dampscribbler: (books)
I'm proud to announce that as of last night I've already achieved my goal of two books read this month, thanks in large part to [profile] blackholly, who wrote the diminutive books which make up The Spiderwick Chronicles, of which I read the first one in two (yeah, I'm that slow) nights.  It's delightful to finally come across a kid's book that is illustrated.  Maybe I'm just reading the wrong age group of kids' books, but I expect that the reason I'm not seeing more illustrated literature these days is economic -- artists (in this case, Tony DiTerlizzi) have to be paid, and authors have to be paid, and no one really wants to pay significantly more for a book just because it has illustrations.  So, you either get picture books or you get text, but it seems rare anymore to get a book like, say, "The Headless Cupid," or "The Westing Game," which surprises the reader with a lovely illustration every ten or twenty pages.  Which may be why The Spiderwick Chronicles are broken into five books, each about 100 pages long, but containing lots of great illustrations.  In this first installment, the Grace children -- Jared, Simon, and Mallory -- move with their mother into a weird old family house after their parents' divorce.  At first the house just looks weird, but of course that's not enough to make a fun story, so soon the house sounds weird, and then weird things start happening, and soon you've got a rollicking fun book for and about kids. 

The other book I finished this month, which I started last month or maybe in May, is The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss.  It's hard to compare Molly's writing to anyone else's.  When I first read a book by her, it was The Jump-Off Creek, and what soon struck me about it was the slow, patient pace at which it progressed, which matched the situation and disposition of the main character perfectly.  The Hearts of Horses, which takes place in the winter of 1917-1918, also progresses patiently, which again suits the main character, Martha Lessen, a young woman with a romantic notion of cowboys who plans to make her way through the West breaking horses and cowboying.  (Sorry about the comma splicing there. Yikes.)  Martha spends a winter breaking a "circle" of horses in fictional Elwha County, Oregon, helped in her endeavor by the fact that most able-bodied men have gone "over there" to fight in Europe, leaving farmers and ranchers in need of help wherever they can find it.  Martha isn't a fan of the "ride 'em crazy 'til they break" method of gentling a horse.  Here's the first paragraph of the book:

In those days, even before the war had swept all the young men from the ranches, there were girls who came through the country breaking horses.  They traveled from ranch to ranch with two or three horses they had picked up in trade for work they'd done.  Of course most outfits had fifty or sixty horses back then, so there was plenty of work, and when the war came on, no men to get it done.  Those girls could break horses as well as any man but they had their own ways of doing it, not such a bucking Wild West show.  They went about it so quiet and deliberate, children would get tired of watching and go off to do something else.  They were usually all alone, those girls, but it wasn't like in the moving pictures or the gunslinger novels, the female always in peril.  If they were in peril it wasn't from outlaws or crooked sheriffs, it was from the usual things that can happen with ranch work -- breaking bones, freezing your fingers off -- the kinds of things that can happen if you're a man or a woman. 
And this is exactly what a reader of The Hearts of Horses gets -- plenty of the kind of peril that an average rancher could expect early in the last century, and plenty of quiet and deliberate.  I fully enjoyed The Hearts of Horses, and in honor of Buy a Friend a Book Week, I would be delighted to send a copy to one reader in the U.S. or Canada who comments here by noon Pacific Time tomorrow, Wed., July 9, 2008.  I'll randomly select a winner in the afternoon and post the winner's ljname, or name, for non-ljers.

And now for my 15-minute a day writing challenge honesty check-in: (ugh)
 - July 3 -- none
 - July 4 -- none
 - July 5 -- none
 - July 6 -- none
(I obviously need to find a way to squeeze in the writing while my family is home.) 
 - July 7 -- I wrote for over an hour, hand written, about 12 pages, I have no idea how many words, probably about 1500.) 
 - July 8 -- I'll count this entry, although I do plan to do some more writing later in the day.  Looks like 917 words, so far.  And it took a lot longer than 15 minutes.  ;-)

(Edit: I cut my sucky first three paragraphs from this post, so it's way less than 917 words now.  I know you'll get over it.)
dampscribbler: (books)
Beauty, by Robin McKinley, is the second book I've finished reading in June -- and we're not even half through the month!  I enjoyed it for the most part, but I felt like the ending was rushed, and deserved more attention.  Still worth reading if you enjoy re-visiting fairy tales, though.

