with another that is perhaps too seldom felt in a society that strives for ever-faster "connectivity."

 - Debbie Hall in This I Believe


Bob's your Uncle

Well, perhaps not your uncle.  But he certainly was mine!

Growing up, he was my mother's oldest brother, my Uncle Bobby (not to be confused with his cousins who were also named "Bobby" - it's a family thing).  We didn't see much of his family because he was a sociolinguist whose work took them to Addis Ababa (we didn't visit, but I do - somewhere in my parent's house - have a zebra-skin covered drum!), Palo Alto (where we did visit) and Jerusalem (another visit).  There were several fleeting visits to the United States, but most of my memories are of staying with them in Jerusalem or on vacation in Zurich or Scotland.

About 15 years ago my aunt and uncle decided to buy an apartment in Brooklyn, so I got to see more of them.  And somewhere in there I learned that "Uncle" was unnecessary.  So Bobby it was.  Then, a year or so ago, he said "I prefer 'Robert'"  No problem - Robert's my uncle, but not Uncle Robert.

Robert had a great sense of humor - puns being a particular specialty.  He loved ice cream (after one dinner we had, he kept pressing me to "eat my 'vegetables'", which to anyone else looked remarkably like ice cream, but to him were broccoli and carrots).  He wrote books, including two I have on my shelves, Language Planning and Social Change and Around the World with Mark Twain.  Despite his regular attendance in shul and study of Musar, he was an atheist.  Shabbat dinners at his house were occasions for much discussion (and not a little wine!).  It was truly wonderful having the opportunity to get to know Robert, the man, in addition to knowing Uncle Bobby.

He started a blog about his journey into old age but rarely gave in to the whining "organ recital"; his comments about his health were almost always linked to philosophical musings about age, change, death and life.  Each post is inspiration to the rest of us to not whine but to find the deeper meaning in our lives. Recently he ended his blog journey - his health deteriorated to the extent that he couldn't keep up the work.

Today his life ended - Robert, my uncle, this pint's for you.


Notable Quotes

English professors are trained to limn, contest, and quibble.  You should see us at faculty meetings -- it's like trying to herd cats.  No issue's too major for a soapbox, no issue's too minor for long-winded hairsplitting.

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? Rhoda Jenzen


Knowing Your Limits

I'm in my second half-century, so you'd think I'd know better when indulging, but no... not really. Last night, Thing One and I went to a nearby tapas restaurant. I'd had a difficult day that I won't go into yet, but let's just say I needed to relax. So we opened with a before-dinner drink (I had a caipirinha).  Then we shared a nice rioja.

It was when the dessert menu came with its selection of post-prandial offerings that I made the mistake.  Yes, I succumbed... to the lure of a cappuccino.

Wait, what?  Yes, I had a cappuccino.

In my defense, I was tired.  It was only 7:30.  I thought that having all that alcohol would be ok, that the caffeine wouldn't affect me.  Hah!  I've been up since 3:06, having barely dozed all night.  I should have gone with decaf, or just abstained.

I'm such a wuss.


Notes From Mt. Bookpile

I guess 106 books isn't bad, right?  Chugging right along in my quest for 365 (as of today, I'm at 305!) and Mt. Bookpile is still well below 300.  Reviews in the usual spot:

Sutton, J.R. Moehringer
The Black Count, Tom Reiss

Children's/Young Adult
Kiss & Make-Up, Katie D. Anderson
Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth
Cash Out, Greg Bardsley
Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Regan Barnhill
The Diviners, Libba Bray
The Dark Unwinding, Sharon Cameron
3 Below, Patrick Carman
Summer and Bird, Katherine Catmull
The Savage Fortress, Sarwat Chadda
Skinny, Donna D. Cooner
The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde
Pinned, Sharon Flake
In a Glass Grimmly, Adam Gidwitz
Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Green
Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin
Burning Blue, Paul Griffin
Magisterium, Jeff Hirsch
The Templeton Twins Have An Idea, Jeremy Holmes
Origin, Jessica Khoury
Ask the Passengers, A.S. King
Every Day, David Levithan
Adaptation, Malinda Lo
Son, Lois Lowry
Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr
Necromancing the Stone, Lish McBride
Betrayal, Gregg Olsen
Dodger, Terry Pratchett
The Encyclopedia of Me, Karen Rivers
Stealing Air, Trent Reedy
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, Kat Rosenfield
Endangered, Eliot Schrefer
Entice, Jessica Shrivington
The Fire Chronicle, John Stephens
The Raven Boys, Maggie Steifvater
The Other Normals, Ned Vizzini
Blasphemy, Sherman Alexie
Walking on Glass, Iain Banks
Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
Scandal Wears Satin, Loretta Chase
Girl With A Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin
The Mirrored World, Debra Dean
The Stockholm Octavo, Karen Engelman
Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford
The Midwife of Hope River, Patricia Harman
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
Live by Night, Dennis Lehane
Escape, Perihan Magden
The Great Escape, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Those We Love Most, Lee Woodruff

