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March 25, 2011

Books You Will Want To Read

Not one but TWO authors I love announced new book series today! First, Gail Carriger announced her new Victorian steampunk finishing school series, and seriously, SIGN ME UP, as I love all those things. Also, it has "well-dressed espionage," which is basically my favorite thing EVER. So. I am excited.

And then! As though that were not enough! Sarah Rees Brennan, who I actually found myself describing as my "favorite living author" the other day, this afternoon announced a gothic romance trilogy involving unlikely crime-fighting partners and a lady sleuth and the Cotswolds and a maybe-imaginary friend and murder! Really, I am beside myself with glee about all this.

Posted by Kat at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2011

Cowboy Book Giveaway Winners!

Everyone entered on Twitter rather than in comments, so I'm going to tweet the winners, but I figured I'd put them up here too in case anyone was curious. So, hey, @librarianamy, @jaleh_f, @MalloryDuVal, and @Chibinessie! I need your addresses to send your books!

Posted by Kat at 07:44 AM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2011

Book Giveaway: Cowboys!

Harlequin seems to have declared it the Year of the Cowboy, and they sent me five copies of a cowboy book to read and share with my friends. I will keep one copy to review (look for that next week), but I figured I might as well offer the other four to you guys! It's a romantic suspense novel (part of their Intrigue line) called Smokin' Six-Shooter* by B.J. Daniels.

Want one? To enter, just comment here or @reply me on Twitter and tell me the name of your favorite fictional cowboy (from books, TV, movies, whatever). I promise I won't actually bias the results toward anyone who says "Raylan Givens," much as I may be tempted. I'm going on a little trip this weekend, so you have until Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern to enter. When I get home on Sunday I'll randomly pick four winners.

* That link goes to a Kindle edition, but these are in fact paperbacks I'll be sending out.

Posted by Kat at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2011

A few thoughts on the L.J. Smith rumors . . .

Overnight, a rumor cropped up that L.J. Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries novels, had been fired from writing the remaining novels. At the time of this writing, this has not been confirmed by the publisher. The always wondering Red and Vee from Vampire-Diaries.net have a good summary of the issue, and you can see a few of the alleged emails to fans here and here. A few quick thoughts:

1. I've only read the first four books so far, but from what's I've heard (and some of her other posts and short stories I've read), the new trilogy is kind of nuts, and IF Smith really isn't writing more, that's something of a relief.

2. If Smith really wrote those emails, I must admit I'm a bit distressed by her grammar issues. I realize that's not the point, but still.

3. To those saying the publisher has "no right" to fire her: This is blatantly untrue. Smith signed away all rights to The Vampire Diaries decades ago. You may not like this, but that's how it is.

4. Smith claims not to have realized she was giving up her rights, but honestly, I have very little sympathy for someone who signs a contract and then pleads ignorance of its contents.

5. It seems odd to me that the publisher would care who dates whom in the books - unless, of course, Smith was specifically hired to write a book with a particular ending and then refused to produce that book.

6. To me - and I have no inside knowledge here or anything - it seems more likely that Smith was fired for other reasons and is spinning it, rather brilliantly, by making it about 'shipping.

7. Regardless of what's actually true, the best course of action is to BE NICE, people. Don't blame other groups of fans. Don't tweet awful things at HarperCollins. I promise they won't reach people who have anything to do with the decision. And don't harass Red and Vee or other fan site administrators. That really won't help anything.

Deep breaths! They're books! No one died! Perspective!

Update: Please read The Televixen's comment below for another really good point. In short: BE NICE.

Posted by Kat at 11:08 AM | Comments (4)

December 31, 2010

My Top 10 Reads of 2010

I didn't read as much as I wanted to in 2010, but I guess I say that every year. (I have a crazy goal for 2011 to try to remedy this. More on that later.) I did manage to keep a list of the books I read all year, though, so that's something. I think the most important thing in my reading life this year was my discovery of YA urban fantasy, especially the works of Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Melissa Marr.

Anyway, here are my top ten, with some notes following:

1. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
2. Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
3. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
5. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
6. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
7. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
8. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
9. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
10. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

1. Three of these books - Scarlett Fever, Mockingjay, and Beautiful Darkness - were published in 2010. The rest are older but I read them for the first time this year.
2. If I went strictly by the number ratings I gave to each book after reading, two more books by Maureen Johnson (13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Key to the Golden Firebird) would have made the list. But in the interests of including more great authors, I limited each author to two titles. I hope she understands.
3. I realize YA looks wildly overrepresented here - the only non-YA is the great Swedish mystery Faceless Killers. You may be wondering if I just read YA this year. Not quite. While a slight majority of the books I read - about 53% - were YA, that's far lower than the 90% representation they have on this list. So I will just go on saying that a lot of the best contemporary writers are writing YA, and if you're avoiding it because it's "for kids," you're missing out.
4. Anecdote for those who claim that Twitter doesn't drive book sales: six of these books I read primarily because of Twitter (either reading recommendations there or seeing the authors' tweets and then going to find the books). And there were at least another sixteen books I read this year for which I hold Twitter responsible.
5. I only read two of the Times's top 100 books of the year, but neither of them made my top 10, or even my top 20.
6. These books were all read in paper form (and half were from the library). Will something I read via ebook make the list next year? We'll see!

Posted by Kat at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2010

December is for reading.

I know, I know. December is for so many other things. Baking and shopping and decorating and watching bad Christmas movies on ABC Family. But that's why you should take some time out to relax and destress - and read. Here to help: Suzan Izik's ToBeReMo (To Be Read Month, I think). You can sign up for whatever level of difficulty you'd like. Because I'm insane, I signed up for the "Sleep Much?" level, which is 15 books or more. We'll see how that goes. I will be counting some rereads. Of course, I'm already a little behind since it's the fourth and I haven't actually finished a book yet, but I'm hoping to rectify that this weekend. Who's joining me?

Posted by Kat at 11:25 AM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2010

Some books I have recently returned unfinished

Several of you wanted to hear about the books I didn't finish, so I'll start keeping track and posting whenever I have three or four.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer - I actually do enjoy the Twilight books, so this isn't a general Twilight dig or anything. I just couldn't get into this one. After 45 pages, I realized I didn't really care what happened to Bree - and we know what happened to her from Eclipse, anyway.

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni - Several friends recommended this, and I wanted to like it. The convent stuff was interesting, but the preface about finding the angel's body put me off for some reason I couldn't define, and I just wasn't feeling the angel thing in general. I may try it again in a few months - could have just been a mood mismatch.

Priceless by Robert Wittman - This story of an FBI agent tracking down art thieves should have been interesting, but it was oddly boring. And I really didn't like the narrator's persona - he pretty much thought he was the best thing ever, and all the bragging got tiresome.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins - I love the Hunger Games books, so I'd been wanting to try Collins' earlier series. But I happened to pick this up the morning after I'd dealt with a huge, scary bug on my bedroom ceiling, and the jacket copy said this was about huge, scary bugs, and I just couldn't. I'll try it again later.

Posted by Kat at 01:00 PM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2010

Read this now, this means me (and you).

Here's the most egregious example of my seeming inability to read books I own:


Those are the three most recent installments of Jane Haddam's superlative Gregor Demarkian mystery series. I love these books so much that I always preorder them as soon as they're announced. The most recent, Wanting Sheila Dead, arrived yesterday, on its release day. But have I managed to read the previous two? No. Ridiculous. (For the record, I have read the first twenty-two books in the series, so it's not that crazy of me to preorder these sight unseen. Besides, I want to support the author.)

So. I'm going to read these. Really. And you should too. It's the best contemporary mystery series no one's ever heard of. I really don't know why they don't get more buzz. They're practically perfect, and only get better as the series goes on, which is really rare for such a long-running series. Usually the quality declines. (I'm looking at you, Lilian Jackson Braun.) I think I've managed to collect all 25, and I've been meaning to reread them in order. Maybe once I finish these three, I'll go back to the beginning and blog the whole series.

Posted by Kat at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)

July 19, 2010

What about bad books?

It occurred to me that almost all the book reviews I post here are positive. There's a reason for this, and it's not that I like everything I read, or that I'm trying to kiss up to authors. It's because if I really don't like a book, I tend not to finish it. But I'm loath to post a review of a book I haven't finished. So I only post about the good ones. Do you want to hear about books I haven't finished, and why I gave up on them? Would that present a more balanced picture, and/or would it just be boring?

Posted by Kat at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)

July 14, 2010

My Library Book Problem

Well, I guess it's really a non-library book problem. Here's the deal: I almost always prioritize library books over books I own, because library books have deadlines. Duh. But I take so many books out from the library that I almost never end up getting to any of the (many) books I have in the house, even though there are a lot I really want to read. This means that I buy books by favorite authors, because I know I'll want to reread them, but then I never end up reading them in the first place. I'm two behind on Jane Haddam (and she has a new one coming out next week) for this reason. Likewise, I haven't read the new Meg Cabot or Gail Carriger or Sarah Rees Brennan, even though they're sitting right here. Sarah Dessen's most recent has been out for what, a year? Yeah, sitting in a stack in my living room.

Clearly it's time to make a change. I'm going to pick a few books to start with and make sure I read at least one for a few minutes a day. Feel free to demand to know how I'm doing with this. Ayelet Waldman's new book will be arriving today, and I told her on Twitter that I ordered it, so I really have no excuses there. And I promised a friend that I would actually finish Gone with the Wind. So. I can do this. Right? Right. And I'll put a little "Book I own!" note on my reviews of said books, so you all can congratulate me. Positive reinforcement!

Posted by Kat at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)

July 07, 2010

Cold Books

We're well into a heat wave here in New England, and so I'm basically miserable. I am, to put it mildly, not a summer person. Give me cold, rain, snow, whatever - just not this heat!

I've decided that this summer my coping mechanism of choice will be escaping to the bedroom, which is the one room with air conditioning - thanks, Mom and Dad! - and reading books set in the cold. So. Suggestions? I'm thinking lots of Nordic mysteries, but I need some other ideas too. What are your favorite fall or winter books, or books set in cold climates in general?

Posted by Kat at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2010

Happy Bloomsday!

June 16 is Bloomsday - the day on which all the action, if you want to call it that, of James Joyce's Ulysses took place. People celebrate this. No, really. They celebrate all over the world, but especially in Dublin, where the book took place. The Huffington Post has a bunch of pictures up of these celebrations. The James Joyce center, as you might imagine, goes all out. So does New York. (Nota bene: This Bloomsday, the first Google result, seems to be unrelated.) Oh, and a very traditional way to celebrate: banning the book, again, still! Thanks, Apple!

It was about ten years ago now that I took a Joyce seminar entitled, simply, "Reading Ulysses." And so I can say that I read every word, from "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" to "yes I said yes I will Yes." (We read secondary sources too, don't worry.) And I pretty much hated it at the time, but I'm glad I did it, and I almost have some vaguely fond memories of it now! At this very moment, 40% of me wants to reread it in a non-class setting, and 60% still thinks it's drivel that people say is brilliant because they don't understand it. So . . . happy Bloomsday? Yeah.

Posted by Kat at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 13, 2010

The Most Incredibly Exciting Week Ever

Okay, that may be overstating things a little, but seriously, folks, there's a lot of exciting pop culture stuff going on in the next week or so. Here's a rundown of the things that interest me. (Notes: All times are Eastern. Here's an explanation of "upfronts".)

Thursday, May 13
8 p.m.: The Vampire Diaries season finale (The episode description promises death and destruction. Damon says he wants to eat cotton candy and steal Stefan's girl. Yes, please!)
10 p.m.: Private Practice season finale (Okay, I'm not actually that excited about this, but apparently a main character will die, so there's that.)

Friday, May 14
Robin Hood and Letters to Juliet come out. No, I'm not expecting cinematic greatness from either, but as I am a fan of Matthew MacFadyen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and laughably bad historical movies, in the former case, and Amanda Seyfried, Gael Garcia Bernal, silly Taylor Swift songs, and Italy, in the latter case, I am looking forward to both of these.

Monday, May 17
9 p.m.: Gossip Girl season finale (Blair responds to Chuck's ultimatum and, as usual, Jenny does something that makes us want to kill her. Necessary preparations: watch An Affair to Remember; buy scotch.)
10 p.m.: Castle season finale (I'm rather hoping this will see the end of Anders Demming getting between Castle and Beckett, but we'll see. It's too early in the series for Castle and Beckett to get together, anyway.)
Muse's new single, "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)," is released. (On a Monday? Yeah, I don't know.)
NBC and FOX Upfronts

Tuesday, May 18
9 p.m.: Neil Patrick Harris guest stars on Glee. Joss Whedon directs. (I don't need to explain why this is exciting, do I? Didn't think so.)
11 p.m.: Bradley Whitford on Chelsea Lately
The Demon's Covenant, the second book in Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy, is released.
The third album of songs from Glee comes out.
ABC Upfronts

Wednesday, May 19
8 p.m.: The Good Guys preview episode (If you're unclear on my feelings about this, um, head over here.)
Google I/O 2010 begins.
CBS Upfronts

Thursday, May 20
8 p.m.: Bones season finale (They're saying it's going to be shocking and polarizing, again. So I'm a little worried. But at least no alternate realities this time!)
9 p.m.: Grey's Anatomy season finale
10 p.m.: The Mentalist season finale
Google I/O 2010 ends, so we'll hopefully have an Android-as-hotspot announcement by then.
CW Upfronts

Posted by Kat at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

April 29, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Restrictions

Today's question:

God comes to you and tells you that, from this day forward, you may only read ONE type of book - one genre - period, but you get to choose what it is. Classics, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Cookbooks, History, Business ... you can choose, but you only get ONE.
What genre do you pick, and why?
I suppose I have to go with mysteries. For one thing, if you absolutely made me pick a favorite genre, that would be it. But more importantly, for this question, at least, the mystery genre includes an incredibly wide range of styles, settings, etc. It would be much less likely to get monotonous than most other genres.

Posted by Kat at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)

April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

It's (maybe, sort of, possibly) Shakespeare's birthday today, and I was going to find a passage to quote, but it's Friday morning and hey, let's have some music instead. Other favorite songs that reference Shakespeare's characters, anyone? I feel like I'm forgetting about something really obvious.

October Project's "Ariel:"

Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet:"

And the same covered by The Killers, which I'd somehow never heard before:

Taylor Swift's "Love Story:"

And hey, Shakespeare references "Greensleeves," so that's as good as excuse as ever to make sure everyone's heard Loreena McKennitt doing Tom Waits doing "Greensleeves:"

Posted by Kat at 07:43 AM | Comments (2)

March 09, 2010

Vacation Books

As you might have guessed, the books over in the Amazon widget are the ones I wound up with for Texas. I'm in a hurry, so click over there for links.

1) Goodwin's LBJ bio: I'll be doing a lot of the LBJ touristy stuff in Austin, and don't know much about him, so this is the book I'm bringing on the plane in, oh, eight hours.
2) Wolf Hall: NOT paperback, but Lizzie Skurnick made a really good case for it on Twitter, and I gave in. (She might have pointed out that the characters defied the pope, so the least I could do was carry a heavy book. How could I argue with that?)
3) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: I am woefully Chabon-ignorant. Must remedy that.

Posted by Kat at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2010

What books should I bring on vacation?

I have just been informed that I shouldn't be wasting my time on Jodi Picoult when there are authors like Michael Chabon I haven't really read. And I need several books to bring on trips this month. So now's your chance. Tell me what to read! Here are the criteria:

1. Absorbing/not difficult to get into.
2. But not TOO fast-paced - don't want to finish a book in two hours and then carry it around for a week.
3. Clear enough to follow while picking up/putting down a lot while waiting in lines, etc.
4. Out in paperback.
5. Will not clash with vacation locations (Texas and Florida) - so nothing really wintery, I guess. Bonus points for actually coordinating with the location in some way.
6. Long is good.
7. Bonus points if you suggest books I already have.

Posted by Kat at 05:00 PM | Comments (10)

Preview of Coming Attractions

I may have accidentally gone to a bookstore or two last night. (There were sales! I had coupons! I needed books for vacation!)

I may have accidentally gone to a bookstore or two tonight. on Twitpic

You'll be hearing more about all of these eventually, in one form or another . . . /cryptic

Posted by Kat at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2010

Do you love Maureen Johnson?

Do you love Maureen Johnson? If not, well, why not? Go get one of her books. Read it. We'll wait. (I'd start with Suite Scarlett, I think.)

Okay, now that you all do love Maureen Johnson, you should head over to We Love Maureen Johnson. See, one of the most important things to know about MJ is that she loves her fans, and she goes to great lengths to connect with them, primarily on Twitter but in other ways as well. So this new site is for her fans to give something back to Maureen. It's headed up by Spencer Martin, one of her characters. Go check it out. It's a neat project.

Posted by Kat at 05:00 PM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2010

The Mysterious Gatsby

I went to the library last night to pick up a few CDs I'd requested from another library in the system, and there was an old copy of The Great Gatsby rubber banded to them. There was a note in the book: something like "Ask if she still wants this." Um, sure! But did I ever? I vaguely remember thinking about rereading Gatsby a few months ago. (Jacob's incomparable and literary Gossip Girl recaps probably prompted this.) And it's plausible that I requested a copy from the library, although I don't specifically remember doing so. But I certainly don't remember cancelling the request, or hearing from the library that they couldn't get it. (And it's The Great Gatsby. Why would it take months for a copy to turn up in a decent-sized library system?) And it definite wasn't on my hold list any time recently. So it's a mystery. Is there some sort of helpful library elf making sure I read my classics?

Posted by Kat at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2010

Getting library books under control

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has this problem with library books: I put things on hold as I read book reviews and blog posts, and then before I know it I have dozens of books out and no chance of reading them all before they have to go back. And then I always feel guilty, and I don't finish as many books as I'd like because I'm trying to read too many things at once.

So. No more. New rule: I can only have ten holds at a time. (Some of them take months to come in, so this is reasonable.) And I can only take out non-hold books if I have fewer than five books out. Otherwise, I'll just make a list and wait and request the books when I don't have a million other things out. Maybe this way I will be able to actually read all my library books, and even read some of the books I own but haven't read because I'm always trying to read library books. I can do this, right? Right.

Posted by Kat at 11:00 AM | Comments (8)

January 25, 2010

Tattooed Ladies

My friend Amelia was on NPR's Whad'Ya Know? this weekend talking about her book on the history of tattooed ladies. Listen here.

Posted by Kat at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2010

Like YA books? Read this.

