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October 27, 2007

This & That

It feels like I've been away from my blog for more than just four days. Perhaps it's the overwhelming number of comments that have yet to be answered. And they will, as I'm too obsessive to let them go without a response. (Speaking of which, have you all seen Blogger's new feature? They'll send you an email notifying you of responses made to comments! How cool is that?!) Perhaps it's the out-dated "Currently Reading" sidebar picture. Or maybe it's just been a long, long week. Worry and stress certainly wear me out, but it's a new day, the sun's shining, and I've had a good night's sleep. Sometimes, that's all that's needed.

Updates on the Southern California fires -- My relatives are all safe. Thankfully, nobody lost their home. I still can't imagine what the area looks like and how sad it is for those who did lose everything they own. Such a terrible tragedy.

I haven't forgotten about the book drawing for A Great and Terrible Beauty. As a matter of fact, I drew the winning name last weekend, but got preoccupied and haven't had a chance to make an announcement. So, without further ado, the winner is.... Nat (In Spring it Is the Dawn). When you return from your fun vacation, drop me an email with your snail mail addy and I'll get this in the mail.

And speaking of mailing books, Janet in Fort Worth gets my copy of Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West. Janet, I'll need your snail mail addy, too.

I haven't made much progress on any of my books this past week. As much as I love the capabilities of the Internet, bringing live news & information from around the world (San Diego's Channel 10 live coverage of the fires was far too informative to turn off), it can certainly interfere with one's daily responsibilities and reading time. I'm glad I was able to keep up on the fires, but now it's time to resume life in Nebraska.

After several short stories, I gave up on Stephen King's Everything's Eventual. I have one more book to complete Carl's R.I.P. II Challenge, so I grabbed a copy of New Moon (Stephenie Myer) and hope to have it read by Wednesday.

I started The Worst Hard Time, but had to return it to the library unread. The introduction was fascinating and my husband raved about the book, so I imagine I'll get to it eventually.

So what am I currently reading? Well, I have an ARC of Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place. Corrigan is a newspaper columnist and her talent is quite apparent. Her memoir is very readable and informative. I have a good feeling about it.

I'm also reading C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. I initially bought it for my daughter, wanting so desperately to do something to help her through a recent loss. My former mother-in-law passed away on Wednesday after a 17-year-long battle with cancer. While I haven't had an active relationship with N. for nearly 23 years, we have kept in touch here and there throughout the years. Birthdays were remembered. Christmas greetings sent. Condolences expressed. And, quite fortunately, a face-to-face visit last December when we gathered to see my daughter graduate from TCU. N. was one of those rare individuals who was always cheerful. I never once heard her say anything negative about anyone. She was always so optimistic and upbeat and full of life. Amy was her first grandchild and they shared quite a bond, so this loss is hitting hard. For both of us.

I bought the book with hopes that it might bring some comfort to Amy. But after scanning the introduction, I quickly realized the focus is more about the loss of a spouse. It didn't seem like a book she'd be interested in, so I decided to keep it and have already read the first two chapters. Review to come soon.

And lastly, as if the week couldn't have gotten any worse, we learned the upcoming trial in January has been "continued" once again. We are now scheduled for April 15th. Don't ask me why. I've lost all faith in the justice system. It is what it is. There simply isn't anything to say or do about this, other than to hope all is wrapped up and finalized before May 28th.

And now, off to enjoy the beautiful day.

October 23, 2007

San Diego Fires


My heart is heavy.

I feel helpless.

San Diego is my hometown.

We moved there in 1972 when I was 11 years old.


Leucadia, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Tierrasanta, Santee, and Vista.

I lived in each of these towns until we moved to Nebraska in 1992.


I recognize the street names as they're mentioned on CNN.

I'm watching live broadcasts online from Channel 10.

The entire county is in danger of burning to the ground.

Family and friends are evacuating.

I can't bear to watch, but I can't turn away.

My heart is breaking.


October 21, 2007

Lottery



Lottery by Patricia Wood
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 10/16/07
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!!)





You all know that feeling, right? The feeling you get when that little voice whispers ever so quietly, "Oh my, this is going to be a wonderful book." You know it before you even finish the first chapter. You know it as you find yourself thinking of the characters throughout your busy day. You know it when you start composing a fan letter in your head to the author and decide (even before you're halfway through the book!) you simply must to buy several copies for Christmas gifts. You know it when you ignore all other responsibilities and spend the day (and much of the night) curled up on the couch, reading non-stop for hours. Then you stop. You put the book aside with 50 pages still unread. You want to savor those final chapters. You don't want to leave the characters you've come to love. Finally, you resume reading, allowing no interruptions to break the spell. And then you're finished. And you feel sad and lost, knowing that even though you'll read it again, you'll never again experience that magic as you just did for the first time. And yet, you're feeling excited, eager to return to work so you can begin hand selling it to all your favorite customers (alright, maybe that only happens to some of us); eager to sit down and write a review so all your blog-mates can share in the experience. Patricia Wood's Lottery is one of those rare books.

