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atlargeintheworld attempts 75 in 2012

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 12:49pm Top

In past years I have participated in the 50 books challenge and the 8 in '08, 9 in '09, and 10 in '10, but didn't participate in anything last year. And I kinda missed it. So, this year I'm going to try out the 75 Books Challenge and get back to some good book discussions.

So, my name is Leah and I live in Tennessee. I am a farmer, raising all-natural, free range chickens and pigs, tending my honeybees, and trying to master gardening (oh how I hate to weed). I am very interested in old ways of doing things and embracing the kind of foods/lifestyle my great-grandparents (who I grew up spending time with everyday) lived. So, I can fruits and veggies and am learning to make my own sausages and other preserved meats. I desperately want a dairy cow of my very own. Until 3 years ago, I was a Cultural Anthropologist.

As for my reading tastes, I read a lot of children's classics, myths and fairy tales (especially really good retellings), dystopian fiction, light fantasy (more urban/modern than Lord of the Rings and the like), dark humor, books about books, young adult novels (NOT Twilight), British humorists like Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse, and non-fiction books about food, sustainability, organic/natural farming, and homemade/DIY ways of doing things.

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”― Louisa May Alcott
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."― Cicero

*Note: Descriptions are not mine, but mined from LT or other sources. Thoughts are all me.

Top Reads of 2011

1. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne Valente: I haven't read anything else by Valente, but this book has convinced me that I should have been devouring everything she's ever written. This is one of the best books of the past SEVERAL years for me. 5 stars

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Yeah, this is where I admit that I'd never read Jane Eyre until last year. Of course, I absolutely loved it and already have a few copies. 5 stars
*Honorable Mention: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Francis Hodgson Burnett, another classic I should have read long ago that I really loved this year. 4 stars

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Wish I had picked this up when it first came out because I loved it! 5 stars

4. Wrecker by Summer Wood: The best ER I think I've ever received. A great book, especially if you've ever desperately, frustratingly loved a child. A great look at what it takes to mother a child who isn't really yours and the joy and heartache that can bring. 5 stars

5. Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: I loved The Hunger Games in 2009 and was just as pleased finishing up the series. 4 stars and 4.5 stars respectively
*Honorable Mention: The Underland Chronicles series by Collins is a great alternative for preteens who might want to read The Hunger Games (or for adults who love creative kid fiction). 3-4 stars

6. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: I read all the published Flavia stories last year and enjoyed them, but none as much as this first one. 4.5 stars
*Honorable Mention: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly: Another great novel about a wonderfully precocious and individual young girl, but this time set in rural Texas at the end of the 19th century. 4 stars

7. My Life in France by Julia Child: I really loved the movie Julie and Julia, so I read the book by the same name earlier in the year. Turned out that all the bits of the movie I really enjoyed were from the life of Julia Child and NOT in the book Julie and Julia. So I picked up My Life in France and was instantly in love. I have a serious crush on Julia Child as a fascinating woman, revolutionary cook, doting wife (I have a serious crush on Paul Child, too... he and Julia are a spectacular couple), and great writer. 4.5 stars

8. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde: I've loved Fforde and the Thursday Next series for years, but this one was so refreshing! The last couple had been a bit dragging for me but this one made me love the series all over again. 4 stars

9. Fire by Kristen Cashore: Fire was the surprise hit of last year for me. I didn't particularly love Graceling so I put off reading Fire. It was, however, the first book I came across when searching the brand new ebook lending library from my local library, so I borrowed it (it was actually the very last book I finished last year). 4 stars

10. The Magician King by Lev Grossman: I almost didn't read this because I was so split on my feelings for the previous book, The Magicians. I LOVED the first half of that book and HATED HATED the second half, so I had no idea where this would fall. While it never quite reached the highs of the first part of The Magicians, it was so much better than I thought it would be. 4 stars

11. Love Among the Chickens by PG Wodehouse: What's not to love about this when you are a satire loving chicken farmer? ;) 4 stars

Edited: Jan 10, 2012, 4:12pm Top

1. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Description: What is Un Lun Dun? It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.

Thoughts: This is the first book by Mieville that I've read, so I didn't really know what to expect. I have to say, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the overall plot is very intriguing and enjoyable, but there were times when the writing and pacing was very uneven. In the first few sections, things just seemed to jerk along. The later parts, with Deeba, are, however, very good. Ultimately, Mieville's creativity and the strength of the final sections of the book overshadowed my initial hesitations. In all, I enjoyed Un Lun Dun.

3.5 stars

Edited: Jan 9, 2012, 9:10pm Top

Welcome to the group!

Your thoughts on Un Lun Dun and Mieville are pretty consistent with many others. {Perdido Street Station is another that's magnificent in scope, but the writing and pace is uneven. And as you say, Mieville's creativity and ending is what finally makes the book. I hope you'll read more!

Jan 9, 2012, 9:18pm Top

Thanks for the welcome drneutron!

I had eyed Perdido Street Station but it seems to be quite a commitment, so I'm passing over it for the time being. Hopefully I'll get back around to it later in the year.

Jan 9, 2012, 9:20pm Top

Hi! I've starred your thread and I hope to find a lot of good recommendations from your reads. I've been wanting to read Un Lun Dun for a while – currently I have The Scar and The City & The City by Miéville high on my TBR pile. (I've read Perdido Street Station and Embassytown, and I really enjoyed both of them.)

Jan 9, 2012, 9:33pm Top

Hi Kriti! I left a post on your thread too. We were posting a the same time!

Jan 9, 2012, 9:58pm Top

Welcome! I haven't yet read anything by Mieville, and I'm not exactly eager to, but it still seems like something I should get to eventually.

Jan 9, 2012, 10:10pm Top

I had this one in my periphery for a while, but never went for it. Then I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and started investigating what I could borrow from my local library on it (which, along with free classics, is why I wanted it- I can't see myself paying for ebooks...). Out of my wishlist of 1000+, about 80 books were available for loan and most had long hold lists. Un Lun Dun was the first book I put on hold that became available, which gave it the honor of my first completed book of 2012.

As a side note, I am paying to become a non-resident member of a better library so I can borrow more ebooks. My poor rural library system never has what I want, but I keep trying it anyway.

Jan 9, 2012, 10:27pm Top

I read Perdido Street Station many years ago and liked it, though it was a chore to get through the middle. It's one of those books I wanted to be brilliant, but somehow it fell just a smidge short.

I've had Un Lun Dun on my wishlist for ages but haven't picked it up yet. I may go revisit it now. :)

Jan 9, 2012, 11:12pm Top

Hi, @atlargeintheworld :)

I read Un Lun Dun a while ago and I thought the plot was predictable and not terribly interesting; what kept me reading was the fantastic world Mieville created. I loved that aspect of it. I've had a similar experience with The City and The City, where again I find the world fascinating but the plot hard to get into - and in an adult book "great worldbuilding" doesn't sustain a novel when the plot and characters aren't that interesting.

Jan 9, 2012, 11:15pm Top

I am planning on reading my first China Mieville, Perdido Street Station this year. I admit to being a little nervous to tackle him.

Jan 10, 2012, 12:19am Top

#10 by bluesalamanders> I see your point about it being predictable. The baddies were pretty easy to pinpoint from their first appearance and the "near escapes" were always a bit too neat. However, I really loved the aspect of the UnChosen- although perhaps I should have seen this coming since everything else in UnLondon is a bit screwy. Maybe I just respond well to unlikely heroes.

Jan 10, 2012, 12:42am Top

Checked your bio -if you swap light fantasy for hard/soft sci-fi, and there is definitely some overlap! Have you read Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond? One of my absolute favorite non-fiction books, but really hard to classify ... it's like a unified history of cultural anthropology/history/economics? Not a fast read, but a pretty fascinating. And very off-topic, but... I love your little farm. I started gardening two years ago... but I wouldn't exactly say I've been successful with it ;-)

Edited: Jan 10, 2012, 1:18am Top

I haven't heard of that. I'll have to check it out, although my anthropological reading has all but ceased since moving back to the farm. Something about all this nature and wholesome living makes it hard for me to pick up scholarly work... I keep finding myself thinking "Maybe I'll go sit in the chicken yard and read something fun and come back to this later" and later just doesn't manage to make it's way back around. ;)

I love my little farm too! Thanks for stopping by my thread.

Jan 10, 2012, 9:08am Top

Ah! Cultural anthropologist AND fantasy/YA reader? Indeed, I'll definitely be following this thread. :)

I haven't read any China Mieville yet... but it's on my list to get to eventually... *stares at giant TBR list*

Jan 10, 2012, 10:02am Top

6: We definitely seem to share tastes! I actually saw that you were posting in a lot of threads I have starred, so I decided to check out your thread, just as you were posting in mine!

Jan 10, 2012, 11:30am Top

I read Un Lun Dun a few years ago, and my thoughts on it pretty much echo yours. I'll add that, while I think back on it as a good read, I don't feel any desire to reread it.

Jan 10, 2012, 2:36pm Top

Found your thread and starred! I've never read Mieville before, but have Perdido Street Station at home and have eyed Un Lun Dun in the store on more than one occasion. Maybe I'll have to check that one out sometime.

Jan 10, 2012, 2:50pm Top

Hi, I just starred your thread and added The Girl Who Circumnavigated to my TBR list, thanks!

Edited: Jan 10, 2012, 5:10pm Top

Thanks for dropping by dk, kriti, foggi, tapestry and karspeak!

#15 by dk_phoenix> For a time I was thinking of going back to get my PhD in, basically, the anthropology of childhood. My graduate focus was on cultural sustainability in diasporic and refugee communities, specifically amongst children who were displaced from their homes and cultures. Stories play a big part in that, so it was a great way to combine 2 of my passions. But the call of the farm was too strong, and I took an open-ended leave of absence from scholarly work. Now, if I go back, I'm leaning more towards the transmission of food culture from one generation to another, but luckily that still entails stories!

And I really can't recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland enough! It was wonderful!, literally the most surprising book I've read in ages.

Jan 10, 2012, 4:12pm Top

2. What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire

Description: Meet What-the-Dickens, a rogue tooth fairy and Gregory Maguire's most captivating character since his reinvention of Elphaba in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West!

When ten-year-old Dinah and her two siblings are trapped by a terrible storm, cousin Gage keeps up their spirits with an unlikely fantasy--that skibbereen, aka tooth fairies, live in warring colonies right in your neighborhood, colonies devoted to the planting and harvesting of your teeth. Dinah is skeptical at first, but stories told by candlelight on nights when the real world has become unbearable have a way of becoming real, and Dinah starts to--wants to--believe. Don't we all?

Thoughts: Firstly, I'll just say that I am a HUGE fan of Gregory Maguire. He is so inventive and capable of turning stories I think I know so well into something completely new and exciting. This is the second book by him that I've read that isn't based on a classic fairy/folk tale, the first being The Next Queen of Heaven, which I enjoyed but it certainly didn't hold the same appeal as his other books.

What-the-Dickens, however, captured me from the very beginning and never failed. Except that I didn't want it to end! It's a story within a story and both are perfectly wonderful. Dinah and Gage are each wonderful characters and the tenderness with which Gage relates the story of What-the-Dickens, the rouge tooth fairy, is heart-melting. The internal story, of the tooth fairies, is so creative and spellbinding that I was begging for more right along with little Dinah.

This would be a great book to read aloud with older children or to enjoy for yourself. Highly recommended.

4.5 stars

Jan 10, 2012, 5:32pm Top

OH MY GOD! You HAVE to watch this video. One of the best examples of book art I've seen (and from my beloved step country at that)!


Jan 10, 2012, 6:10pm Top

Wonderful! I love book art and papercrafts. This was posted here on LT last year, it's awe-inspiring.

Edited: Jan 10, 2012, 6:40pm Top

Oh yes, I followed those closely. I have a sneaking suspicion that they were from JK Rowling, but perhaps it's just wishful thinking. The fact that she lives in Edinburgh (or in the environs at least), had that beautiful papercraft in her Pottermore introduction video, and is famous for her appreciation of libraries and booksellers made me feel she was the perfect "suspect." They were so wonderful!

This one was my favorite:

I have a whole pin board of Books as Art over on Pinterest.

ETA: Since I was on the topic, I couldn't help but share another book art video I loved recently. It's a tad racy in a place or two, so don't watch if you think it will bother you, but MY LORD it's spectacular otherwise.

Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die by Your Side) by Spike Jonze, especially poignant with the passing of George Whitman, the owner of Shakespeare and Co in Paris.

Jan 11, 2012, 12:30am Top

3. In Praise of Chickens: A Compendium of Wisdom Fair and Fowl by Jane Smith

Description: Everywhere, it seems—from urban backyards to latter-day gentleman’s farms in the country—chickens have become a passion for those who love animals, feel strongly about consuming locally, and/or find conventional mechanized alarm clocks somehow insufficient. And here is the book for such people.

What follows is a compact miscellany of chicken wisdom—a lively and amusing collection of quotations from past authorities on all things chicken, interspersed with brief editorial comments and complemented by wonderful illustrations. Whether a single sentence or several paragraphs, selections are all little known and long on charm. In Praise of Chickens can be savored in small pieces or enjoyably devoured all at once. It includes a demonstration of how to hypnotize a chicken; an account of a chicken rodeo; Mark Twain’s sly tips on raising chickens; and a dictionary of the twenty-three-word vocabulary of the domestic chicken.