My friend Jen has a new column on young adult books at the Examiner. Her first piece is on the Printz award winner and honor books. Jen knows lots about YA, so I look forward to seeing where she goes with this.

Posted by Kat at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2010

Review: Food Rules

Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Genre: Food
Pages: 140
Rating: 7.9

You've probably heard Michael Pollan's basic rules: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This little book expands these three rules into 64 rules, most of which are guidelines to figuring out what counts as "real food." I've heard some criticism that this is mostly a rehash of his other books, and if you've read the others, then sure, this might not be very helpful or interesting. But if you want a quick introduction to Pollan's way of thinking - or if, like me, you've been meaning to read his longer books for years and haven't gotten around to it - this is an accessible, quick read that I found both inspirational and useful on a practical level.

Posted by Kat at 07:06 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2010

Review: The Fourth Part of the World

The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester
Genre: European history
Pages: 462
Rating: 8.5

This books is supposedly about the 1507 German map that used the word "America" for the first time, but it's actually about a lot more than that, and almost all of it is fascinating. It tries to tell the story of pretty much everything that led up to the creation of this map, which means the entire history of European (and some Asian) exploration, cartography, geography, and a fair amount of theology and philosophy from ancient times through the 1500s. Aside from the obvious elements such as Ptolemy, Marco Polo, Columbus, and Geghis Khan, there are digressions into such topics as the Papal Schism and Gutenberg - and all of them do play a role (albeit sometimes a minor one) in the story.

The sheer scope of the book means that it moves very quickly, which makes it engrossing but also at times confusing. It jumps back and forth in time a bit, so I kept having to check whether certain things were happening before or after other things. And there were some comma usage issues that really bothered me. Other than that, though, I enjoyed this one and read it pretty quickly, and it definitely sparked interest in some of the topics it covered. (I kind of want to write a novel about the Council of Constance now.) I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in exploration, cartography, or the Renaissance in general.

Posted by Kat at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2010

Review: It Will Come to Me

It Will Come to Me by Emily Fox Gordon
Genre: Literary fiction
Pages: 267
Rating: 6.5

It Will Come to Me tells of Ben, a sixty-ish philosophy professor, and his wife Ruth, a novelist turned bored faculty wife who hasn't written anything in years. One of the reasons for this drought, the reader eventually finds out, is that their son Isaac, now 24, is mentally ill and homeless, and Ruth's grief and worry has blocked her creativity. It has also, I have to say, made her very unpleasant. (I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming that she was less unpleasant before the troubles with Isaac.) Therefore, Ruth is a sympathetic character but not a likable one. And I'm not saying I have to like the characters in order to like a novel, but in this case, it certainly doesn't help. Ben is more likable, and my favorite character was certainly his secretary, Dolores.

Gordon's strength here is in the quality of the writing and in her just-slightly-overblown descriptions of academia. The university is thrown into an uproar by a new president, a visit from an accreditation committee, and an enigmatic visiting writer and her odd husband. Ruth hopes that they will give her a way back into the world of publishing, while Ben has to deal with the various changes caused by all three new elements as well as his hateful dean. And, of course, they are also trying to figure out what's going on with Isaac and his mysterious therapist, who is their only (supposed) link to their son. All of these issues could have been brought to some sort of interesting and natural resolution, but instead, the end of the book contains several out-of-the-blue happenings that can only be described as deus ex machina, and that left me dissatisfied with the whole novel.

Posted by Kat at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2010

Review: Bed of Roses

Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
Genre: Romance
Pages: 358
Rating: 9.1

The first book in this series, Vision in White, was the only romance to make it onto my "best books I read in 2009" list, so I was very excited to get this sequel. (It had a very long queue at the library, of course.) I loved it, although it wasn't quite as absorbing as the first - mainly, I think, because the romantic hero in the first was an English teacher, so it got extra points for that. But anyway, the couple in this one were Emma, a florist, and Jack, an architect. This series revolves around four childhood friends who now have a wedding business together, which sets it up quite nicely for both romance and a variety of bridezilla-type hijinks. They all live and work on a huge estate in Greenwich, CT, with their amazing housekeeper/cook (and now Carter, the hero of the first in the series, who is living with his fiancee there). It's an idyllic set-up, and the friendship between the women is pretty amazing, which goes a long way toward making this practically the perfect romance series. And since this is Nora Roberts, they all end up with friends' brothers, brothers' friends, etc. As in most of her series, the characters have a strong network of family and friends that makes the reader pretty much want to just go live in the world of the book.

And in all that, I haven't actually said much about the plot. Okay. Jack is Emma's best friend's brother's best friend (see?), so they've known each other forever, but always suppressed their mutual attraction. They kiss, sort of on a whim, and then decide to get into a relationship, much to the consternation of their mutual friends. But Emma is looking for a husband and family and permanence, and Jack has always shied away from that. So - well, I don't want to give any spoilers, exactly, but this is a romance novel so we all know where it's headed. Let's just say that the way it gets there is satisfying and avoids most of the standard contrivances romance novels employ to keep the characters apart. The writing is solid, and even though the plot isn't exactly labyrinthine, it's engrossing. All in all, it's a thoroughly delightful paragon of the romance genre, and I'm looking forward to book three in May.

Posted by Kat at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2010

Review: Meet Rebecca

Look! Fulfilling my promise! I just finished this book and I am blogging it immediately! Also, I added a new widget over on the right that will show all the books I have read in 2010. As long as I, you know, keep up with it.

Meet Rebecca by Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Pages: 85
Rating: 8.8

Okay, I'll admit it - I've been reading American Girl books for 21 years and I still adore them. This is the first book about Rebecca, the child of Russian Jewish immigrants living in NYC in 1914. It's like they MADE this one for me - World War I! Immigrants! Jewish traditions! New York! As with all of the American Girl historical novels, Rebecca's story manages to be educational, in a completely non-subtle way, and simultaneously completely engaging. It's a gentle read while also not shying away from serious issues - Rebecca's family is trying to save money to bring relatives over from Russia before they get drafted into the tsar's army and/or starve to death. And nine-year-old Rebecca is scared and worried about this, as you'd expect, but there's no suggestion that children can't deal with such things. This main crisis is set against a backdrop of sibling rivalry, intergenerational tension between old world and new world customs, and a little girl trying to grow up too quickly. Really, my one main issue with it is that I was too embarrassed to ask for the Rebecca doll for Christmas.

This has prompted me to figure out which American Girl books I've missed and, um, request about twenty of them from the library. So! Just a warning that you will be seeing a lot of these sorts of reviews in the next few weeks.

Posted by Kat at 06:58 PM | Comments (1)

The 16 Best Books I Read This Year

Happy New Year! I completely fell down on posting reviews of each book I read in 2009. I'll try again in 2010. But I did at least keep track of the books in a spreadsheet, so here's a list of the 16 best. (Why 16? I don't know. They stood out above the rest of the list.) I did include things that were published before 2009, as long as I read them in 2009. I did not include anything I had read before. The ordering is rough; the top six are definitely the six best books I read this year, but after that, things could move around a fair amount depending on my mood. I know I didn't review these all here, so if you want to know what I liked so much about any particular title(s), leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Let's try a nifty slideshow thing:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
3. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
5. The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman
6. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
7. Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang
8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
9. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
11. Soulless by Gail Carriger
12. March Violets by Philip Kerr
13. Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
14. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
15. Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
16. Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Posted by Kat at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2009

Review: Bookmarked for Death

Bookmarked for Death by Lorna Barrett
Genre: Cozy mystery
Pages: 297
Rating: 7.2

This is the second in a series of mysteries set in a town of bookstores - like Hay-on-Wye but in New Hampshire, and the actual location is based on a town where I used to live. So you can see why I have to read them. But . . . they're not that great, honestly. They're not bad. They're certainly readable, and enjoyable enough, but . . . enh. Nothing special. As perhaps a symptom of this, I can barely remember the plot of this one. I would try one of these (the first is Murder is Binding) if you're particularly interested in bookstores or small-town New Hampshire, but otherwise, there are probably better options.

Posted by Kat at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2009

Review: Catcher

Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero by Peter Morris
Genre: Sports, social history
Pages: 386
Rating: 8.1

Now, as we've discussed recently, I am not really a baseball fan, although I do at least understand the basics of the game play, which was more than I could say about football until, oh, about last week. (Okay, okay, maybe it was a few weeks ago.) But this was about old baseball (about 1870 to the early 1900s), and social history, and it mentioned Stephen Crane in the little blurb in the library catalog, so I had to give it a try. And I have to hand it to Morris - this was a thoroughly interesting story, even for a non-baseball fan. He did a good job of blending history, individuals' stories, quotes from literature of the time, and other cultural artifacts (especially ads for various baseball-related products) to show how the public perception of the catcher changed over time and how this echoed other societal and cultural changes. The narrative could be tightened up and was a bit hard to follow at times, and there was some repetition, but overall this was a readable and engaging history. Definitely give it a try if you have any interest in baseball or turn-of-the-century social history.

Posted by Kat at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2009

Oh, about those book reviews...

I just realized that I've only reviewed one book here since May. And it wasn't even a particularly good one. And I've read a lot of good books. So. I should do that. I do have a spreadsheet of everything I've read. And it would be nice to have some sort of thoughts on those books written down somewhere. I think what's stopping me is feeling like I have to write big long complicated reviews of everything. So I think I'm just going to go for it, and only do a sentence or two if that's all I can manage. It's better than nothing, right?

Posted by Kat at 07:36 AM | Comments (1)

July 16, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: TBR

Today's question:

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

Mine are mixed in, for the most part. When I made that list of 50 books last week, though, I put most of them in fairly easy-to-access spots so I would be able to find them again without ripping apart the house.

(Yes, I've started one from that list. Hoping to finish it this weekend.)

Posted by Kat at 07:01 AM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2009

Review: Love and Peaches

Love and Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: YA
Pages: 243
Rating: 7.8

This is the third (and last?) in the Peaches series (so named for the peach orchard at the center of the series), and it wasn't as good as the second, which wasn't as good as the first. But it was a quick read and I like finishing series, so whatever. These are follow the model of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants et al. - a group of teen girls who seem very different on the surface end up helping each other deal with various Big Issues and Important Lessons as they grow up. I had a harder time warming to the girls in this series - they just didn't seem real enough. And there's a slight mystical element that seemed kind of unnecessary. But I shouldn't be so negative - they're a decent read, just nothing wildly special. If you (or a girl you know) love the Traveling Pants and want more in that vein, give this series a try. The first is Peaches.

Posted by Kat at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2009

Review: A People's History of Christianity

A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story: A History of the Grassroots Movements in Christianity that Preserved Jesus's Message of Social Justice for 2,000 Years and Their Impact on the Church Today by Diana Butler Bass
Genre: Religion, history
Pages: 353
Rating: 7.5

The basic premise of this book as that the current "progressive" or "generative" Christianity movement is not as new as people think it is, and that churches and believers today lose something by not having a better sense of their history. Bass sets out to rescue some of this lesser-known history and relate it to today. She discusses many figures and movements who were interesting or important but have been obscured or just neglected by the "official" narrative of church history. As with virtually all books of history that strive to provide a specific message for today, this book suffers a bit from having its information molded into place for its message. Bass also tends to jump around a lot - the sections are roughly chronological but the chapters alternate between religious practice and social justice, and each chapter starts with an anecdote from Bass's own life before jumping back to its historical topic. I'm sure the latter format was designed to make it easier for readers to relate to the book, but I just found it distracting. All that said, though, there was some really good information here, and Bass is a pretty clear writer, so if you're interested in church history, I'd give this one a read.

Posted by Kat at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2009

Quote of the Day

"It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others - even my nearest and dearest - there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book." - Maureen Corrigan

Posted by Kat at 06:08 PM | Comments (3)

Unread Books

Over at Toddled Dredge, there's a new meme (sort of) about the books we have sitting on our shelves, unread. Now, it would take me all day to list all my unread books (I love used book sales!), but I'm going to pick 50 to list here, and try to read them (or admit that I'll never read them and give them away) by not this coming birthday but the next one (7/31/10). To make things interesting, I grabbed only books that happened to be in my living room (where there are no bookcases but still seem to be books, always) and my dining room (where there are actually two bookcases). This has tilted the list toward non-fiction, and specifically history, but ah well. Are there any on my list that you particularly loved or hated? Let me know!

1. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
2. The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table-Hop Like a Pro (Almost) by Adam D. Roberts
3. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
4. The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
6. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
7. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
8. Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce
9. The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
10. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller
11. Living Witness by Jane Haddam
12. The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King
13. Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
14. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
15. "A Problem from Hell:" America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power
16. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
17. The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England by Antonia Fraser
18. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman
19. The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong
20. Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
21. An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray
22. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
23. Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats by Matthew Yglesias
24. In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton
25. Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives by Katie Hickman
26. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal
27. Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution by Simon Schama
28. Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe by Thomas Cahill
29. Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century by Betsy Israel
30. Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern Europe edited by Susan Frye and Karen Robertson
31. Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election by the Political Staff of the Washington Post
32. John Adams by David McCullough
33. A New World: An Epic of Colonial America from the Founding of Jamestown to the Fall of Quebec by Arthur Quinn
34. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
35. Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother by James A. Connor
36. The Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman F. Cantor
37. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki
38. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
39. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
40. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
41. Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon
42. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
43. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
44. Cheating at Solitaire by Jane Haddam
45. On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson: TV News' First Woman Star by John Dickerson
46. L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon by Leon Gorman
47. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind by George Lakoff
48. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
49. The Making of Victorian Values: Decency and Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837 by Ben Wilson
50. American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever

Posted by Kat at 10:23 AM | Comments (8)

July 02, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Celebrities?

Today's Question:
Do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?

I don't make a point of reading them or anything, but I've read a few. Shirley Temple's was great, as was Kristin Chenoweth's. (Review of that one coming soon.) For years, I said "Patti Boyd should write a memoir!" because hey, she was married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton. And then she did write one, and I still haven't read it. Ah well.

Nonexistent memoirs I'd like to read (in alphabetical order): Christiane Amanpour, Nancy Pelosi (oh, wait, she does have one), Aaron Sorkin, Bradley Whitford... umm. That list was much shorter than I expected, but I can't think of anyone else off the top of my head, except for people who are known for being writers, and generally when a writer writes a memoir, I don't think of it as a "celebrity memoir." I'm sure there are others I'm just not thinking of.

Posted by Kat at 12:39 PM | Comments (5)

June 29, 2009

Review: Smooth Talking Stranger

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Contemporary romance
Pages: 340
Rating: 8.5

(Note: This is actually the third book in a series. I'm usually a stickler about reading series in order, but I didn't realize this was a series until I was too into the book to make myself stop and go back. So you might want to read Sugar Daddy first.)

Ella is an advice columnist whose orderly, boring life is disrupted when her irresponsible sister leaves a baby with her irresponsible mother. Ella is called in to fix the situation. The sister won't name the father, but some of her friends suggest Jack, a millionaire businessman. Now, Jack isn't the father, but he and Ella of course fall in love, and have to straighten out various issues involving their families, their very different lifestyles, and, of course, the baby before they can live happily ever after.

This book was almost a perfect example of the light romance genre. The main characters were likeable but not ridiculously perfect. There was a big fun extended family, a la Nora Roberts. There was a baby, and the baby storyline was actually done well. (It seems that element can be very hit or miss.) The characters had real problems to work through, but there weren't excessive obstacles put in the way of their happiness just for the sake of it. There was a definite sense of place (Texas). I apparently have no recollection of how the sex scenes were, so I'm going to assume that they weren't ridiculous enough to ruin the rest of the book for me (as has happened with other romance novels). The writing was decent, and compelling enough that I read most of it in one sitting. It definitely made me want to read the rest of the series, and Kleypas's other books (historicals).

(SPOILERS AHEAD) I just had one main problem: Ella's relationship with her boyfriend Dane. At first, he's just sort of boring, but then turns out to be extremely self-absorbed, which - fine. But then, when Ella finds out that he's sleeping with someone else while she's away trying to figure out what to do with the baby, he tells her that they've had an open relationship for the past four years, and he just hasn't mentioned it. What?? And even after that, Ella keeps apologizing for getting involved with Jack before she and Dane have officially broken up. So that whole subplot was rather frustrating. (END SPOILERS)

But! With that caveat, this was definitely a great light summer read - perfect for the beach or vacation or one of those days when it's too hot and sticky to move and you just want to sit on the couch with a book.

Posted by Kat at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2009

Infinite Summer

I've never read David Foster Wallace, except for maybe an essay or two, and have always meant to, so I figured I might as well join Infinite Summer, a group reading Infinite Jest over the course of the summer. Who's with me?

Posted by Kat at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Library Week

Today's question:

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

Okay, let's take these one by one . . .

1) I use my public library a few times a week. I tend to request lots of things online and then go in every few days to pick up the ones that have come in and return things that are due. I take out way, way too many books. Way. I only end up having time to read a fraction of them. It's a sickness, I tell you. I'm working on it. Seriously. Sort of.

2) I love coffeehouses and bookstores but they have in no way replaced the library. For one thing, you can find books in the library that are a) old and b) free. Both of which are very good things, at least in my book. (Book! Hah! I'm cracking myself up here.)

3) Yes. Often. My dad once told me that the first place they took me (other than, you know, the hospital and then home) was the library. I'm assuming this is because my mom needed things to read, not because they wanted to make me a library addict from day one, but hey, it worked.

4) Particular memories? Uh, yes. Too many to count. I'm having trouble coming up with any interesting enough (but not too personal) to share, though. But hey, I saw Bill Richardson speak in a library.

5) I love pretty much all libraries, but honestly, I do prefer the older ones.

Posted by Kat at 12:57 PM | Comments (3)

October 21, 2008

September Books

Oops. I just realized that this post has been sitting here half-written since October 1. So I guess I should just finish it, huh?

Tippy-Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
Genre: Mystery (cozy)
Pages: 227
Rating: 4.1

See my review here.

Getting Things Done by David Allen
Genre: Business, productivity
Pages: 267
Rating: 4.5

It's a bit early to say that this book was life-changing, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ends up being so. Allen has developed a system of dealing with work - and pretty much everything you do falls into his definition of "work" - that really makes sense, at least to the way my brain works. I haven't had time to completely implement his system yet (because there's some initial set-up that takes a while but doesn't need to be redone), but I've been slowly adopting his various tips and that has already helped a lot. I just wish he had provided some more cohesive, long examples - maybe a few days or a week in the life of a few people using his system - to better show how it all works together.