I'm not a gambler. I don't care to ever go to Vegas unless someone is willing to put me up in The Bellagio or Venetian. And, if I were to go, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't spend a single cent on a game of craps, blackjack, poker or even a slot machine. Life is a big enough gamble without adding to the losses. However, many years ago (oh, I was so young and foolish!) I decided to buy a lottery ticket. It was one of those scratch-off types. (You know, so I wouldn't have to obsess about which numbers to choose.) And get this! I won! Yes, I'm a lottery winner!! Of course it was only a $2 win, but it was a win, nonetheless. And that was the very last time I ever played. Quit while you're ahead, that's my motto.

Wood's debut novel shows us that happiness can be -- and perhaps must be -- found in the smallest of pleasures. All anyone really needs is a handful of loyal friends, a job that makes you happy, and love. Every week, Perry L. Crandall (the L is for Lucky, according to his Gram) buys five Lotto tickets at the Marina Handy Mart. He and Gram enjoy talking about what they'd do if they ever won the lottery. To others, their dreams may not seem like much, yet they lead happy (but simple) lives and don't need much in the way of fancy cars, jewelry or frivolities. Well, as luck would have it, Perry wins the Washington State Lottery. Oh, boy, does he win! Twelve million dollars! Life as he knows it suddenly becomes much more complicated. Yet, Perry can take care of himself. After all, he's thirty-two years old. He's not stupid and he's certainly not retarded. He's quick to correct anyone who claims he is, pointing out that one has to have an IQ of less than 75 to be retarded and his IQ is 76. Definitely not retarded. Gram says he's just slow.

There are times I forget I am slow. When I am riding my bike to Holstead's. When I scrub teak on the deck of a sailboat with Keith. When Gary lets me fill out paperwork in the office. When I am by myself. Without other people. They are the ones who are fast. They talk fast and think faster.

"Turning themselves into butter!" Gram thinks regular people are too speedy. "Around and around and around they turn. Watch, Perry!"

Gram is right. I see them on the bus as I look through the window. Driving, talking on their cell phones, eating a breakfast sandwich, all at the same time. I see them at the marina, clicking into tiny computers that they carry around. Gram calls them pets.

"Goddamn metallic pets! Look, Perry! Like they're attached to the end of their fingers." Then she will cackle and do her witch laugh.

There are times I am glad I am slow. I see things. I hear things. And there are times I don't think about it at all.

Lottery is one of those books that may have slipped under my radar had it not been for Bookfool's lovely review over at Estella's Revenge. As you all know, Rod & I recently spent two weeks cruising the San Juan Islands on my dad and step mom's boat, so I was especially interested in the novel when I learned it takes place in the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Everett, Washington). I grew even more excited when I discovered the author lives aboard her 48' ketch with her husband in Hawaii. It's quite obvious that she knows her stuff, as all the nautical references rang true even to this novice. While I certainly don't know half as much as my dad or husband when it comes to boating (although, I do now know the purpose and importance of a bilge pump!), I've learned quite a bit in recent years. One can't help but learn some nautical terminology when one lives with someone who rereads Chapman's every single year!

But it wasn't simply the locale and boat life that drew me into the narrative. Newcomer though she is, Wood writes likes a seasoned author. The pacing is flawlessly even. The dialogue rings true. All but one or two of the characters are fleshed out and believable. (I would have liked to have seen a couple of these minor characters a little less one-dimensional, but this truly is a minor quibble.) I loved the humor, as well as the tender moments. This is one of the many passages that made me laugh:

Keith is older and bigger than me. I do not call him fat because that would not be nice. He cannot help being older. I can always tell how old people are by the songs they like. For example, Gary and Keith like the Beatles, so they are both older than me. Gram likes songs you never hear anymore, like "Hungry for Love" by Patsy Cline and "Always" by somebody else who is dead. If the songs you like are all by dead people, then you are really old."

and

Gram can blow smoke out the side of her mouth and through her nose. She limits herself. "Only two menthol cigarettes a day. Count 'em. One. Two."

She will hold them up in front of me.

Sometimes, Gram loses count.