Thoughts: Oh, what a completely charming little book of chicken related quotes and excerpts. The quotes and information come from such varied sources, as far back as ~400 BCE, that it's just amazing that Smith was able to unearth so much of it. And there are lots of great images throughout, from paintings and drawings, to advertisements and WWII propaganda posters.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

"Did chickens evolve from dinosaurs? It's an attractive theory... The word "evolve" derives from the Latin for "out of the egg," after all, and at least some dinosaurs had feathers, wings, and probably beaks. Recent molecular studies of dinosaur protein suggest that chickens may be the closest genetic descendent of the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex, a fact that won't surpise anyone who has watched a hen attack a hapless worm." Jane Smith

"It is taken for granted, the box and nest have been made perfectly clean for the reception of the hen and that a new nest has not been sluggishly and sluttishly thrown upon an old one." Bonnington Moubray, Esq. 1824

"Chicken Cholera-- If diagnosed at an early stage recovery may be expected in nearly half of the cases from the administration every three hours of: Rhubarb (5 grains), Cayenne Pepper (2 grains), Laudanum (10 drops). Administering midway between each dose a teaspoon of brandy diluted with rather less water than half its bulk, into which have been dropped five drops of M'Dugall's Fluid Carbolate, or three grains of salicine" Lewis Wright 1890 (I have to say, any chickens that have the gall to die after a treatment like that... man, oh man. Hell, any of them that lived would have a serious opiate addiction!)

"Foxes do not attack roosters who have eaten the dry liver of that animal or if the roosters wear a skin taken from a fox around their neck." Pliny 79 AD (Again, I am going to have to make this suggestion to my roosters tomorrow and see how they feel about it...)

Naturally, I loved it, but I kept asking myself if anyone who didn't raise chickens would find it interesting at all. And I think the answer is yes. If you are interested in natural history, or just plain old history, there are some gems in here. Especially the excerpts from well known authors such as Benjamin Franklin (An Humble Petition, Presented to Madame Helvetius by Her Cats), Harriett Beecher Stowe (The Hen that Hatched Ducks), and Mark Twain (who's story, To Raise Poultry, is hilarious).

4 stars

Jan 11, 2012, 9:38am Top

Hello Leah! Thank you for the review of In Praise of Chickens: A Compendium of Wisdom Fair and Fowl. My aunt lives in Georgia and lately all she can talk about is her four chickens. I tease her and say instead of being "the cat lady" everyone is going to call her "the chicken lady." She reads a lot so I am going to tell her about this book.

Jan 11, 2012, 10:19am Top

#3 -- Sounds like something my mom would like. We raised chickens when I was growing up -- Buff Orphingtons, mostly, and a few Rhode Island Reds. I think I still have the ribbons I won for showing them at the county fair!

Jan 11, 2012, 11:44am Top

What the Dickens sounds interesting - I had Wicked on my wishlist until we went to see the musical which I didn't like at all and that rather put me off. Maybe I will give this one a go. Anyway, we seem to share a liking for dystopian fiction and I'm also reading a lot of children's/YA books at the moment so I have starred your thread.

Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 11:52am Top

I haven't seen Wicked the musical, but from what I know of it, it is significantly different than the book. The book, in my opinion, is spectacular. The sequels never quite live up, but they are worth a read if you love Wicked. Elphaba is one of the best characters I've come accross.

ETA: But you can certainly enjoy What-the-Dickens without reading Wicked.

Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 12:01pm Top

Crasco , tell her she will be in good company. I am definetely known as the chicken lady to a number of people. They are just so fun!

Foggi, my Orpington roo, Gullivar, is one of my favorites! He's a real charmer. I can't wait til my niece is old enough for 4 -H!

Jan 11, 2012, 5:52pm Top

As uneven as I felt Mieville's writing is, this new one sounds interesting. Railsea is basically Moby Dick in trains hunting giant moles... his world building is interesting.

Jan 12, 2012, 9:46pm Top

I just discovered the first major flaw in reading on my Kindle: it is incredibly easy to start a book that you don't realize is almost 600 pages long! AHH! I kept checking my progress and was thinking "how in the world am I only 35% into this book?" So I checked the paperback page count on Amazon and realized this book is huge! Sheesh.

Jan 13, 2012, 5:17am Top

#31 Moby Dick in trains hunting giant moles I have to buy that book as soon as it comes out.

China Mieville is one of my favourite writers although I haven't read everything he's written yet. I read Un Lun Dun with my son (10 at the time) and we both really enjoyed it. It currently sits on his 'Favourite Books of the BookShelf' shelf. It was the world building that was so appealing to me as well, especially in the way he took irritating aspects of the real London, such as the litter, and turns them into something completely different.

Jan 14, 2012, 10:48pm Top

4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Description: When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.

For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.

Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

Thoughts: This book was a little bit Twilight and a little bit The Da Vinci Code, so I probably should have disliked it. And there were plenty of things about it that irked me: the insanely short time in which people fall in love in books like this, the ridiculous possessiveness that vampires are allowed to get away with, the insane shifts in character behavior, and how readily ancient orders are called up. I mean, Templar-like Knights AND Volturi-like baddies? Please. Regardless of all that, and the fact that this book is WAY too long, I found myself caught up in the story. It wobbles quite a bit in places, especially the middle, but I just couldn't seem to put it down. I would have been a lot happier if the plot had stuck closer to the initial promise of lost documents hinting at mystical histories and not strayed so much into typical, and predictably mushy, paranormal romance, but I decided to take it with a grain of salt.

I will say, however, that Harkness has written one of the most fascinating houses I've ever read. The Bishop house is a creature all it's own, reminiscent of Hogwarts castle with it's ever changing layout and distinct personality, and the Weasley family home, the Burrow, with it's overstuffed, slightly ramshackle charm. THAT was well worth slogging through the tedious, and in my opinion pointless, middle at the French stronghold.

3.5 stars

On a related note, why do authors of this type of book insist on beating readers about the head with the most pointless descriptions? Does telling me in minute detail what each character is wearing contribute to the story. No. Do I really want to read pages of wine descriptions from a vampire with extraordinary senses. NO. Do I need to be reminded time and time again what it feels like to come in contact with vampire flesh or feel the gaze of another creature? NOPE. Isn't there a single editor out there who will read material like this and tell an author honestly that most people aren't interested in the yoga habits of mystical creatures? I mean, COME ON!

Edited: Jan 15, 2012, 7:49am Top

Hahaha I totally agree with you! I've started skimming stuff like that. I mean, I like description, I really do, but only if 1) it's well-written and 2) there's a point! I get so tired of detailed descriptions of the hair color and eye color and nose shape and shoes and shirt and fingernails of every character to appear on page. I don't care and I wouldn't remember even if I did read it.

Jan 15, 2012, 10:39am Top

I agree with you about the house in A Discovery of Witches, and your other comments. It was too long, and I thought the writing was uneven, but I read it in a single weekend and if book 2 had been available when I finished, I would have picked it straight up and kept going. So it had something that hooked me! I'm not sure how popular it is in the US but it doesn't seem to have become "big" in the UK, although I see it's now out in paperback, which might help.

The chicken book looks interesting. I have a friend who keeps hens, so I'll have to see if I can find a copy as I'm sure she would love it.

Jan 15, 2012, 11:04am Top

I love the links to your Pinterest board and the mysterious book art in Scotland!

Jan 15, 2012, 2:01pm Top

I can't remember who's thread it was that was talking about watching Downton Abbey, but whoever it was, DAMN YOU for the recommendation! I've been sick the past few days and decided to catch it on Netflix streaming and suddenly I found myself awake until 3 am watching it. I DO NOT NEED THIS KIND OF DISTRACTION! ;)

Jan 15, 2012, 2:41pm Top

#38 -- Bwahahahaha! (I don't remember which thread it was either, but I've recommended it in a couple of places, I think.)

Jan 15, 2012, 5:25pm Top

Hehehe. There's a new episode on tonight. Are you able to get all of season 2 via Netflix or do they make you wait because it hasn't aired in the US yet?

Jan 15, 2012, 5:36pm Top

Maggie Smith just said "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!" Ahahaha!

It's just season 1 that's available right now, but I set the tivo to record season 2. Luckily they are replaying the first episode of the season tonight so I won't have missed anything. Unluckily, I don't get TV service in the bedroom (just use the TV to watch DVDs and Netflix) so I'm going to have to make the great effort of actually getting out of bed to watch it... how totally I embrace the sloth in me when I'm sick.

Jan 15, 2012, 5:45pm Top

My wife and I thought that Maggie Smith quote was hilarious!

Jan 16, 2012, 1:37am Top

Just watched the first 2 episodes of season 2 with my mom and now she's hooked too! Must get back to reading....

Jan 16, 2012, 9:06am Top

Just popping in to say I've had What the Dickens on my shelf for several years now, but haven't read it because I didn't know if it was any good. Your review is tempting me to pick it up soon!

Edited: Jan 17, 2012, 8:17pm Top

I am wasting some time online right now waiting to take the Official Jeopardy Test. I have no reason to think I will score well, but I am humoring my mother who seems to think I would be a wonderful contestant (I guess most mothers are like that). Against all odds, I'm really kinda excited! Such a dork. Please let there be book and geography questions...

eta: HOLY CRAP. That thing is stressful. I probably genuinely knew a little over half the questions, but I kept completely blanking. Like my brain was wrapped in fog. One of the questions was "This horned whale, whose Latin name is Monodon monoceros, is often the subject of legends." I KNEW that was narwhal. I love narwhals. The damned things were swimming in my head, but the word was nowhere to be found... until 2 seconds after the timer went. Damn.

Jan 19, 2012, 2:13am Top

5. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Description: Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven.

Thoughts: I have to say that I find myself liking this second Camp Half-Blood series even more than the first. Maybe it's because the characters are a bit more fleshed out. Maybe it's because the pace is better. Or maybe it's just that the possibilities with all the new sides- Greek, Roman, Hunters, Amazons- are so exciting. Whatever it is, it sure is fun reading.

I think I did, however, like this one slightly less than The Lost Hero. Not because this wasn't as good or as exciting, it pretty much was, but because I found the whole mystery of Jason's amnesia so much more fulfilling than Percy's. Not only do we already know WHY Percy can't remember his past, we know everything he's forgotten, which takes so much of the charm away.

And my usual complaint with these types of books still holds: how come everyone has to be the best at everything (even if they spend half the book thinking they aren't)? It might be interesting to have a character that is actually not so good at much but a wonderful friend and ally nonetheless. And not everyone needs such a complex bacskstory.

Besides that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I really can't wait to see how the next one, The Mark of Athena, is laid out since all the characters from both books will be together. And I hope Annabeth gets her voice represented, even if that would mean 7 narrator's. Seems only fitting for the Prophecy of Seven!

4 stars

Jan 19, 2012, 6:14pm Top

Leah - I'm so glad to hear you liked The Son of Neptune. I got that one for Christmas, but I need to read The Lost Hero first!

Jan 19, 2012, 8:29pm Top

Leah - I agree with you about this second Camp Half Blood series being better than the first. I really enjoy them! I am so excited for The Mark of Athena - I'm just not sure how I will wait until October!

Edited: Jan 19, 2012, 10:51pm Top

6. The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens

Description: The River Cottage farm, established by British food personality Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to promote high-quality, local, and sustainable food, has inspired a television series, restaurants and classes, and a hit series of books. In this new addition to the award-winning collection, River Cottage baking instructor Daniel Stevens shares his irrepressible enthusiasm and knowledge to help you bake better bread. From familiar classics such as ciabatta and pizza dough, to new challenges like potato bread, rye loaves, tortillas, naan, croissants, doughnuts, and bagels, each easy-to-follow recipe is accompanied by full-color, step-by-step photos. There’s even an in-depth chapter on building your own backyard wood-fired oven.

Thoughts: I'd been wanting to get my hands on this book for a while so was thrilled when I received it as a Christmas gift from my sister. I pulled it out today because I thought I would make a quick loaf. I started reading to get a feel of the book and never got around to making that loaf! This book is wonderful!

Dan's writing shows his obvious passion for bread, every minute detail of making bread. I've made bread a couple of times in the past from other "recipes" but I've never felt like I took a whole class in the pages of a cookbook. Dan devotes the first sections of the book to everything you ever wanted to know about the process, from the differences in flours to suggested tools and even how deciding on the shape of your bread will affect the final product. But it's never heavy handed or overly technical. It was engrossing and enlightening.

And that's all before I've even made my first loaf. Can't wait to get started!

5 stars

Jan 20, 2012, 3:31am Top

Oh, here you are! Glad I've found you. And I get what you mean about the Percy Jackson books -- and every other YA hero quest book -- having all these characters who are amazingly good at everything and, of course, magically powerful, etc. But here's the thing -- I think Riordan is actually the one author who should be able to get away with that because he is writing about demigods, in the spirit of classical myth, and demigods always were amazingly good at everything. Annoyingly so, in fact. So, I think, at least in this case, it is in the spirit of the books.

But don't get me started about some of those other series! :)

Jan 20, 2012, 9:10am Top

>46 leahbird:: I'd argue that Grover was that imperfect character... and he's not a demi-god, so it fits with the theory above (#50), which I agree with! Though, Grover hasn't had a big place in this second series yet (I'm assuming that's coming, since he and Annabeth are friends), and his personal growth in the first series will presumably be reflected in this one -- where he's much better at being a satyr, since he's in charge of them and all that. But I still anticipate error... someone has to be the comic relief. :)

Jan 20, 2012, 1:10pm Top

That's fair, that Grover was the imperfect character. Although, he does stand out amongst satyrs. I mean, he was the one to find Pan (even if it was mostly by accident).

And I do agree that it bugs me less in this series than in a lot of others. It was just a thought that came up while reading, mostly in passing.

Jan 20, 2012, 8:12pm Top

I am late checking in here, but a belated 'Welcome to the group!' from me.

My sister is a homesteader, raising goats, and shares a lot of your interests. I will be peeking in to see if you are reading any books that she might like.

Great reading year for you thus far! Congratulations.

Edited: Jan 21, 2012, 3:56pm Top

I made my first River Cottage loaf today.