God's Harvard by Hanna Rosin
Genre: Religion, sociology
Pages: 296
Rating: 4.7

I have to say that I'm a) a big fan of Rosin in general and b) extremely interested in the sociology of religion, so it was pretty likely that I'd like this book. But really, it was great. Rosin spent a few years researching a prestigious evangelical Christian college, complete with tons of interviews with students, parents, professors, and staff. And the results are fascinating. Rosin presents a relatively balanced and fair (I thought) portrait of the college and the people involved with it. This college focuses on politics and many of its graduates end up working in the field in various capacities, so if you have any interest in what the future of American politics will look like, God's Harvard is definitely worth a read.

Posted by Kat at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Meme

Today's questions:

What was the last book you bought?

Um, no idea. Oh, I guess Free-Range Knitter. I pre-ordered it months ago but I guess I technically bought it when it was shipped.

Name a book you have read MORE than once

Just one? Anne of Green Gables.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Oh, probably lots of them... I'll go with An Acceptable Time.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

All of the above.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Either? Both? Depends on my mood.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

If I had to pick, I guess plot. But really, I read for characters.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

I cannot possibly pick just one. The others' feelings would be hurt.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

I'm not home, so I can't check, but I think the following are literally on my nightstand:
Free-Range Knitter
Taking Charge of Your Fertility
The Catholic Study Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours
Set-Apart Femininity
Cheating at Solitaire
And I feel like I'm forgetting something. Hmm. Oh well. And if this was supposed to be "What are you currently reading?" we need to add The Liberal Hour because that's the one I'm actually carrying around in my work bag.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?

The last one I actually finished was God's Harvard, in late September.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Oh, yes, lots. Well, I tend to give up within the first 50 pages if I'm going to give up.

Posted by Kat at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

September 30, 2008


Guess what arrived today? The new Yarn Harlot book!

And.... I feel like there was something else I was going to say, but now I can't remember what it was. Oh well. Time to go read!

Posted by Kat at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2008

Review: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

(I am way behind on book reviews. Sorry! I'm going to try to catch up within the next few weeks and then keep up with them more or less as I read.)

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery (classic)
Pages: 231
Rating: 4.3

I decided to go through and try to read all of Christie, at least in series order if not totally chronological order. I'm starting with Miss Marple, because it's completely ridiculous that I think I'd only ever read one of this series (years ago) before this one, especially as I love most of the TV adaptations. I was delighted to find that my library has a bunch of that black hardcover series of Christie that was coming out (as some sort of book club, maybe?) in the late eighties or early nineties - my mom has them, so in my head that's the way Christie is supposed to be.

Murder at the Vicarage was the first Miss Marple novel that Christie wrote, and it's clear that she hadn't quite decided what she wanted to do with the character yet. Miss Marple isn't as nice or as sympathetic a character in this novel as in the later ones. Her sleuthing abilities are recognized and respected by a few of her neighbors, but she is also sometimes resented as a busybody. I was also surprised to discover that the novel is narrated by a different character, the town vicar, Mr. Clement. I ended up really liking the vicar, and I hope that he shows up in later books. The mystery was intricately and practically perfectly plotted, as you'd expect from Christie, but as a novel, this early one was a bit rough. I did love the setting and atmosphere - a village in England between the wars.

Posted by Kat at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Stories

Today's question:

If you're anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No ... it's because you want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?

Hmm. Yeah, really not, actually. I wouldn't say that I don't care at all about the story, but characters and character development and interactions are really what I read for. Honestly, I sometimes don't really notice the plot. For example, when I saw the new Indiana Jones movie, I assumed that the whole Indy/Marion/son thing was the main plot, and the crystal skull whatever was the subplot. (I was later told that this was incorrect.)

Now, this isn't to say that I never get caught up in a page-turner of a plot - I certainly do - but it's not really the main thing I look for in a book.

Posted by Kat at 05:35 PM | Comments (2)

Favorite poets?

I'm in a poetry sort of mood. Any recommendations? Bonus points if your suggestions are in my local library system.

Posted by Kat at 05:16 PM | Comments (2)

August 26, 2008

Happy Anne Day!

Yay, it's Anne Day! Every year on the first day when it starts to feel like autumn, I start my reread of the Anne of Green Gables series. (I've written about it before here.) Because I'm an obsessive freak, I'd been watching the 10-day weather forecast and hoping that today would be the day, because the high was only supposed to be 72, and it never goes above 80 in the rest of the forecast. But it's not just about temperature. There needs to be a certain sharpness and brilliance to the light, a certain slight bite to the breeze, and a certain indefinable smell in the air that says not-summer. So I couldn't decide that today was actually the day until I went outside this morning. I'm so excited that it is.

Ready? Here we go...

"Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place..."

Posted by Kat at 11:51 AM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Libraries

Oops! I started this yesterday but didn't manage to finish/post.

Yesterday's question:

What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

Oh my. I don't have a single first memory... my parents took me to the library frequently from when I was very young, so it was just one of those things that was always there. I think my mom took me most often, but I definitely have memories of being there with both parents. Particular memories... hmm. The children's librarians were great. They somehow got me hooked on the Flicka, Ricka, Dicka books (and, I think, ended up going to the basement or somewhere to get them for me out of storage... man, I should order those books), and later introduced me to everything American Girl. (I'm sure my parents were thrilled with that, as it led into them spending hundreds of dollars on dolls and accessories over the years. But I still love those dolls! And books!) They also had some sort of computer program that let you set certain parameters (reading level and genre mainly, I think) and then print out a list of recommended books, and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.

Posted by Kat at 09:20 AM | Comments (4)

August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Gold Medal Reading

Today's question:

Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

I don't think I've read anything Olympics-specific, but I've read a few books about sports over the years. I really liked a few series as a kid - The Gymnasts and The Saddle Club were both sports-related. Oh, and I read an interesting book about figure skating and gymnastics called Little Girls in Pretty Boxes or something like that. And I'm slowly making my way through Football for Dummies so I can better understand my brother's games.

Do you consider yourself a sports fan?

Not really, although there are a few sports I sort of follow (figure skating, IRL), and I'll watch pretty much anything if it's the Olympics.

Posted by Kat at 03:59 PM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Other Worlds

Coming in late on this because I was home sick yesterday...

This week's question:

Are there any particular worlds in books where you'd like to live?

Of course! Isn't that the point of reading? :) Oh, so many... I guess Avonlea would top my list. But really, I read for characters and setting, not plot. Most of my favorite books are favorites at least partly because I want to live in them. Let's see. Also on the list would be Hogwarts (but preferably at a happy, peaceful time), Jane Haddam's Cavanaugh Street, St. Mary Mead, the Chalet School, various of Louisa May Alcott's and Jane Austen's settings... it goes on and on.

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

Well, any of the ones with wars and such. Or the one in Feed. I'm sure there are others, but I tend not to like those books so much, so I'm not thinking of them.

What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?

I have a "piece of flair" on my Facebook saying "Sarah Dessen, will you write the rest of my life?" So yeah, she'd probably be my first choice. Madeleine L'Engle, too. Jane Austen. L.M. Montgomery. (Anne's adulthood was a little boring for readers, sure, but she was happy.) Much as I love Alcott, I would not trust her to write the rest of my life, because I have not forgiven her for the whole Jo/Laurie/Amy debacle. Maybe Stephenie Meyer, although I'm only halfway through Breaking Dawn, so I reserve the right to take that back. Maybe Marisa de los Santos.

Posted by Kat at 05:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2008

Solzhenistyn dead at 89.

Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenistyn has died. I must admit that my first reaction was "Oh, he was still alive?" and my second was "I really should read him sometime..." It seems like a lot of major writers have passed away recently, doesn't it?

Posted by Kat at 07:51 PM | Comments (1)

July 31, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Endings

Today's question:

What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn't like but still remember simply because of the last line?

L.M. Montgomery is really good with endings. Here's Anne of Green Gables:

"'God's in his heaven, all's right with the world,'" whispered Anne softly.

And it's not necessarily the last sentence, but the last seven paragraphs of Anne of Avonlea give me chills every time I read them. Last sentence:

And over the river in purple durance the echoes bided their time.

And again, the last chapter of Anne of the Island. My favorite line isn't quite the last:

"I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want YOU."


The only non-LMM that stands out in my mind (at the moment, at least) is A Tale of Two Cities:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Posted by Kat at 11:36 AM | Comments (2)

July 30, 2008

Review: The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani

The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
Genre: Chick lit
Pages: 271
Rating: 4.4
Finished: July 5

Priya, who grew up in India, agrees to an arranged marriage with an Indian-American named Sanjay. Soon she's living in LA with Sanjay and his parents - and her new mother-in-law makes her get a job, in addition to doing all the housework and cooking. As Priya advances in her career at an entertainment magazine (and tries to hide the true nature of her job from her family), she finds it harder to keep up with her two separate lives and eventually makes some changes. While I thought that several aspects of the plot were a bit too far-fetched, and while the ending seemed to wrap up too quickly and neatly, this was a good read and hard to put down - I read it in a day. It also provided an interesting look at Indian and Indian-American life.

Posted by Kat at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2008

What should I read about Ireland?

My aunt and I are planning a trip to Ireland in fall 2009, and I'm beyond excited. I'll be asking for actual travel suggestions soon enough, but my first question, of course, is about books. Since I have over a year to prepare for this trip, I'd like to do a bunch of reading to steep myself in the history, culture, and atmosphere. Help me compile my reading list! I'm open to pretty much anything - new or old; travel narratives, histories, theology, fiction, memoirs, poetry... whatever, as long as Ireland is somehow involved. What are your favorites?

Posted by Kat at 11:31 AM | Comments (6)

July 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Beginnings

Today's question:

What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

Well, of course, there's the classic from Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

And I've always adored the (very long) first sentence of Anne of Green Gables:

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.
Posted by Kat at 01:23 PM | Comments (4)

July 22, 2008

Review: Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs

Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 379
Rating: 4.3

As I mentioned in my recent review of Bones to Ashes, I decided to go back to the beginning and read this series in order. Since I had read the first one last year, I started with this, the second. It was a great read. As usual, Temperance Brennan investigates several murder cases, and some of them are connected but some aren't - a feature I enjoy, because everything can't be connected all the time. This one was mostly set in North Carolina, but there were some nice Canadian winter scenes. The main mystery revolves around murders connected to a new religious movement, and there's some interesting stuff about cults, etc. There's also some nice supporting material about Brennan's daughter and Brennan's long, drawn-out semi-relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops over the course of the series. My one main problem with the book was that it seems unlikely that there are so many cases that have ties to both of Brennan's homes (Montreal and North Carolina), so I'm hoping that later books in the series focus on one or the other.

Posted by Kat at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation Spots

Today's question:

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday?
Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip?
What/Where are they?

Yes! Of course I do. (I try not to buy too many books on vacation, because they are rather heavy in the suitcase.) I especially like to shop at used bookstores while away, because there are better odds there of finding something new and different - rather than a new bookstore with the same books as my local chains.

That said, my favorite vacation bookstore is the Borders near my grandparents' house in Florida. My dad and I have been going there each time we visit them for years. It's sort of our thing now. My other favorite is Half Price Books in Texas, when I visit Aishy. It's a magical, magical place, and I really want them to open one near me. And, of course, I have many fond memories of used bookstores in all sorts of places, including Lake George, NY, Williamsburg, VA, London, Ferrara...

Posted by Kat at 10:13 PM | Comments (1)

July 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Doomsday

Today's question:

What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?
Whether it's a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop... what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?

My main book source is my public library, and honestly, yeah, I'd just go to the library in the next town instead. Since I've been to my new town's library all of twice so far (third visit planned for tonight), it really wouldn't be very traumatic. The more traumatic thing would be if all the public libraries closed. That would be awful. I guess what I'd do in that case would be to either try to organize a lending library with my friends, or to start some sort of subscription library that I ran basically like a public library, but people paid a small fee to participate.

Posted by Kat at 01:39 PM | Comments (2)

July 09, 2008

Random Poetry Interlude

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

(From "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Yes, I just ate a peach for my afternoon snack; I think of this poem every time I eat one.)

Posted by Kat at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

Review: The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano

The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano
Genre: Sewing
Pages: 105
Rating: 3.4

I am thinking about buying a sewing machine (advice welcome!), so this book's subtitle of "Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing" made me very hopeful that it would be a good resource to help me through the process. It wasn't. Somewhat inexplicably, I thought, the book was written only for people who already had at least one sewing machine and were considering buying a new one. I guess that's a pretty big market, but it seemed weird that first-time buyers were not even mentioned. Giordano assumes that his readers know a lot about sewing machines and nothing about computers, so much of the book is devoted to explaining this newfangled computerized stuff that machines have these days. But my problem is the opposite - I know a fair amount about computers, but next to nothing about sewing machines. So I guess what I'm saying is that this book isn't necessarily bad, but I was not its proper audience, and I didn't think the target audience was properly telegraphed by the title/cover/etc. There were also a few general life philosophy-type statements that the author assumed all his readers agreed with that bothered me, but of course at the moment I can't remember any examples. Something about his attitude toward the use of leisure time and/or money. Yeah, I know, that's very specific and helpful of me. Oh, and he also pretty much said that if you don't have $1000 to spend on a machine, just don't bother, so that was disheartening (and, I'm hoping, not quite true?), since I can't spend that much right now.

Posted by Kat at 05:19 PM | Comments (2)

Review: Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 388
Rating: 4.6

Kathy Reichs is the inspiration for (and one of the producers of) the show Bones, about a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI solving crimes. Since I love the show, I picked up the first in the book series last year. It was fine, but I wasn't thrilled with it - possibly just because it was so different from the show. But a few days ago, I was at an airport shop looking for something to read, and the most recent Kathy Reichs seemed like the best among the (very limited) options. And I'm so glad I picked it up, because I loved this one! I liked the main character, Temperance Brennan, much better in this installment, although that is probably partially because I had had some time to get over the fact that the character in the book is completely different from the character on the show. Brennan is working with the police department in Montreal when an officer brings her bones that just might belong to her childhood friend who went missing forty or so years before. At the same time, her sometime lover Ryan (also a detective) enlists her help with a string of murders of teenage girls. A few other cases are involved as well, and there are various subplots involving Brennan's friends and family. The book also provide an interesting glimpse into traditional Acadian culture. The plot is quite complex, and it's definitely a page-turner. I thought the major flaw in the book was that one of the big twists at the end seemed pretty obvious way before the characters realized it, and I got frustrated that they were being so dense. Other than that, though, I loved it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Posted by Kat at 05:00 PM | Comments (1)

Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young adult
Pages: 371
Rating: 4.9

As you can see from my rating, I love love loved this book. I am a Sarah Dessen fan in general, but I think this was one of her best. It's the story of Annabel, who finds her life falling apart after a traumatic incident that she finds she can't talk about. She tries to hold herself and her family together by denying her feelings and acting as though everything is fine. But then she meets Owen, a well-known "bad boy" who always tells the truth, and finds that she can't keep all her secrets any longer. As with most of Dessen's novels, Annabel's story combines personal growth, family issues, and a great love story. Owen is passionate about music, and his attempts to widen Annabel's musical horizons provide an interesting element to the story. Dessen writes great complex male leads, and Owen is no exception. The secondary characters are unusually well-drawn in this one, too, and Dessen has several characters and locations from her previous novel make cameos in this one. My only issue with the book was that I thought Annabel's big secret was a little too obvious from the beginning. But all in all, it was a great read.

Posted by Kat at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2008

Review: The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle

The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle
Genre: Young adult, coming of age
Pages: 255
Rating: 4.2

This is actually one of L'Engle's first novels, set in the 1940s and written in the 1950s or so, but it was just published this year. It's a bit rough - perhaps because it was edited for publication after her death - and certainly not one of her best novels, but it was still very good, and it provides an interesting look at her early development as a writer. It's the story of Elizabeth Jerrold, a young woman who is trying to pursue acting while not completely disobeying her aunt/guardian, who disapproves of the theater for various reasons. She is an apprentice at a summer theater company, and learns a lot about acting and about herself while also falling in love for the first time. She falls for a flashy young director, but by the end of the novel has pretty much figured out that another apprentice is actually the right match for her. It's interesting to look at these men as prototypes for some of L'Engle's later male leads, such as Zachary Grey and Adam Eddington. And as always, L'Engle manages to create a romantic interest who is complex and realistic while simultaneously seeming pretty much perfect for her heroine. Joys of Love is somewhat dated at this point, but it's a must-read for any L'Engle fan.

Posted by Kat at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2008

Reading slump

(I had this all written and then the site went down for a few minutes and I lost it. Bah.)

I've been in an awful reading slump for the past few months. I guess it's been partially because of moving and other time-consuming activities, and partially because I'm just... not getting into things. I've only managed to finish a few books, and apparently couldn't be bothered to post about them for April or May. I was going to try to do a big catch-up post, but it's been hanging over my head for a while so I think I'm going to just let it go and move on, and try to keep up in June.

But really, I hate not reading. I don't feel like myself when I'm not reading. So I am taking the following steps to snap myself out of the slump:

1. I committed to a summer reading challenge with some friends. My goal is to read 20 books between June 5 and August 31. It's sounding kind of daunting at the moment, but it's only about 1.5 a week, which should be totally doable. (My other goal is to finally finish Jane Eyre. Yeah. Still.)

2. Tonight I'm going to start rereading So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson. It has gotten me over several slumps in the past, so I hope its magic will continue.

3. Ask you for advice. I think I need some new ideas. What have you read recently that you'd recommend? Or what favorites do you have that I might not have read? Thanks!

Posted by Kat at 05:10 PM | Comments (8)

April 29, 2008

Margaret Atwood on Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorite books ever, is 100 years old this month. Margaret Atwood has a nice appreciation with some intriguing ideas.

Posted by Kat at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2008

So many books, so little time.

(I am, in fact, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the above motto at this very moment. Because I'm a dork. In case you were wondering.)

So while I may be bored with all my knitting projects, I've having the opposite problem with books. I'm back in that mood in which I want to read EVERYTHING right NOW. (How is that different from my usual self, you may ask? Good question. I think it may just be a matter of degree.) I wander around the library and all the books are so pretty and they all want to come home with me and I get a bit despondent, because I know I will never ever be able to read all of them, and it's so sad. But at the same time, I have trouble focusing, because I want to read ALL OF THEM, so I end up being all scattered and not finishing much, and it's all very unsatisfying.

