Thursday, January 21, 2010


I tried yesterday to write a review of Ender's Game, and I found myself absolutely incoherent. I got about halfway through and realized I sounded like a blathering idiot. I'm not feeling a whole lot more eloquent today. Maybe tomorrow? Not sure.

In the meantime, in order to keep my few but beloved readers entertained, I thought I'd share another part of my life. I am an absolute list addict. I make lists all the time, of everything. It makes me feel like I'm in control, I think. Which makes me a control freak. Anyway, I have a few other friends who also are list addicts, and I found this 2010 planner called Listography that I thought would make a perfect Christmas gift for some of them. And then I couldn't resist getting one for myself, too. Basically, this is a weekly planner that has a prompt to make a list for each week in the year. And I've enjoyed making the lists so far - some of them are dumb, and some are fun, but I like making them nonetheless.

I don't want to share all of the lists with you, because some of them will be extremely boring for you (i.e., names of children I know - YAWN for you), but I thought I'd share some of the others. Maybe this will break my writer's block throughout the year if a good list comes up. So! Without further adieu, a few lists from my Listography planner.

List Your Goals for the Coming Year (28 Dec 2009 to 3 Jan 2010)
  • Organize the house
  • Buy a new mattress
  • Keep losing weight
  • Get better control of finances
  • Send real birthday cards
  • Get a working printer (for home)
  • Earn Copyediting certificate from UCSD
  • Reduce to-read pile

List Your Favorite Dance Songs (22 Jan 2010 to 17 Jan 2010)

  • "Dancing Queen" - ABBA
  • "Tainted Love" - Soft Cell
  • "You'll Never Be Famous" - The Clutters
  • "I Saw Her Standing There" - The Beatles
  • "Hey Ya!" - Outkast
  • "Should I Stay or Should I Go" - The Clash
  • "Graycoated Morning" - David and the Citizens
  • "Gay Bar" - Electric City
  • "Hate to Say I Told You" - The Hives
  • "Purple Haze" - Jimi Hendrix
  • "Mr. Brightside" - The Killers
  • "Lady Marmalade" - Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and Lil' Kim
  • "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" - Aretha Franklin
  • "You Really Got Me Going" - The Kinks
  • "Deceptacon" - Le Tigre
  • "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor
  • "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley
  • "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson
  • "Son of a Gun" - Nirvana
  • "Oh My Golly" - The Pixies
  • "Vertigo" - U2
  • "Blitzkrieg Bop" - The Ramones
  • "You Keep Me Hangin' On" - The Supremes
  • "Blister in the Sun" - Violent Femmes
  • "Technology" - The Whigs
  • "Hotel Yorba" - The White Stripes
  • "We Got the Beat" - The Go-Gos
  • "Nature of the Experiment" - Tokyo Police Club
  • "American Girl" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • "Land of 1000 Dances" - Wilson Pickett

List Your Heroes (18 Jan 2010 to 24 Jan 2010)

  • My mom: even though she doesn't believe much in herself, she raised me to believe in myself and to think that I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it - she set me up for my greatest successes, and picked me up from my biggest failures
  • Chet (one of my grandfathers): the sweetest, kindest, smartest, happiest person I have ever known
  • Jimmie Holland: the founding grandmother of the field of psychosocial oncology and someone I have been blessed to work with for the past six years; a brilliant mind, an unfailing work ethic, and a kind heart, but who won't take no for an answer
  • Abraham Lincoln: another kind heart, albeit one that had to lead his country to war against itself, he did the worst imaginable task for a President who loved his country with grace, intelligence and eloquence
  • Albert Einstein: eccentric, brilliant, funny, and not afraid to admit when he was wrong
  • Gandhi: a man passionate about what was right and fair in the world, but who refused to resort to violence even when it would have saved him severe injury, he turned nonviolence into an action that got more attention than violence
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: like a combination of Lincoln and Gandhi, MLK used his faith, nonviolence, and the strength of his convictions to move an entire nation to action to attack one of our country's most horrible injustices
  • Jane Goodall: if you have ever heard her speak, you know that Dr. Goodall is poised and passionate simultaneously; she has contributed significantly to our knowledge and understanding of primates, ourselves, our environment, and our relationship with the other living things of this world
  • Nawal El Saadawi: a woman of uncommon bravery, she has fought with her writing and her teaching for women's rights and women's modern healthcare in Middle Eastern countries
  • Frederick Douglass: he educated himself and used his education to better the plight of black slaves in America to the best of his ability, as well as all people; he firmly fought for equal rights of women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants - equal rights for all people

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Irish Slices of Life Improve with Time

Argh! I wrote this review two days ago and the internet ATE IT. Ate it right up. It disappeared into thin air. we go with take 2!

I downloaded The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens from back when I was closing my subscription with them. I had a bunch of credits to spend on audiobooks, so I downloaded about 10 to get to whenever I had time. I have no idea where I got the recommendation for this particular book, but it must have resonated with me because I have three or four more books by her sitting in iTunes for me to listen to when I get around to it. I've seen other reviewers compare Owens's books to Maeve Binchy, if that's any indication for you (having never read Binchy, it didn't give me a clue).

