Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Club January 2014

So, we read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker for book club.

As I have said before, I don't mind historical fiction.  In fact, if I had my way, most of our book club selections would be some sort of historical fiction.

Not bodice ripping, Beatrice Small -type "historical fiction."  More like Margaret George, Sharon Kay Penman, Rosalind Miles, and some of Phillipa Gregory.

Apologies for any spelling atrocities.

I was really looking forward to this one.  I've always thought people like Elizabeth Keckley (the dressmaker in question) would have a fascinating perspective.

That guy that pushed FDR's wheelchair?  I want to know what he knew.  He had an unprecedented level of access, more so than any household staff, because he was in the room with the heavy hitters. 

Like I said, I was looking forward to reading this one. 

Sadly, this book was a huge disappointment. 

On the positive side, I found the relationship between Elizabeth and Mrs. Lincoln to be interesting.  The history tidbits were interesting.  And, I feel like I learned about an aspect of American history that I didn't know (or, heretofore had forgotten).

What set my teeth on edge was the author's writing style.

I didn't read the text upon which this novel was based, but others in the group that did said this iteration was almost reproduced  word for word.

Then, I realized what I didn't like about Dressmaker.  It read like a 5th grader's "research paper" where the bulk of the content is regurgitated World Book Encyclopedia entries.

It read that way because the author just cribbed the original source material.

Such a disappointment.  I expected better.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

me like books

I like books.  I love to read.  I used to love my job because it allowed me to focus on books and the love of reading.  I don’t get to do that for my job anymore for reasons that would get me fired for expressing publicly.  So, I will post my book thoughts on my blog. 

What's the best book I've read recently?

Defending Jacob is still stuck in my head from last spring.  It raises a lot of interesting questions.  How well to parents really know their children?  If I was a parent with a disturbed kid, what is my obligation to protect that kid?  What is my obligation to protect society?  If Jacob had been allowed to grow up, he would have turned into the psycho in Gone Girl.  Lots of crazy in these last two book club selections.

What's the best book I've read ever?   Let’s continue the list:

1)      I have to mention the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon again.   In fact, I am currently re-reading the series in preparation for the upcoming television series.  Say it with me, people:  This series better not suck.  Part of me is excited that something I enjoy so much is about to be shown to a lot of people.  Part of me is worried other people won't love it as much as I do.  I think that's why I never really told people about the books.  Aside from the fact that they're very difficult to explain, I think I would be upset if someone else didn't love it as much as I did.

2)       I know it's corny, but I love the Little House on the Prairie series.  I've read the original books.  I've read some of the new series.  I've watched the TV show more times than I can count.  I think my affection for Anne of Green Gables stems from a similar place. There is something about that simpler time that is appealing.

3)       I have always loved Star Wars.  Not the newest trilogy.  The original, 1977/1980/1983 movies.  From that, Timothy Zahn wrote a series that picks up after Return of the Jedi.  Heir to the Empire is fantastic, and he reinvigorated the franchise's novels, in my humble book geek opinion.  There have been many series spun off from what Zahn started.  Disney takes the reigns of Star Wars soon.  Say it with me:  If the Mouse screws up my childhood, I'll be upset.

4)      For fear of my English degree going up in flames, I am almost ashamed to admit that I love, love, love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.  They are pedestrian.  They are total intellectual comfort food.  They are silly.  They are goofy.  They are formula.  They are the baggy sweatshirt and pajama pants that I wear on the weekends.  I love them.  I laugh out loud every time I read one.  I read five of them in eight days.  She is a bounty hunter the way I would be a bounty hunter.  Very "trample the weak, hurdle the dead."  None of us are really bad-asses.  We're all just getting by.  Her other novels show hints of the same elements, but they can't compete with Stephanie Plum. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dumb as a box of hair

How difficult is it to follow instructions? 

I felt like a previous failed co-worker might be due to my inability to explain things.  Maybe I assumed too much prior knowledge.  Maybe I assumed too much common sense. 

So, now I over-explain things.  The current failed co-worker ignores things and then wonders why I have to either do them over, or why things work for him and not me.