Sometimes I'm jealous of people who don't like reading quite as much, or who love to read but have more specific interests. Who know they like romance or sci fi or poetry or whatever, and can stay more on top of things. (Or just not care.) But there are very few books I'd say I didn't want to read, if you happened to ask me when I was in the right mood. There are some I want to read more than others, sure, but so many of them look so good! For example, when I was in the fiction stacks tonight looking for Jhumpa Lahiri, Nora Ephron, and Meg Cabot, I noticed an historical novel from 1960 about Disraeli's wife, and while that wasn't anything I was at all planning to read, it just had to come home with me. Sigh.

One of my friends deals with this book angst by consoling himself with the possibility that he will live forever, and everyone else will die (and therefore stop writing books) and so he will have time to catch up. Unfortunately, I think we'll all die - and then when we get to heaven we'll discover that all our favorite authors have been writing more books since their own deaths. Argh!

Posted by Kat at 08:17 PM | Comments (1)

April 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, Wordsworth!

It's Wordsworth's birthday! Here's the beginning of one of my favorites of his, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey:

FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.--Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.
Posted by Kat at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke has died.

The Times article is here. I hadn't known he lived in Sri Lanka. And because of the time difference, it appears in the article as though he died in the future. Appropriate, I suppose.

Posted by Kat at 07:23 PM | Comments (1)

January 31, 2008

Books for January

Apparently I only finished two this month. Ah well; it's been a crazy busy month, and I'm currently in the middle of about four books, so February's list should be longer!

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
Genre: Mystery, women's fic
Pages: 469
Rating: 4.5
Ellie is a small town police chief who is totally out of her league when a potentially feral child wanders out of the forest into her town. Her sister, Julia, is a top child psychiatrist whose glittering career is disrupted when one of her patients kills several other children and then herself. She returns to her hometown in disgrace to try to help Ellie and the child. Along the way, both Julia and Ellie are transformed. Some of the small-town characters are cutesy and cliched, but the main characters are all surprisingly complex, and the story of the child is riveting. This one gets extra points for making me cry - something that doesn't often happen with books. But don't worry, the ending is perfect.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Genre: Juvenile, fantasy
Pages: 202
Rating: 4.3
I'd actually never read this one before. I read three or four of the Narnia books as a kid, and liked them, but lost interest somehow and never finished the series. I recently decided to read/reread them all. The edition my library has start with The Magician's Nephew as the beginning of the series (anyone want to weigh in on that debate?), so I started with that this time. (I'd started with Lion, Witch last time.) I don't think this novel was Lewis's best, but it was definitely very good. I think reading these books as an adult makes the humor even better - I loved the running commentary about what a great day the housemaid was having, for one thing. And, of course, it was very interesting to read about the creation of Narnia.

Posted by Kat at 09:26 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2008

Men of Austen

Choose your suitor. Hee!

Posted by Kat at 03:22 PM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Anticipation

Today's question:

What new books are you looking forward to most in 2008? Something new being published this year? Something you got as a gift for the holidays? Anything in particular that you’re planning to read in 2008 that you’re looking forward to? A classic, or maybe a best-seller from 2007 that you’re waiting to appear in paperback?

As I mentioned, I'm looking forward to reading lots of Austen. I am also looking forward to a few books coming out by favorite authors, including Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (April 1), Jane Haddam (April 15), Stephenie Meyer (May 6), Meg Cabot (several). I got a few books for Christmas that I haven't started yet, including The Rest Is Noise and The Amateur Gourmet.

Posted by Kat at 11:54 AM | Comments (4)

January 02, 2008

2008 Goals: Reading

1. Post about all books I read. I did pretty well this year, but didn't quite manage all. (The December post is still on its way.) Even if I only write a few sentences about a book, I want to record them all.
2. Give away or donate at least one book per month. I have a bunch of books (mostly picked up at yard sales or given to me by friends) that I know I'll only want to read once and not keep, so I want to make a dent in these. I know one a month won't make that much of a dent, but at least it's progress.
3. Read and give back most of the books I've borrowed from various people. I have a bunch from my dad and some from various friends, and it's a bit out of hand.
4. Read Austen's six main novels. I'm embarrassed to say that I've only actually finished P&P and S&S. I'm going to reread those and read the other four. PBS says this is the year of Austen, after all, so who am I to argue?
5. Keep number of items out from library under 20 at all times. Preferably under 10. I know 20 sounds like a lot, but I take out videos and CDs and stuff too, so it adds up quickly. Anyway, I tend to take out a million things and then not have time to read them, so I'm trying to work on that.

Posted by Kat at 10:09 AM | Comments (4)

December 31, 2007

Books for November

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Genre: Literature
Pages: 358
Rating: 4.7
This novel revolves around the interaction between a sex ed teacher and her daughter's soccer coach, and evangelical Christian. They initially clash and assume that they will hate each other, but they find they are somehow attracted to each other and things become complex, both in their personal lives and in their small New England town. Perrotta does a very good job of writing about both sides of the abstinence-only education debate without making it into a clearly "good guys vs. bad guys" thing either way. Some of the characters are quite cliched, but others are surprisingly complex. I couldn't put this one down.

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts
Genre: Women's fiction
Pages: 339
Rating: 4.3
Members of a knitting group feel that their families don't appreciate everything they do to prepare for Christmas and decide to go on strike. The local media hears of it, and the whole thing spirals out of control, with somewhat predictable results. I won't say that this was overly original or anything, but it was a cute, feel-good Christmas read and I'm a sucker for those. The writing was decent and I got attached to some of the characters. I'm hoping Roberts makes this a series.

Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 414
Rating: 4.5
This is one of George's series of Inspector Lynley mysteries. These are traditional British mysteries at their best (although George is actually not British, contrary to popular belief). This one had a boarding school setting, which I always love. I definitely recommend this series - start with A Great Deliverance.

Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier
Genre: Mystery, cozy/holiday
Pages: 390
Rating: 4.4
This is a collection of Christmas mystery novellas. I hadn't read any of these authors before, but they all sounded interesting, so I figured I'd give it a try. I loved the one by Leslie Meier, and the Joanne Fluke was quite good too. The Laura Levine was okay but not great. Overall, it was a fun Christmas read, and has gotten me reading Leslie Meier's and Joanne Fluke's series. I've tried a few of the recipes included, and they're quite yummy.

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
Genre: Juvenile, classic
Pages: 62
Rating: 3.5
This little book wasn't much longer than a short story. It is about a farm family in early 1800s New Hampshire - the mother is called away at Thanksgiving and the children decide to make Thanksgiving themselves. Alcott's writing is always fun to read, but this wasn't anywhere near as good as most of her work. I kept being distracted by the "country" dialect that Alcott gave her farm characters, to point out how they were so good-hearted despite their lack of education, I suppose. It just seemed unnecessary - but, of course, these things must be seen in light of their times, and Alcott is, if anything, more politically correct by today's standards than are most writers of her time. I thought this story was interesting in light of the effort in the late nineteenth century to create the "history" and tradition of Thanksgiving, given that this story was set decades before it was written.

Posted by Kat at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)

Books for October

Apparently I was on an alphabet kick in October. (And apparently I was doing something other than reading much, though I can't remember what. Actually, I think I started some books in October that I didn't finish until November. Or didn't finish at all. Or something.)

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
Genre: Literature
Pages: 119
Rating: 4.3
This was a quirky but moving little novel. I often have trouble with books that are so studiedly "different" and "artistic," but I decided to try to let that go and just enjoy this one, and I succeeded, most of the time. It's the story of a man who finds out that he is ill and about to die, and he and his wife try to go to a place for every letter of the alphabet. The characters are surprisingly well-drawn for such a short book, and the ending had me in tears.

ABC by David Plante
Genre: Literature
Pages: 247
Rating: 3.8
My review is here.

Posted by Kat at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

Books for September

Yes, trying to catch up a bit before the end of the year. I know I still won't have posted about all the books I read, but I at least wanted to mention some of them from the last part of the year. I'll try to do better next year! :)

Jinx by Meg Cabot
Genre: Young adult paranormal
Pages: 262
Rating: 4.5
We all know how much I love Meg Cabot. This is another fun YA from her - as with many of hers (fantasy or not), the premise is pretty ridiculous, but as long as you can get past that, the book is a delightful read. It's probably more similar to Avalon High than to any of her others. Jean, or Jinx, is an unlucky 16-year-old who moves from small-town Iowa to the Upper East Side to live with her wealthy aunt, uncle, and cousins. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't fit in, and she and her cousin have all sorts of conflict about many things, including their family legacy of witchcraft. As with almost all of Cabot's novels, there's a great male lead and sweet romantic subplot. Highly recommended.

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott
Genre: Mystery, academic/paranormal
Pages: 304
Rating: 3.9
I had mixed feelings about this one. I thought that Stott was definitely a good writer, and I was impressed by the way she demonstrated complex relationships and histories between her characters. But I was unimpressed by the actual mystery. There were many threads of the plot, both in present-day Cambridge and in the Cambridge of Newton's time, and they never connected the way I wanted them to, and thought they would. Most of the individual threads were resolved, somewhat, but the connections between them ended up being some sort of "Oh, look, everything in the universe is connected" thing instead of anything actually interesting or satisfying. Still, I'll probably give her next book a try to see if she improves.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
Genre: History, Colonial
Pages: 461
Rating: 4.7
I love love loved this one. I find the early Colonial period fascinating in general, and this book provided much more of the "real story" of the Plymouth community than is usually heard. Don't let the title mislead you - it goes far beyond the actual Mayflower voyage and covers King Philip's War, which was a fascinating conflict that I didn't really know much about. I definitely recommend this for anyone interested in that period of history.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Genre: Mystery, forensic
Pages: 411
Rating: 4.3
For those not as obsessed as I am: Kathy Reichs is the executive producer of Bones, which I feel is the best show currently on TV. Although the main character of Bones has the same name as the main character in Reichs' novels, but the show is actually based on Reichs herself, not her books. The character, Temperance Brennan, is, like Reichs, a forensic anthropologist who writes mysteries. ANYWAY. I knew all this going in, but since I love the show so much, I still had a hard time getting past the fact that this Temperance wasn't the Temperance from the show. Other than that, though, it was quite a good book, and I will be looking for more in the series. It is set in Montreal, so it included some interesting things about the law enforcement/criminal justice system there.

Posted by Kat at 10:14 AM | Comments (1)

December 04, 2007

In praise of Latin

A very interesting opinion piece: A Vote for Latin

Posted by Kat at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Rolling

This week's question:
Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?

Sometimes. I will often do this by genre or subject - I'll get in the mood for a bunch of cozy mysteries, or classic children's lit, or things to do with a certain time period. But sometimes my reading seems pretty random, and I'm generally reading several things from different genres at once.

Posted by Kat at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)

November 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Preservatives

Today's question:

I'm still relatively new to this meme so I'm not sure if this has been asked yet, but I'm curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

I do not generally write in books. I was known to do so in college on occasion, but I'm generally a Preservationist. I usually take notes in a notebook and/or put in bunches of small pieces of paper to mark page I want to revisit.

Posted by Kat at 11:57 AM | Comments (3)

November 13, 2007

Holiday Reading Lists

I've been in the mood for holiday-themed books, so I thought I'd share a few links I've found that are good sources of holiday (not just Christmas) book lists.

Holiday Reading Ideas on MyShelf.com
Mistletoe Mysteries
Holiday Mystery Book List from the Cozy Mystery List
Holiday/Calendar-Based Mysteries
Wikipedia's Christmas Fiction Category
Christmas Novels Booklist

Posted by Kat at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2007

RIP Norman Mailer

From the Times: Norman Mailer dead at age 84. I have to admit that I've never actually read Mailer, but he's been on my "I really need to read..." list for years. And who can forget his appearance on Gilmore Girls?

Any of you Mailer fans out there? Which book should I try first?

Posted by Kat at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2007

Review: ABC

My review of ABC by David Plante is here. No, I don't know why it says Amy Diaz at the top - if you scroll down, you'll see that my name appears correctly at the end.

Posted by Kat at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2007

Victoria is back!

One of my favorite magazines ever, Victoria, has restarted! I'm so excited! Thanks to Charming the Birds from the Trees for the heads up.

Posted by Kat at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)

September 20, 2007

Oh, hey, look!

A book review I recently wrote for a local paper is online!

Posted by Kat at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2007

"I saw eternity the other night..."

Madeleine L'Engle, one of my absolute favorite writers ever, died on Thursday. I am working on a tribute post, but for now, I'll go with lines from the Henry Vaughan poem from which she derived the name of her novel A Ring of Endless Light.

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv'n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov'd; in which the world
And all her train were hurl'd.
Posted by Kat at 01:17 PM | Comments (4)

December 30, 2006

Review: A Fountain Filled with Blood

My From the Stacks challenge review #2:

A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.7

I loved this book. Loved loved loved it. Um. Okay. This is the second in the Clare Fergusson mystery series. Clare is a former army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest who has been assigned to a small community in the Adirondacks. She has to learn to adapt to the small-town life and deal with her mutual attraction toward the (married) chief of police. And, of course, solve mysteries. I read the first, In the Bleak Midwinter, shortly after it came out, but for some reason it took me a few years to get to this one. I had attempted it once before but not finished; now, I can't imagine why, because this time it grabbed me and I read the 320 pages in about a day. It's an interesting mystery with complex characters, and I definitely recommend the series. I can't wait to get the next one.

I'm looking forward to a lot of quality reading time this weekend, so I think I'm going to switch around as the spirit takes me between my three remaining challenge books and a book club book. Hope to have another review soon!

Posted by Kat at 05:31 PM | Comments (3)

December 29, 2006

Review: Crowned in a Far Country

So on Thurday, Dewey and I made it home with no carrier escapes, thank goodness. But during the drive, I started feeling icky. I got home, unloaded the car, and basically collapsed. Fever, sore throat, etc. Since then, I've been doing little other than sitting on the couch eating popsicles. But at least I finished my first book for the From the Stacks challenge! (Yes, I'm behind, but January is a slow month so there's still hope. Or so I'm telling myself.)

Crowned in a Far Country by HRH Princess Michael of Kent
Genre: History, group biograpphy
Rating: 3.5

In this book, Princess Michael (herself a foreign royal bride) tells the stories of eight European women in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who are sent to foreign countries to marry princes/kings/etc. The better-known subjects include Catherine the Great and Marie Antoinette; less well-known are Leopoldina and Maria Carolina. The women's lives are fascinating, but the short treatments given to each left me wanting more. The writing is serviceable but not particularly good. Chronologies sometimes become confused. All in all, though, the interesting subject matter helps the book surpass its technical difficulties. A fun read for those who enjoy reading about the royals.

Posted by Kat at 08:13 AM | Comments (4)

December 12, 2006

Review: Bimbos of the Death Sun

Well, one "good" thing about being home sick for EVER (okay, it was just four days or so) is that I apparently get lots of reading done. (And we don't need to discuss how many episodes of Grey's Anatomy I watched.) At least now I can start my From the Stacks books!

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 212
Rating: 4

I had read this (and its sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool) a few years ago, and reread this one over the past few days in preparation for a book club discussion. This is a fairly traditional murder mystery - but set at a sci-fi/fantasy convention. In short, it's hilarious. I have to say that it is a bit dated, but no more so than other "contemporary" mysteries set in the '80s - it just sometimes seems that way because of the emphasis on technology. (The engineering professor has to explain to the police what a floppy disk is at one point.) You probably do need a bit of familiarity with fandom in order to appreciate much of the humor, although McCrumb manages to explain much of it by having a main character who is new to fandom. If you do have any interest in fandom or gaming or Star Trek, though, and like a good mystery, definitely give this one a try.

Posted by Kat at 05:40 PM | Comments (4)

December 11, 2006

Review: Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
Genre: Chick lit/Mystery
Pages: 344
Rating: 3.6

This is the second in Cabot's Heather Wells mystery series. Cabot is one of my favorite authors, but honestly, this isn't one of my favorites of her various series. I don't like Heather as much as some of her other heroines. The "former pop star" bit is getting old, although Heather does have some personal growth in this book, so there's hope. And the mystery plots aren't exactly complex. But I don't really read Cabot for her plots. I read her for her tone, which is pretty consistent between her books and characters. But this book was definitely fun, and I like how Cabot is drawing out the romantic tension in a somewhat believable manner. I will certainly continue to read this series.

Posted by Kat at 07:07 AM | Comments (4)

November 19, 2006

Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I finished this one a few weeks ago, but realized that I'd never actually written up a review. Oops.

Twilight is one of the most-talked-about young adult books of the past few years, and it's one of those things that I'd been meaning to read forever. Well, I finally managed to read it, and it was definitely worth it. In some ways, it's a typical teen vampire romance: misfit girl moves to new town, meets alluring, mysterious boy, falls in love, finds out he's a vampire, etc. And I don't normally go for vampire romances. But this one was so well-written and atmospheric that it completely grabbed me. It's a nice, long, thick book, and Meyer does a great job of immersing the reader in her world. The other thing that I really liked was the complexity of the characters. Both the main characters as well as a wide array of side characters are well-drawn and truly complicated. And the vampire guy is, well, dreamy. Yeah. It's a great read for a cool fall or early winter weekend.

Note: There's a sequel, New Moon. I've heard mixed reviews, but I'll probably give it a try eventually.

Posted by Kat at 02:33 PM | Comments (5)

October 19, 2006

Travel reading

(Note: I was going to link to an earlier post I wrote on the subject, but I guess it was at my old blog. Oops.)

As I mentioned, I'm going away this weekend: leaving tonight, coming back Monday. Among other things, this means that about a week ago I started worrying about what I was going to bring to read. I used to have a whole system worked out for trips, involving a book for each day, different genres, and strict mass-market-only format rules. My new One at a Time principle, however, means all that had to change. One book. For the whole long weekend. It was sort of a scary thought, but I knew that I wouldn't exactly have tons of time to read, anyway.

So. One book. My criteria had to be a bit different. Firstly, format wouldn't matter so much. I'd still prefer paperback, but since I'd only be carrying one, I wasn't too worried about weight or suitcase space. The "must belong to me" rule held, though; I've learned, finally, from the time I took a friend's book camping and got it rather damp, and the time I left a book borrowed from the store at my parents' house in Connecticut. Since I was only bringing one, it had to be engaging and fairly long.

The content criteria were a bit more nebulous. Whether we like to admit it or not, it's hard not to consider how the book we're carrying around will make us look to others. And I'm spending the weekend with a bunch of book people, so I felt like my best bet was something very new or obscure or both. (And yes, in case any of you are reading this, I'm aware that no one in this particular group will be judging me based on my reading material. I just think about things too much.) I'm going to be sharing a room with a friend, and spending most of my time with a group, so I needed something that I could pick up and put down and not worry too much about getting interrupted, but that would also hold my attention. Narrative nonfiction seemed to be the way to go.