Texture: A
Flavor: A+
Crust (the part I didn't burn): B+
Ease of making: B+
Oven: FAIL

I hate my oven. It's a piece of crap. The whole top of my loaf was burnt big time. Charred even. And the inside of the loaf was a tad under cooked. That is all the fault of the stupid, faulty thermostat in my crappy old oven. I dream of the day when I can afford a vintage stove like a Glenwood or Magic Chef. These stoves, from the 20s-40s, have such reliable heating elements that they are still out performing typical modern ovens.

Magic Chef


Jan 21, 2012, 6:04pm Top

54 atlargeintheworld - they also look so neat!

Jan 21, 2012, 6:07pm Top

Oooohhhh - De-lurking to say I love the pics of the vintage Glenwood stoves!

Jan 21, 2012, 6:51pm Top

I was *this* close to saying how much I adore your oven... and then I read that it's just a dream. Too bad! The Magic Chef looks amazing but who in the world can juggle so many things cooking at once? Certainly not I!

The Glenwood reminds me of the cast iron wood-burning stove I grew up with. Ours was small and black, nothing so pretty as that, but I can still hear the screak of the hinges and the crackle of the wood.

Jan 21, 2012, 6:58pm Top

Yeah, for now it's just my biggest dream. You can still get woodburning Glenwoods that are fully functioning. Many have been rehabilitated and work/look great. Or you can get ones that have been upgraded with modern gas/electric.

Jan 22, 2012, 1:28am Top

#54: I want one of those too! Beautiful!

Jan 22, 2012, 1:31am Top

What beautiful ovens!

(I'm chasing your posts, Stasia!)

Edited: Jan 22, 2012, 1:53am Top

7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Description: In a house haunted by memories, the past is everywhere ...As darkness falls, a man caught in a snowstorm is forced to shelter at the strange, grim house Wuthering Heights. It is a place he will never forget. There he will come to learn the story of Cathy: how she was forced to choose between her well-meaning husband and the dangerous man she had loved since she was young. How her choice led to betrayal and terrible revenge - and continues to torment those in the present. How love can transgress authority, convention, even death. And how desire can kill.

Thoughts: I really expected to love this book. I mean, it is the most widely available book written by a woman in the world (according to a survey of libraries). I have loved classics by other women writers, even Emily's own sister. This is one of those books that everyone raves about- the "greatest love story ever."

WHAT? This certainly isn't my idea of a great love story. The characters are all insane or very nearly detestable. There is hardly a single one that I cheered for; any who weren't irredeemibly wicked were so priggish or self-centered that they were almost as horrid. And the almost constant mental and physical violence was not only tiring, but pretty damn disturbing.

So why in the world did I keep reading? I just had to finish it. I felt I owed it to Ms. Bronte. Because, no matter how disturbing this book was or how despicable the characters, Emily Bronte did write an amazing book. To think of the time period in which this was written and the opinion of women writers, the fact that she had the guts to put this down on paper and have it published (even under a pen name), is astounding. The creativity and passion with which she conveys the story is captivating. I mean, it's an appalling story which will probably haunt me for quite a while, but it is an amazing accomplishment.

I just wish I didn't dislike it so much...

3 stars, mostly for sheer chutzpah

Jan 22, 2012, 6:55am Top

I desperately want one of those stove now!

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Wuthering Heights more. I have not read it.

Jan 22, 2012, 8:00am Top

I couldn't finish Wuthering Heights for the same reason you didn't like it - the characters were all awful. I got about a third of the way through and quit.

Jan 22, 2012, 12:59pm Top

It has been years since I read Wuthering Heights. My only memory of the story is that it is a dark one.

Jan 22, 2012, 2:53pm Top

There's a fantastic scene in The Well of Lost Plots, one of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, where the characters from Wuthering Heights have a group therapy session -- mostly about how much they hate and despise Heathcliff.

Jan 22, 2012, 5:56pm Top

Foggi, I had totally forgotten about that scene! I love Jasper Fforde.

Jan 22, 2012, 7:47pm Top

#61 I like your review of Wuthering Heights. I tried to read it a few years back, but couldn't finish it for the same reasons you didn't like it. I was interested in reading it because I had just finished Jane Eyre and loved it. I also wanted to read it because of the references to it in Jasper Fforde's books.

Jan 23, 2012, 5:27am Top

Hi Leah, I have only been lurking so far. You are reading some interesting books and I am getting some nice insights into US farm life! Those two ovens are amazing - I'd also love to have one of them!

A great review of Wuthering Heights, a book I actually quite adore.
But I was in the lucky situation to read it as a teenager and without any expectations. I only learned about the hype after joining LT. The Brontes are not part of the German school canon, so when I saw this book with the interesting title on my parents' shelf I just grabbed it and read it, and was blown away by its sheer dramatic power (as a teenager you are easier impressed by all the drama). I'd never call it a great love story, the characters are as you said all insane or quite detestable. It's wonderful writing though, it's almost like a dark poem/ ballad in prose. I absolutely understand that it couldn't live up to your expectations. Really - who would want a Heathcliff in real life?

Jan 23, 2012, 8:56am Top

I've never read anything by the Brontes, which I hope to correct this year. Interesting thoughts on Wuthering Heights... it's intriguing me all the more, I think.

Jan 23, 2012, 12:02pm Top

#68 by Deern> Welcome! Glad you decided to delurk. ;)

I completely agree with you on the things your liked about Wuthering Heights. It is a dark masterpiece. If that were more the type of book that I enjoyed, I'm sure this would have been a favorite. It was an very convincing study of insanity and cruelty and obsessive passion. It was just so repellent to me that I couldn't really appreciate it's good qualities as much.

I did, however, just watch the Masterpiece Classic miniseries of Wuthering Heights and I will say that watching it gave me a much great appreciation for the book. Not that it made me like the book more, but I saw all the places where the book became so much more plausible than the movie was. Heathcliff and Cathy becoming so close as small children made a lot more sense than them falling in love as teens- their childishness in the books makes a lot of their behavior more understandable and believable.

#69 by dk_phoenix> I highly recommend Jane Eyre. It is seriously good. There are hints and shadows of the same madness that Emily embraces so thoroughly in Wuthering Heights, but it is luckily held more in check and therefor not so overwhelming. And there is very little cruelty, which is something I found really difficult to get through in Wuthering Heights. Plus, Jane Eyre is an infinitely likeable character.

Jan 24, 2012, 8:36pm Top

8. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (JK Rowling)

Description: Fantastic Beasts purports to be a reproduction of a textbook owned by Harry Potter and written by magizoologist Newt Scamander, a fictional character in the Harry Potter series. In the series, Magizoology is the study of magical creatures. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them contains the history of Magizoology and describes 75 magical species found around the world. Scamander says that he collected most of the information found in the book through observations made over years of travel and across five continents.

The book features fictional doodles and comments in it by Harry, Ron and Hermione. These doodles add some extra information for fans of the series; for example the "Acromantula" entry has a comment confirming that Hogwarts is located in Scotland.

Thoughts: I read this ages ago (more than a decade ago now) when a friend brought a paperback copy back from the UK for me. I loved it then, not only because I'm a huge HP fan but because I love these kinds of old "bestiaries" and fictional histories. They are just so much fun. With my plan to replace all my paperbacks with nice hardcovers, I got a hardcover copy of this from PBS today and couldn't help reading through it quickly (it's only 42 pages, which is the biggest disappointment to be found). Still as fun as it was when I was 18!

4 stars (would have been 5 if it wasn't so short)

Edited: Jan 25, 2012, 1:10am Top

9. Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

Description: All the creatures of the forest knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name day. But the curse was cast: Sometime in the future Rosie would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep from which no one could rouse her.

Katriona, the young fairy who whisked Rosie away as an infant, and her aunt raise the princess as if she's their own in order to protect her. No other human, not even Rosie herself, knows her true identity. But Pernicia is looking for Rosie, and her powers are strong. She is so intent on revenge that even the fairies and animals who love Rosie may not be able to save her.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed how McKinley turned "The Sleeping Beauty" on it's ear. And I liked most of the characters, although several could have used more fleshing out. Ultimately, however, this story was way to muddled for my tastes. The pacing was strange: nothing really happened at all for long stretches and then there would be a flurry of action which quickly subsided back into nothing. And the shift in narrative focus, from Katriona to Rosie very abruptly, was off-putting.

But I think it was mostly the sense that the story wasn't completely thought out that made this so underwhelming for me. It felt like McKinley knew the highlights she wanted to hit but had trouble navigating from point to point and therefore ended up with a lot of pointless meandering and, towards the end, some writing that came accross as bad stream of consciousness that was trying to pass as deep, important philosophical thought.

One of the worst passages: "Rosie couldn't decide if it was more as if an invisible door opened and let them out, or whether they merely formed themselves out of nothing. Whatever they were, they made you sick to look at them; not sick because of their horribleness, but sick like a person who doesn't like heights looking down a very long way. Looking at them made you dizzy and gave you a headache, and you suddenly felt you no longer knew which way was up and which down, and you wanted something to hold on to, except there wasn't anything to hold on to, except each other, and that wasn't any good because all the rest felt exactly the same."

That is the clearest description given of some phantom thingies that pop up and are then vanquished by... the cat. One second they aren't there, then they are, and then they are gone again. What?

This was the first book by McKinley that I've read. It was a SantaThing gift. I have had some of McKinley's other books on my TBR list but I'm not so sure I'm going to rush out to acquire them after this one.

3.5 stars

Jan 25, 2012, 11:52am Top

You should absolutely run out to acquire more of McKinley. For me, Spindle's End is definitely one of her weakest books, IMO, and I haven't liked any of her folktale reworkings nearly as much as her other work.

I would recommend The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown as must reads by her. They are old favourites of mine, true comfort reads that I return to again and again. I would suggest reading them in publication order (The Blue Sword first) rather than internal chronological order, as they work extremely well like that.

Trust me. Don't give up on her. You won't regret it.

Edited: Jan 25, 2012, 12:03pm Top

#72 -- I agree with all of your criticisms of Spindle's End -- I still like it, but it's not a favorite of mine. Lunacat is right, it's one of her weaker books. I'd second the recommendation for The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. Also, my favorite of hers is Beauty: A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast. I think her earlier books ramble less . . . I don't know if her editors are easier on her since she is an established author, or whether rambling is a tendency that's grown over time, but I feel that her books have grown increasingly wordy and meandering, especially in the past ten or fifteen years.

Jan 25, 2012, 12:23pm Top

Beauty is the one I was most interested in since I tend to enjoy retellings of classic stories. But I will look into the others you two recommend. I'm not ruling McKinley out, just not feeling it's a huge draw right now.

Jan 25, 2012, 1:44pm Top

Hehe and then some of us enjoy her rambling! I love Spindle's End and Sunshine deeply. But I definitely agree with the recommendations of The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.

Jan 26, 2012, 12:28am Top

In case you needed more agreement, I'll add mine -- don't give up on McKinley. And The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are probably her best work. Though I like some of her rambly stuff too. :)

Jan 27, 2012, 4:31pm Top

>70 leahbird:: You're not the first to recommend Jane Eyre to me! I'll definitely start there with the Brontes, once I have a chance.

Jan 29, 2012, 12:42am Top

You all must have wormed your way into my head because I just bought another Robin McKinley book tonight... It was Pegasus and I picked it up because it was used and cheap. Hope this one is a little less rambling than Spindle's End.

Edited: Jan 29, 2012, 7:25am Top

79 @atlargeintheworld - Just a warning, Pegasus is sort of...half a story. The ending is very abrupt and not really an ending at all. She's working on part 2, but there's no telling when it will be completed.

Jan 29, 2012, 12:32pm Top

Damn! Oh well, I don't mind a sequel or two so I guess I'll just roll with it. This is why I wish I had a smart phone or that the bookstore had Wi-Fi. It sure would be nice to check things like this before buying. I have my TBR list on my Kindle Fire, but it's basically titles and ISBNs, so helpful info like #80 isn't there.

Edited: Jan 29, 2012, 2:59pm Top

10.1. The Man With Two Left Feet by PG Wodehouse

Description: What do a homely policeman, a handsome black cat, a naive (but eager-to-please!) little dog, an imaginary king, several feisty heroines, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, and the man with two left feet have in common? They can all be found in this wonderful collection of clever tales, where intrigue, romance, snappy dialog, and humorous complications reign supreme! It's a Wodehouse treasure: some of his most charming short stories brought together for the reader's delight. Written in a time when stories were expected to entertain, The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories exceeds all expectations!

1. Bill the Bloodhound
2. Extricating Young Gussie (Jeeves and Wooster First Story)
3. Wilton's Holiday
4. The Mixer, I
5. The Mixer, II
6. Crowned Heads
7. At Geisenheimer's
8. The Making of Mac's
9. One Touch of Nature
10. Black for Luck
11. The Romance of an Ugly Policeman
12. A Sea of Troubles
13. The Man with Two Left Feet

Thoughts: I'm planning to read all the Jeeves stories, so this collection was the natural start, being the first introduction to Bertie Wooster and Jeeves the butler. But the Jeeves story is just one of 13 collected here. At the moment I've put it on hold to read a library book, so I'm just going to note which ones I've read and come back to the rest.