I finished the book a few days ago (read it in less than 24 hours) and already I miss Perry. He joins my list of favorite characters, keeping company with Owen (A Prayer for Owen Meany), Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Swede (Peace Like a River), and Leisel and Rudy (The Book Thief). I loved his general outlook on life. He may lead a simple life, but it's rich, full of purpose and meaning. I loved his naiveté and untarnished view of the world. In his Forrest Gump-like manner, he tells it like it is with pure, unadulterated honesty. I believe there's a lot to learn from this, as well as from the homespun wisdom bestowed upon him by his Gram.

I'm not sure what I'd do if I were to ever win $12 million dollars, but I'm fairly certain that the first thing on my list would be to buy a house on an island somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (with a boat, of course!). I'd love to continue working in a bookstore, but maybe just part-time. There just aren't enough hours in the day to read as often as I'd like.

Maybe it wouldn't hurt to buy just one lottery ticket...


One final note... I sure hope living aboard a boat continues to be conducive to writing, as I can hardly wait for Patricia Wood to publish another novel. And, I hope this isn't the last we see of Perry!

Update: Go here to see what made me smile this morning!

October 17, 2007

My Oregon Trail (Part 6)

And now to the bookstores (and purchases)! First stop, Allegory Books & Music at the Marketplace at Gleneden Beach. This little outdoor mall has several lovely boutiques that I always enjoy wandering through. They're a little pricey since they cater to the Salishan guests, but a nice change from the usual stores one finds in malls all over the country.

Apologies for the terrible lighting in the interior shots of the store. I should have tried to correct for the overhead lights, but didn't think to. Too busy looking at the books.

Remember to click on the photos to enlarge to a full-screen size.





I was very good and only bought one book. I just have so many to read at home that I decided rather than add more to my towering stacks, I'd just look for a regional cookbook to get as a souvenir. Dungeness Crabs & Blackberry Cobblers is a charming cookbook full of diverse recipes from the Northwest. There are over 200 historical pictures and line drawings, as well as little bits of local information and remembrances. I confess, I have not yet tried a single recipe, but you can be sure I will. My only complaint is that there are no color photographs of the recipes. I really prefer to see what the final dish should look like, but that will just give me more reason to try the recipes myself. The keepers will wind up on my cooking blog with a picture!

The next bookstore was Canyon Way Bookstore in Newport. It's a funky store with lots of nooks & crannies and creaky old wood floors. There's a wonderful restaurant at one end of the bookstore that has, among other choices, the most delicious crab melt sandwich I have ever tasted. Unfortunately, we'd already eaten (at the Chowder Bowl in Nye Beach, where else?) so this was strictly a shopping adventure. There is so much to look at in the Canyon Way Bookstore. Lots of wonderful local books, as well as the usual best sellers and favorites. They also stock a fair amount of gift items and greeting cards. Oh, and music! I bought a marvelous cd for my folks. I'll post more about that in a day or two.



Again, trying to be good, I settled for just one book. I happened upon On Island Time in the regional section and thought the title sounded vaguely familiar. I think it's one that my stepmom mentioned on our recent visit to Washington. I love the cover and can't wait for a quiet weekend to curl up on the couch and read it through, cover to cover. The subtitle reads: Stories and drawings about island life and the small wonders of the natural world. Doesn't that sound lovely? The pen and ink drawings are beautiful and I'm sure I'll treasure this gem of a book. Of course, once I've read it, I'll probably want to sell our house and move to Quadra Island. I may just have to compromise and plan another vacation. Don't think I'll get much resistance from my hubby!

Speaking of Rod, he didn't find anything he had to buy, but I could not resist getting him this t-shirt. Isn't it fabulous?! And the middle dog looks so much like our old Sid. I love it. You can find more shirts like this one here.

So, that's all for our Oregon book store visits. Well, unless you count the last-minute visit at Powell's Books in the Portland Airport. I found a couple of books on their bargain tables and couldn't resist! (So much for those toppling stacks at home, right?) I've been anxious to read Cody McFadyen's Face of Death (sequel to Shadow Man) and was thrilled to find an ARC for just $7.50.

I also found a copy of Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide and, having heard great things about it, decided it was a good choice, especially since it's by a Washington State native, writing about the ocean. It was meant to be. ;)


Now to find the time to read these lovely books. I still haven't read any from our previous trip! At least the shirt and cd are getting good use!