TBRs include:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Roblewski, which I've begun but am not feeling compelled to keep reading at the moment
The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss.  A few years ago I read her outstanding book The Jump Off Creek and loved it so much I soon gave my copy to a total stranger.  I'm looking forward to this one.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which I had better read soon, as I already know more than I want to about the movie
and The Outlander, by Gil Adamson
among many others.  I won't even begin to list the non-fiction titles threatening to bury me in my sleep. 
dampscribbler: (books)
Adding to the list.

I finally finished reading The Golden Notebook, which I started reading late last year.  It took me something like 6 months to read it.  I loved it, but I didn't like taking nearly as long to read it as it might have taken to write it.  (I actually finished in May, and have already posted about it.  Except no review.  Why no reviews?  I'm not feeling wordy, I guess.) 

Then this weekend I picked up The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett, an author I've been wanting to read for several years now.  I finished the book in two days.  It was both witty and wise, and I enjoyed having a book that I could run with.  (Book #6 for this year, Book #1 for June.) 

I've begun The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.  Unfortunately, it opens with several dreadful things happening, which severely affected my sleep last night.  I'll be trying some more of it one afternoon this week, but I may have to give it up.  As Edna O'Brien once told me, life is too short to read books you're not enjoying. 

Okay

Mar. 25th, 2008 04:21 pm
dampscribbler: (books)
I don't know when or if I'll ever get around to writing my reviews, but I'm risking losing track, so here's a place-keeper entry:

January 2008:  The Carhullan Army
                      Daughter of Night

February 2008: Odd and the Frost Giants

March 2008:  The Treasures of Weatherby
    ongoing: The Golden Notebook

Also, in case any of you are wondering what's going on with me, I quit drinking coffee about 12 days ago and have been pretty much incapacitated by the shockingly severe symptoms of caffeine withdrawal since then.  Just started feeling human again about 24 hours ago, which was when I finally realized why I felt so hideous.  Don't be surprised if it's another week or so before you hear from me again.

Hooray!

Feb. 28th, 2008 08:03 pm
dampscribbler: (Default)
Mini 101 Things update:

1. Read a book a month (2/33)

Last night I read "Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman.  Details to follow.  Now I need to write three book reviews for 2008. 
dampscribbler: (books)
I'm really not being very good about reviewing the books I've been reading. This entry won't much remedy that, I'm afraid, but I want to wrap up my list for 2007 and introduce my list for 2008.

Sometime in November, I read book #12: Lessons From a Dead Girl, by [livejournal.com profile] jbknowles. I haven't read much YA lit in the past few years, except for some Princess Diaries titles, so I felt like I was on unfamiliar turf reading this book. Jo did a great job of presenting a complex relationship between two girls, a relationship that lasted several years and was burdened by some deep dark secrets. I wonder what it would have been like to read this book when I was the age of the intended audience. Since I'll never know, I can only say I enjoyed reading it and found myself really caring about the characters and their challenges.

Throughout the course of the year I read The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. Organized by month, this book was very relaxing and satisfying bedtime reading on nights when I didn't have the wherewithal for anything that would make me think or feel too deeply. Despite that, it's not a fluff title -- it's rich with history of what life was like for the average Englishman (some attention is given to women throughout, but recorded history provides much more detail about men's lives at that time) in the year 1000. There were some surprises -- the amount of power and property held by women at the time, the number of foods that today are common but in England in 1000 were rare or unheard of, the disgusting details of then-common pestilences. The book ends with a nice wrap-up chapter that I had intended to quote from, but I can't locate the book at the moment (finished reading it about 3 weeks ago) so maybe I'll come back to that but don't hold your breath.

I think that makes 13 books officially read for 2007, unless I'm forgetting something. That's awesome, and beats my goal of 12, so I'm delighted!