The Blackhouse, Peter May
The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny

So, You Want To Be A Comic Book Artist? Philip Amara
Better Than A Lemonade Stand! Daryl Bernstein
SnApp Shots, Adam Brockhorst
A Black Hole Is Not A Hole, Carolyn Cinami Decristofano
Guy-Write, Ralph J. Fletcher
Zora! and Stolen Into Slavery Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin
40 Day Journey With Parker J Palmer, Henry F. French
Food, Kathlyn Gay
Rookie Yearbook One
One Dead Spy, Nathan Hale
So, You Want To Be A Writer? Vicki Hambleton
Moonbird, Phillip M. Hoose
It's Not All Black and White
They Stood Alone! Sandra McLeod Humphrey
The Giant and How He Humbugged America, Jim Murphy
Outcasts United, Warren St. John
The Great Molasses Flood, Deborah Kops
The Where, The Why, And The How, Matt LaMothe
Consent of the Networked, Rebecca MacKinnon
The Adventures Of Deadwood Dick, Pat McKissack
Iceberg, Right Ahead! Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
Unusual Creatures, Michael Hearst
Forensic Identification, Elizabeth A. Murray
Buffalo Bird Girl, S. D. Nelson
Steve Jobs Thinking Differently, Patricia Lakin
Discovering Wes Moore, Wes Moore
Lincoln's Last Days, Bill O'Reilly
Hand In Hand, Andrea Davis Pinkney
Beyond Courage and Helen's Big World, Doreen Rappaport
Paris in Color, Nicole Robertson
The Pregnancy Project, Gaby Rodrigues
Go, Go, Grapes! April Pulley Sayre
People Who Said No, Laura Scandiffio
Bomb, Steve Sheinkin
Seymour Simon's Extreme Earth Records, Seymour Simon
Swell, Evan Slater
Stars in the Shadows, Charles R. Smith
Discovering Black America, Linda Tarrant-Reid
Their Skeletons Speak, Sally M. Walker
Too Big To Know, David Weinberger

Science Fiction/Fantasy
The White Forest, Adam McOmber
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern


Lazygal and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month

Seriously, what is it with September?  Here's my tale of utter woe:

  • My beloved Uncle A nearly died
  • A former student, a senior in college, died
  • An in-law died
  • My Biggest Boy has chronic renal failure (so: new, expensive diet and possible Sub-Q fluids, and many vet visits to come)
  • I got a flat tire, which I replaced only to learn that the other three need replacing sometime soon
  • My car hit 30K, so a Very Big Check-Up was needed, including replacing a few filters and something with the fuel-injection pump
  • I had my chimney swept, only to learn that the roofers and painters that have been climbing around up there damaged the chimney cap
And then yesterday's routine shopping trip turned into a Massive Shopping Trip because I ran out of everything all at once (a rare event, but still!).  

Oh, and when did jeans stop being denim?  I went to four stores and only found 80% cotton, 15% polyester and 5% elastic blends.  They don't feel like jeans, they don't weigh as much as jeans do: they're just not jeans!

On a slightly brighter note, Thing Two is coming down tomorrow to help me Fall Clean (touching up some paintwork, shampooing the bedroom carpets, moving my books and a few other chores).   And I just dropped off three more bags of clothes at Goodwill, with another half bag started.  

As for the books, Mt. Bookpile is still below 300 (new goal: closer to 250 by year end) and I've read 301 books this year.  '

Still and all, it's been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month.


Not a complete waste...

My Uncle A was recently in Memorial Sloan-Kettering for an extended stay.  I visited him twice, and on the second visit he was a little dejected - his nurse and the respiratory helper didn't know Kipling's Just-So Stories.

I hastened to reassure him that I knew the story!  With a father like mine, how could I not?  You see, my father (beyond doing amazing things with wood and beyond being scary smart) is an amazing reader.  Not as in "reading a lot of books" but as in "a great storyteller".  My earliest years were spent with him reading to me from some of his favorite childhood books:  Penrod, The Five Little Peppers, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island*, etc.  And I remember him telling me the story of the elephant along the banks of the "great, green-grey greasy Limpopo river".  Now, to be honest, he may not have actually read the story to me because one of the other traits of a great storyteller is the ability to tell stories without having the book in front of you.  He also made up stories, and car trips were often times for another episode in the saga of some little boy, name now forgotten, who had adventures that ended with him falling from a mast - but no problems, because he was "rough and tough and hard to bluff and used to hard ships." **

Thing One did not grow up with a father who read to him, but he did know Kipling and the Just-So Stories.  He even sounded a little shocked that there were people who did not know these stories. 