But what? History? Biography? I flitted from book to book, but nothing seemed quite right. I even bought Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, which I've been wanting to read for a while, with the idea that it would work in a pinch. But it seemed so two years ago. (This is one of the hazards of working at a bookstore. I see everything as soon as it comes out - or before - but since I see everything, my reading list is hundreds of books long and I generally seem to be at least a few years behind.)

Then, finally, salvation. Last Saturday, I walked in to the back room at work and found an advance copy of Erik Larson's new book, Thunderstruck. Perfect: non-fiction that would read like a novel. Almost 500 pages. I haven't actually managed to read Larson's previous hit yet (see the above about being a few years behind), but I've heard enough good reviews of it to give him a try. And the new one isn't being released until the 24th, so it can't possibly be passe yet. Right?

Posted by Kat at 12:21 PM | Comments (2)

October 14, 2006

Nick Hornby, will you marry me?

(This one-book-at-a-time thing? Totally going well. I started this book last Saturday, was totally into it, and finished yesterday. Not bad, considering the amount of homework/D&D work/TV/etc. I have going on. Also, I'm hoping that the one-at-a-time thing will make me more likely to actually review all the books I read here.)

If you didn't guess it from the subject line, let me just tell you that it's official: Nick Hornby is my new celebrity crush. If only he didn't smoke. And wasn't already, you know, married. But hey, no one's perfect.

I came to this book in an odd manner. It was on the "New Paperbacks" table at the bookstore where I work, and I was neurotically straightening the stacks of books, as is my wont. What attracted me first, actually, was the title: Housekeeping vs. the DIrt, which is really one of life's ongoing crises, plus also rather funny. And then I noticed that it was a book about reading. And then I noticed that it was by Nick Hornby. Now, either of those latter two elements would have been enough to make me pick up the book, but it was the title that originally grabbed me. Huh.

(I feel compelled to mention that I've never actually read one of Hornby's novels. I adored his book about music, Songbook, and I have enjoyed a few moives based on his books. But yeah, I realize I should actually read his books at some point. Seeing as how I'm apparently proposing marriage and all.)

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt is a collection of Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from Believer magazine. Each represents a month; Hornby lists the books he bought and the ones he actually read, and then talks about why he read what he read and what he thought about it. The concept is simple, but the execution is compelling and touching and hilarious.

There are many reasons to love this book. First and foremost is Hornby's down-to-earth and self-deprecating sense of humor. Then, of course, are all the books he talked about that I now want to read. And there's the window into his daily life that the column provides. And his reflections on the differences between Britain and the US. (Hornby is British; the Believer's audience is predominantly American.) But this line, in the introduction, was what really got me:

"And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book - The Da Vinci Code, maybe - because they are enjoying it." (17)

I've been trying to say that, to lots of people, for years. And a bit later:

"Read anything, as long as you can't wait to pick it up again." (18)

He gets it.

Posted by Kat at 10:00 PM | Comments (4)

August 31, 2006

This just made my day.

Meg! Cabot! Manga! And a movie! Of my favorite of her books, even! Eeeeee!

Posted by Kat at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2006

Exciting news for kindred spirits!

Okay, maybe no one but Rachel and Courtney will get excited about this, but! There is going to be a Norton Critical Edition of Anne of Green Gables!!!!! It's being released right around LMM's birthday, too.

Also, according to Netflix, the 1975 BBC Anne of Avonlea is being released on DVD in September!

Posted by Kat at 01:31 PM | Comments (3)

July 13, 2006

What's wrong with "literary"?

So I belong to a big discussion group devoted to mystery novels. Usually, I enjoy the discussions and get some good book recommendations from the reviews posted. But this time, there's a "discussion" that's bugging me enough to write about it.

I don't even remember how it started - maybe a discussion of the distinction between "mystery" and "literary thriller"? Probably something like that. Anyway, this became a discussion of what makes a book "literary," which is sometimes seen as the opposite of "genre." Now, I work in a bookstore; I understand that these sorts of labels often have at least as much to do with marketing than anything else. But I still don't think the term "literary" is meaningless.

A few people suggested reasonable definitions of "literary." But the majority said something along the lines of "badly written" or "incomprehensible" or "nothing happens." Some of the responses were even more extreme. Sure, some literary fiction is badly written, but that's true in any genre, and this went beyond that. This was saying that all literary fiction was bad, and perhaps that it was trying to be genre fiction and failing. Which seems absurd. What's going on?

Now, the people who said this were primarily self-identified mystery readers and/or writers. Is this just some kind of reverse snobbery? Genre fiction is sometimes looked down on as not "real fiction." So genre people say all literary fiction is bad? Hmm. That's part of it, I'm sure. But that doesn't seem to be enough to explain it.

Two other "definitions" struck me. At least one person (and these are all paraphrases, by the way; I'm not trying to quote anyone in particular) said that literary fiction is "about people you don't like," and someone else said it's "those books you have to read in school that no one gets anything out of because no one can relate to the characters." Hmm. First of all, I'd totally disagree with this, honestly; maybe this person felt he couldn't relate to the characters, but many people (myself included) have related to and gotten lots out of many "classics." Would this person insist that we're lying in order to sound intellectual? I'm not sure.

But I also wonder whether this is related to the explosion of "hobby/lifestyle mysteries." There are cat mysteries, dog mysteries, knitting mysteries, cooking mysteries, ice skating mysteries, antiques mysteries. There are mysteries for wine lovers and soap opera watchers and tea drinkers. And these series are often labeled right on the cover. More and more often, they are series that are deliberately crafted to BE "a needlework mystery," say, rather than having a character who is into needlework as genuine aspect of her personality. The idea, of course, is that people who are into the "concept" will buy the mysteries.

Is this spoiling us? In these series, the character is being written to relate to the reader, so the reader doesn't have to work very hard to relate to the character. Is this why literary fiction is "bad"? Because it (theoretically) depicts characters that are crafted for their own sake, rather than being designed for a very specific demographic? Do we only want to read about people who are Just Like Us? It seems like that would be very, very bad, both for literature and for society as a whole.

Posted by Kat at 05:00 PM | Comments (6)

June 11, 2006

Debating the merits of the Clean Plate Book Club

Do you feel compelled to finish every book you start? I'm thinking about this right now in connection to the SRP (yes, you can still join!), but it's an issue that bothers me periodically anyway. As you can see in the sidebar (which really needs to be updated), I have a little problem with starting more books than I finish. But the books listed are all ones that I intend to finish, really. I think.

Now, I don't actually feel obligated to finish EVERYTHING I start. Occasionally I'll start a book and just hate it. More often, a book will have to go back to the library, and I won't be into it enough to locate it elsewhere right away or to keep it a few extra days and pay the fine, as I did with Into the Wilderness. Sometimes I'll write down the title and author so I can find it again later; sometimes I don't. It's not like I'm ever going to run out of things to read.

But for books without an external deadline, I have a hard time giving up on them, especially if I've gotten through a good part of it. In her delightful memoir of reading, So Many Books, So Little Time, Sara Nelson calls the compulsion to finish books the Clean Plate Book Club. She sees this as something to be outgrown, like the necessity to clean your plate at dinner. Being able to put a book down a quarter or half or even three quarters of the way in is a sign of maturity, apparently. I think there's something to that, but I'm not sure it's the whole story.

The act of reading requires the reader and the book to enter into an unspoken contract. The reader promises attention, an open mind, a willingness to learn and to be affected. What is the book's obligation? I think it depends on the book, and on the reader's intentions and expectations. Some books promise simple escapist entertainment, and that's fine, and necessary. Some promise knowledge; some wisdom. Some demand an emotional response. If the book does not deliver on its promises, it's reasonable that the reader might break the contract on his end as well, and stop reading. But what if what the book has to offer isn't what the reader thought it was? Maybe the reader expected mindless entertainment, but instead was made to think. Or vice versa. Maybe the reader disagrees with everything the book says, but it's still a good opportunity to clarify his own thoughts and views. So it may be a sign of maturity to stop reading a book that doesn't meet one's expectations, but I think it can also be a sign of maturity to keep reading and open oneself to whatever the book has to offer.

Posted by Kat at 04:34 PM | Comments (10)

June 03, 2006

May Reads

(Explanation of the ratings)

18. Payment In Blood by Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.6
Comments: The second Inspector Lynley mystery. I read the first a few years ago and loved it, but didn't manage to get to the second until now. These are great, but I'd recommend reading them in order and reasonably close together, because there is a lot of complex interpersonal stuff going on between the detectives and their associates, and I forgot some of the background between when I read the two books. I'm going to try to read the rest without such gaps. But these are classic complex British mysteries, riveting and intellectual. Highly recommended.

19. My Sister's Keeper by
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 3.6
Comments: I couldn't decide how I felt about this one. It was well-written and dealt wit hsome very interesting issues, but I agree with
Rachel that the ending was a cop-out. I also found several of the main characters to be really annoying, which may or may not have been intended by the author. I loved Salem Falls, so I was a little disappointed with this one. But I'll keep reading her, at least for now.

20. Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
Genre: Chick lit
Rating: 4.2
Comments: As we all know, I love Meg Cabot, and this was her usual frothy fun. It started out a bit slowly, but then I got hooked, and it was a wild ride. I liked the main character, although she talked a bit too much about fashion for my taste (history of fashion was her field, though, so it was understandable). And the romantic interest was great. And, of course, it was hilarious.

Okay, I really feel like I finished something else in May, but I can't figure out what it was. That's what happens when I don't keep track as I go. Argh. I guess I'll add it in if I think of it later. Also, the unfinished books list is getting out of control. I'm going to clean that up in June. Really.

Posted by Kat at 07:19 PM | Comments (5)

May 17, 2006

Randoms! On Wednesday!

1. My newest TiVo find: Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown. Favorite quote so far: "Well, hello! You must be an Alp!"

2. I know Rachel warned us, but I was still disappointed by the ending of My Sister's Keeper. Actually, the whole book was sort of annoying, but compelling at the same time. Hmm. I'll try to sort out my thoughts on it in time for the May Reads post.

3. Oh. I was going to say the weather was finally better, but now I hear it raining again.

4. Speaking of which, yes, I was in the flooding area, but yes, I'm fine. My usual route to work was closed for several days, and my kitchen ceiling is precariously close to dripping, but I'm fine. And check out Feminknit for some pictures.

5. I am going through soy milk withdrawal. (I usually put it on my cereal, but we got a free gallon of regular milk, so we're trying to use that before it goes bad, and so there's no soy milk in the house.) It's REALLY not fun.

6. Talking about soy milk suggests that I don't actually have much to say. Or at least don't have the energy necessary to say it.

7. Up next: NH S&W report and photographic evidence that I do still, in fact, knit.

Posted by Kat at 08:39 PM | Comments (3)

May 16, 2006

April Reads

(Explanation of the ratings)

12. Bad Kitty by Michelle Jaffe
Genre: Young adult
Rating: 3.9
Comments: Cute! I've been reading Jaffe's blog since it started, so I was eager to read her first YA book. It was a bit far-fetched, and at times seemed a bit affected, but overall, I loved it. Silly and clever and fun.

13. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4
Comments: This series comes highly recommended by my mom (as well as various bloggers), but I'd somehow never read one before. So good! Mrs. Pollifax is absolutely hilarious, and there was all sorts of fun stuff about Cold War-era espionage, as well. It's a classic series and I'd recommend it to any mystery reader.

14. A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.8
Comments: I've been reading King's Mary Russell series for years, but this was the first time I'd read her Kate Martinelli series. This was her first novel, and it was great. King writes the contemporary setting as well as she does the historical, and I can't wait for her next book, which is going to combine the two series. (Except I have three more Kate Martinelli books to read first, so I'd better get going on that.)

15. Suspense and Sensibilityby Carrie Bebris
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.3
Comments: I gave the first in this series, Pride and Prescience, a good review, so I had high hopes for this one, and Bebris didn't disappoint. I loved the way she managed to combine characters from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. As with the first, it did contain a supernatural element, but it was believable within the context of the story. The actual mystery wasn't terribly shocking, but oh, what a fun book.

16. My Cup Runneth Over by Cherry Whytock
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3.5
Comments: Another cute YA chick lit novel, this one British. Tone is similar to Louise Rennison, or maybe a younger Bridget Jones. The main character, Angel, is realistic and likeable, if rather wealthy and a bit twee.

17. Hardscrabble Road by Jane Haddam
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.5
Comments: This is the newest entry in one of my favorite mystery series, featuring retired FBI agent Gregor Demarkian. Haddam has written over twenty of them, but the quality hasn't dropped off. My main complaint about this one was that my favorite supporting character was absent. Other than that, it was up to Haddam's usual standard. Fans of Elizabeth George or P.D. James should give this series a try. Start with Not a Creature Was Stirring if you're a whole-series-in-order person, or Somebody Else's Music if you want to start with something more recent and easier to find.

Posted by Kat at 10:13 PM | Comments (5)

April 02, 2006

March Reads

(Explanation of the ratings)

9. Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America by Michelle Kennedy
Genre: Memoir, sociology
Rating: 3.7
Comments: For some reason, I thought this was going to be more of a sociology thing, but it was basically just the author's story. Once I got past that misconception, though, it hooked me, because it's a fascinating story. The writing was a bit uneven and dragged in places, but I think it's definitely worth a read. A more theoretical section on how Kennedy's story fits into larger issues within society would have been interesting, but again, that wasn't really the point, so I can't complain.

10. Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Knitting
Rating: 5
Comments: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Even better than I expected. Steph has a great way of making scary concepts seem doable and fun; I had several "Oh, now that makes sense" moments along the way. And, of course, it's hilarious. I think this one, along with her others, will enter my "To Reread Frequently" category, and I will definitely be recommending it to anyone I teach to knit in the future. But it's not just for beginners: I've been knitting for several years and felt like I learned lots from it. Go. Read it. Now. (Even if you don't knit.)

11. Babysitters Club Graphic Novel #1: Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Juvenile, graphic novel
Rating: 3.5
Comments: Babysitters Club. Graphic. Novels. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant. Brilliant, I say. No, seriously, I realize that this is one of those things that appeals almost exclusively to people of my exact demographic and very few others. But wow, it's an exciting concept. It's decently executed: the dialogue is almost all straight from the book and the pictures are believable, although not of course quite the way I imagined things. And I was very happy to see that it hadn't been updated: the kids still play with G.I. Joe and Rainbow Brite (the first time around), not, oh, Pokemon and Bratz. Overall, well done, and I'll probably buy more in the series as they come out for the combined nostalgia/novelty factor.

Posted by Kat at 11:12 PM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2006

If I blog it, I have to do it.

I'm feeling vaguely out of it today, and have been for most of this week, actually. Part of it, certainly, is a need for just a bit more sleep than I have been getting. And I just have no focus. I don't know. Maybe it's because of spring. And actually being fairly happy sort of leaves me at loose ends. I can't decide whether I want to go run around crazily in the sunshine or take a road trip or hide under the covers and read obscure British novels. So. Um, anyway, where was I? Oh, lack of focus, right. I think I've made my point.

SO. Anyway. My plan for the evening is to go home, get some stuff done, RELAX a little, and SLEEP. Early. Theoretically. And because we've seen how scattered I am today, I'm going to put my to do list right here so that you all can harass me about it tomorrow. Okay? Okay.

1. Clean a bit. Honestly, my main point with this one is to find my copy of Last Minute Knitted Gifts and my missing Netflix envelope, but I'm planning to look for them in a way that makes the room look tidier rather than messier.

2. Finish translating Lauren's diploma. Yay Latin!

3. Block Branching Out.

4. E-mail my professor about my final paper topic.

5. Work on the Call for Submissions for the new online magazine I mentioned yesterday. (Thanks for all the enthusiasm about that! More details soon!)

6. (Finally) finish knitting the second ball of Dave's Scarf. I think it has entered the black hole phase - I've been knitting and knitting and nothing has been happening. At least if I finish a freaking ball of yarn I'll feel like I'm making some progress.

7. Start a grocery list. I'm out of hummus and pita. This can't be good.

8. Finish reading Knitting Rules and Bad Kitty.

Okay. That's totally doable for an evening, right? And theoretically it will result in pictures of a blocked Branching Out for you tomorrow.

Posted by Kat at 04:40 PM | Comments (5)

March 29, 2006

Quick Randoms

Because I was supposed to go to bed on time tonight, darn it! Argh.

1. Operation: Harlot was successful last night. I arrived at the store at 10:30, unpacked boxes for the first 15 minutes, and then realized that I had 15 minutes and about 25 boxes left and I had to go more quickly. So then I started just opening boxes. Blood was drawn. (Boxes are sharp!) But I found it. Wheeeee. It's wonderful. Better review after I finish reading it.

2. Clapotis = fun. And I haven't even started dropping stitches yet.

3. Watched the fourth Harry Potter movie tonight. Some of the exterior shots seemed oddly cartoony, but I thought it was good overall. Hermione is still my favorite, of course. As always, I found myself sort of wishing that they'd hurry up through the dragon/battle/whatever scenes and get back to the academics and interpersonal relationships and lovely boarding-schoolness. Maybe I should just go find some school stories to read.

4. Don't you hate it when something disappears right after you discover it? Last week, I discovered the green tea lattes at the coffee stand on campus. Now, I don't normally like green tea much, but these were all milky and melony and yum. Yesterday? They were gone. Bah.

5. Interested in reading or contributing to a free online knitting lifestyle magazine? Sort of Glamour meets Knitty, with a little Bust thrown in? Let me know.

I'm sure there was more, but I really, really should be asleep. Good night!

Posted by Kat at 11:06 PM | Comments (7)

March 28, 2006

Oh, look. A Plan.

So I'm loving the Rule of Ten idea (well, except for this weekend when I was chomping at the bit to start Clapotis), but I'm apparently feeling the need to prioritize a bit more. Basically, what happened was that at some point last night I realized that I had all these vague ideas floating around in my head. Ideas like "You know, it was be awfully nifty if Birch was noticeably bigger when I bring it to Steph's next signing than it was at the last" and "If I wore Clapotis to NH Sheep & Wool, it would be easy for people to recognize me because it's so freaking bright." (Because you're all coming to Sheep & Wool and want to meet up, right? Right?)