As for new titles for 2008, I've begun reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, and The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall, currently only available from the UK. I've also signed on for two book blog challenges -- The Book a Month Challenge, which is pretty much just what it sounds like, with the added challenge of fitting the book to an assigned theme each month, and The Man Booker Challenge, which is to read six titles which were either shortlisted for or won the Booker Prize. You can find my list of selected titles here: http://dampscribbler.livejournal.com/153197.html

If I achieve all this, I'll read somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 books this year, though I'm not eliminating the possibility of overlapping the two challenges and thus reducing my list. Also, I wouldn't mind doing a couple more book reviews like I did in 2007.

That's all for now. Happy New Year, everyone!!
dampscribbler: (books)
Very little time to post, but I'm getting behind on my books updates and want to do this before I move on because I have lots of books to move on to!

Books read in 2007 #10) Voices,
by Ursuala LeGuin. Very entertaining and satisfying book by LeGuin in the tradition of some of her stronger titles.

Books read #11) Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My second adventure with Marquez, the first having been One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I never appreciated as much as I wanted to -- the language was lovely but I hated the story, which made it a less-than-great experience for me. "Chronicle" is a dark, sad story told in a circuitous fashion, leaping forward and back in time. I enjoyed the book, despite the grisly murder that is the subject.

I'm sorry this brief entry isn't going to do either of the books justice, they both deserve attention as titles, but I'm not about that right now because I've got a party to plan and my kid's last day at her daycare to celebrate.

What I am really posting for is my next title: Lessons From a Dead Girl, by [livejournal.com profile] jbknowles. My copy just arrived from DHL, two days late, and I'm immensely looking forward to this one. I won't be able to get in more than a few pages at a time til next week, but I'll be posting a detailed review as soon as I'm done reading it.

In the queue:
"The Golden Notebook," by (Nobel Prize-winning) Doris Lessing
"The Daring Book for Girls", by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz (a sponsored review, my second!)

Which means I just might exceed my goal of one book per month for 2007! Which is awesome!
dampscribbler: (money for nothing)
My first glimpse of what author Edward Ugel calls “The Dark Side of Lottery Millions” came in the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I was living at home with my parents in Illinois, working a temp job for a blue-chip corporation and buying a weekly lottery ticket, dreaming of “winning big” so I could replace my falling-apart car, pay my own tuition instead of skiving off my parents, live in a real house instead of a sub-code rental shared with 6 other students. It never occurred to me to quit school if I won. The point of winning the lottery was to make life easier, not change it completely.

Toward the end of the summer, I came across an article in the Chicago Tribune profiling the winner of the Illinois Lottery’s first jackpot, a sort of “where is she now” article. It was appalling. Once a year for the past decade, the winner had received a check for fifty thousand dollars. She had won a $1million jackpot ten years before, to be paid annually for 20 years. Halfway through her annuity, she had developed a habit of spending large as soon as her check came until it was gone, usually in 6 months or less. She then spent the rest of the year begging and borrowing from friends, relatives, and lenders. The reporter asked her what she would do when her last check came. Her answer so floored me that now, twenty years later, I remember it word for word: “I’m going to cry and cry and cry.”

“Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions” is a roller-coaster ride through author Edward Ugel’s experience in an industry that blossomed in the 1990’s as a result of lottery winners behaving in just such ways. Ugel’s job was to buy the winners’ payments, or remaining payments, for a fraction of their face value. This allowed the winners an opportunity to pay off debts accumulated as a result of, in most cases, bad decision making and willful over-accumulation of stuff – houses, cars, boats; maybe even a sorry couple of horses. The money came from investors, who would presumably collect the annual payments over time, thus earning a return on the cash they provided. In between was The Firm, the company (well, the fictionalized name of the company) that Ugel spent nearly a decade working for, and the crew within who provided the means to close the deal. And the deals were such that The Firm, and the folks in it, made a lot of money buying off lottery winners.