October 15, 2007

Over the Rhine


One of the benefits of working in a bookstore (in addition to ALL those books!) is getting to listen to all sorts of new music each month. Of course, by the end of the month (or actually, by the end of the first week) I'm pretty tired of the same dozen or so albums that are played repeatedly throughout the day. However, every so often I hear a voice that stops me in my tracks, causing me to stop what I'm doing and head back to the music department to ask what's playing. Last month I discovered Jeremy Fisher's Goodbye Blue Monday. In spite of hearing his voice day in and day out, I wound up with the album and still find myself putting it in my Bose during the weekend. It's great to listen to while I'm puttering around the house.

My most recent acquisition is Over the Rhine's The Trumpet Child. As with Jeremy Fisher, I'd never even heard of Over the Rhine, but immediately fell in love with Karin Bergquist's voice. One of my favorite songs is entitled If A Song Could Be President (words and music: Detweiler). It's really best to hear the lyrics with the music, but I'll go ahead and share them anyhow:

If a song could be president
We'd hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we'd all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We'd vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We'd fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers' 45's
Lightnin' Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Til we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn't need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We'd make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president

This is a great album. Definitely one to turn up while driving around town with the sunroof open or walking on our new treadmill. My favorite track is Don't Wait for Tom. You can't help but dance around the room or tap your toe to the beat. Fans of Kim Richy and Kate Campbell are certain to enjoy this. Click on the album link above and you can listen to samples of all the tracks. Personally, I'm planning to check out their previous albums. Enjoy!

October 14, 2007

My Oregon Trail (Part Five)

Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Nebraska anymore!

Of all the wonders of nature,
a tree in summer
is perhaps the most remarkable;
with the possible
exception of
a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats.

~ Woody Allen

Mom and Bill's gorgeous backyard!

I can't think of a lovelier spot to sit and read!


If you tell a joke in the forest,
but nobody laughs, was it a joke?
~ Stephen Wright

It is not so much for its beauty
that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts,
as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanates from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

My dream home!


October 13, 2007

A Great and Terrible Beauty



A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Young Adult Fiction
Finished on 10/12/07
Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)
R.I.P. II Challenge #3




Publisher's Blurb:

Gemma Doyle isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, and who will lie back and think of England when it's required of them.

No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds a chilly reception. But she's not completely alone... she's been followed by a mysterious young man, who warns her to close her mind against the visions.

For it's at Spence that Gemma's power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy group called the Order. It's there that her destiny waits... if only she can believe in it.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of book... a vast canvas of rustling skirts and dancing shadows and things that go bump in the night. It's a vividly drawn portrait of the Victorian age, when girls were groomed for lives as rich men's wives... and the story of a girl who saw another way.

Sigh. It's happened again. Another hyped-up novel that failed to entertain. Perhaps I'm just not suited for these modern-day Gothic novels. Or, maybe it's the teenage angst that turns me off. Whatever the reason, I'm sorry to say it was quite a struggle to get into the book and I almost quit on several occasions. However, I stuck with it since I'd heard positive remarks from fellow bloggers. Heather, Jenclair and Kailana all loved the novel and wrote glowing reviews, which I encourage you to read if you're the least bit interested in this book.

It's very difficult to write a review for a book I disliked so much. In a nutshell, I didn't care for Gemma's sardonic wit and thought her voice sounded contrived throughout the entire novel. The overuse of metaphors was also irritating. I didn't care for any of the characters and thought the plot far too predictable. The following passage leapt from the page, jarring me from what little interest I had going and made me think, would someone in 1895 truly say this?

Felicity stops. "Oh, honestly, this is the worst attempt at a gothic novel I've ever read. All we're missing are creaking castle floors and a heroine in danger of losing her virtue."

I do think, however, that this might make for an entertaining movie. I found myself picturing Johnny Depp as Kartika and wouldn't mind seeing that come to be. Looks like the rights have been bought, so we may just see this come to theaters near us (or Netflix, in my case) in a few years.

If anyone would like to give this book a try, I'd be more than happy to pass it on. Leave a comment and I'll draw names next weekend.

October 8, 2007

My Oregon Trail (Part Four)

We spent a couple of afternoons exploring the communities south of Depoe Bay. I enjoyed Nye Beach, but I think Rod preferred looking at boats at the South Beach Marina in Newport. Again, the weather was lovely--almost hot!

Nye Beach looking north toward Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Chowder Bowl at Nye Beach
Home of THE best clam chowder ever!
(We should know. We ate there 3 times in one week.)
Highly recommend!

Roger that, Charlie Bird. You're cleared for take-off.

Number 4 for take-off? That's it! I hate this job.
I'm never flying again. Oh, wait...


Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Bay Bridge



A different day with a view of Nye Beach looking north



Rogue Brew Pub
Newport, Oregon
Great beer and pretty good chowder.