Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Six Geese A-Slaying, by Donna Andrews

The latest Meg Lanslow mystery by Donna Andrews. I enjoy these hugely. There it is- I am a huge fan.

In this one, Meg has been drafted/coerced into heading the annual Caerphilly Christmas Parade, and, of course, chaos ensues. With more than the usual wacky crew of animals (including of course, the small evil one Spike and First Llama Ernest), floats paying homage to every line in the darned song are filled with costumed geese, swans, pipers, drummers, and so on.

A fun read, and what more can you ask for? Well, I guess at times, one wants something else, but when you want a fun and comfortable read, well, these are like the favorite fuzzy pants you pull on when it's snowing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Stop in the Name of Pants, by Louise Rennison

The most recent Georgia Nicolson.

Still babbling constantly about boys and lipgloss, but this one was somewhat better than the last.

Angus the cat is lovely.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

High Society


Wonderful every time. Laugh out loud funny, great singing, great romance, and oh wasn't Grace Kelly stunning.
Nice to see Newport looking so good too!
I wish I could have seen it then, and from that point of view!

Death of a Cozy Writer, by G.M. Malliet

Pretty fantastic kind of tribute-to-the-classics English country house mystery.

One large, ancient English estate, 5 heirs, one surly writer, and murder let rip.

Fantastic stuff- Christie like twists and such, and at the end, it all really did make sense, which is always such a relief.

Not the kind of psychological portraits that Ruth Rendell or even Martha Grimes get up to, and certainly not the humor of Joan Hess or M.C. Beaton, but an almost straight-up drawing room mystery, which I think in some ways is my favorite kind.

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

This was short, but not sweet. At least not saccharine- it was, in many ways, hopeful. Also strange, and kind of wonderful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

This was fascinating, but depressing as hell. Weisman imagines a world without humans, and goes into how long it would take for our structures to fail, for nature to regenerate, and what would be left in geologic time to show we were ever here.

Some parts were heart-wrenching and made me long to visit some of the places he discussed- the ancient forest on the Polish/Belorussian border known as the Belaveskaya Pushcha sounded especially amazing. Well, it all sounded amazing, but that bit really took my mind. It's the last untouched bit of primeval forest in Europe.

The numbers and consequences started to boggle after a bit- the endless damage, which seems almost irreparable, unless you look at it in terms of geologic time, where we become mere blips. Towards the end I was crying.
A beautiful, thoughtful, but thoroughly and seriously sad book.

The Nanny Diaries


Scarlett Johanssen is so lovely to look at but this was a pretty terrible movie. The book was much better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hamish Macbeth, Series One

TV series based on M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series of mysteries set in the small Scottish Highlands town of Lochdubh. I saw it on DVD, so I'm counting it as a movie.

It was weird, but pretty good, and god, the scenery is splendid.

Revelations, by Melissa de la Cruz

This is the 3rd in the Blue Bloods rich New York teen vampire series.

I really liked the first two, but this just didn't do it for me so much. Schuyler's plot line just isn't working for me so much and as for Bliss... well, I know it's fantasy, but I just had a hard time suspending disbelief.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Consumed : how markets corrupt children, infantilize adults, and swallow citizens whole, by Benjamin Barber

This was fantastic. I read it a while ago, and it never made it onto the list, but there was one set of dualities, outlining the differences between childhood and adulthood that I loved, and wanted to save for myself.

Child / Adult
Impulse over Deliberation
Feeling over Reason
Certainty over Uncertainty
Dogmatism over DoubtPlay over Work
Pictures over Words
Images over Ideas
Pleasure over Happiness
Instant Gratification over Long-term Satisfaction
Egoism over Altruism
Private over Public
Narcissism over Sociability
Entitlement over Obligation
The Timeless Present over Temporality
The Near over the Remote
Instantaneous over Enduring
Physical Sexuality over Erotic Love
Individualism over Community
Ignorance over Knowledge

so well said.

Violet by Design, by Melissa Walker

The second Violet book was as good as the first. I love the way Melissa Walker makes Violet such a believable, relatable chaeacter without resorting to cliches- like the perennially leggy clumsy creatures who stumble and prat-fall their way through everything from The Princess Diaries to Twilight.

Violet doesn't need to fall over to make her likeable- she already is. That adds a lot of weight to a teen series about the challenges of being a 19 year old model on the verge of becoming huge in the field.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Love is a Many Trousered Thing, by Louise Rennison

The 8th in the really cute Georgia Nicolson series has Georgia trying to decide whether she likes Robbie the Sex God or Masimo the LurveGod, but finding out that after all, maybe it's Dave the Laugh who she's most comfortable with. I think once you're up to book 8 in just about anything (except maybe the Wheel of Time or something) you mightas well keep going, so I'll have a go at Stop In The Name of Pants! but to be honest, the gloss is wearing off. I wish Georgia would find something else to think about.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

History Mystery And Lore of Rhode Island, by Kelly Sullivan Pezza

Lots of quick breezy bits in here. Some new to me- I did not know about Hell's Half-Acre, an intersection in West Greenwich where Widow Sweet's Road and Congdon Hill Road meet, where in the 1880s prostitutes were so common as to cause consternation.

Some neat bits about the Kingston jail, too.