That lock on the drawer?  Know why it doesn't always lock or unlock?  Because you keep using the wrong key.  How many times do I tell you?

The sticker gun doesn't work?  Then stop taking it apart.  If I load it, leave it alone.  You've obviously shown you can't figure it out, so leave it alone.

The network printers?  Don't turn them off.  When I tell you not to turn them off during testing, don't turn them off during testing.  When I tell you to take out the cartridge so people can't print during testing, take the cartridge out so people can't print during testing.

When I tell you not to eat at your desk, don't eat at your desk.  Not only are you attracting rodents and insects, half a dozen people ask me what you do all day because they only see you stuffing your face.

Can't find a teaching job?  Try passing a content area test.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned Book Week

Ok, so I guess it is Banned Book Week.

I was looking at a feature in the paper highlighting books challenged or banned in (I assume) school libraries.

If you didn't like a book simply because you didn't like it (boring, stupid story, too long, too short, bad writing), you would simply return it and move on with your life.  

If it offends your sensibilities, return it.  Move on.

I am more offended that you think your beliefs are more important than mine, and that you should be allowed to inflict your views on others.

Just turn it in, and move on. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Captain dog sez,  "It Has Been Too Long Since My Human Has Blogged."

What's the best book I've read recently?

It might have to be Defending Jacob by William Landay.  I don't really have any compelling reason other than it was a mystery that I couldn't figure out within the first 50 pages.  I chose it for book club because (I believe) it is on the Texas Library Association's Lariat reading list.  That's a list of good books for adults.  They have lists for every reading level from age 2 through high school, and this Lariat list is a recent, welcome addition.  I know a room full of librarians discussed it and deemed it worthy, so I chose it for book club. 

It has been creeping us out all summer.  It is even interfering with our current selection, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.

What's the best book I've read ever? 

That's a tough call.  In order for me to consider it superlative, it has to be engaging.  When I think about what I look for in a book, it really boils down to my level of engagement.  Huh.  Amazing that years of analysis lead to that simple declaration:  I like books that are interesting to me.

Now, how or why is a book interesting to me? 

I guess I can briefly analyze a couple of my favorites.

1)  Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII:  With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers started me down the road of massive historical fiction tomes.  I'm not really sure why.  I only took enough history as an undergraduate to fulfill my degree requirements, and I took those classes in the backwater of junior college.  I can say I remember not a bit of the content of the class beyond having the same professor for both classes. 

But, reading history because you want to is very different from reading history because you have to.  Of course, I had heard of Henry VIII.  I had heard of Katherine of Aragon (but more from studying Spanish than history).  I have a pulse.  I am aware of the world.

Tudor England wasn't interesting to me until I read this novel.  Yes, the title suggests nonfiction, but it is a novel.  It is fan-flippin'-tastic, and it started mild obsession about 10 years ago.

2)  Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is the definition of compelling.  It is one of the few books/series that I can reread.  It has a little bit of history, but at its core is an interesting story.  Maybe not entirely original in that it is a boy meets girl, boy marries girl story.  But, it is original in its setting and its machinations.  There is time travel.  There are magic stone circles.  There is historic context and conflicts.  It is not without its flaws, but it is pretty darn interesting.

I guess I could go on and on, but this gives me a reason to come back sooner :).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It really shouldn't be this hard

I have been a dog person my whole life.

That bumper sticker that says, "I like dogs more than I like most people"?  True story.

I have very early memories of Snoopy decorations in the playroom/junk room at my mom's house. I cite this as one of the main reasons I love dogs.

I had two fantastic dogs when I was a kid.  I still have pictures of them in my living room.

Until I realized I had no interest or aptitude for science, I thought I could go to veterinary school.

Pretty much the only reason I wanted to buy a house was to have a yard so I could have a dog of my own.

The four-door car?  Same thing. 

I adopted two Golden Retrievers from a local rescue group.  Even though no one reads this blog, I don't want to name the group because I don't want to diminish the good work that the volunteers do.

As is common with Golden Retrievers, they both developed cancer.  Different types of cancer, and at different stages of their lives, but still.