Last night I called home to thank my father for reading/telling me that story and all the others he'd read over the years.  While he stopped reading the entire book to me by the time I was 6/7, he often read a passage or the first few pages and then handed me the book (which is how I got to read The Catcher in the Rye).  And then I told him that he really wasn't a complete waste as a father.***

ps - If you're so minded, go to Uncle A's blog and reassure him that there are still people in this world who know that story, and who are passing it along to the next generation.   

* I've recently confessed to him that I never finished the book: when I was 6(ish), he stopped a few chapters from the end and told me to read the rest myself - he'd decided that my sister deserved his attention.  Yes, I've been throwing a 40+ year hissy fit over this.

** Dad loves puns.  And shaggy dog stories.  Blame him for my affinity for both.

*** He also has a sense of humor.  He did, however, decline the idea of making that his epithet - but it might end up a direct quote on his updated c.v.


My kingdom for a horse...

Yesterday my friend Infowitch posted this article from the Telegraph:  'Strong evidence' Richard III's body has been found – with a curved spine. She then said that she was off to re-read Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.

When I was a young teen (13? 14?) my father suggested I read that book.  It was my first exposure to Josephine Tey, but more important it was my first inkling that perhaps Shakespeare was - gasp - a propagandist.  Being the odd child I was, I stared looking into the real Richard III and what we knew (and didn't know).  Then, in my 20s, I discovered Elizabeth Peters and her Vicky Bliss books, specifically The Murders of Richard III.

Since then I've seen two great productions of Richard: one at BAM starring Ian McKellen (available as a film for those not lucky enough to have seen it in person) and one at the Public, starring Peter Dinklage. Very different productions, very different interpretations of Richard.  McKellen's was Hitleresque, and the production hammered home his despotic, cruel personality.  There was no hunch, but he was certainly malformed (the scene where he singlehandedly put on a glove? amazing).  Dinklage, being far shorter than virtually any other actor on stage, used his lack of height as his crutch, growing in power and cruelty as the production progressed.  By the end, he virtually loomed over the other actors.

So now we have the possibility of finding his bones.  With or without hump, the question of Who Killed Those Two Princes has not been definitively answered.  Unlike my friend, I'm going to check out Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower.


Links Galore

  • So cool: take the TED idea but want to ask experts a question. Answer? Edge
  •  How did I not know about J-Archive (an archive of Jeopardy clues)?
  • Not loving DragonDiction for voice memos, so now it's time to try ReQall 


My mother is an alien

You doubt me?

(this was taken years ago, outside our home in Oxford England)

But seriously folks... My mother is now in her mid-70s and is changing rapidly.  A few years ago a family member mentioned that she looked like her mother - I never met my grandmother (who died when I was -12), but I did know her identical twin sister and yes, my mother does look like what I remember of my great-aunt.  She didn't used to look like that!

When I was very young, someone gave me a Raggedy Ann doll.  Family lore has it that I looked at the doll... looked at my mother... looked back at the doll... back at my mother... and then laughed and laughed.  Her thick, curly, bright red hair changed to an auburn, then cinnamon sugar and now is mostly white, and thin.  She still has the chorus girl legs she showed in the Radcliffe newsletter, but the knees are swollen, as are her ankles and there are no high-kicks in the near future.

I just visited my parents in SmallTown, and in the few months since we saw each other there have been major changes.  It's more difficult for her to get up out of chairs and sofas (and beds).  One hand has three seriously arthritic fingers.  She sleeps far more than she has in the past (due to anemia so serious she's had a blood transfusion to help out).  I look at my mother and she's an alien.

Despite this, she's not letting any of this stop her.  Going on a hike?  Bring along the wheelchair so Dad can push her along.  Going on a trip? Pack the special toilet seat so she can more easily get up.   I was only there for a day, because their August schedule has them home (and visitorless) for 48 hours.  She just spent time at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival, they're off to California today, then home for a visit with my cousin, then off to visit an old family friend and then off again somewhere... and there are trips to Canada and a few other places in the next couple of months.

Even better is when she starts laughing.  My mother has a laugh that can verge on the hysteric - so much fun except when she's driving!   And she's Mom again.  



It's slightly below 60 right now and I've got my windows open with a nice cool breeze wafting through.  After the humidity and heat, it's such a pleasure.

My neighbors still have their air conditioners going (how do I know? I just heard the compressor go on).

People who know me know I really dislike air conditioning, that it took five years for me to get the central air unit in the Lazyhouse fixed for good.  When it's on, it's set for 76 - Thing One thinks that's a little too high, but it's comfortable and there's no humidity, and who needs more? - and more often than not my windows are open, particularly at night.  To me, "conditioned" air feels stale and static; while I hate driving with the windows down, at home I like the feel of the occasional gust of air and the sense that nature is both outdoors and inside.  (note: the approved nature inside does not include creatures with wings or more than four legs!)