The story centers on a tea house (Muldoon's Tea Rooms) in Belfast, Ireland, and all of the people whose lives pass through and are affected by the tea house. There's Penny and Daniel Stanley, the proprietors of the tea house whose marriage is on the rocks. There's starving artist Brenda Brown who lives in an apartment next door and comes in to drink tea and write love letters to Nicholas Cage. Henry starts coming more often to get away from his wife's obssessive re-enactments of Victorian literature and ends up falling in love with Rose, the florist across the street from the tea house. Sadie comes in to comfort herself with Daniel's delicious desserts when her husband is mean to her (which is often).

They're a lovely cast of characters - compelling, with believeable quirks and struggles. While I was listening to it, I thought it was a little slow and melodramatic, but two months later, I still remember the characters very fondly. I got attached to these people! Brenda and Sadie were my favorites, but I really enjoyed the entire cast. I don't wonder what happened to them, though, because Owens did a really good job of giving closure to all the stories. The voice actor read with a lilting Irish brogue, which was quite appropriate for the story. This is possibly the first time I have liked a book more two months after I finished it than I did right after I was done. In November, I would have given this three of five stars, but now, I give it four!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Naked Once More

Oh, lordy be. I have begun another online class - this time Copyediting I - toward my Copyediting Certificate from UCSD. I hope to learn a lot, but this class is going to take more time than the last one. There's a lot more reading. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. But I finished all of the assignments for the first week, so only nine more weeks to go... In the meantime, I'll distract myself by continuing to try and catch up with my book reviews. What will happen if I ever actually catch up?! What will I write about? :)

Today's review is about mystery novel Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters. I downloaded this as an audiobook when I had an subscription because...well, I don't remember why I chose it, exactly. As you all know, mystery novels are absolutely my personal guilty bookish pleasure, so it's not a stretch to imagine that someone recommended it to me and I picked it up for that reason. Regardless, I greatly enjoyed it. Plot summary: Jacqueline Kirby, loud-mouthed, brash, fearless, hilarious, best-selling romance author, needs a vacation from the publishing biz. Unfortunately, she's also out of money. So when she hears about the opportunity to write a sequel to one of the best-selling books of all time, which also happens to be one of her favorite books ever written, she jumps at it. The book's author, Kathleen Darcy, disappeared in the middle of nowhere seven years ago, and she's now presumed dead. Her family is interviewing candidates to write the sequel, and Jacqueline very much wants to get the job. The more she pokes around in their family business, however, the more certain she is that one of them wanted Kathleen dead - and she's determined to get to the bottom of that particular mystery.

This was a fun, fast, entertaining story. The actor who reads the book captures Jacqueline Kirby PERFECTLY, which made the audiobook that much more enjoyable. I believe that this is the second or third Jacqueline Kirby book, and I definitely want to read the others in the series after experiencing this one. When I mentioned on Facebook that I'd read it, one of my friends said she liked to describe Elizabeth Peters's books as a peanut M&M - candy-coated chocolate with a nugget of protein in the center. I think that's a dead-on description. It is a fun, fluffy, cozy mystery story, but there's something weighty about it. It's well-written, and I can tell Peters is a smart woman. Five of five stars from me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Eyre Affair

Tell a former English major who loves mystery novels and has an interest in science fiction that there's a mystery series out there involving sci-fi and famous classic literature and see if she doesn't snap up a copy of the first book in the series as soon as is humanly possible. I certainly did. I laid my hands on a copy of The Eyre Affair, the first novel in Jasper Fforde's series about Literary Detective Thursday Next, less than 30 days after I first heard about it. It combines lots of my favorite genres into one, with the added bonus of being set in Britain (I'll confess to being a bit of an Anglophile). Of course, that does not necessarily make a successful novel, but Fforde has some talent with his pen as well, so the characters are interesting and the plot is compelling, making an altogether successful book.

The Thursday Next series deals with an alternate reality - it's our world, in 1980s Britain, but there are special bureaus in the national law enforcement arena that deal with all sorts of crimes that don't generally happen in our reality, such as crimes against literature and crimes connected to time travel and vampire exterminators. Thursday Next is a Literary Detective in London. Being a Literary Detective is not generally one of the more exciting special agent jobs. It mostly involves desk research and hunting down counterfeit copies of alleged "new" scripts discovered to be written by famous long-dead authors and stopping the counterfeiters. Thursday gets pulled into a much more exciting case, however, when a special bureau unknown to her recruits her to help them catch a criminal she knows from her past. Her life becomes inextricably tied up with a murderous sociopath who used to be her professor. He takes advantage of some new technology developed by her absent-minded professor-like uncle to begin kidnapping and threatening to kill characters from classic novels. She has to stop him before he kills Jane Eyre herself, forever changing the literary canon.

As far as mystery novels go, this is one of the more original and interesting I've ever read. It embraces and combines both the mystery and science fiction genres and turns their focus to classic literature with a writing style that is light-hearted and humorous. It's no classic literary masterpiece itself, but it is a really fun read with an interesting set of characters and an entirely unique plot. I'll definitely seek out the other books in the series. Highly recommended; five five of stars!