Ugel ambitiously weaves in and out of, essentially, three stories – the story of The Firm and his relationship with it, the story, or rather stories, of many of the desperate lottery winners he met, and his own more personal story of dealing with unemployment, compulsive gambling, and, when he closed a deal, coming into big money almost as easily as the lottery winner did, and managing that money just as badly. The writing is uneven, dragging at times, but where Ugel succeeds he really soars. The shower scene in an Atlantic City hotel in the last chapter is not to be missed, seriously. His profiles of the lottery winners are the most entertaining parts of the book, though he admits that names, locations, and basically all facts about the winners have been changed to protect their privacy. He dedicates Chapter 2 to the history of lotteries as far back as the Old Testament, and the role of lotteries in the development of the United States. Chapter 3 just might be the most important chapter in the book for anyone who wins the lottery or thinks they will. He calls it “Everything You’ll Wish You Never Knew About Winning The Lottery,” which is pretty much dead opposite of how I felt about this chapter. And it’s worth mentioning that beneath the chapter title he quotes one of the lottery winners he met as saying “I wouldn’t wish winning the lottery on Hitler.”

Think about that a minute.

Ugel compares himself and his co-workers at The Firm to the lottery winners, drawing parallels between personality traits and life habits. No one comes out looking good, but no one is a monster or moron, either. True that I don’t think there was a single person in this book I’d like to spend an evening at a bar with (and many evenings are spent at bars), but Ugel touches on the humanity in each person in a way that makes it easy to understand how he could be so good at his job for so long. I highly recommend “Money For Nothing” to anyone who has ever dreamed of “hitting it big.”

*Note: This review is sponsored by Mother Talk. I received a free review copy, which I wrote in quite a lot, and a $20 Amazon.com certificate, which, as far as I know, I cannot use to buy lottery tickets.
dampscribbler: (books)
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. While the movie has been repeatedly compared to "The Princess Bride" in reviews, I didn't really get that so much from the book. Of course, I haven't seen the "Stardust" movie, nor have I yet read "The Princess Bride," so I'm admittedly comparing apples to pomagranates, here. The book is thick with characters whose lives are intertwined in various ways. Characters seemingly pulled out of earlier works by earlier authors are eventually fleshed out and allowed to develop into something other than cariacatures. I do wish I'd bought the edition with the Charles Vess artwork, but the writing stood well enough on its own. This book was fun to read and the plot took just the right number of turns at the end to be satisfying.
dampscribbler: (books)
Books Read 2007, #6:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) A great end to the series (how's that for an insightful review? Oh well, at least I'm not including any spoilers.)

Books Read 2007, #7
The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby
Collected columns from The Believer through October 2004. Hornby writes a couple thousand words each month on books he's purchased and books he's actually read, the relationships between the lists, the books on them, his life, music, and whatever else suits his fancy. I'm looking forward to reading the follow-up volume, "Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt."

Guilty

Jul. 17th, 2007 08:39 pm
dampscribbler: (Default)
Books Read 2007, #5:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince  (Book 6)
This is actually a re-read from 2005, but I'll count it.  I'm obviously going to have to start counting books I partially read but don't complete, or I'll think I'm an imbecile. 

Yes, I'm looking forward to the release on Saturday of the 7th and final chapter of Harry Potter.  Yes, the writing stinks awfully at times, but that hasn't stopped me from really enjoying this series (although, frankly, it has gotten in the way occasionally).  I desperately want to know what comes next, and I'll also be a little sad, regardless of who lives or dies, to see the series completed, but at least Rowling understands, unlike some I might name, that a series needs to end, eventually.  
dampscribbler: (books)
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, now. I'm gonna just bite the bullet and post all of them at once, and leave any extended commentary for another time. Cuz there probably won't be any.

Pre-1)
Here are a bunch of books I had to read parts of for my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training (something else I need to post more about) back in Februrary. I'm trying to only count books I read from start to finish this year, but I feel like these deserve some sort of "runner-up" recognition just for getting me back into the swing of reading more than 1,200 words at a time.

0.1) Holistic Midwifery Volume 1, by Anne Frye About 20 pages from this 1200-page, $70 tome were assigned. Whee. Not assigned reading was the introduction, which I read anyway, and really wish I hadn't. The book itself is a great source of valuable information about the expectant mother. The introduction, written by Robbie Davis-Floyd, is an anti-medical rant about how "dehumanizing" a hospital birth is. Because my own hospital birth experience was fantastic and empowering, I was very turned off by this message. I'll keep the book if I decide I'll be working with expectant mothers, though. It's got good info.