Bill the Bloodhound: This is a cute story about a bumbling private detective who wants to marry his best girl but she won't consent to marry someone who isn't an actor like herself. Ridiculous comedy ensues, as is only right in a Wodehouse story. 4 stars

Extricating Young Gussie: This is the introduction to Bertie and Jeeves. Aunt Agatha insists that Bertie go to New York and "extricate young Gussie," the heir to the family title, from an unfortunate love match and career choice. This one is gold! One of the best last lines I've come across. 5 stars {Footnote regarding the story 'Extricating Young Gussie' - Information found in the book 'The World of Jeeves' introduction. Wodehouse states " I find it curious, now that I have written so much about him, to recall how softly and undramatically Jeeves first entered my little world. Characteristically, he did not thrust himself forward. On that occasion, he spoke just two lines. The first was: "Mrs. Gregson to see you sir." The second: "Very good, sir, which suit will you wear?" That was in a story in a volume entitled 'The Man with Two Left Feet' It was only some time later, when I was going into the strange affair which is related under the title of "The Artistic Career of Corky" that the man's qualities dawned upon me. I still blush to think of the off-hand way I treated him at our first encounter."}

Wilton's Holiday: So far, this is the dud of the collection. Pretty young things holidaying at a seaside resort. Misunderstandings and fateful interventions. Slightly boring. 3.5 stars

The Mixer, I: I liked this story about a dog and his escapades but there is some animal treatment that makes me unhappy. I know you have to read something of this time period with a grain of salt but it just gets under my skin. The story is great though, funny and smart. I just wish the "walloping" wasn't there. 4 stars based on story alone, maybe 3 because of the cruelty

So, 4 stories down, 9 to go.

Jan 30, 2012, 8:46pm Top

Just de-lurking to say hello. I read my first Wodehouse last year and enjoyed it, though there were definitely some hits and misses among the stories.

Edited: Jan 30, 2012, 8:58pm Top

Hi Katie, thanks for delurking! There are some snoozes amongst Wodehouse stories, but many of them are charmingly hilarious. I'll report soon on the rest of these stories.

ETA: If you've liked Wodehouse, have you read anything by Evelyn Waugh? Some of the funniest stuff I've ever read. Vile Bodies is seriously one of the best comedic novels ever.

Jan 31, 2012, 1:39pm Top

I have a couple Waugh books on my TBR shelves (including Vile Bodies I think) but haven't read any yet (story of my life...) :)

Edited: Jan 31, 2012, 8:23pm Top

The the ones I'd get to sooner rather than later are Vile Bodies, Brideshead Revisited, and The Loved One (which is pretty short and an real easy read).

Jan 31, 2012, 8:23pm Top

11. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Description: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Thoughts: This was a strange book. A strange book that I found myself enjoying very much. It's not your average young adult fantasy book (I might not even call it YA as it could almost pass as that ambiguous "magical realism literary fantasy"). The story unravels in such a way that for a long time you are left wondering if this really is going to be a fantasy book. Or is it just a Holocaust story wrapped up in fairy tales? Or is a horror story? When it's finally clear exactly what IS going on, the story looses a bit of footing by getting muddled a bit with teenage romantic angst, but it doesn't stay bogged down for long and then the story is off again.

For the most part, I was pretty engrossed. There were a few times when Jacob, the protagonist, irked me with his behavior and "poor rich boy" whining, but mostly he was a likable and sympathetic kid. His parents were pretty useless as characters (and as parents if I'm honest), but the real shining point was Abe, his grandfather. Sadly, he's dispatched all to early in the story, but the echo of him is there throughout. There are also several plot aspects that aren't all that clear, but it didn't detract very much from my enjoyment of the story.

The inclusion of the genuine old peculiar photographs was really interesting. There were a few places where the way they were worked into the story is a smidge forced, but mostly they brought a new aspect to the story that I haven't ever seen before. And they work nicely to tie parts of the plot together.

My biggest complaint? That this better have a sequel because it COMPLETELY ends in the middle of nowhere. There is NO resolution. Sorry if this ruins something for those of you who haven't read it yet, but I was reading it on my Kindle and would have thought there was some problem had their not been an appendix. I can't find any information on whether to expect another book, but if one doesn't come, I will have to seriously rethink my rating of this book.

4 stars if there is a sequel, maybe 2.5 or 3 without one

Jan 31, 2012, 8:48pm Top

I spent the day babysitting my most favorite little human, my 2.5 yr old niece Addy. She was home with ear infections but she sure didn't seem phased and we had a grand old time. I rarely get one-on-one time with her, what with her parents thinking they need to spend time with her and my parents thinking the same... Obviously, her aunty is the most important person in the world, but I can't make those other people understand that. ;)

Since she was "sick" she slept in, which meant that I had a wonderful excuse to do the same! We slept till almost 10, which was AMAZING, and then headed into town. We lunched liked ladies, strolled through downtown (which is about 3 blocks) in the lovely weather (62 today, very unusual), and had a blast in the grocery story. Then we came back to the farm and did her favorite thing in the WHOLE world: we fed the chickens and pigs. You have never seen a 2 yr old more excited about carrying buckets, feeding animals, and collecting eggs. She LOVES it. And she's not at all afraid of the animals, not even the giant pigs- her favorite is named Coco and she's 3 ft tall and ~250 lbs.

Then we napped, which was another lovely luxury. When we got up, Red Riding Hood (the recent movie) was on so we watched a little of that. Addy likes to narrate movies and she put the "bad bad man" (the warrior priest) in time out and told him to stop talking. Unfortunately, that's when her dad got home from work, but I finagled extra time by volunteering to make dinner. After a quick kiss for her daddy, she was right back with me, "helping" me make chicken teriyaki. My favorite thing she does is when she wants you to hold her she says "I want to hold you"... and she calls me Le-La, which I think is adorable.

Here's the love of my life, dressed up to be the flower girl in a friend's recent wedding

Jan 31, 2012, 9:06pm Top

*Sigh* I really need to read Miss Peregrine's...

Jan 31, 2012, 9:34pm Top

She's beautiful! Love the little cheese grin. :) Enjoy her enthusiasm while it lasts!

I liked Ms Peregrine's, but not as much as I'd hoped. I wasn't prepared for a middle-grade fantasy; I was expecting a more grown up horror story. The way the text meshed with the photos felt overly contrived. But had it been marketed properly I probably would have been more delighted. It's a fun story at least.

Jan 31, 2012, 9:48pm Top

I agree with Jim. Miss Peregrine's has been tempting me from the shelves of every bookstore

Feb 1, 2012, 1:15am Top

January Round-Up

Books read: 10 1/3
Fiction: 8 1/3
Non-Fiction: 2
Classics: 1 1/3
Young adult: 6
Fantasy: 7
Cookbooks: 1

From my shelves: 3
New: 4
Library: 4
Kindle: 3 1/3

Average rating: 3.96

Feb 2, 2012, 8:08pm Top

12. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Description: Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

Thoughts: I knew there was this other Riordan series out there, but so far hadn't been particularly drawn to it. Mostly because I enjoyed but didn't love the first Percy Jackson series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians). Reading the new Percy Jackson series (The Heroes of Olympus), however, got me a bit more interested. I found The Red Pyramid used at the bookstore the other day so I grabbed it.

Turns out, I was probably right to be a bit ambivalent about this one. That isn't to say that it's bad, because it's not, it's just a bit too much of a rehash of The Lightning Thief to be truly exciting. At least for an adult who's read the other series- newcomers and/or kids who are Riordan fans will probably find lots to like here. Just don't pick this one up because you liked Percy Jackson and think it's going to blow you away.

3.5 stars

Feb 2, 2012, 9:39pm Top

I read Miss Peregrine last year -- on my Nook! Enjoyed it too, but had no idea what it was about when I checked it out. Maybe that is the best way to read it.

And, I am looking forward to future report outs on how the bread turns out from The River Cottage Bread Book - bread is an eternal challenge for me - and if I have to get one of those awesome ovens in order to do so, I'm okay with that :)!

Feb 2, 2012, 9:46pm Top

I'm feeling like the oven is more and more important in getting bread right. Well, and having a good bread stone (which that book also advises you on). Luckily, there is a great little guide in the book about how to build a clay oven... so maybe I'll just have to build one to get my bread perfect... ;)

Feb 2, 2012, 9:48pm Top

Sounds like a great plan! BTW - your niece is adorable.

Feb 2, 2012, 9:58pm Top

Thanks. I sure think so!

Feb 3, 2012, 2:50am Top

>93 leahbird:: I feel similarly about the Egyptian series -- it's fine, but nothing mind-blowing. And the narration gets on my nerves. The second one is a little better, but not that much, FYI.

Still, I just love the second Percy series. So fun! And I am interested to see how all the series eventually tie together. Because they totally will. :)

Feb 3, 2012, 11:35am Top

Agree on all points!

Feb 3, 2012, 11:58am Top

Hmm, that's good to know about The Red Pyramid. I've been thinking of reading it. I liked the first Percy Jackson series, but didn't love it, like yourself. But then, like yourself, I was impressed by the first couple books of The Heroes of Olympus. But I'd heard from a couple of people that The Red Pyramid isn't too great. Maybe I'll pass on it for now since there are so many other good books to read.

Feb 3, 2012, 6:34pm Top

Ok here's a little fun (I hope) leading up to the book I will finish today. Don't go look anything up, just write what comes to mind.

1. What color are carrots?
2. What color is the flesh of a watermelon?
3. What color are tomatoes?
4. What color are eggplants?
5. What fruit was long believed poisonous and is now one of the most popular in the world?
6. What does a commonly grown grass have to do with human hair?
7. What's a gardener's tip for identifying tomato plants from random weeds?

Feb 3, 2012, 7:21pm Top

It grows back?

LOL! My black thumb at its best. Did you read a book on heirloom tomatoes? I wonder what the hair has to do with anything!

Feb 3, 2012, 9:13pm Top

Golden color
Fruition :)

That spells OPRPTGF. Oprah peed, thank God it's Friday?

Feb 3, 2012, 10:35pm Top

Haha, I thought it was going to be Oprah too!

Feb 3, 2012, 10:49pm Top

Hahaha! There is no hidden code. Man, now I wish I'd made one up...

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 2:17am Top

Answers to all my trick questions ;)

1. What color are carrots? orange, white, yellow, purple, and red

2. What color is the flesh of a watermelon? pink, orange, white, yellow (the rinds can also be very colorful: grey, purple, black, and some even have star shapes on them)

3. What color are tomatoes? many, including red, yellow, green, orange, pink, purple, and black

4. What color are eggplants? purple, pink, white, green, yellow

including this BEAUTY, the Rosa Bianca

5. What fruit was long believed poisonous and is now one of the most popular in the world? tomatoes (great guess guys!) Because tomatoes are in the nightshade family, most Europeans and Colonial Americans believed they were deadly poisonous. They grew them as ornamentals... In 1820, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate a basket full of tomatoes on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey. The assembled crowd expected to see the Colonel drop dead. When he suffered no ill effects, the tomato was on it's way to becoming the most popular fruit/vegetable grown by backyard gardeners today!

6. What does a commonly grown grass have to do with human hair? Corn is a domesticated variant of the grass teosinte, indigenous to Mexico. It is now the most widely cultivated crop in the Americas. By analyzing the carbon sequences found in human hairs, researchers have noted that modern American diets seem to consist of upwards of 60% corn. Naturally, no one actually sits down and eats that much corn, but corn byproducts are now in almost every single processed food you can buy. And the overwhelming amount of "mainstream" meat animals (like what you probably find in the grocery store and restaurants) are fed almost solely on corn, the carbon from which ends up in our bodies... 79% of corn planted is genetically modified. (If you are interested in this, watch the movie King Corn)

7. What's a gardener's tip for identifying tomato plants from random weeds? When tomato plants are small, they look similar to several other plants, including weeds. A quick tip for making sure you aren't about to pull up your tomatoes is to rub the stem gently between your fingers and then smell your fingertips. Tomato plants smell EXACTLY like tomatoes. Not kidding! It's an overwhelming whiff of perfectly sun-ripened tomato goodness. I have contemplated making it into a perfume.

I just really wanted an excuse to talk about heirloom veggies! It always surprises me how few people have real life experience around a garden or know that carrots don't have to be orange. We've just gotten so out of touch with our food, which makes me sad. Because it's all so exciting for me!

Soooo.... what does all this have to do with books?

13. The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle

Description:Tired of genetically modified food? Every day, Americans are moving more toward eating natural, locally grown food that is free of pesticides and preservatives--and there is no better way to ensure this than to grow it yourself. Anyone can start a garden, whether in a backyard or on a city rooftop; but what they need to truly succeed is The Heirloom Life Gardener, a comprehensive guide to cultivating heirloom vegetables.

In this invaluable resource, Jere and Emilee Gettle, cofounders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, offer a wealth of knowledge to every kind of gardener--experienced pros and novices alike. In his friendly voice, complemented by gorgeous photographs, Jere gives planting, growing, harvesting, and seed saving tips. In addition, an extensive A to Z Growing Guide includes amazing heirloom varieties that many people have never even seen. From seed collecting to the history of seed varieties and name origins, Jere takes you far beyond the heirloom tomato. This is the first book of its kind that is not only a guide to growing beautiful and delicious vegetables, but also a way to join the movement of people who long for real food and a truer way of living.

Thoughts: The Gettles founded Baker Creek Seeds, which is an amazing seed company that saves, preserves, and sells heirloom, open pollinated, patent and GMO free seeds. They produce the most AMAZING (and beautiful) seed catalog each year and now have this book out. The Gettles also run a seed farm, the Petaluma Seed Bank, and Comstock, Ferre & Co- America's oldest continually operating seed company (201 years)- which they have rescued from closure and are returning to it's former glory. I love these people!

Anyway, the book is interesting. It's a great introduction on heirloom varieties and why it's important to grow them. It's not just about how wonderful they taste compared to modern hybrids or how it's good to get back to out roots (no pun intended): most importantly, preserving heirlooms is of the most reliable way to safeguard our food supply against unforeseen future events. By maintaining genetic diversity, we can breed plants to respond to changing global conditions, pests that are evolving, and plant diseases that are changing faster in response to chemicals treatments. This is saving for our future.