So it seems as though it could be beneficial to write up a list of when I'd sort of like to have various things finished. None of these are hard and fast deadlines, per se - they're more just... goals. A Plan. I seem to attract Plans. Anyway:

April 16 (Easter/next time I'll see my family) - Dave's Scarf and Irish Hiking Scarf
April 21 (Steph's signing in Grafton) - Birch
May 13 (NH Sheep & Wool) - Clapotis and Salina
June 16 (roommate's birthday, so it would be nice if his Christmas present were done) - Campus Scarf
August 5 (family reunion) - Baby Aran
October 14 (Rhinebeck) - Rogue

I've been averaging three finishes a month of late, so that's all totally doable, even with my usual lack of focus. Well, April and May look a little cramped, but... we'll see. The main challenge will be convincing myself to knit anything but Clapotis. It's rather addictive. But today I left it at home and so I have high hopes of getting well into the third ball of yarn for Dave's Scarf at class tonight.

In other news, we're on Harlot Watch around here. The book is on the truck. On its way to my store. The shipment should get there this afternoon; they may or may not have time to unpack it. (I may or may not go unpack it for them after class.) Erica is supposed to call me with any news, but I'll be driving more or less by the store on the way to class (around 3:30) and on the way back (around 10:30). So. Unless Erica calls and tells me not to, I'll stop on the way down this afternoon - heck, I wouldn't mind a latte for the car anyway - and if there's no sighting by then I'll go back after class. And if for some reason that shipment doesn't make it there today, I'll go back after work tomorrow. Because, you know, what better to do on my night off than go to work? (Don't answer that.)

Posted by Kat at 01:22 PM | Comments (8)

March 23, 2006

So many books...

(Note: The books I'm going to talk about in this post are all linked in the left sidebar, so I'm not figuring out links again. Look over there if you want more info on any of them.)

After putting up my current reading list yesterday, I started feeling like some sort of explanation was in order. Yeah. Eight books. A lot. Chris asked whether working at the bookstore was responsible for my literary polyamory. I'd love to blame it on that, but alas, I can't. Being around so many books all the time may contribute to the issue, but honestly, I've always been like this. If you've noticed, I'm not exactly good at sticking to one knitting project either. (For the record, this tendency does not carry over into my romantic life. Just saying.) Anyway, it's probably a combination of issues of convenience, lack of focus, and being too darn interested in everything.

To explain how this works, I'm going to give you a little summary of when/why/how I'm reading the eight books in the sidebar. Bad Kitty is on loan from the store, so it's sort of my "main" book, but since it has to stay in perfect condition it stays home. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax is a small, thin paperback, so it's the one I bring for riding the T to and from class. A friend at the store left The Willow Tree in my mailbox there for me to borrow, so I started it on my lunch break that night but haven't done much with it since because I've been trying to finish all these other things. I started rereading Pride and Prejudice after watching the movie. The Ice Storm and Boys Like Us belong to my roommate; The Ice Storm is my lunch break at the office book, and I've been reading Boys Like Us veeeery slowly for months - it's essays, so I tend to pick it up when I want to start and finish something quickly. I read an excerpt of Reading Lolita in Tehran for class and am slowly making my way through the rest of it. And The Birth of the Modern was my vacation book, but I haven't read much of it since. So. There we are.

As I said, though, eight is a bit much, even for me. I'm hoping to finish up a few of them soon so I can have more completed books for March than I did for February. We'll see.

On another note, I found the third ball of yarn for Dave's Scarf this morning, finally. Now, I can't say I wasn't a tad bit disappointed - I was starting to wonder whether I had actually bought three balls, and almost convincing myself that I only had two and therefore was much closer to done than I thought I was. Ah well. I'm meeting friends for drinks in Boston tomorrow night, and going to the aforementioned music thing in Marlborough on Sunday, so that will be a fair amount of mindless knitting time. I'll be heading to The Woolery on Saturday to either exchange the incorrect Jo Sharp yarn or get more of it so I can actually do something with it, and I think I need to pick up some Douceur et Soie as well - I want to make a coordinating Dayflower Scarf and Silk Sleeves from One Skein. (The CUPCAKES. Have you seen the cupcakes?)

Once I, you know, finish something.

Posted by Kat at 04:29 PM | Comments (3)

March 09, 2006

Books and TV and blogs, oh my!

I was all conflicted this morning: do I post about Black. White. or do I do a book meme? Decisions! Luckily, Cate made the decision for me by starting a new group blog: Reality TV Sociology. Come read or blog along with us if you're so inclined.

So the book meme! This is from Carole, even though she forgot me in the librarian list. ;-)

Meme instructions: Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around the ones you've never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
The Secret History - Donna Tartt

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

Hmm. There are some that might be on my bookshelf but I don't remember that they're there. (Someday I will complete my inventory...) Or that I've borrowed. Yeah. The Atwood is on my night table, actually, now that I think about it, but it's not mine so I didn't count it.

Also, apparently I do not decide that I won't read books. I mean, I'd read pretty much anything if you put it in front of me. (Vickie, this means you.) Also, yes, I've heard of all of them. Lit degree + enough time as a bookseller will do that.

Oh, and I forgot to tag people. How about Erica and Rachel and Kristen? (Sorry if any of you have already done it.)

Posted by Kat at 03:46 PM | Comments (5)

March 05, 2006

February Reads

Okay, apparently February was a bad month for reading. Chalk it up to my trip, Olympic knitting, and classwork. Anyway.

(Explanation of the ratings)

7. The Cat Who Dropped A Bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
Comments: I've been reading this series since middle school, so it's sort of like visiting old friends and I enjoyed it for its familiarity and coziness. That said, honestly, it wasn't very good. There was barely a mystery at all, and the quality of these books has definitely gone downhill. Ah well.

8. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3.8
Comments: This was a standard "group of teen friends" book with a twist: when one of the three girls is away at a summer academic program, the other two begin a relationship with each other. It was a good read, although it dragged in places. I really liked the way this ended on a helpful note but didn't tie everything together too neatly.

Posted by Kat at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2006

Oh hey, it's Wednesday!

I finally went to work today, after being out sick, so it felt like Monday, so I'm totally confused. Anyway, it's Wednesday, so that means randomness!

1. FIRST of all, do you like the new layout? It's March 1 (Happy March!) so I decided something bright and springlike was in order. It's a very slightly tweaked version of a template that the lovely and generous Becky made for us Pretty Posies members. Let me know if anything seems to be working incorrectly.

2. Based on the comments I got yesterday and what I've seen at other blogs, I think Post-Olympic Startitis should be declared an official disease. I've managed to stick to my ten, though. Aren't you proud of me? (Birch was added to the ten when I finished the Olympic socks. The first ten were in basically random order, but I'll be adding new items to the bottom as I finish things.)

3. I decided to add my LibraryThing widget to the sidebar even though only a fraction of my books have been entered so far. (All the cool kids are doing it.) I'm going to try to add a few each day.

4. I was on Morning Edition on NHPR yesterday, talking about the Knitting Olympics. Want to hear me?

5. It has been brought to my attention (thanks Chris!) that an all-cotton sweater, as I was discussing last entry, might not work so well. So that project is on the back burner for the moment, and I'm open to yarn suggestions for a DK cotton blend.

6. I am SO ready for spring. So why is it in the twenties out? Not fair.

7. I'm still sick. Sleeping plenty but exhausted all the time. What's with this?

8. Okay, enough complaining. Let's end with something positive. Umm... oh yeah! Have you seen The Daily Kitten? Say it with me... Awwwwww.

Posted by Kat at 08:05 PM | Comments (7)

February 06, 2006

January Reads

Since I have a goal of 100 books this year, I'm going to start numbering them in the monthly lists.

(Explanation of the ratings)

Genre: Women's studies
Rating: 3
Comments: Dowd had some interesting points and anecdotes, as well as some infuriating ones, but overall - well, I couldn't even figure out what point she was trying to make, never mind whether I agreed with it. It might have been Maureed Dowd Hates Everyone and Everything, or it might have been her answer to nosy relatives asking why she's not married, or it might have been all about Hillary Clinton. I just don't know. It would have worked better as a book of essays, I think. There wasn't the cohesion necessary to sustain a narrative.

Genre: Mystery, chick lit
Rating: 4
Comments: The first in Meg Cabot's new mystery series for adults. Fun! Cabot's signature style and tone is great as always, both the main character and potential romantic interest were very likeable, and, to be honest, the mystery itself was pretty good for a primarily non-mystery writer. I did figure it out before the end, but not too much before. And the song lyrics were hilarious. A little suspension of disbelief is necessary, but I am eagerly anticipating more of this series.

Genre: Young adult fantasy(ish)
Rating: 4.8
Comments: Oh my GOODNESS did I love this book. Arthurian legend, smart main character, wonderful romantic interest, medievalist in-jokes... I mean, what else would you need? My favorite of Meg Cabot's books so far, and that's saying a lot - but then, I'm a sucker for all things Arthurian. (Except that horrid Merlin movie I watched last night. Helena Bonham Carter, what were you thinking?) If you find it at all amusing that a girl named Ellie floats around on a pool raft all summer, go read this book NOW.

Genre: Young adult chick lit
Rating: 4
Comments: I'd been meaning to read this series for a while, and finally got to the first one. It's British and snarky, basically Bridget Jones for young teens. The British slang was fun, although the main character's writing style (the book is in diary format) was occasionally a bit too cutesy. The plot isn't terribly memorable, but it's hilarious. I really did laugh out loud. A lot. And I'm planning to read the rest of the series soon, in order to continue laughing.

Genre: Young adult
Rating: 4
Comments: Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite young adult writers, and I have now read all six of her books published thus far. I didn't like this one quite as much as some of her others, especially This Lullaby and Keeping the Moon - it was more of a "problem novel" and the supporting characters, especially the romantic interest and the parents, were less complex. That said, it was still very good, and I'd recommend it. Can't wait for her new one, Just Listen, coming out this spring.

Genre: History, science
Rating: 4
Comments: Very interesting but a bit hard to get through. This was the second time I'd tried to read this book - I gave up about 150 pages in last time. I'm glad I persevered. The various information that Diamond gives about cultures around the world and their development is fascinating, but the narrative seemed to get a bit redundant - he had me sold on his main point by chapter two or so, so toward the end I was feeling a bit "Yeah, okay, I get it already." I will definitely be looking for more information on some of the issues he deals with, and I'm going to give his more recent book, Collapse, a try as well.

Posted by Kat at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)

February 02, 2006

A Bloggers' (Silent) Poetry Reading

This midwinter poetry celebration is the brainchild of Grace's Poppies. This is probably my favorite winter poem, and it seems particularly apropos these days when I leave the house by eight and don't get home until midnight:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

It's Robert Frost, of course, via the Favorite Poem Project.

Posted by Kat at 01:53 PM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2006

December Reads

I know, I know. Better late than never, right?

(Explanation of the ratings)

Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality by Andrew Sullivan
Genre: Politics
Rating: 3.5
Comments: My roommate handed this to me with the words "This explains why all of the political arguments about it are wrong." And yup, it does. Very interesting, although a bit frustrating: a few times I wanted to ask Sullivan if there was anything he liked, or if he just disliked everything. Other than that, though, it provided a lot of context in a readable way, and convinced me that I need to learn more about Foucoult. Also check out Sullivan's blog.

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
Genre: Books about books
Rating: 5
Comments: This was a reread, or rather, a rereread, at least. I don't remember exactly how many times I've read it. I love this book. Obviously. Nelson, then book editor at Glamour and now editor of PW, tracks her reading and how it intersects with her life over the course of a year. She's on my "Can I be her when I grow up?" list for sure.

The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 3.5
Comments: Honestly, I'm not sure what I thought of this. I really enjoyed the writing. And I wanted to shake the main characters because they were being so stupid. But it's worth a read, especially if you like the movie.

KnitLit the Third: We Spin More Yarns by lots of people
Genre: Knitting
Rating: 3
Comments: A fun read for any readers who have missed it so far. The quality is uneven, and I found myself getting bored/distracted a few times when I tried to read too much of it at once. I think it does best in small chunks. But there's some great stuff in there.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Genre: Juvenile mystery
Rating: 4
Comments: Fun! I loved this one. The characters were great and the plot was definitely a page-turner. And I'm a sucker for anything involving, you know, clues hidden in artwork or anything. The only thing that bugged me was there were important letters written in code, and I was trying to finish the book so I could go to bed, and decoding the code was slowing me down. But really, not a big deal.

Shadowland (The Mediator, Book 1) by Meg Cabot
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Rating: 4
Comments: I love Meg Cabot. She is also on my "Can I be her when I grow up?" list. One of the reasons I like her is that she writes in various genres - and it all works - but she doesn't lose her distinctive voice. This one was the first of a series about a teenage girl who sees ghosts and has to deal with them in various ways. Not necessarily my choice of subject matter, generally, but oh so fun. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Posted by Kat at 07:59 PM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2005

To whom it may concern:

Dear knitting,
Thank you for being reasonably cooperative thus far. Might I suggest that we step up the pace a bit?
the knitter

Dear stupid coworkers in the neighboring department,
I don't think the word "gay" means what you seem to think it means. You might want to look it up before you yell something like "You all must think we sound really gay" over the row of cubes again, because at least two of us over here are about ready to throw big cans of soup at you.
Just a thought,
P.S. Boss, that goes for you too. Also? Stop with the jokes about women. Thanks.

Dear Chris Botti,
"Hallelujah" (yeah, the Leonard Cohen one) is not a Christmas song. Just no. I don't care if it has the same name as the Handel chorus. No. Have you heard the words? I know you don't sing them in your version, but please tell me you at least know what the song is about. Your muzak version really has no reason to exist, especially not on a Christmas album.
No love,
Jeff Buckley fan

Dear customers,
I know you for some reason think the online reserve thing saves you time, but it really doesn't. And here's a little secret: it just makes us really, really annoyed with you, although I do understand that it's not your fault that the system's so screwed up. But please. Call and ask us to hold your book. It works just as well, if not better. I promise.
The girl with the pager

Dear out-of-it teacher lady,
30% of $30 is not $10. It is $9. I promise. I'm not sure how many different ways I can explain this to you. You're a teacher. Aren't you supposed to understand things like that?
Your cashier
P.S. I was nice. Next time find your darn educator's discount card. Preferably before you get up to the register and start holding up the line.

Dear reading public,
No, The Da Vinci Code is not out in paperback. Neither is virtually any book published in hardcover in the past year. That's just not the way it works, and I promise, it's not my fault. It is also not my fault that you didn't decide until December 19 that you need to order an obscure book for brother-in-law. I can't magically make it appear. I know that you are probably angry at yourself and just taking it out on me. The holidays are stressful. I know. Please try to remember that it's stressful for me too.
Let's all smile and try to get through the next few days.
Your friendly neighborhood bookseller

Dear salespeople,
I know this may come as a shock, but when you send a request to my department that includes direct insults to my department, that does not make me feel especially inclined to hurry up and get it done for you right away. Just in case that hadn't occurred to you.
No love,
The data corrections girl

Dear Mr. Ledger,
Well done. Couldn't you have played both roles?
Much love,
P.S. Casanova looks cute too, if a bit historically debatable.

Dear readers,
Thank you to anyone who waded through all that. Something coherent (like a review of Brokeback Mountain) will be coming one of these days, but, honestly, it might not be until after Christmas. I will try to at least get some Christmas knitting pictures up soon.
Much love,

Posted by Kat at 04:41 PM | Comments (4)

December 06, 2005

November Reads

Sorry this is a few days late. Things have been crazy, and I've been either happy but too busy to write or sad and therefore not feeling like it. Anyway. The mini-reviews might be even more mini this time, but it's something, at least. Again, five books for the month, which is not that bad, I guess, considering that I also worked two jobs, went to class, wrote a novel, and knit Christmas presents.

(Explanation of the ratings)

How Town by Michael Nava
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4
Comments: The third in the Henry Rios series. Like the others, very good. This one gets into Henry's past and his psyche, which makes things interesting. There wasn't as much of Henry's lover Josh as I would have liked, but we did get to meet Henry's long-lost sister. As I've said before, I highly recommend the series in general.

When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3.5
Comments: The first in the Alex Delaware series; I've read a few others, but I decided to go back and read the whole series in order. It's definitely a fast-paced, enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to discovering how the characters evolve throughout the series. My one main problem with this book was in Kellerman's descriptions of people, especially women and gay men. I tried to remind myself that it was written twenty years ago and tried to just enjoy the story. It sort of worked.

Hidden Law by Michael Nava
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3.8
Comments: The fourth in the Henry Rios series. I didn't like it quite as much as the others I've read, which is why it gets a slightly lower rating, but I'm not sure if I really didn't like it as much or if I'd just read too many Nava books in a short span of time. Or maybe my main problem with it was that not-very-nice things happened with Henry and Josh's relationship. (Trying to avoid blatant spoilers here.) Still, a good read, and I still love the series overall.

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3.5
Comments: Pretty good. It's a very short book, and I somehow felt like it was too short in some places and dragging in others. Still, a fascinating picture of a very interesting mind. I did think Styron was rather flip about the effects that his depression had on those around him, especially his wife. My basic conclusion was that I'm not sure I'd like him much as a person, but I definitely want to read more of his books.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 5 (yes, FIVE)
Comments: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I loved this book. Loved loved loved it. So much that I'm having a hard time being very coherent about it. But it's about love and loss, and life and death, and grief and art, and hey, it just won the National Book Award. It's not exactly the happiest read, but with that caveat, I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you're going through the aftermath of any sort of loss in your life (not just death). I made my roommate read it and I'm giving it to my parents for their birthdays. Both of them. It's that good.

My reading goal for December is to finish some of the books that have been languishing partially read. Starting the month, I had a list of ten (and that was after taking off five that had gone back to the library or otherwise been abandoned). I'd really like to start the new year with a clean slate. Wish me luck. So far, I've finished one of the ten, am a few pages from finishing another... and am about to start something new. Ah well. As Cate keeps saying, two steps forward, one step back.

Posted by Kat at 08:16 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2005

The invisible divide

Isn't it weird when real life friends become online friends and vice versa? Yeah. I mean, I'm used to meeting people online and then meeting them in person. We all know how that goes. But what happens when an in person friend starts a blog?

Well, first you start finding about things in odd ways. Like you read that she's going to ask you something before she actually asks. I'm not, of course, suggesting that she shouldn't have written it... but perhaps it would have been easier to kill two birds with one stone and ask me directly in the blog.