Since dogs don't articulate their symptoms the way humans do, canine cancer is often caught too late to be successfully treated.  Such has been the case with both of my wonderful, beautiful, fantastic Golden Retrievers.  

With both dogs, I feel as though everything that could have been done to make their lives comfortable while in my care was done. 

I had to let my most recent Golden go in March.  As any dog person and any of my friends will tell you, I was devastated.  But, I also knew I would find puppy love again.  In July, I applied for a dog with the same rescue group my two Goldens came from.  This is also the same group that I myself have been volunteering for since 2005. 

The adoption coordinator managed, in the course of about 10 minutes, to make me feel like I didn't do enough for my two previous dogs.  She made me feel like I didn't deserve to have another dog.  She told me I needed to be a foster "parent" first.

 I didn't notice her telling all of the other potential adopters that they needed to foster first. 

I can't say that I "like" this adoption coordinator, but I've never had any open hostility from her.  She was not the person I dealt with for my previous adoptions.  Her attitude toward me has always been one of indifferent disdain. 

However, she doesn't know me. 

Here it is, the beginning of November, and I still don't have a dog.  I haven't even been called about a dog.  I am not being considered for another dog.  All because this little person with her power trip has decided not to pass my name along to the volunteers who foster dogs in this group.

I know she hasn't spoken to the fosters about my application because the few fosters that I spoke to at the last event I attended didn't know I had applied for another dog.  If the fosters don't know you're looking, you won't be considered for a dog.  If the adoption coordinator doesn't pass your name to the fosters, the fosters don't know you're looking.

See the problem?

Like I said, I don't want to name the group because I believe the fosters are doing good things.  I think it's the coordinator that's the bitch, if you'll excuse the obvious dog pun.

I had heard from a couple of people that the adoption coordinator was petty and difficult.  I had heard these things from people who have provided wonderful, loving homes for dogs.  Not hoarders.  Not crazy people.  Decent dog owners.  But, I didn't want to think that the group I had been volunteering for could be more interested in its human agenda than in finding good homes for animals in need.

I guess I finally have to pull my head out of the sand. 

I wasn't expecting to jump the line ahead of other applicants for a particular dog.  I wasn't expecting preferential treatment.  I was, however, expecting a little bit of courtesy.  I was expecting to be acknowledged. 

So, I recently applied with another local rescue group that deals with Golden Retrievers.  A volunteer called me the next day.  They run things a little bit differently, but basically if they have a dog they think you'll be interested in, you are invited to a meet-and-greet to meet your potential puppy luv.  I told that volunteer I was aware it isn't an overnight process.  I am content to wait patiently.

I feel pretty good about this other group.  Sadly, I have decided that I will not continue to support or volunteer with the group where my first two Goldens came from.  It really should not be this hard to find a dog.  Both rescue groups say on their websites that they have more dogs than they do places to put them. 

Here I am.  A home willing to take in a dog and spoil it silly.  I am willing to provide medical care.  I am willing to train the dog.  I am willing to groom the dog.  I am willing to love the dog.

And yet, here I am.  Still waiting. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Things worth rereading...places worth revisiting...

Holy Cow!

It has been a long time since I have visited this friend!

I didn't realize, blog of mine, that I had neglected you for so long.

I also didn't realize that my LSFL deadline was so early last year. Way to be on top of it, Il Postino! Depending on the state of the NFL, a deadline might not be necessary this year.

So, I went to Scotland, again.

I don't know if it qualifies as a dream, but I have for several years wanted to go to Scotland during "low season." That is, the time of year when most tourists are someplace else. For Scotland, that means spring.

Lucky me, I found a great deal on tickets. In fact, Bonnie and I ended up in Business Class on the way over there. I'm still not sure how that happened.

Anyhoo, the appeal of going when tourists aren't there is several-fold. Obviously, you aren't competing for resources. Hotels are more plentiful and less expensive. Tourist attractions are less crowded.

(And yet, every castle we went to had what appeared to be hosting a school field trip of some sort. Go figure).