If you are already an heirloom convert (like me) or long time gardener, then this book isn't going to teach you anything you don't probably know, but it is interesting to read Jere's story of founding the company out of his bedroom at 17 and his travels around the world preserving seeds. There is also a WONDERFUL A-Z guide (which is about half the book) that has great tips and facts for the most popular heirloom garden varieties.

I mostly read this because I love all the Gettles do. Very little of it was new for me, but, all in all, it's a nice book. And as usual (if you get their seed catalog you know this) the pictures are AMAZING!

4 stars

Feb 4, 2012, 9:22am Top

...and the fun (but not really) thing about nightshades is that because they're part of that plant family, they can actually irritate inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, and eczema... something I didn't learn about until last year, and now I can't eat them anymore. :( But it's fascinating to know too!

That said, I hope to start a small garden of my own this year. We're trying to eat a lot more fresh, organic produce, but it's not cheap... I figure if I can grow a few carrots, some kale, and a few herbs, I'll be off to a good start. :)

The Gettles must have it rough, though. I'm awed and amazed that they're still operating in the face of Monsanto. What a great-sounding company -- I'm going to take a look at their website right now...

Feb 4, 2012, 9:35am Top

Leah just delurking to say hi and that I enjoy following your reading and that your flower girl is gorgeous!

Feb 4, 2012, 10:49am Top

Fun! Well done!

Feb 4, 2012, 12:56pm Top

Okay - more books for me to read - and maybe blog about in my other life as a foodie blogger!!! Once you've had an heirloom tomato, you can never ever return to mass produced tomatoes.

Feb 4, 2012, 2:01pm Top

> dk-p: I didn't know that about nightshades... Thank god I don't have those problems because I would probably loose the will to live if I couldn't eat tomatoes! Makes me sad that some people can't enjoy them.

I salute your gardening hopes. Local really is the way to go (economically as well as environmentally) and what's more local than your own backyard? Baker Creek has pretty good prices on their seeds if you are interested.

The Gettles are right out there at the tip of the spear going after Monsanto. They are part of the big lawsuit that a bunch of organic growers/companies started against Monsanto and won some amazing rights for organics against Big Ag. They impress me in so many ways.

>Paul: Welcome! Thank you for your comment and admiring the little one. I need to find a picture that's more true to her everyday look, which is usually mud boots and her "farm apron" so she can collect eggs. It's hilarious!

>scvlad: Thanks!

>lalbro: You are exactly right. The difference between even just a vine-ripened hybrid and the ones you usually find in the store (which are picked green and "ripened" with ethylene gas) is huge, so when you get a vine-ripened heirloom for the first time it's like an atomic explosion of flavor. I grew up on heirlooms from the garden (we basically lived like the Amish but with cars and electricity and what-have-you), but when we moved here when I was 6 we slowly changed into a supermarket family. My grandfather, however, has always had a garden here so I've at least had garden fresh tomatoes, but they were hybrids.

When I started gardening for myself, I went straight for heirlooms. The first heirloom tomatoes that came in were these Lemon Drops. They were the most amazing tasting tomatoes I'd ever eaten. I mean, they were going to be good for having been garden fresh and heirloom, but this particular variety is really astounding. I won't go without planting these ever again.

Feb 4, 2012, 4:04pm Top

The Lemon Drops look amazing!! I'll have to keep my eyes out for them.

Feb 4, 2012, 4:07pm Top

Baker Creek sells them. Just saying. ;)

Feb 5, 2012, 1:43pm Top

Message received. Will share with DH - my resident gardener and lover of all things tomato.

Feb 7, 2012, 4:43pm Top

Catching up! Just an FYI, there is going to be a sequel to Miss Peregrine, but it isn't supposed to be published until sometime next year.

Feb 7, 2012, 5:18pm Top

#115 by tapestry100> Oh thank heaven. I can wait, I just couldn't find any definitive information about a sequel so I was worried. Thanks for the heads up!

Feb 7, 2012, 5:28pm Top

Passing through and appreciating the colorful veggies...

Feb 7, 2012, 9:25pm Top

Thanks qebo! Veggies love appreciation!

Feb 10, 2012, 4:57pm Top

14. Soulless by Gail Carriger

Description: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Thoughts: Why, oh why, did it take me so long to read this book? It's a riotous good time! I have literally been laughing out loud repeatedly over the past two days. I haven't enjoyed a supernatural book this much since originally reading Christopher Moore's wonderful Bloodsucking Fiends.

Firstly, Alexia Tarabotti might be the best character since Amelia Peabody from The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (Amelia is wonderful in the rest of the series too, but especially spectacular in the first book). Granted, Alexia is VERY similar to Amelia- a "spinster", very intelligent and curious, viewed as strange by family members, independently minded, facially unastounding but otherwise quite attractive, and even preferring the same kind of "feminine" weapon, namely a parasol. And apparently attracted to similar men- the number of times Lord Maccon made me think of Radcliff Emerson were too numerous to count. Did this bother me? NOT A BIT! It was actually rather exciting!

All of the characters in Soulless are equally fun. Ivy, Alexia's best friend, is nothing like the heroine, but she's wonderful and supportive (and clearly wishes she was as brazen as her friend). Floote, Alexia's butler, is shaping up to be a character to watch. And Lord Maccon.... well, he is seriously swoon-worthy. Lord Akeldama, Alexia's vampire friend, and Professor Lyall, Lord Maccon's second-in-command, are certainly interesting in their own rights (and more than they seem which is exciting).

Was this book overly imaginative? Obviously not since I can find so many things it reminds me of. Was the mystery really hard to crack? Not really, even though I will admit I was a tad off in one instance. Was the "courtship" between Alexia and Maccon true to period? Nope. But it was DAMN good fun! This is not high literature. But in a world of bad paranormal romances that are boring and ridiculous and offensive to read, this was a shining light. This is certainly no Twilight, thank heavens.

Can't wait to get the second book!

4.5 stars

Feb 10, 2012, 5:48pm Top

ooo, I've been excited to read Soulless! If only I could figure a way to move it up on my TBR pile!

Feb 10, 2012, 6:17pm Top

#119 I've had Soulless sitting on my kindle for a while. Maybe I ought to actually start reading it.

Feb 10, 2012, 6:31pm Top

I picked up Soulless on a LT recommendation and LOVED it! I've read the first 4 now, and there is another due out at the end of the month. I think Carriger does a great job of developing the characters-- they each have their flaws and secrets and they're never static. I also like her take on the supernatural world; it's not the same old stale mythos. The books really are good fun.

I admit I blushed at the first book, since I wasn't expecting the steamy scenes. After so much manners and courtesy, my brain had to catch up to my eyes and realize, yes she really did just do that!

Feb 10, 2012, 6:37pm Top

gorgeous veggie photos and a compelling review of Soulless!

Feb 10, 2012, 7:21pm Top

120-121: Don't wait. Jump Mt TBR and just do it!

122: I agree, it was unexpected. Especially since so many aspects are like the Peabody series where anything risque is only hinted at. I was shocked, but it was such fun I wasn't bothered by the surprise. And unlike most sexual encounters in this type of book it wasn't all steam with no humor or humanity. It was funny AND sexy! I love her "scientific" curiousity about the whole thing.

123: Thanks!

Feb 10, 2012, 7:23pm Top

PS: If anyone has Changeless to lend on Kindle, I would love them forever. It's on hold at my library and there is only one copy... I can't wait that long!

Feb 13, 2012, 1:32pm Top

Just watched (and fell in love with) one of the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short this year. It's AMAZING! It's beautiful and touching and a little sad (I actually cried). This is such an wonderful testament to the love of books.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Feb 13, 2012, 7:37pm Top

Yes, I watched that one when someone posted it here on LT a couple days ago. It is lovely! I'm such a sucker for animated shorts, and ones like that are the best.

Feb 14, 2012, 1:26pm Top

Leah, thanks so much for posting that link! I hope it wins the Oscar.

Feb 14, 2012, 2:09pm Top

Yeah, it's way too wonderful not to win. Granted, I've not seen any of the other shorts, but I'm going to run with my prejudice. ;)

Feb 14, 2012, 2:22pm Top

126: Sweet.

Feb 14, 2012, 2:29pm Top

I'm glad you gave Soulless a good review! I've been on the fence about reading it, mostly because it advertises romance and I don't like books where romance overshadows everything else (unless it's a particularly good romance.) I think I'll put it on my TBR pile, though!

Feb 14, 2012, 2:33pm Top

15. Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Description:Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

Thoughts: (Possible Spoiler Alert) I will start by saying that this book quieted some of my initial reservations about Robin McKinley from reading Spindle's End. Where I felt that most of the rambling and non-linear storytelling held the second half of Spindle's End back a lot, it was easier to process when it was found in the beginning half of Pegasus. I still don't particularly appreciate her tendency to jump years ahead (or back) in the middle of a conversation to relate something that doesn't feel particularly important at the moment and then come back like nothing happened... It's actually really frustrating. I kept wanting to tell her that it's ok to include these bits of what sometimes feel like filler if she could just find a more seamless way of incorporating them into the story. Because otherwise it gets a bit jarring.

Other than that, my biggest complaint was that McKinley doesn't spend enough time, or words, on the building of the bond between Sylvie and Ebon. They basically meet, have a small (yet thrilling) adventure, and then we fast-forward 3 years and they are inseparable? I didn't need to be walked through every conversation they ever had, but in the first half of the book it seems like Sylvie has MANY more conversations with just about every other character than she does with her "best friend" Ebon. While it does even out a bit more in the second half, I expected more relationship development while they were in Rhiandomeer. They keep saying to each other that the trip is about them and not the grown-ups, but all McKinley shows are the bits that are important for the grown-ups... Why didn't she just finish the scene where they are going to the orchard to watch the sunset? It would have been so easy and have at least served as a point of reference that her trip was more than a test or a business meeting.

Another thing that bothered me, and was totally a personal prejudice, was the "alula-hands" that the Pegasi have. They were... creepy. I just couldn't picture them as anything other than the kind of "hands" bats have and it was discombobulating and weird. Yeah, weird.

Otherwise, I really like the story that McKinley is telling. I really liked the story she was telling in Spindle's End also, but her telling of the story got too much in the way for me there. This one was a bit easier. I was able to sink into the story more. Maybe that has more to do with the fact that this is really half (or, rumor has it, maybe a third) of a book, so she was able to spend more time hooking me in. Either way, I look forward to the sequel... in 2 years. Good thing I knew to expect a sequel up front or I would have been gobsmacked.

4 stars

Feb 14, 2012, 2:42pm Top

On to a personal pet peeve of mine: WHY do fantasy writer's feel the need to make up such RIDICULOUS words with like 79 vowels or 17 repeating consonants? I know they probably think it makes their stories feel exotic and more believable as "other-worldly," but it's seriously awful to read. It takes you completely out of the flow of the story to come to a word like shuuwuushuu and not only stop and stare at it in annoyance, but then try to rectify it in your head as a word, try to pronounce it, and then remember that it isn't the same as sshaasshaa. It just doesn't help your story along.

And the NAMES these people give characters! MY GOD! It's just horrible. I get making names something unique and a tad fantastical, but Fthoom? Please. Sylvie, Ebon, Niahi, Hirishy, Danacor... all acceptable and (other than Sylvie) just fantastical enough. Fthoom? Hibeehea? WHAT?

I just don't get that aspect of "high" fantasy. Which is probably why I typically prefer urban fantasy and really appreciate the work of JK Rowling, who knew how to make beautifully exciting and new phrases out of everyday English (and some Latin and French of course).

Feb 14, 2012, 2:53pm Top

I rather like Fthoom. :-)

Feb 14, 2012, 3:06pm Top

It grates at me, but it's not NEARLY as bad as a lot of others. And, of course, this is not simply a McKinley problem, it's rampant in fantasy, but it came to mind since this is what I just finished.

Edited: Feb 15, 2012, 9:44pm Top

Some lovely words about girls who read:

Mark Grist on Girls Who Read

and the lovely Date A Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Feb 15, 2012, 9:47pm Top

Leah, I've seen you around on the threads and I would have sworn I'd been here and starred you...except I evidently hadn't. And I've missed so much!

I'm a McKinley lover, but Spindle's End is perhaps my least favorite of hers. The Damar books, Beauty, and Rose Daughter are probably my favorites, with the last two being retellings of the same story written decades apart. Pegasus was very interesting--I enjoyed exploring this world and am anxious to see what the magicians are really up to.

The Miss Peregrine's book is working its way through the hold list at the library for me. I liked Un Lun Dun despite its weaknesses, especially the tower of books. I love home-grown tomatoes--grew up in a farm on Kansas where we took them for granted; here in San Diego it's much harder to grow abundant tomatoes, but I do get to grow peas in the winter, and we are harvesting and eating them right now. Considering chickens...the city just revised ordinances to make it easier to have them.

I loved that short film AND the "Date a Girl" article above. Thanks for sharing.

Feb 15, 2012, 10:30pm Top

I'm glad that you gave McKinley another shot. I liked Pegasus, but I am curious, bordering on apprehensive, to see where it goes in the next installment. My nervousness may simply be a product of having to wait so... freaking... long.

Also, YAY for reading Soulless! So much fun in such a small package. That entire series is a delight. I did not enjoy the second volume as much as the first, but then the third is brilliantly funny again and the fourth equally delicious. Carry on! That's all I can say.

Lovely sentiments about Girls Who Read, BTW. Now if only there were men around here who followed Mark Grist's lead...

Feb 15, 2012, 10:33pm Top

Realized I forgot to say that I love the Soulless series as well, such fun!

Feb 16, 2012, 12:19am Top

Welcome roni! Glad you found your way over here. (I just went to peek at your thread and realized it's HUGE so I'm going to have to sift through to see what I missed over there!)