And then this thing happened to me last night that I was going to blog about, but I looked over and Erica already had. You should read her post, because boy, is the holiday season at the bookstore fun. And to whet your appetite, my new favorite quote:

What a customer said to me last night:

"Hey, can I get, like, a library card for here? Is this a library? Nah, this ain't no fucking library."

I kid you not.

Posted by Kat at 03:30 PM | Comments (1)

November 30, 2005

Anne is sunshine; Emily is moonlight...

Why yes, I am Emily, actually...

Emily Starr
You're Emily of New Moon. You're funny, and
independent, but often stubborn. You've wanted
to be a writer your whole life, and are very
talented and intelligent.

Read more about Emily Starr in L.M. Montgomery's

Which L.M. Montgomery Heroine are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Kat at 05:06 PM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2005

First love

You may have noticed that I hesitate to refer to this as a "knitting blog." And really, this isn't just because I write about things other than knitting. The truth is that in the world of knitting blogs, I've always felt like something of an imposter. And it's not because I've never actually finished a sweater. Okay, confession time: knitting really isn't my "thing," my one main hobby, my overriding passion. Now, this isn't to say that I don't love it. I really, really do. But - well, I guess it's as simple as this: by the time knitting came along, I was already taken. My first love came into my life early on, and knitting never really had a chance.

My mother tells me that after she brought me home from the hospital, the first place she took me "out" was the public library. And I was, basically, a goner from that point on. Now, I don't mean to imply that she planned it this way, or that said trip to the library necessarily cast a spell over me or something (although I wouldn't be surprised). No, she took me to the library because the fact that she was a first-time mom with a brand new baby didn't affect the more central issue: she needed to have something to read. The main thing (aside from work, household chores, etc.) that I can remember my parents doing when I was young is reading: my mother reading mysteries while cooking or folding laundry, my father ending the evening with the New Yorker, both of them reading to me constantly, incessantly. Given this environment and my own natural (genetic?) inclinations, is it any wonder that I started reading as soon as I could and haven't stopped since?

I don't remember learning to read; perhaps it is more accurate to say that I barely remember not being able to read. My parents never tried to teach me; they just read to me all the time and answered whenever I asked what a word or letter or sound was. They tell me that my teacher called them at the end of my first week of kindergarten. "Did you know that Katie can read?" Their response was something like "yeah, well, we sort of figured." They started early with their pattern of being laid back about academic stuff. This was probably good, as it soon became clear that I was uptight enough about it for all of us.

I was your classic bookworm as a child. I read when I was supposed to be cleaning my room or doing my homework. "Playing outside" often meant "reading outside." I was generally more interested in my books than my classmates; looking back, I realize that this probably showed and was undoubtedly part of the reason why I never felt I fit in. (Reading at recess is not necessarily the best way to make friends on the playground.) And even with the friends I did have - well, I never really felt I was part of the group, or perhaps even the same world, in a way. Books were generally more real to me than the things and events happening around me. And books were easier to understand than either the "real world" or the pop culture/TV stuff everyone else was talking about. (Still are, actually.) I've been spending way too much time recently trying to figure out whether I was different because I read so much or whether I read so much because I was different. It's probably a little of both.1

Looking back, it seems odd that, given the above, the idea of majoring in English in college never occurred to me until I was actually in college (and trying to be a physics major). Through middle school and most of high school, I was planning to be a professional musician; I gave up that plan because I realized that all those hours of practicing would cut into my reading time. You'd think that would have told me something, but it didn't. I considered majoring in math, history, philosophy, physics... but never literature. There were probably a few reasons for this. My mother, a doctor, tends to consider much of the humanities and social sciences to be "not real academic subjects." And I didn't tend to like English class that much in middle and high school: we had to read books a chapter at a time and take notes with stupid prescribed methods and try to discuss things with all these people who just didn't get it and, worse, didn't care. And then there was the writing aspect. I love to write, but... handing in papers with rough drafts and pre-writing? Sorry, my brain doesn't work that way.

So anyway. (Do I have a point here, other than the history of my life? I hope so. We'll get there.) My first semester of college, I was taking the classes that good little science majors are supposed to take - physics and calculus and stuff. And I also took an Intro to Poetry class because it sounded interesting and I wanted to round things out a bit. Well. Turns out, me and physics? Not so much. I still found (and find) the concepts fascinating, but Physics 100 was all about plugging numbers into equations, and half the time the professor didn't even really say what the equations were about. So I decided that I liked reading about physics more than actually doing physics. And that poetry class? Loved it. So the next semester I signed up for two literature classes2 and no physics classes (although I did take the second semester of calculus, just to hedge my bets). And, of course, I wound up majoring in literature. I probably shouldn't have been as surprised as I was.

By my senior year, though, I was feeling a bit burned out. Writing a thesis can do that, I guess. I started to feel like reading wasn't all that much fun anymore. I didn't stop reading - I don't think I could stop reading - but I didn't like it much either.3 I just did it, because that's what I did. And then, once I graduated, I realized that I could read whatever I wanted and was no longer in the middle of a bunch of precocious, self-absorbed adolescents who would make fun of me for reading Diane Mott Davidson or Nora Roberts. So I did. A lot. I half-consciously decided that I didn't like "hard" stuff and spent a few years reading mostly fluffy mysteries and romances. Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with mysteries or romances or any kind of book. It just wasn't a very good balance for me, personally.

And, really, it was much more about my thinking behind my choice of reading materials than it was about the books themselves. When I graduated from college, I was burned out, overwhelmed, scared, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.4 So I decided I had to be "normal." I started watching more TV and reading more "popular" stuff because I thought that, if I couldn't help but read constantly, I could at least read what normal people read. And, probably, a break after finishing the thesis and all was helpful. But I got stuck in that self-created literary cage and then forgot why I was there and then that it was even a cage in the first place. And this all meant that, basically, I forgot why I liked to read. I did it, I even enjoyed it, but the magic and mystery and meaning was all but forgotten.

(Warning: Here comes my point! I told you I'd get there!)

Now I think I'm starting to remember. Several factors (the break-up, boredom at work, living with someone passionate about books, working at the bookstore again) have combined in the past few months to remind me of why reading is so vitally important to me. And I'm loving it. And wanting to read all the time, which is hard with the two jobs and school and novel thing. Sometimes, honestly, I get a bit overwhelmed by all the wonderful books out there just begging to be read. (Working in a bookstore does not really help this.)

So I guess the reason I'm writing this is because I feel like I've sort of been giving reading short shrift recently, especially given all it's done for me. And I felt the need to correct the impression I'm afraid I give that knitting or whatever else is "more important" to me. Because if I ever had to choose to give up either reading or knitting for the rest of my life, well, I wouldn't really have to think about it. In one of her books5, Steph says something like "I knit so much that it has become a personality trait. Other people are kind or patient or friendly. I am knitting." And I am reading.

1 I don't think that all this reading was necessarily better for me, though, at least in terms of making me into a normal, well-adjusted person. I feel like there are lots of things I missed somehow (flirting? Make-up? Huh?), and I still haven't figured out where/when/why I missed them. But that's a post for another day.
2 Including "Agony in Stony Places." Yes, I really took a class called that. It never fails to amaze people. (Or at least people unfamiliar with my bizarre college. So all of you except Cate, go ahead and be amazed. And Cate gets a prize if she can guess who taught such a miserable-sounding class. ;-) )
3 This was also the time of the (related, I must think) decision that I hated academia and didn't want to go back ever, except maybe for a library degree, which was more "professional" than "academic," anyway. Um, right. Can I claim temporary insanity? Anyway, that's another post for another day.
4 Nota bene: "Move in with your ex-boyfriend" is very rarely a good solution to this sort of issue.
5 I promise I'll check the quote when I get home.

Posted by Kat at 02:36 PM | Comments (3)

November 27, 2005

Worth every penny

Up here in Red Sox land, I tend to get some weird looks and questions when I buy the New York Times on Sundays. Why am I not buying the local paper1 or, if I have to be snobbish about it, the Boston Globe2? I am clearly some sort of traitor. I get these questions from people behind me in line and even from the cashiers who are selling me the paper. (Hey, cashiers? Nota bene: saying "What could this paper have to make it worth $4.50?!?" is not necessarily the best way to, you know, sell more papers. Just saying.) I generally mumble something about the Book Review and the crossword puzzle and how yes, I know the other papers have crossword puzzles too, but if Will Shortz isn't involved, they really don't count, don't you see? But no, they invariably don't see, and they give up, and I give up, and they let me buy my paper. But it's sort of exhausting. And my actual reasons for buying it are a bit more varied:

1. The aforementioned Book Review and crossword are, actually, quite important to me. Something just feels wrong if I don't have them.
2. My father has purchased the Times every Sunday since... well, I don't know. Probably before I was born, anyway. Again, it just feels wrong not to have it around. And some sort of emotional connection/stability thing is involved, too.
3. There's always a chance that Amanda Hesser will have something in the food section. She is on the "Can I be her when I grow up?" list along with Sara Norton, Meg Cabot, and Stephanie.
4. Erica expects the Book Review when I'm done with it.
5. I really do like the other sections, at least most of them, even if I don't always get through them. I like having the option. Some weeks I read more of it than others, but, again, it just feels wrong if it's not there.
6. And, okay, I am a snob. I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but part of me likes being the sort of person who buys the Sunday Times. (More on this in the forthcoming post "The New Yorker Divide." I know you're waiting with bated breath.)

But now I have a much simpler way to explain it. As I was reading last week's Book Review this morning (um, yeah, I'm a bit behind), I came across the phrase, in reference to Greg Critser, "arguably the least bubbly reformer since Oliver Cromwell." That alone says it all. That's why it's worth my $4.50.

Also? Every single week the Book Review includes more books that sound interesting than I could possibly read in a month, never mind a week. But I keep writing down the titles, keep thinking I'll try...

1 Because I get the local paper delivered on Sundays, people, although really mostly for the grocery coupons. And I'm considering cancelling it, anyway. But shhh.
2 Don't they know the Globe is owned by the Times, anyway?

Posted by Kat at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

November 21, 2005

Things I Have Learned in the Past Few Days

1. Six Feet Under + Birch = up until almost two am. Yeah. Bad combination. By which I mean "extremely fun and wonderful." At least I didn't have to be up early the next morning.

2. When my apartment is 49 degrees, it is pretty difficult to get out of bed.

3. Knit.1 seems to have a gift for writing simple patterns in the Most Confusing Way Possible.

4. On Friday afternoon, my roommate had to go to a meeting that might have coincided with our free snacks here at work, so I was to grab a snack for him. I realized that I'd be more confident in ordering for him at a decent restaurant than I was picking out a candy bar for him. Does this make us snobs, or just adults? I'm not sure.

5. It is, in fact, possible to talk on the phone while rolling very hot cookies in powdered sugar. Just in case you were wondering.

6. Sometimes those "Oh yeah, this IS my real life" moments actually help. Yesterday I was trying to simultaneously bake cookies and write my novel, and feeling vaguely annoyed at the situation. And then I realized that, if all goes according to plan, I will be writing novels while baking cookies for the rest of my life. (Well, eventually it would be nice if I didn't also have two jobs and school to keep up with while writing novels and baking cookies, and then maybe I could have enough time to give the writing a break and concentrate on baking for a few hours. But really, no guarantees.) And, somehow, once I realized that this was it, the writing got much easier.

7. A radio station that replaces its DJs with recorded messages about how they no longer have DJs to talk too much is, in fact, more annoying than the stations that actually do have DJs that talk too much.

8. I want to be Meg Cabot when I grow up.

Posted by Kat at 01:41 PM

November 01, 2005

October Reads

Well, last month I hoped for a longer list of completed books this month. It is longer: I've gone from three to five. I'm still not really satisfied, though1. I want to be finishing a book every few days. I like myself better when I'm reading a lot. But that just isn't working out recently, for whatever reason. (Busyness, lack of focus, general sadness and ennui... take your pick.) And, again, I have lots of books I've read some of this month but not finished. I suppose I will, once again, pin my hopes on next month. Because, you know, with two jobs and school and NaNoWriMo and holiday knitting, I clearly have tons of time on my hands.

Well. Without further ado, here are the books I finished in October:

(Explanation of the ratings)

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner
Genre: Drama
Rating: 4.5
Comments: I read this shortly after watching the mini-series2. Both were extremely well done and affecting, but I wish I'd read the plays first so as to avoid the "can only picture characters as those actors" syndrome. Anyway, the subtitle is "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," which I suppose is as good a six-word description as any, although I'd like to emphasize that this title is not of interest to only gay audiences. It's set in the eighties and deals with interesting issues involving religion, sexuality, AIDS, marriage, family, modern American life, and more, and is both intellectually interesting and emotionally wrenching. Not to be missed.

Rag and Bone by Michael Nava
Rating: 4.5
Genre: Mystery
Comments: This is the seventh and last book in Nava's Henry Rios mystery series, but I read it first because it was the only one at the library. After a heart attack, lawyer/detective Henry makes some changes in his life, including mending his estranged relationship with his sister and beginning a new romantic relationship (which he had not expected to happen again after his partner died of AIDS). He discovers a niece and grandnephew he never knew and soon becomes involved in unraveling the secrets of their life, including defending his niece when she is accused of killing her husband. Henry is extremely appealing in a complicated, tortured sort of way, there are several compelling secondary characters, and the mystery plot itself, while slightly predictable at times, keeps the pages turning. The writing is beautiful and I love Henry's love of poetry. I couldn't put it down; Nava is now the newest addition to my "favorite authors" list.

Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg
Genre: Women's fiction
Rating: 2
Read my review here.

The Little Death by Michael Nava
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4
Comments: The first in the Henry Rios series3. Not quite as amazing as Rag and Bone, but very very good. The mystery includes family secrets, legal drama, doomed romance, and all that fun stuff. Henry evolves over the course of the series in a way that many characters do not, so it was interesting to go from the last to the first. Now I'm working my way back in chronological order.

Goldenboy by Michael Nava
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4
Comments: You guessed it! The second in the Henry Rios series. The murder in this one involves troubled teenagers and messed-up Hollywood types. Perhaps more importantly, though, the subplot is one of the best bittersweet romances I've read in quite a while. Again, I highly recommend the whole series.

1 I know! Aren't you shocked?
2 The mini-series includes both parts one and two of the play(s). I'm planning to read part two but just haven't gotten there yet.
3 Yes, I said the library only had the last one, but I was hooked, and my roommate, who recommended these in the first place, wanted to own them anyway, so he's been buying used copies that I've been reading.

Posted by Kat at 02:49 PM

Libby and samurai and bears, oh my!

Hey, who knew? Everyone's favorite chief of staff is also a novelist! (That article is worth a read1 just for the phrase "the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel." Really.)

1 But it's not exactly G-rated material. Just to warn you.

Posted by Kat at 01:27 PM

October 30, 2005

Random Sunday

Because randomness can happen any day of the week, right?

1. Something strikes me a bit wrong about Weight Watchers sponsoring a figure skating event. Let's see, how many ways can they find to screw up American women's body image all at once? It's multi-tasking!
2. That said, boy, are there some pretty boys in skating. I've decided that Evan Lysacek is my new favorite. (And when I was finding his Web site, I realized how young he is. Eek.) But no, I like him for reasons other than his looks... he's one of the few skaters I've seen recently who really seems like he is a) paying attention to his music and b) having fun. Whee. Can't wait for the Olympics!
3. You know the "shoemakers' wives go barefoot, and doctors' wives die young" proverb? (No? Well, honestly, I only know of it through Anne's House of Dreams, but I figure Gilbert is a decent authority for this sort of thing.) In any case, it seems that a little-known corollary, at least in this house, is that knitters get hypothermia. At college, I was known for always walking around knitting things in the dead of winter but never actually wearing any of the hats or scarves or anything I made. Apparently the habit has stuck with me; when the cold weather hit last week, I couldn't find a single hat or scarf or mitten. All I found were my leather driving gloves. So. This must be remedied, especially as my roommate and I are playing the "heat game"; I seem to feel that if I can knit us enough warm stuff, we can keep the heat off indefinitely. His fingerless mitts will be done tonight and then I'll start on a hat for myself. Pictures soon.
4. I tried to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich and failed rather spectacularly. A freaking grilled cheese sandwich. Since I am, in general, considered to be a darned decent cook, I have logically concluded that the cause of my sudden culinary failure is the fact that I seem to be considering an advanced degree1 and maybe even a career in academia. (Yeah, I was surprised too.) The fates are reminding me that no, in fact, I can't have it all! Didn't they notice how I kindly conformed to traditional gender roles and let my roommate take out the trash the other day? (He said he needed to assert his manliness somehow.)
5. Have you read Michael Nava? No? What are you waiting for? I started with the last of the series, Rag and Bone, and absolutely loved it; I'm now tearing through the series from the beginning. Fascinating main character, insteresting mysteries, bittersweet romance. What more could you want?
6. Thanks to everyone who answered my questions (especially Cate, who has gone above and beyond) and expressed their support for my novel. I can start writing in 27 hours and 24 minutes! Not that I'm counting...

1 In this context, an "advanced degree" means a Ph.D. in something more strictly academic; I am currently in an MLS program but I see that more as professional training. (And really, it's about the most ladylike degree you can get, so the fates aren't interfering. They realize that spinsters need a way to support themselves. Isn't that why libraries were invented, anyway?)

Posted by Kat at 08:37 PM

October 19, 2005

Review: Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Elizabeth Berg's Until the Real Thing Comes Along was a quick read, decently written, that dealt with interesting topics. I hated it. The problem? The main character. I couldn't stand her. Patty has two main aspects of her worldview: she wants a husband and children. And she is in love with her best friend Ethan, who is gay, and refuses to see this (her love, not his sexuality*) as anything she has any control over or could possibly change. And - here's the kicker - she refuses to acknowledge that these two basic tenets of her life do not exactly work together well. Therefore, her solution is to have a child with Ethan (who also does want a child, but not, obviously, a wife). She browbeats him into sleeping with her and gets pregnant on the first try (and, of course, is disappointed; she wanted an excuse to sleep with him regularly). Patty then is amazed that the rest of her domestic fantasies don't exactly spring into life. (I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll stop the plot summary there.)

Ethan's motivations are a bit suspect too, of course: he knows Patty is in love with him and yet agrees to a "partnership of convenience" anyway. I got over my annoyance with him, though, because he actually provides a decent explanation for his thoughts and actions. Patty, on the other hand, constantly explains everything, but just does not get it. She claims to be Ethan's closest friend, to know everything about him, and yet she remains basically in denial of his homosexuality. She seems to see it as basically random and totally unconnected to the rest of him (or, as she might think, the real him). She thinks there's a sexuality switch that could be toggled on or off without affecting the person as a whole at all.