My neighbors have virtually sealed houses, with no windows open ever.  How can anyone live like that?

I mean, we're in the outer edges of suburbia.  It's not quite rural here, but we're part of the Croton Reservoir system and development is a little limited.  There are many trees and lakes (some real, some manmade) around and in a few more miles north, you hit rural areas.  Why would someone move to a place like this and then not open their windows?  Especially when it's 60 degrees out?


Links Galore

Some random things of interest:
And a bunch of book-related links:
  • I love (love!) bad books... History News Network Celebrates Bad History Books http://t.co/Xv7JkfF6 (nominate one)
  • Children's books reflect harsh reality http://t.co/PiMTxjRm
  • Please write his book: One man’s efforts to crowdsource his novel http://t.co/zcwzSoZ0
  • Who Benefits From Same-Day Amazon Delivery? Not Small Towns http://t.co/Ek0C0HBd
  • The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list http://t.co/nJdIywA2 (agree? disagree? don't read enough to have an opinion?)
  • Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey to be reworked by Val McDermid http://t.co/TYe77jJ4 (I'm on the "nay" side of reworking Austen - you?)
  •  But is it a book? http://t.co/JdJJE1vJ (poses some interesting questions re: book v e-book)



The other day I was dining with a friend who happens to be British.  You'd think that means he has bad taste in food, but no, he's quite the gourmet.  As we started in on our cold green onion vichyssoise the waiter came over with the pepper grinder, asking if we wanted fresh pepper with our soup.

The thing is, he came over before we'd had the opportunity to have more than half a mouthful, if that.  And this isn't the only time that I've been accosted by the pepper man before I've had the opportunity to actually taste my food.

What is wrong with people?  

Pepper is a great spice, in moderation.  Properly used it can add a lot to a dish.  But all too often people use it without tasting and they ruin the delicate flavors the chef has created.  Why spend all the money on dining out if you're going to make the food to your home tastes?   

Just once I'd like to see a restaurant without salt and pepper on the tables, and without the roving pepper man.  And when patrons ask (or, even worse, make the that wonderful "pepper me" hand gesture) why can't they be told "We're sorry, but the chef doesn't recommend pepper with this dish."


Mid-year Reading Challenge Check-in

Way back in January I posted my 2012 Reading Resolution.  So, how am I doing?

Thus far, I've read 197  books, and of them 15  were added to Mt. Bookpile pre-January 2012:

According to the rules, I'm at Level 3.  My goal was Level 4, and with a mere six books more I can make it.  Six books in six months... can't be that difficult to accomplish, can it?

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Not quite as good as last quarter, but 97 books isn't bad. I've even revised my annual goal from 300 to 365! Reviews in the usual place.

  • Simone De Beauvoir, Deirdre Bair
  • Baby's In Black, Arne Bellstorf
  • His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, Louise Borden
  • George Bellows, Robert Burleigh
  • Chuck Close, Chuck Close
  • Abraham Lincoln And Frederick Douglass, Russell Freedman
  • Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, Rhoda Janzen
  • The Amazing Harry Kellar, Gail G. Jarrow
  • The President's Stuck In The Bathtub, Susan Katz
  • Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
  • Mark Twain, Michael Shelden
  • Last Airlift, Marsha Forchuck Skrypuch
  • Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
  • Regine's Book, Regine Stokke
  • First Girl Scout, Ginger Wadsworth
Childrens/Young Adult





  • Turn Right At Machu Picchu, Mark Adams
  • Religion For Atheists, Alain de Botton 
  • Summit Series '72, Richard Brignall
  • Words Set Me Free, Lesa Cline-Ransome 
  • Cowboys, David Harrison
  • Titanic, Deborah Hopkinson
  • George, Frank Keating 
  • Sable Island, Wendy Kitts
  • No Shelter Here, Rob Laidlaw
  • The Fairy Ring, Or, Elsie And Frances Fool The World, Mary Losure
  • The Polar Bear Scientists, Peter Lourie
  • Black Gold, Albert Marrin
  • Emily Included, Kathleen McDonnell
  • Sacred Stories, Marilyn McFarlane
  • Temple Grandin, Sy Montgomery 
  • Invincible Microbe, Jim Murphy
  • The Book of Blood, HP Newquist 
  • A Hidden Wholeness, Parker J. Palmer 
  • The Horse And The Plains Indians, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
  • City Critters, Nicholas Read
  • The Mighty Mars Rovers, Elizabeth Rusch
  • Buried Alive!, Elaine Scott
  • Soul Searching, Sarah Stillman
  • Shannen And The Dream For A School, Janet Wilson

Science Fiction/Fantasy