Things are just easier during the off season.

The disadvantages to traveling at off-peak times depend on where you're going. If sunny sunshine is your objective, don't go to the U.K. during Spring Break. Some attractions are closed, or have limited access. Weather can even prevent you from getting to your destination at all.

Maybe that's why I'm revisiting my friend the blog. The weather today is very much what we had in the fantabulous Scotland. Temperatures in the mid-40s and precipitation of some sort every day. We even spent one day in the snow. Like, above-the-ankle-deep snow.

It was fan-flippin'-tastic!

Why Scotland again, you ask?

I don't know. I haven't gotten tired of the place yet. I feel like I can wander around there without being noticed. Tons of groovy castles and such.

But, why spend the time and money to see things I've already seen? Why abandon Maverick to tour his homeland without him?

As HLProper says, Svelte segue!

I'm reading Diana Gabaldon's Voyager again. I normally don't reread things. There are few things that I can read over and over again. S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders is jut about the only thing that I've read multiple times of my own free will. Maybe Jane Austen, when I need to stick to my "Read One Classic A Year" resolution that I make every year. Maybe next year, I'll change that resolution to "Read One New Classic A Year."

Maybe not.

Anyhoo again. Back to Voyager.

I came to the Gabaldon party rather late. Circa 1999-2000. I remember Crafty Andrea and Betsy raving about how great these books were. In fact, Betsy was in charge of Scotland the first time we went on the original World Domination Tour. I'm pretty sure the Scotland portion of the itinerary was inspired by these books.

I remember trying to read the first book in the series, Outlander. Let me preface this by saying I have no fear of a 900+ page book. Especially of the historical fiction variety. Loves me some Margaret George. Loves me some Sharon Kay Penman. Bring it on, I say! My learned friends and travel buddies Crafty Andrea and Betsy know this about me (Amy doesn't read-WTH?!?!). So, they figured this huge book would be right up my alley.

I tried. I really did. 100 pages into it, I proclaimed it total bodice ripping crap and threw it aside. Even though there was minimal ripping of any bodices.

Then, I went to Scotland.

I don't know if having seen Edinburgh and Inverness helped me imagine it in the story, but I had a much easier time reading Outlander after visiting Scotland. Again, the first 100 pages were tough (and are tough to this day), but I persevered.

I persevered all the way to Spain. I finished the first novel somewhere over the Atlantic. I was crying a bit, whether from the storyline or from being trapped in coach for 9 hours after having my ace handed to me at the airport in Miami. Who can say?

The second novel, Dragonfly in Amber was my travel buddy as I went tripping through Spain. Maybe that's why I consider it my favorite in the series. The copy that accompanied me to Spain still has ticket stubs from that trip serving as bookmarks.

Because Dragonfly was such a boon travelling companion before, I thought it would treat me well on this trip to Scotland. And, it did.

Ok, so back to the main point (if one exists...I'm having doubts). I don't reread things very often. I don't understand students that check out the same series year after year. (Yes, craptacular Twilight series, even you). I don't even remember reading novels over and over again as a junior high kid.

One and done, people.

But, every couple of years I pick up a Gabaldon and read it again.

Except Voyager.

I can't explain why, other than I felt that there was too much "hurry up and wait" going on in that novel. I've read excepts repeatedly. Claire stumbling into Jamie's print shop after traveling through the stones and showing him pictures of Brianna is a tear-jerker. But, the rest of the book doesn't do much for me.

So, I guess because Scotland is worth revisiting, maybe Voyager is worth rereading.

I know where this is leading me. I spent one summer a couple of years ago rereading the series (sans Voyager) in anticipation of the release of a forthcoming installment. Didn't happen until a year later. Thanks.

I'm even going to attempt the two-novel juggle. I started the latest book club selection last night (The Art of Racing in the Rain). Made me cry in the first chapter. I do not anticipate good things.

So, if I'm willing to endure flying all the way to Scotland (Business Class aside) again to revisit familiar places, I guess I should be willing to endure 900-odd pages to revisit a familiar literary friend. Fingers crossed! Off I go! Again!