This probably bugs me more than it might other readers because it's another example of an issue that has been bothering me anyway. Let's back up a bit. My roommate is also a coworker and good friend. We have a lot in common, are rather frighteningly similar in some ways, and get along very well. I mean, really: we live together and work together and therefore spend probably about 75% of our lives within twelve feet of each other, and haven't tried to kill each other yet. So it's pretty much accepted fact that we get along oddly well, and this periodically comes up in conversation with other friends or family. The great majority of the time, the seemingly automatic response is "Oh, too bad he's gay. You'd be perfect for each other."

Umm, no. There is something very flawed about that reasoning. Actually, I have several issues with it. For example, I don't think it's a given that we'd be perfect for each other in the first place - sexual orientation aside, what I'm looking for in a roommate or friend is not the same as what I'd be looking for in a boyfriend**, although there would certainly be some overlap in criteria. I also don't like the implication that romantic relationships are somehow intrinsically preferable to friendships, but that's another issue. Anyway. The issue I have with it in relation to the book is the idea that sexuality is totally distinct from basic identity. I have trouble with the premise that if my friend or Ethan in the book (see, I told you I'd get back to the book) had happened to have been born heterosexual, they would in all other aspects be the same person.

Actually, "I have trouble with it" is too mild; I think it's preposterous. It seems the difference in experience, if nothing else, would be far too great. For just one example, think of a long-running crush you had in middle or high school. Think of the ways that person affected your tastes, activities, etc. Think of how all those little decisions built up to make you into the person you are. Then extrapolate to all your other crushes, relationships, actors you found attractive, etc. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. But apparently Patty can't. And that's just talking about particular experiences, and not even really getting into the larger issue of identity, which is one I don't feel prepared to tackle.

So. What I am trying to say is that, while Patty claims to know Ethan completely, her belief that he would - could - be the exact same person she loves and be "not really gay" or suddenly magically become heterosexual shows that she doesn't really know him that well at all. Patty wants a fantasy, not "the real thing" after all.

* Perhaps this is actually a good summary of her problem. She believes that his sexuality is something she can change, while her feelings are not, instead of vice versa. (Not that I'm saying it's easy to change one's feelings or anything, of course. But anyone who has ever gone through a breakup and later fallen in love with someone else has done it. Or so I hear.)

**Not that I'm looking.

Posted by Kat at 08:51 AM | Comments (1)

October 18, 2005

Books and knitting and cake, oh my!

So who's going to Willow Books tonight for the book launch party? I'll be watching for Kristen... anyone else? I'll be the short girl with long brown hair wearing a burgundy velour dress (um, it's not as fancy as it sounds, really) and kitty shoes. Perhaps a better distinguishing characteristic for this particular event is that I'll be with my roommate, who will most likely be one of the relatively few men there. Tallish, dark blond hair and beard, burgundy sweater. (No, we didn't plan the matching color thing.) If you see us, say hi! And leave a comment so I know to look for you.

Posted by Kat at 10:15 AM | Comments (2)

October 09, 2005

Back to work.

Today I started working again at the bookstore where I worked from 2002-2004. I was there full time for about a year and a half, then part time for a while after I got my current full time job. I quit about a year ago, for various reasons, but I've regretted it ever since. So I finally reapplied, and today was my first day.

Yes, this is in addition to school and my full time job. Yes, I will be busy. But it think it will be worth it. Being back today just felt so right. I missed the books, the co-workers, even the chance to work with the public. When I was back there today with my name tag on, I felt like I was home.

... and hey, the discount doesn't exactly hurt either.

Posted by Kat at 11:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2005

September Reads

Only finished three books this month - oh well. There are a bunch I'm in the middle of, so hopefully October's list will be bigger. Three is better than the zero for August, at least.

(Explanation of the ratings)

Patterns in Silicon (A Lea Sherwood Mystery) by Maureen Robb
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
Read my review here.

Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Knitting
Rating: 5
Comments: What can I say? Stephanie makes knitting more hilarious than you ever thought possible. Her books are just as wonderful as her extremely popular blog. And she's just as great in person, too. Non-knitters might not "get it," but if you knit and have not read Stephanie yet, what are you waiting for? Go. Now.

Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate
Genre: Women's fiction, inspirational fiction
Rating: 4
Comments: A friend has been recommending this for years, and I'm glad I finally read it. It's a gentle, charming story about family, faith, and what's truly important in life.

This is mostly to remind myself, but how would you like a list of books I'm in the middle of and plan to finish this month? Yeah, I knew you would.
Anne of Green Gables (reread), The Cider House Rules, Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories, Moby-Dick: or, The Whale, Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons, and Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Um, yeah, that's seeming like kind of a lot. Wish me luck.

Posted by Kat at 07:45 PM | Comments (2)

Book Ratings

Starting today, at the beginning of each month I will be posting a list of the books I read in the previous month, with some comments and ratings. I'm writing up this key so I can link it each time instead of rewriting it.


5: Loved it. A favorite.

4: Liked it. Very good; would recommend it.

3: It was okay. Generally either:
a. An enjoyable read, but nothing memorable or
b. Good except for one or two elements that brought it down.

2: Didn't like it. Badly done or just not my thing.

1: Hated it.

Posted by Kat at 07:03 PM

September 09, 2005

Library Thing

Look! An easy way to catalog and share your personal library! I am ridiculously excited about this, really. And, um, only slightly competitive... the current biggest library has 859 books. I have more than that. Easily. Now to just load them all in...

Posted by Kat at 04:54 PM | Comments (3)

September 05, 2005

Anne Day

Autumn is my favorite season (I think), and I always like to kick it off with Anne Day. Each year, on the first day that the weather feels autumnal, I get out my battered old copy of Anne of Green Gables and start to read. I'm not sure why, but autumn is clearly the right time for the Anne books. Hopefully by the end of the month I will have reread the whole series.

I started this year's Anne reading this afternoon over a pumpkin spice latte. Mmmm... how could you get any more autumnal?

Posted by Kat at 07:23 PM

September 02, 2005

Review: Patterns in Silicon

So, as we discussed yesterday, I've been in a reading rut. Today I decided that this was simply unacceptable. For one thing, I have this book around that I've been reading off and on for months. The author very kindly sent it to me, and I promised to review it on the blog. I'm sure she's given up on me by now. So anyway, I got home today and decided this had to stop. So I took myself firmly in hand, and said, "Self, you do not need to turn on the computer within 15 minutes of walking in the door. Remember reading? You like reading. You're going to sit down and finish that book." So I made myself a nice Mochaberry (that's a cafe mocha with raspberry syrup, for those of you who don't think in Borders cafe menu terms) and sat down at six to read with about 180 pages left. I was done by 7:30, and now I have officially finished a book for September. (Oh yeah. I'm going to start posting them at the end of the month like Rachel does. Accountability, and all.) So. Anyway. The review. Right.

Patterns in Silicon is a debut mystery from Maureen Robb. It features a San Francisco chef and new restaurant owner, Lea Sherwood, who becomes embroiled (hah! sorry) in a murder investigation when an ex-boyfriend drops dead in her restaurant. The mystery is decently plotted, and Robb does a great job of portraying San Francisco. (Although I haven't been there since I was a child, so I perhaps shouldn't say that. But I found it convincing, at least.) I especially liked her portrayal of Lea's restaurant and the food world in general - it made me hungry! Her depiction of the tech industry also seemed credible. The supporting cast was great as well, especially members of Lea's staff.

I do have a few quibbles with the book, though. The first is with the characterization of Lea, the main character. To me, she read as someone much older than her 33 years. I kept having to remind myself that she wasn't in her late forties or fifties. She finds Gen Xers to be a distant, foreign breed, but it seems that that should be her own generation. Also, there was some sloppy editing ("here, here!" One of my pet peeves.) and I couldn't figure out why Lea had such unrestricted access to her boyfriend's offices, phones, coworkers, etc.

Overall, though, this was a fun read, and I look forward to more adventures of Lea Sherwood!

Posted by Kat at 09:04 PM

September 01, 2005

Literary ennui

I realized today that I can't remember the last book I actually finished. I think it was sometime in July. This is very unlike me. I've been picking up and putting down various books, losing interest in most of them. I clearly need help. Any recommendations, anyone?

Posted by Kat at 09:42 PM | Comments (3)

August 02, 2005

I like books, thanks very much.

Have you seen the new Apple ad campaign? Apparently their notebook computers are "The only books you'll need." What are they thinking? Ugh. This sort of thing makes me so angry.

The promised NYC/birthday update has been postponed due to car problems and thus not-being-home problems. Soon. I promise.

Posted by Kat at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)

July 16, 2005

Well, I got it...

Just got home with my copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I painted faces for two and a half hours, then waited around for half an hour, got in line a little after midnight (I was in the second batch called to the line), and left the store by 12:15. Not bad at all.

We are off to SolarFest in the morning. See you Sunday!

Posted by Kat at 01:21 AM

July 01, 2005

Review: Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

First of all, let's get this out of the way: I am a Jane Austen fan. If you don't like Jane Austen, you probably won't like this book. That said, I am not a Jane Austen fanatic. I don't much mind when interpretations stray a bit from the canon. (I don't even mind Keira Knightley as Elizabeth. In fact, I'm rather looking forward to it.) If you are an Austen purist, you probably won't like this much either.

Now that we've established where I stand on such important issues, I can get to the point: Pride and Prescience is easily one of the best Austen pastiches I've read. The best thing was the characterization: it seemed to be spot on, especially that of Darcy. It provides a nice look at Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship in their first few weeks of marriage, but there's nothing graphic that throws the reader out of the Austenlike tone. (There is one point when Darcy asks Elizabeth to leave her hair unbound as she's getting ready for bed, and oh. My. Goodness. Be still, my heart.)

The mystery itself was decent. Not great, as "serious" mysteries go, but certainly not the worst I've read. The one slight problem I had with the book was the paranormal aspect. It was well done, but... I think it just surprised me. I kept thinking there was going to be some "explanation" of the paranormal events, but there wasn't. I mean, the mystery was solved, but there wasn't any "oh, it just seemed like magic because of such-and-such." So if you don't like paranormal mysteries (perhaps in the tradition of the Gothic novels Austen's characters read), you might not like this book. With that caveat, though, I'd definitely recommend it to Austen or Regency fans who like a good sense of humor and some playfulness of plot.

Posted by Kat at 03:24 PM

May 15, 2005

Review: That Summer (Sarah Dessen)

I have read and loved a few of Dessen's more recent novels, especially This Lullaby and Keeping the Moon, so I was delighted to come across a copy of her debut, That Summer.

I have to admit that the writing was somewhat rough and cliched at times--it was clearly a first novel. And it did follow a lot of the conventions of young adult coming-of-age novels, making it somewhat predictable. But Dessen's unique voice and compelling characters are as real as ever.

The main character, Haven, has the weird name that seems to be a requirement of YA heroines, but instead of the usual mousy ugly duckling about to become swan looks, she's six feet tall. The book revolves around two weddings: Haven's sports reporter father to the weathergirl he ran off with, and her older sister to a young man Haven finds deplorably dull. Haven's mom is changing too, putting her life together after her divorce, and Haven feels like there's no place for her in her rapidly evolving family. Add her awful summer job, drama-ridden best friend (who, unfortunately, never becomes a three-dimensional character), and the whirlwhind of activity surrounding her sister's wedding, and Haven's got more than enough on her plate.

Enter Sumner. One in a long line of Haven's sister's ex-boyfriends, Sumner is the one that Haven remembers as being special. Haven's best memory is an idealized version of the summer vacation that Sumner took with her family several years before. Now, in this difficult summer, he reappears as though to save her and put her family back together again.

Impressively, though, Dessen doesn't have Haven get romantically involved with Sumner. (There aren't enough YA novels in which the heroine doesn't get a boyfriend as a matter of course along with her personal transformation.) Indeed, Haven learns that Sumner, and everyone else around her, are more complicated than they seem to be. And, really, so is this book--it goes past the light beach reading implied by the title to create a memorable main character and worthwhile, if not wholly unexpected, commentary on family, beauty, love, and more.

Posted by Kat at 10:43 PM

April 22, 2005

If you're anywhere near Swindon,

then I am very jealous of your opportunity to attend this.

Posted by Kat at 08:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

I can live with that.

Anne Elliot
You are Anne Elliott from Persuasion. You
might also be Harriet Smith from Emma,
or Fanny Price from Mansfield Park or
possibly even Jane Fairfax from Emma.
People underestimate you all the time. You are
somewhat introverted, so it is assumed that
other people can persuade you to do anything,
or even think that they can roll right over
you, even when they mean to be doing you a good
deed. The good news is, you have it within
yourself to stand up and take charge-- you know
what's right, and you know what you want, after
all! It's just a matter of speaking up!

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Posted by Kat at 10:27 AM

January 22, 2005

I am so ready for this.

As you may have heard, we're in the midst of a nice big snowstorm here in New Hampshire. And I am so set.

I have flashlights and candles. I have plenty of supplies for tea and cocoa. I have everything I need to bake whole wheat bread and make vegetable soup tomorrow. (And, yes, I have plenty of housework if I'm so inclined.) I have a new computer game. I have several books--well, no, I have several hundred books--but I have several books I'm particularly excited to read. I have plenty of movies to watch and a good dozen knitting projects I really want to finish soon.

And if all that weren't enough... I have five brand new knitting books. Count 'em, five. I joined Crafter's Choice and got my first shipment today. Here's the haul:

Knitting on the Edge by Nicky Epstein
The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd
Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts
Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson
The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie M. Wiseman

I think I'll be able to keep busy for a few days, don't you?

Posted by Kat at 09:21 PM | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Drop-everything reads

This has been a thread on one of my book discussion lists, and I thought I'd make a little list of books I'd drop everything to read. In fact, my current drop-everything read is The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters. It's the newest Amelia Peabody mystery--it hasn't even been released yet, but I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy. I have indeed dropped all my other reading, but my reading time seems very limited recently... I may well end up reading all day Sunday.

Books I plan to drop everything to read in the future:

The Headmaster's Wife by Jane Haddam
It's forthcoming in my favorite mystery series. I've preordered it.

At Knit's End by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
This one is preordered too. It's by Yarn Harlot. What more needs to be said?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Now that I think about it, I've preordered this too. I'll probably go to the midnight party thing at the bookstore. July 16 is a Saturday, so I'm sure I'll read the whole thing that weekend, if only to finish it before I hear spoilers all over the place.

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King
Another favorite series. I'm not sure whether I'll buy it right away or wait until it comes to the library, but as soon as I get my hands on it, I'll drop everything else.

Wait Until Midnight by Amanda Quick
My guilty pleasure. And this one is being released soon! But it looks like it's going straight to paperback--odd. Her recent novels have all been in hardcover first. Again, I'll probably wait for the library on this one, but once I have it I'll drop everything. :-)

The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle
I've probably read a fair amount of them before, but I'll drop everything and read them again, I promise.

Posted by Kat at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2005

The next Thursday Next

I need someone to appreciate how great this is with me: I found nice hardcover copies of the first two Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde for $5 each on a clearance table! So exciting! I've read the first, The Eyre Affair, and liked it immensely. It's like a combination of Douglas Adamas and the Brontes, and it actually works. I also got the second in the series, Lost in a Good Book, and it might have to jump to the top of my To Be Read pile. (Pile? Bookshelf. Okay, bookcase. Whatever.) These books have it all--mystery, romance, obscure literary trivia, and plenty of humor. Go read them!

Posted by Kat at 11:06 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2005

So excited I can hardly breathe.

So someone on an e-mail list asked a question about the book Knitting Counterpanes, and I went to Amazon to make sure I was thinking of the right book. And there it was--for $37.20. I couldn't believe it. I've been looking for this book for a few years now, and I've only ever seen it for $100 or so. But now there was a copy for $37.20. I bought it, of course. I am so very excited. There are counterpanes in my future.

While I was there, I looked at At Knit's End. It's 320 pages long! 320 pages of Harlotty goodness! Oh, I just cannot get over it. The excitement, the excitement. Must take some deep breaths here.

Posted by Kat at 04:49 PM

January 05, 2005

What is it about library books?

My apartment is full of books. There are . . . oh, I don't even know. Thousands, I'm sure. I have three big six-foot bookcases that are all stuffed, and various other stacks of books around. Most of them I have not yet read. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, that I own and want to read. There are dozens that I am currently excited about reading.

Last night I went to the library and checked out three books.

It's an addiction, I tell you. (As addictions go, of course, it could be much worse.) There is just something about library books. They have some mystical quality that books I own just don't have. I was pretty proud of myself for getting out of there with just three, actually. They were all hardcovers and fairly heavy, and I didn't have a bag with me, so that was about all I could carry comfortably. There's even a chance that I'll be able to read them all before they're due, I suppose, but I doubt it. Online renewal is my friend.

I guess it's a good thing that I'm going to be a librarian. I'll be able to work and feed my addiction at the same time. There will have to be rules, though. When I've worked in libraries before, I've ended up with dozens of books checked out, and just no time to read them. I'm trying to convince myself that it will be even more fun if I actually read the books. We'll see. I must admit I have my doubts. And now I have some reading to do.

Posted by Kat at 10:18 PM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2005

2005 Goals Part Two: Reading

You didn't think I'd stop at just knitting, did you?

1. Keep track of what I read. Yes, keeping track is a theme this year. Actually, though, I used to do this quite faithfully, but stopped for some reason, and I really want to start again.

2. Read fewer books at a time. I have been known to have two towering stacks of "in progress" books on my bedside table, and, well, the stacks have been known to topple over, causing all sorts of mayhem. I'm not going to say I'll read one book at a time, because that's just setting myself up for failure. But I'll try to keep it down to one reasonably-sized stack.

3. Read more classics. I was a lit major. I like classics. I really do. I just don't read them very often, because somehow they are "more work" in my head. I must get into the habit.

More specifically . . .

4. Finally read War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, Moby Dick, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Scarlet Letter. Those are some classics I've particularly been wanting to read, for various reasons. There are six in that list, which averages to one every two months; that shouldn't be at all hard to fit in and still have plenty of time for other stuff.

5. Read more poetry and drama. Again, I like them. It just doesn't often occur to me to read them.

6. Read at least one book in a language other than English. My language skills are getting rusty and I really don't want that.

7. Put at least one book review a week up here on the blog. You all want to know what I think about what I'm reading, right? Sure you do. It'll be fun. You'll see.

Posted by Kat at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

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