0.2) Wise Woman Herbal, by Susun Weed An interesting reference

0.3) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin I don't think I've read a word of this book. Probably I shouldn't count it on the list, but oh well.

0.4) Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, by Sarah Buckley A collection of essay's by one of Australia's leading proponents of natural childbirth. I found this fascinating, particularly when she provides statistics. Well-researched and thoroughly referenced, I think anyone interested in childbirth would appreciate the information provided in this book.

0.5) Hands of Light, by Barbara Brennan a New-Agey book a little too far on the woo-woo side for me. We read two chapters of this book but spent about four hours (out of 18) "applying" the information we had read.

And finally -- 1) The Female Pelvis, by Blandine Calais-Germain A great resource for understanding the structure of and motion within the pelvis, particularly as applied to pregnancy and childbirth. We spent only an hour or so on this structural stuff in the workshop weekend, and I would have appreciated more, but this book is a great place to go back to when I have a question in mind. I didn't *quite* read this cover-to-cover, but came pretty close, so I'm going to count it. Also, I really didn't want the next book to be #1 on my list.

2) Princess in Training, by Meg Cabot Yes, the first book I managed to read this year was cotton-candy pink on the cover, and, well, cotton-candy on the inside. That's okay. It was easy and fun. And Maggie said "I like your pink book, Mommy." Which is about all the review we need.

3) The Giver, by Lois Lowry Another YA (young adult) book, but definitely not cotton candy. I enjoyed the story of this weird, slightly futuristic society, and a young boy living within it developing the ability to "see beyond." I also enjoyed the writing, and it gave me a lot to think about when it comes to my own writing.

4) Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker I just finished reading this a couple of days ago. Walker is the daughter or novelist Alice Walker. Here she journals about her pregnancy and contemplates its effect on her life. It's really much better than I'm making it sound, here. I related to her ambivalence (although it was considerably less than my own), her excitement, her passion about her baby. Although many of the subjects she addresses didn't really spring into my consciousness until after giving birth, which makes me wonder what the journal she kept following the birth of her son says.

I've got a long queue of books waiting. Onward!
dampscribbler: (Default)
I haven't been posting about the books I've read, but I have managed to read some, so I'll catch you up now. It won't take long!

Book #2:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time

Read in June, enjoyed very much. Don't remember enough about it at the moment to write even a capsule review, although I could do a quick synopsis but there are better places for you to find one of those if you really want to.

Book # 3:
Lessons in Taxidermy

Bee is just a few years younger than me, and has a personality I can really relate to, although she's way tougher than I ever was. But then, she had to be. Her story of growing up with chronic illness in a poor rural area is compelling reading. If I were to fault anything about this book, it's the detachment with which she tells her story, which can at times blunt the impact of her experiences. But it's a fantastic read. I read this book in July when I was deep in a funk about being sick for what seemed like the 475th time since Maggie was born. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself and I figured reading about someone who had been through far worse was a good way to get off the pity-pot.

I also recommend you check out her website: http://www.foment.net/ or visit [personal profile] beelavender.

Book #4:
Stupidest Angel


The subtitle is "A Heatwarming Story of Christmas Terror." While it was neither heartwarming nor terrifying, it was at times laugh-out-loud funny and at other times gross-out horrific. Christmas zombies. Need I say more?


Edit:
Um -- anyone know why my amazon image links don't work?

A new year

Jan. 9th, 2006 10:48 am
dampscribbler: (Default)
I don't expect to be posting here much this year; much like last year I expect to be busy with mother/housewife things, and I'm also hoping to recover some more of the "me" things that had to give during Maggie's first year. One of those "me" things is reading books -- especially fiction, but really any books that have more words than illustrations. I'm off to a decent start, I've already read one book (I've set a goal of 20 this year, which would be about 16 more than last year, so it seems like a reasonable goal.)

First book read this year is Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed it very much. No word yet on which book is next on my list.

I still check in on my Friends page daily, and like to see everyone's updates. Even if you don't see me comment or post much, I'm here.

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