RE McKinley: The hard thing about McKinley for me so far is that I genuinely do really enjoy where she takes her stories. I think she has amazing ideas. And mostly her prose is nice and easy to get engrossed in. But I keep finding myself struggling with her rambling and bouncy plot lines. I just hate being ripped out of what nice thing I'm reading because she's off on some new tangent that is only somewhat related to the thought she was on. I'm not giving up, because I DO like her stories... I just don't know if I can keep following jumpy train of thought.

Yeah, Soulless was great fun. I've gotten 3 Kindle library book hits in the past two days and each time I'll jump with joy thinking it's Changeless but nope... So now I need to speed through these 3 while I wait. Luckily, there are only 2 people in the hold line ahead of me now.

Chickens! I highly suggest getting a few if you have the space. The general rule is 10 sqft of outdoor space per chicken, so a couple is usually not that hard to manage. I can make all kinds of suggestions on housing and breeds if you are ever interested. And yes, I will probably bore you senseless with it! ;)

Yes, where is the Mark Grist Finishing School for Men? Cause I'd be happy to come by some afternoon...

Feb 16, 2012, 1:09pm Top

I just realized that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was still on my Kindle. I borrowed it from the ebook library and it's clearly been returned on my account.... So it looks like I somehow mysteriously scored this as a free book! Which I'm sure will be wonderful when the second one comes out and I need to reread this one to keep up.

But it is weird. Don't know how that would have happened.

Edited: Feb 17, 2012, 12:03am Top

16. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Description: Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library—a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime—or captured by the thief.

Thoughts: The premise of this book is purely delightful: the New York Circulating Material Repository holds an uncountable array of items of historical interest, which can be studied or borrowed by members. It's just amazing! Imagine working in a place that had thousands of spoons from all through history! Of course, such mundane items aren't the point of this story, but it was an amazing idea to consider.

The writing isn't amazing, but it's fine. The plotting is a bit uneven in a few places and there are certain aspects that needing more exploration. It feels most like a slightly more grown up version of The Mysterious Benedict Society meets a bit of the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

My biggest complaint is that there are other special collections at the New York Circulating Material Repository and they each have their very own specialty. Since this is THE GRIMM LEGACY, it would have felt stronger if that was the only collection that was relied on to move the story forward. I read that Shulman is writing a companion novel about the Wells Bequest, another of the special collections, so she could have saved that plot device for that book... But it's not such a big deal. I just lamented the loss of that little bit more fairy tale goodness.

3.5 stars

Feb 19, 2012, 1:21pm Top

Okay, The Grimm Legacy goes on the wishlist. I've read Shulman's Enthusiasm, which was a fun YA high school romp with Pride and Prejudice allusions.

Feb 19, 2012, 1:41pm Top

On a totally unbook-related note, I'm gearing up for the single largest cleaning job I've ever tackled. To set the scene, the farm I live in is my family's, my father's parents own it. We jokingly compare it to the Kennedy compound because a lot of us live here: my grandparents, my parents, one of my uncles and his family, my sister and her family, and me. There are house dotted all across the property.

The problem is that my grandfather is a major hoarder. It wasn't all that bad when I was growing up, but it's gotten severely worse over the past decade. Before he really just couldn't let go of things he thought someone might need at some point, but now he's hoarding genuine trash... as in, we have to hide the trash from him so he can't dig through it. Now, part of his thinking is that he doesn't want recyclable things going to the dump, which I wholeheartedly support, but he never takes those things to actually be recycled and flips out when someone else does it. It's sad and weird. The other problem is that he can't seem to understand that things need to be maintained or they fall apart.

So anyway, there are 2 houses that were the worst off. The first was the house my sister lives in now. Before we remodeled it, nothing had been done to it in 20 years AND my grandfather had been using it for storage... It was awful. Crap just piled everywhere. He didn't understand why we needed to move it out of the house at all, but we finally made him realize it was coming out whether he liked it or not. His solution: he moved most of the junk down into the other house.

The other house is the original homestead. It's the house that my great-grandfather grew up in. When I was little it was in pretty good shape- 2 of my uncles lived there when they were bachelors and first married. After that, the guy we hired to work on the farm lived there for years. Mostly, none of us had a reason to go into the house while he lived there, but when he left we found a nightmare. The place was filthy and his dogs had been pooping in the upstairs bedrooms and it was just left there... It was awful. And right into that mess was where my grandfather put all the junk that came out of my sister's house. And for the past 2 years he's been determined that none of us touch it. I've repeatedly offered to sort through things for him, even with him, but he just can't let go.

So I've hatched a plan. My grandparents are leaving for the beach for 3 weeks. 3 solid weeks of cleaning and repairing without him there to interfere. I hate to have to go behind his back like this, but it's got to be done. The house has to be cleaned and some repairs done or it's going to get to the point where it can't be fixed. It's going to be a TON of work, and gross, but I really can't wait. We remodeled the outside of the house 2 years ago and it's beautiful. I've been dying to get in there and make the inside look as nice ever since (well, longer really). The anticipation is killing me!

Here's what the outside looks like now (well, looked like last year in all the snow)

Feb 19, 2012, 1:48pm Top

Sounds like quite a project--good luck!

Feb 19, 2012, 2:18pm Top

Are you going to get your grandfather help? Because having you go in and clean out all his stuff is likely to be extremely difficult, even traumatic, for him, and he's going to go right back to hoarding when he returns, undoing all the work you'll have done.

Feb 19, 2012, 3:01pm Top

We've tried and tried. He refuses. That's why it's been allowed to get to the point it is because we've just given in and let him have his way... and because no one wants to listen to him yell about it. But it really is imperative to get this done. There is water in the cellar and the problem has to be fixed or the house is going to be unsaveable.

Granddad is a lawyer. For some reason, he has a tendency to take cases for people who can't actually pay him for his services. An unusual amount of things he's hoarded have come from these cases. He represented a restaurant years and years ago and they gave him all their dishes and silverware... which are sitting in that house. He doesn't actively seek things out away from the farm, so we've pretty much convinced everyone not to ever offer him things. My uncles who are also lawyers (and work with him) run interference at the office and my dad and I run it here on the farm.

So, mostly he's not bringing in new stuff other than boxes of paperwork from the office and whatever trash he can collect. The most annoying thing is that he probably wouldn't notice we'd actually cleaned it for months and months except for the fact that I'm going to tell him. He doesn't spend any time in the house. He's not attached to any of the stuff, it's just all about control for him. He refuses to acknowledge that any of us can do the job. If this was left up to my dad, he would throw everything away. I will actually take the time to sort through it all, recycle or donate the things that should be recycled or donated, and organize the things that need to stay.

Plus, he's kind of used to me cleaning. I cleared and organized their bedroom over the summer. Most of their house is perfectly clean and tidy. Like, COMPLETELY. But the areas he's taken over are unusable- full of junk. He'd started bringing things into the bedroom and that's when my grandmother put her foot down. She had me come in and clean. He didn't like it, but he got over it. I found a lot of things he thought he'd lost which I think he appreciated. Worst, I found 4 years worth of his Christmas gifts just stacked up... he'd opened them with all of us and then just stacked them in the closet.

Feb 19, 2012, 7:08pm Top

YIKES! Hopefully he will appreciate your help.

I think it's amazing that you all live so close, though. I would love to have some family nearby. All of mine is scattered about too far and wide to be of any use for help or entertainment, lol!

The house looks so quaint and pretty.

Feb 19, 2012, 7:18pm Top

He's the type of person that is very stingy with praise to your face but tells everyone about your good deeds behind your back. When we were remodeling my sisters house, he was awful. He didn't understand why we had to get the junk out, he argued about replacing the 30 year old carpet that was molded from a roof leak... We tried to explain that not only did it just NEED to be done, but that my sister certainly couldn't live amongst a bunch of mold and dust and junk, especially since she was pregnant. He just thinks that everything we have is so much better than what he grew up with (pretty much nothing being the son of share croppers) that he doesn't see that things are only nice if you maintain them. But once we were done with the house he started bragging to all his friends about how nice the place was and how we'd done so much on our own.

Sometimes it's great that so many of us live here and sometimes it's terrible. Making decisions about the smallest things usually takes forever because everyone has to be consulted. And it's hard to keep track with what's always going on since there are so many of us (not to mention all the girls who board horses here and take lessons). And my uncle's wife is a nightmare, and he's always gone because he's a politician, so we're the ones that have to deal with her all the time. But it was great growing up because I could just take off and walk to my grandparents' house and I always had spending money as a teen for babysitting all my cousins when everyone was busy.

Feb 19, 2012, 7:27pm Top

Change is so very hard for people who grew up with nothing. But in the end it usually makes them happy. They need to see results! :) My grandmother was the same way. She was a poor teenager on her own during the Depression era, and became somewhat of a hoarder in her elderly years. She couldn't pass up a deal on things like laundry detergent and canned food. We had to convince her that we would definitely use the stuff we carted out of her house, that it wasn't going to waste. We donated most of it. But when her house was in its "cleared out" phase, she loved it and thanked us for it.

Feb 19, 2012, 7:34pm Top

Yeah, I feel like that is a major contributor to all the junk he holds onto. I have no problem with preserving things or finding homes for things, but I have the hardest time understanding keeping tons of stuff you never, ever even look at or handle. Piles of things just don't make any sense to me.

Thank god my grandfather doesn't buy things. He doesn't shop at all. If he did, we'd probably be in serious trouble.

Feb 19, 2012, 11:42pm Top

I need to help my grandparents with some areas of their house. I've just been for a short visit and did a bit of cleaning -- grandma's eyesight is not what it was, so she doesn't see the dust that accumulates in corners and such -- but I want to take some vacation, maybe in the summer, and tackle the attic and basement. It's not a hoarding issue in their case, but just a general reluctance to let go of anything that might come in handy later on. And the amount of dust generated by an old house adds to the problem.

Feb 20, 2012, 12:45am Top

My mom's parents have that issue. Their house is tidy and well organized, but my grandfather is blind and my grandmother doesn't pay as much attention to the house because of it. It's really nothing serious, but we feel like we should just help where we can. They had some water issue in their basement that went unnoticed for a while because she doesn't go downstairs anymore. We found it while looking for something and got it all taken care of. It's just those little things you have to pay attention to as they get older, like you were saying.

Feb 20, 2012, 5:06pm Top

Addy decided the other day that she was ready to "go ride-a me horsey." Previously she's wanted to but then got scared when we tried to put her on. That day, however, a bunch of girls were having a lesson in the arena and she decided she was ready to be like them. When I got to the barn (she was there with my dad who called us all to come see it) she was raring to go! She ran up to me and said "I get up there! I do it! I go ride-a me horsey!" She would barely let us get the saddle on. Once she was on, she wasn't scared at all. She made us walk her all around, up and down the drive way, and made sure all the big girls saw her. It was adorable.

Here she is on "her" horse, Fancy (or Fawanshe as Addy calls her).

Whenever she's at the barn she has to check all the horses and say hi and give them some "gain" (grain). The funniest bit is that one of our horses, Apache, has a daughter that look almost exactly like her who's name is Patches. Addy just can't tell the difference in the words we are saying so she calls them "Pache and another Pache!"

In honor of President's Day, here's a tower of books written about Abraham Lincoln (you can read the article here).

Feb 20, 2012, 8:54pm Top

Addy is so cute! Wonderful horsey picture.

Feb 20, 2012, 9:00pm Top

Her haircut is currently unfortunate because her mother decided to "trim" her bangs and Addy moved halfway through... which resulted in a giant gap! Luckily kid hair grows so fast. The funniest thing about it is that I gave her mom (my sister) the exact same haircut when we were kids! ;)

Edited: Feb 21, 2012, 12:02pm Top

I am so irritated with Amazon right now. I pre-ordered a signed & numbered copy of the new The Last Unicorn graphic novel deluxe edition. Originally it was set to arrive on March 15. The I got an email saying it would be here March 22. Today I get an email saying it won't arrive until March 29. No reason for the date change listed.

I don't want to wait 2 extra weeks! And if I have to, I'd like to know why I'm being made to wait...

Feb 21, 2012, 12:11pm Top

157 - I wouldn't believe it if they did give a reason. The same thing happened when my sister pre-ordered a signed copy of The Fault in our Stars from B&N and the reason they gave was that the publication date had been changed - which was a blatant lie. I mean, I was at the author event on the release date.

Feb 21, 2012, 12:26pm Top

True. Usually it's not such a big deal that things are coming in a little late, but with something like this it's harder to accept. Like when they said they might not get the last Harry Potter movie to me on release date... I spent 45 mins on the phone with customer service trying to get an explanation on that one. I'd been pre-ordered for months AND I'm a Prime member. They did get it to me on time, but it's pretty clear this one isn't coming in until the 29th.

Feb 21, 2012, 12:40pm Top

Oh, I understand, truly. My sister pre-ordered hers in August and that crap happened in January. She finally canceled the order (they finally let her) and I got her one from the indie bookstore that had hosted the author event, which I knew had more signed copies.

(To add insult to injury, when I walked into my local B&N a few weeks later, I saw copies of the book with "signed copy" stickers on them just sitting on the shelves.)

Feb 21, 2012, 3:37pm Top

Oh god, that's awful! If this one gets pushed back again, I'm going to have to figure something out.

Feb 21, 2012, 7:16pm Top

Amz keeps pushing back and fiddling with release dates. I don't have anything on order I'm restless for, but it's so common now it's irritating. However, I've been hearing the same thing about B&N too, so IDK if it's a seller's problem or a publisher/distributor problem.

Feb 21, 2012, 9:36pm Top

Well, the Amazon rep today said that they never got a hard release date and that the dates I was sent were their best guesses for that date... so they have to keep adjusting it as new information comes in. Which I don't totally buy. They said the release date was never listed on the page, but I pretty clearly remember seeing it there. And the release date is listed on other sites (B&N and another I can't remember now) as March 20th. So what is really going on? Who knows. I think with these kinds of limited, numbered type things they might pre-sell more than they can actually guarantee and then have to scramble when it gets close to release date. To bad none of the bookstores around here are going to have it...

In other news, I just got sucker punched in the gut by the first 15 mins of Glee tonight. SO emotional and tragic because it really portrayed what a lot of teens go through. Even if you aren't a Glee fan, I suggest watching this one.

Feb 21, 2012, 10:49pm Top

I just watched Glee, actually. I wasn't ready for that at all. I work with teenagers every day and while our little "family" hasn't been touched in that way, the number one trouble they all tend to face is what was portrayed in this episode. (trying to be spoiler-free)

I was glad to hear the song Cough Syrup used though-- Young the Giant is one of my favorite bands. Their album is one I can play over and over; they have performed on awards shows, late-night, etc, and they've toured with big names. IDK why they can't seem to break onto the radio. Glee is a nice catapult, so maybe it will help them out.

Feb 21, 2012, 10:57pm Top

Glee is getting ready to come on in 5 minutes here--now I am anxious!

Amazon just got me two new releases exactly on time and one two weeks before the release date. Just to give them their due when they do it right.

Edited: Feb 22, 2012, 12:01am Top

I totally wasn't prepared either. Soooooo glad they didn't take the storyline all the way because I think they have a lot of good work they can do in the aftermath. Not to even mention what happened at the very end. I wasn't a big Glee fan at first, but I've grown to love it (even when it's ridiculous) because they do go after the real teenager experience of a lot of things, especially homosexuality and bullying. I wasn't bullyed in high school but I had a lot of friends go through Karofsky type situations of being terrified of what people would say and think about them. It's a WHOLE LOT for a kid to deal with and it's everyone's job to make sure bullying is identified and stopped and that kids have safe places to turn to.

Of course, kids are never going to stop bullying and shaming until adults, especially those with an audience, learn the same lessons.

Feb 22, 2012, 6:38am Top

Can someone send me a private message with what happened on Glee, please? I'll be watching it soon but would rather be prepared.

Feb 22, 2012, 12:34pm Top

The clip is up on Perez Hilton's website (never thought I'd link there...) at http://perezhilton.com/2012-02-22-glee-performance-video-cough-syrup-on-my-way#..... It's heavy, but I applaud awareness of all kinds, so I'm sharing it wherever I can.

Also loved seeing Daniel Radcliffe in a Trevor Project commercial during the episode. Good job!

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 8:20pm Top

I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for Changeless to become available from the library, but the queue isn't moving. I'm only number 2 but I've already waited 2 weeks and I can't wait any longer... Yes, I'm impatient. I wanted to go ahead and buy the books since I enjoyed Soulless so much, but I really don't like paperbacks anymore, especially MMP. FINALLY found out that I could buy a hardcover omnibus with the first 3 titles in it (the second vol comes out in 5 days with the other 2 books) so I SPRINTED over to Amazon to order it... with express shipping. YAY! 3 books for $15 and no MMPs? Sounds great!

I found this one through Science Fiction Book Club and seriously considered becoming a member. Their sign-up deal is 5 books for $1 each and you only have to buy 4 more within a year. Which is TOTALLY doable for me since they have hardcovers of several books I've been searching for. I never realized how hard it would be to find Earth's Children books in hardcover (to replace my MMPs) that weren't falling apart. And SFBC has them, new, each for less than $15. I just hesitate to sign up for clubs like that... there always seems to be some catch somewhere. Anyone have experience with them?

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 8:26pm Top

Oh wow. Wow wow wow. Just read the announcement that JK Rowling has sold a new book to Little, Brown. A book for adults... I just don't even know what to think. I guess it could be a smart move since it will help keep the book from being compared as much as it would have been if it had been another kid's book. I've been looking forward to this moment for a really long time, so I'm both excited and a little scared.

Now comes the ridiculous waiting and pondering.

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 8:51pm Top

I've been a member of the SFBC for years. Originally belonged in the 60s, got the Foundation Trilogy as one of my joining books. When I rejoined many years later, they really had become a good deal, especially in getting new editions of older books. They reorganized about 4 or 5 years ago, changed a lot of personnel, and I haven't used them as much lately--especially since unlike you, I tend to prefer paperbacks because they take up less room on my shelves. But I still get my emails and they still have good books. The hardbacks are a slightly different format usually, a bit smaller, but on good paper and with good bindings. Their omnibus editions are not available anywhere else, and are great. Given your proclivities, it should be a good deal for you.

Feb 23, 2012, 9:19pm Top

Thanks roni! It's good to have a testimonial from a trusted source. Maybe I will give them a try. Smaller format hardcovers sound wonderful!

Feb 24, 2012, 9:47am Top

I was also a member of the SFBC for years, and was pretty happy with them.

At that time they automatically sent you two books every month unless you told them not to, and I kept getting books I hadn't ordered because I'd forget to tell them not to. Obviously, this was my fault not theirs-- it was after all the deal I'd agreed to. But when my son arrived it was an expense I didn't need so I dropped my membership.

Goodness, that means it's about 17 years since I've been a member. How time does that thing it does ....

They now offer an option where you only get what you order explicitly, but I haven't rejoined yet. Someday, though ... I do love their omnibus editions.

Feb 24, 2012, 9:46pm Top

I didn't watch the Grammy's so I missed this when it aired, but this is an AMAZING ad for Chipotle Mexican Grille's Cultivate Foundation. I wasn't aware that Chipotle did so much for sustainable farming and animal welfare, but I'm massively impressed. According to several reports online, this ad is responsible for significant recent changes: the day after it aired, McDonald’s announced that it would require its pork producers to end the use of gestation crates for sows — you know, those lovely “stalls” that allow a pregnant sow to only stand up, lie down, or eat for the full 115 days of her pregnancy, and a week later, the Bon Apetit Management Company (BAMCO) committed to entirely phasing out the use of both gestation crates for sows and battery cages for hens by 2015. That's majorly impressive.

Back to the Start

And then I saw this one from the same group. The video isn't as wonderful, but the song is MIND BLOWING. "Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys" is one of my all-time favorite songs (it was literally the first song I ever heard as it was playing in the delivery room when I was born) and I love Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


Feb 25, 2012, 12:49pm Top

26 days until The Hunger Games!


Feb 25, 2012, 1:12pm Top

Ooooo! I'm so excited! I think JL will be a perfect Katniss!

Feb 25, 2012, 3:20pm Top

I've got the usual doubts about a loved book being turned into a movie and there are a few things in the trailers that stood out already as possibly problematic, but I am still very excited. We'll see how Josh Hutcherson pulls off Peeta...

Feb 25, 2012, 7:10pm Top

More great farmy things to share. I promise I have a book review coming up soon. ;) I'm just having a tough time getting through this book so my mind is on other things.

If you've never heard of The Lexicon of Sustainability, then I highly suggest spending some time checking it out. Not only is it wonderfully informative but it's so well presented, which makes it so much more wonderful.

The thing I want to share today is their great video This is the Story of an Egg. I particularly love it since chickens are my main farm focus, but the best thing about this video is that poultry terminology is one of the MOST confusing for buyers. And, mostly, it's that way on purpose. Industrial chicken farms control the vast majority of what these designations actually mean and they want your money. So they use creative ad strategies to make it difficult for conscientious buyers to really know what is what. For example, do you know the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pastured? That's what this video is all about. (We can have a whole other conversation on the differences between natural, organic, and CERTIFIED organic...)

We're pastured all the way and very proud!

Feb 25, 2012, 11:54pm Top

That was a great video. These days I buy Meijer certified organic eggs, but I often wish I could just buy straight from farmers and get fresh eggs from -- new word! -- pastured chickens. I'll keep my eyes open.

Feb 26, 2012, 1:35am Top

Yeah, if you want pastured you pretty much have to buy from a farmer. Which is a great thing but can sometimes be tricky to start out. My suggestion is always to see the farm yourself if you can. Most farmers who direct sell are happy to have customers that are that interested. Especially since those customers usually spread the word like crazy.

Feb 26, 2012, 10:35pm Top

well, fuck

I'm done eating anything ever

Edited: Feb 27, 2012, 3:01pm Top

Sorry Kittenfish! But don't fret! There is a way to eat and feel good. Take it from a former vegetarian who now raises (and eats) her own animals... there are lots of small farmers out there who care a great deal about the well-being of their livestock and it's getting easier and easier to find them. Farmers markets are obviously your best bet.

Feb 27, 2012, 3:01pm Top

My The Parasol Protectorate, Vol 1 came today and I want to jump right into it. But I have to restrain myself because I've got to finish the book I'm reading now AND read The Night Circus before my ebook loan expires before I can get to this one. I soooo wish you could renew ebook loans, but that's just wishful thinking.

Edited: Feb 29, 2012, 6:07pm Top

Happy Leap Day!

Mar 1, 2012, 8:10am Top

So true

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 3:43pm Top

17. Changeless by Gail Carriger

Description: Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

Thoughts: As many others have said, this was not the amazing follow-up to Soulless that I expected. Not that it's really bad, it's just a bit... underwhelming. The plot is a bit rickety and it's not nearly as exciting or funny as the first. The thing that probably annoyed me the MOST, however, was how disappointing Ivy's character was. I really loved her in the first one and she's absolutely ridiculous and intolerable in this one. Thoroughly unlikeable. Which was such a shame.

I did like Madame Lefoux though. Glad to see another example of a strong, independent woman! But there wasn't nearly enough Prof. Lyall or Lord Akeldama. And the ending was a tad pedestrian- who couldn't see THAT response coming a mile away?

Anyway, it got me from Soulless to Blameless, so I guess it did it's job.

3.5 stars

18. Blameless by Gail Carriger

Description: Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto.

Thoughts: Ahh, what a relief to find that Blameless isn't as disappointing as Changeless! We're back to funny and exciting and a tad ridiculous. Thankfully! And thank heaven I've got an interesting Ivy back: she's wonderful in this one. Again, not nearly enough Lord Akeldama, but Prof Lyall gets to shine, we get introduced to some fun new characters, and Floote proves himself worthy of my early interest.

The "science" in this one felt like a bit more of a stretch but it wasn't too distracting. I'd just like a little less description of these "inventions" so we could get on with the fun.

I will say, that the moments with Biffy broke my heart. That bit showed a whole other side of Carriger's writing since it was handled with such tenderness and sadness. I really can't wait to see what comes of it all!

4 stars

Edited: Mar 3, 2012, 2:20pm Top

February Round-Up

Books read: 7 3/4
Fiction: 6 3/4
Non-Fiction: 1
Classics: 0
Young adult: 3
Fantasy: 6 3/4
Cookbooks: 0

Average rating: 3.86 stars

From my shelves: 0
New: 5
Library: 2 3/4
Kindle: 1 3/4

Mar 1, 2012, 8:39pm Top

Wait until Timeless--you will love Biffy in that one!

Mar 1, 2012, 9:38pm Top

I've got the next two ordered in omnibus which should be here in 10 days or so. Can't wait!

Mar 1, 2012, 11:28pm Top

That is such a fun series -- and I heartily agree with your assessments of both installments. The second novel is definitely the weakest. But I am excited to get my hands on the newest one! I think I shall pick it up this week.

Mar 2, 2012, 6:33pm Top

Here's another wonderful stop-motion book video. Oh how I love this trend because it combines 2 of my favorite things!

The Joy of Books

Mar 5, 2012, 2:22am Top

19. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Description: Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but otherwise in the pink of health. The nonstop sex and exercise he’s still getting probably contribute to that, as does his diet: unusual amounts of flesh and blood (at least some from friends and relatives). Jake, of course, is a werewolf, and with the death of his colleague he has now become the only one of his kind. This depresses Jake to the point that he’s been contemplating suicide. Yet there are powerful forces who for very different reasons want—and have the power—to keep Jake alive.

Here is a powerful new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerizing and undeniably sexy, and with moments of violence so elegantly wrought they dazzle rather than repel. But perhaps its most remarkable achievement is to make the reader feel sympathy for a man who can only be described as a monster—and in doing so, remind us what it means to be human.

Thoughts: This book is MAJORLY schizophrenic. In a very bad way. You can basically break it down into 5 sections and critique them all seperately. To be fair, the last section has an excuse... but that's about as generous as I can be on that front.

To give more credit where it is due, the first section of this novel was wonderful. Maybe a tad too many references to balls and cocks and assholes for my tastes, but there is some really good stuff there. Some beautifully written passages, full of the good kind of horror angst. The most amazing part, without giving too much away (although that does presuppose I'm going to recommend you read this, which I'm not), is Jake's tale of his infection and first transformation. If you like horror that actually has human emotion and eloquence, this part should blow you away. Come to think of it, I highly suggest just reading until you get through this bit, stopping, and pretending it's a short story.

Because from that point on it's crap. First it runs amuck in bad romance novel "mysterious document that explains all" land, then it skips over to ridiculous love at first sight, and then happily over to pointless conspiracy theory. None of which really makes sense or proves to be compelling reading. It's just NOT good.

Plus there is, along with the high body count, the wanton destruction of a glorious sounding personal library. So, no I don't particularly recommend this one.

2.5 stars

Mar 5, 2012, 4:13am Top

I've been really enjoying the videos that you've been posting. Have you seen this one by the street artist Blu? It's not book realted but it is very good:


Have you started your cleaning yet? I can't say that I'm envious of you having to do that. When my uncle died about 5 years ago my mother and aunt took on the task of sorting out his house. He was a hoarder as well and the task took them months. In a strange way though the task was really good for both of them especially for my mother who was the executor for his will and took the lead with the sale of the house. They were both in their eighties at the time and while they had help with any heavy stuff they both felt it was their responsibility to do the sorting out, and for two older ladies both living alone it seemed to really give them a reason to get up in the morning and get things done.

Mar 5, 2012, 11:32am Top

>192 leahbird:: Bummer. I was thinking of reading that one -- sad that it isn't very good. :(

Thanks for taking one for the team, there.

Mar 5, 2012, 11:45am Top

#193 by SandDune> I have seen that one before. It's really good. All these things make me really wish I was artistic... but I'm not.

I haven't started cleaning yet. For multiple reasons, their departure was delayed until today and I already had a whole afternoon of business shopping planned (on top of everything else, I also run a wedding business here on the property and have been scouring estate sales for china for a year) so I won't be able to get started until this evening. But I'm super excited!

#194 by beserene> Yeah, I was bummed too. Especially since the first bit showed a lot of promise. I thought for a while it was because I don't really care for horror all that much, but I decided it really was the terrible erratic storyline. I could grimace through the gore and glance over the sex, but the plot was unavoidable and not good.

Mar 5, 2012, 7:22pm Top

Today was a disappointing shopping day. Not a single dish or table decor item to be found. I did splurge and finally buy myself some Tom's shoes, but nothing else was accomplished. And I made it back to the farm, ready to work, only to find that the trash trailer the guys promised they would take to the dump today so I could start loading recyclables and donation items in tonight was still full of trash... AGHHHHH! So I couldn't do much tonight except make little piles of things, which is seriously inefficient.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Even if I have to pull that damn trailer into town myself! And I get to start a new book tonight, so that's always good.

Mar 5, 2012, 7:36pm Top

That's a disappointment! There's nothing like being psyched up for a major job and then have circumstances fall out so you can't get started!

Mar 5, 2012, 8:01pm Top

Yep. This is the trouble with working with my dad and brother. They just can't seem to grasp that small, annoying jobs- the ones they find a million ways and reasons to ignore- have a tendency to hold up the big jobs that need to get done. So, rather than hooking the trailer up and taking it to town with them when they went for lunch, they put it off til tomorrow morning- which will mean a special trip- thinking it wouldn't make much difference. But it meant that I got almost nothing done this evening, since there isn't much point pulling things out to sort through when it all has to go back into the house regardless...

And, of course, it's always the things I can't do myself. I don't ask them to do much, but whenever I have to it's like pulling teeth. For example, I need 10 fence posts driven into the ground for a fence for the new piglet yard. It should take about 2 hours. I can do everything else that needs doing to get the fence up- adding post clamps, stringing the wire, crimping the wire, building the gate, cutting limbs that hang into the fence row, even building the new pasture house- but I'm not strong enough to drive the posts. So, I've been waiting 2 months for someone to get around to helping me for 2 hours... the work I have to do will take a week or more, but it's just on perpetual hold because everyone else has "more important" things to do. To them, it's not a priority right now because the piglets aren't due for another 6 weeks, but I HATE putting it off until the last minute. I want everything in place early so my sows are happy and comfortable in the new pen long before we could see any births.

Naturally, when it's something small that THEY need, it's a different matter. I can't count the number of times I've stopped whatever I was working on to run to town for them for a part or some nails or new wire. Men, impossible. ;)

Mar 7, 2012, 12:42am Top

New topic: I really love WWI and WWII food propaganda posters. I've been collecting them for a couple of years and regularly hunt out ones I've never seen before. You can see my favorites on my Food Propaganda pin board if you are interested.

Anyway, because I love those old propaganda posters so much, I was THRILLED to come across this great Hunger Games poster.

It's AWESOME! This is making me even more excited for the movie in 17 days.

Mar 7, 2012, 2:58pm Top

#199 I really like your pin board. My son got really interested in rationing when he did WW2 at school about a year ago and for a while he had a scheme for us to have a week on WW2 rations. We got as far as planning out menus which was really difficult - not just because of the amounts of food involved but because the type of cooking was so different from what we usually do. For instance 8oz of sugar per person per week seemed a huge amount - one bag of sugar can last us almost from one year to the next. Anyway he lost interest before we actually got to cook anything - in a way I was quite disappointed - it would have been quite an interesting experiment.

Mar 7, 2012, 5:19pm Top

That sounds like such a fun project, especially since it was kid motivated! I totally understand the point about how strange some of the things seem now, but when you start living off a from scratch pantry the rations instantly throw you. I go through SOOOOO much more flour in a month now, more than I probably did in several months or even a year before, because I make everything from scratch. So, when you're baking 4-6 loaves of bread a week rather than buying bread it really starts to rack up. And during canning season I go through more sugar than I probably ever even THOUGHT I could use before (more lemon juice too)- so much so that I buy it in 50 lb bags... which sounds INSANE! But that sugar ends up getting consumed over a whole year. I'm also conscientious about how much I use in recipes and swap for honey and applesauce where I can, so I don't consume quite so much cane sugar.

But if you think about rationing, those were times when people depended almost solely on things they canned themselves. So, if you knew you needed 20 lbs of sugar for your canning, one person's ration would have to be saved for 40 weeks to have enough! It's all so interesting and weird. I commend your son for seeing that when so many kids wouldn't have cared at all.

Mostly, I just love how crazy the propaganda got surrounding food. I especially love this one because it's just sooooo ludicrous.

Mar 7, 2012, 5:27pm Top

I love those posters on your pin board and here. One of my favorite books is 84 Charing Cross Road, which mentions post-war rations and food shortages. Reading that was one of the first times I had thought about it in any serious way. Can you imagine if we had to have rationing now? People would freak out -- we are so individualistic in the United States in particular, not to mention so dependent on processed supermarket foods, that there would be food riots.

I think it's awesome that you are sustaining a farm and making foods rather than buying them. As a suburban girl in a rented house with no garden and no such skills, I admire that very much. And sometimes wish I could do more than shop at the farmer's market every month or so.

Mar 7, 2012, 5:35pm Top

On the home front: I finally got dug into the clean-out today. Yesterday was mostly a bust as we had a truck break down in town... with the stupid dump trailer attached to it. So I had to drive the other truck into town to get the trailer, which is not my favorite thing to do as the truck is HUGE and eats the road. We eventually got the trailer home and the bad truck towed to the shop, just in time for it to rain. So not a lot got done- we got some mattresses drug out to the porch and some trash picked up, but that was it.

But today was GREAT. Since everything was in place I didn't have to wait for anyone to do anything, I spent the whole glorious day dragging crap out and sorting through it. It was gross. Stuff was heavy. But it was WONDERFUL. I got the whole kitchen cleared except for the broken piano (I know, it's weird) and I started on the dining area. That is a bit more slow going since there is a massive pool table where a dining table should be, so I have to work around it. But I filled about half the trailer with stuff for the dump, separated out all the recyclables- paper, plastic, glass, cans, metal- and sorted all the kitchen items into keep, sell, donate.

Tomorrow there is a chance, however small, that we will actually start on the pig fence (WAHOO), but if not I'll be back down there right after morning chores and breakfast. It will be mostly heavy lifting from here until it's time to clean because I've finally hit the great mountain of furniture. Either way, tomorrow should be as satisfying as today. YAY!

Mar 7, 2012, 5:37pm Top

LOL! That's my city! Texas A&M is always on the forefront of food technology, for better or worse.

What a neat project for your son to take up, even for just a little while. I think it's a good thing for kids to see first-hand the impact of not having "enough". Many people also don't remember a time when America had food rationing-- it always seems like something they did "over there". And not just food, but things like nylon, rubber, metal, and soaps. Rationing led to changes in cooking, fashion, class structure, and so many other things. It's fascinating!

Mar 7, 2012, 5:44pm Top

beserene- Every little bit helps. Really. By NOT gardening, you are giving another person a livelihood they wouldn't be able to maintain otherwise. After all, customers are VERY important! ;)

There are lots of sustainably minded folks I know who can't grow their own. You can start small and buy a huge bunch of something at the market, when it's in season, and can it for the coming year yourself. That way you support the local growers AND get to throw off supermarket supremacy. Actually, if you ask around your market, I bet there is someone who would be more than happy for a spare set of hands with their own canning. That way you could get some lessons, have canned goods, not have to invest in the equipment yourself, AND make a new friend.

I don't do well with berries. We used to be covered in blackberry vines but they've all gone. So I buy gallons and gallons from people at the market and make jam and freeze berries for winter pies. I measure the correct amount out for each kind of pie and label them and pop them in the freezer. Then, come December when I need a mix berry cobbler more than I need oxygen, it's easy peasy and half the work is already done!

Mar 7, 2012, 5:56pm Top

UnrulySun- That's one of my favorite parts of watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey, seeing Mrs. Padmore deal with rationing! You're right, it does mostly get portrayed as much more British than American- I guess because it just seems so UNAMERICAN to be asked to sacrifice for a cause. And possibly because rationing continued in Britain a lot longer than it did here.

USA rationing: 1941-1946
UK rationing: 1918-1920, 1939-1954

But it was a very real thing here. I wish we could have a nationwide rationing week so people could see what it really means. It would also show them how much stuff they are eating that they don't realize: a ration on corn or soy would eliminate virtually every item in the grocery store that wasn't meat, veg, or dairy...

Edited: Mar 7, 2012, 6:02pm Top

>205 leahbird:: My father and stepmother sometimes make jam from the black raspberries that grow in their yard. They also garden -- they have a big double yard with actual soil, which helps (I would have to build raised beds to do anything in my yard, and that is so beyond my skill level) -- so I have had some opportunities to learn out there, which I (shamefully) haven't taken up.

But I love your idea of "apprentice" canning and making a new friend at the same time. That is great, and might be easier than trying to learn from family members who aren't always the most patient of teachers. I love my dad, but there is a reason he works by himself. :)

Mar 7, 2012, 6:10pm Top

It's exactly the same with my granddad. We both garden, but we don't do it together. ;)

Mar 7, 2012, 8:28pm Top

New theater opened in town last night, replacing the old one up the street. They advertised $1 movies tonight and tomorrow. Website said The Artist was playing. So, off we go to see it!

Worked my way through the long line only to find out The Artist wasn't playing. I even asked. Second choice was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. A nice lady gave me one ticket because her husband wasn't coming, so I went to get another ticket for my mom. And they were all sold out. Drat. So I bought tickets for tomorrow night, also $1.

Went to grab a quick bite and drove past the old, about to be closed theater... where they are showing THE ARTIST for $1. By that time, we were well past it's start time. Nowhere on the website or in the news article did it say that they were also showing movies at the old theater, yet the website ONLY shows what's playing there, not what's playing at the new theater. IT MAKES NO SENSE!!! It shows again at 9:10 and I might stubbornly go back in to see it.

Mar 8, 2012, 1:00am Top

Well. The Artist. It was AMAZING.

The trailers I had seen were of all the upbeat, kinda hookey bits, so I wasn't exactly prepared for the emotional tour de force that I just experienced. It blew me away. It was like watching Citizen Kane for the first time. And, because the theater is closing, I was actually the only person watching it, so it felt like I was a big wig getting a private screening. GREAT movie night!

Mar 8, 2012, 4:18am Top

#201,204 I think the project really caught his interest because it combined his two favourite subjects: food & history. What he really found suprising was how many foods that he sees as completely ordinary just wouldn't have been available in the U.K. at the time of the second world war. There was such a lot: fruit juice, any sort of cheese other than traditional UK ones (so no parmesan or brie or mozzarella), frozen foods, soy sauce or any sort of chinese sauce, most sorts of pasta (so no lasagne), red peppers, green peppers, aubergines, courgettes, broccoli, mangoes or any other exotic fruit, pizza. I would say that about 75% of my staple recipes wouldn't have been possible or at least would have needed major alteration.

Mar 8, 2012, 10:43am Top

Happy International Women's Day AND National Agriculture Day. I'm celebrating both in conjunction by building my fence. WAHOO!

Mar 8, 2012, 2:35pm Top

>210 leahbird:: I am so with you about the Artist. It was even an interesting experience with other people in the theatre -- everyone was so conscious of their own personal noise, so it was really quiet, and then you could hear people gasp at surprising moments (the car at the corner, for example). It was such a perfect movie experience. I was so glad when it won the Oscar and I kind of want to go see it again, before it's out of theaters all together, just to appreciate it once more. LOVE.

Mar 11, 2012, 12:28am Top

My favorite Tv show is an Australian show that was on a few years ago called McLeod's Daughters. It's about 2 long lost half sisters who reconnect after their father dies and they inherit the family farm. I really really love it. It's got fantastic women characters, hot guys, lots of laughs and some great drama. And farming, of course. I've watched the whole thing, 8 seasons, several times over.

I started watching it over again when I finally hooked the Tv up in my room. It's great to watch just before bed. Anyway, I just got to the end of season 3 where everything changes. No matter how many times I've seen it, it still makes me boohoo like a baby. Literally sobbing into my shirt. That's what just went off and I'm a puddle.

I highly recommend it, but keep the hankies handy.

Mar 12, 2012, 12:12am Top

Does anyone else watch Once Upon a Time? My mom and I have fallen in love with this great fairytale rework. I love the style, the overarching plot of fairytale characters banished to our world, and the new twists on all the familiar stories. I have a total fear that, like most shows I love, the network won't see it's value and it will get canceled. I lost faith in ABC after they canceled Pushing Daisies... DAMN THEM, that show was wonderful.

Mar 12, 2012, 8:23am Top

I watch Once Upon a Time religiously. Last night's episode was especially amazing.

Mar 12, 2012, 9:01am Top

Yeah, I don't trust ABC after the Pushing Daisies cancellation. I want to watch Once Upon a Time, but I'm waiting to see if it'll get renewed for a second season before committing myself!

Mar 12, 2012, 11:09am Top

So far behind on threads. The Parasol Protectorate series are some of my all time favorite books! So much fun!!

Mar 12, 2012, 12:30pm Top

pop over to the new thread for my review of The Night Circus!!!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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