Ghost and Vampire Legends of Rhode Island

Well, I couldn't find an image of the dvd cover (which is very plain, anyway) so the pic was actually used in the movie- many photos by Cyril Place are in the dvd. This one is of Sarah Tillinghast's family graveyard.

The dvd covered Newport, the Palatine, and of course, the vampires. Christopher Rondina, the author of "Vampire Legends of Rhode Island" was in the movie, as were some spookily bad actors.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ghosts Along the Road - An Offbeat Look Off the Beaten Path in a Special Part of Rhode Island and Connecticut, by Rona Mann

Quick quirky read. Very very quick- in a twist I have never seen before, the author left a whole bunch of blank pages at the end for the reader to "write their own chapter" which is either charming, or extra lazy! lol

Some fun bits, and it's just not that often that you get to read a book that even tries to talk at length about Perryville, Usquepaugh or Shannock.

The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner

This was very cool.
Eric Weiner travels to places that rank highest (Bhutan, the Netherlands) and lowest (Moldova, Qatar) and tries to figure out what makes them so. Swiss contentment, British stiff-upper lips, Thai laissez-faire sexual mores are all (in varied degrees) sampled, and he's a good writer. This was a good read.
I'm seeing it on a lot of best-of-the-year lists, but I'm not sure it's going to make mine, but it really was good.

She's Not There, by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

Pretty dark murder mystery set on Block Island. Very good descriptions of Block Island, but bleh, kind of horrible story.

Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott

Pretty miserable YA book. Trauma porn- I am just so sick of all this nonsense. Blah blah misery blah.

Teaser, by Jan Brogan

3rd Hallie Ahern Providence-based mystery, this time focusing on internet chat and amateur porn and silly teenagers. The series is really good, I think- Hallie is a great protagonist, but I am slightly weary of Matt Cavanaugh the love interest. He's not as well developed a character as she is.

Still, a very satisfying read.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Fortune and Really Bad Weather, by Jincy Willet

I loved this- funny, cruel, and dead-on. And Rhode Island is as much of a character as librarian Dorcas or her blowsy twin Abigail.

"Rhode Island natives, including those born overseas, are under ordinary circumstances so shy and mistrustful around people they don't know as to seem almost deranged. They never look a stranger in the eye, or if they do, they unfocus their own eyes. I don't mean a stranger you pass in the street, I mean a stranger who's lived next door to you for twenty-fine years, or a stranger you ask directions from or hand his dropped wallet to or knock down with your car.

This probably has something to do with the tradition of overcrowding, of living cheek by jowl for two hundred years. Whatever the cause, we have no stage presence at all, no Southern theatrics, Midwestern irony, Western hyperbole, New York cynicism. We don't even have the famous and overrated Maine understatement. We have instead an Unfortunate Manner.

We literally don't know how to act. We have no roles to play. We are the nakedest of Americans..."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
Despite a really annoying reader, this was a really interesting book (audiobook?).
I'm definitely going to join a CSA come spring.
The link between soy and estrogen was pretty scary.
Lots of common sense, but also some really thought provoking nuggets.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yesterday's Fatal, by Jan Brogan

The 2nd Hallie Ahern mystery. This was also set in the seedy underbelly of RI- insurance fraud, body shops, South Side of Providence.
These are pretty good though- Hallie is a really solid character. I do kind of miss the South County bits, but that's, well, yeah.
Still looking forward to the next two, but it'll take a bit.

Cat Among the Pigeons, by Agatha Christie

Bath book, re-read.

Oh, Agatha Christie, you are so good. I've read it before, and knew 'who done it' but still enjoyed it again, and how many mysteries can you say that about? Love the school setting- reminds me of Mallory Towers from Enid Blyton. Love Julia Upjohn. Love Poirot.

I am just filled with love about it all, aren't I?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

War Inc.

Uneven but kind of entertaining movie. Hillary Duff was kind of great, but overall the meh reigned.

The Ex-Debutante, by Linda Francis Lee

Flufy fluffy fluff.

Texas flavored fluff.

Pretty bad, actually. At least it was fast.

A Confidential Source, by Jan Brogan

Very well done Rhode Island based mystery! Hallie Ahern is a reporter who left her high-profile job in Boston to work at the South County Bureau of the local Rhode Island newspaper (wonder which one? lol). She lives in Providence, though, and that's where most of the action takes place. Casino gambling, trips to Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, a charismatic mayor, lots of scratch tickets, and 2 great showdown scenes during Waterfire!

Great fun, and a pretty good mystery to boot! Will read the next ASAP. I think there's 3 in the series now.

Freakonomics, by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt

Of course this is amazing. I listened to it, actually, but do own the book and had read most of it before.

From the legalized abortion cuts down the crime rate argument to the discussion of names given to children, they take on somr very touchy topics, but manage to keep it all so focused and clear.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Haunting on Devil's Den Road, by Karen Chilton

Pretty fantastic children's/YA book! I'd say this is pretty firmly targeted to tweens, but it was really actually very good, and not just because of the Rhody-local stuff!

That said, it was great fun to read such a South County book- from the tow trucks from 'north of the towers' to the realtor called Lila, I loved all that.

Paige Parker is 13 (almost 14) when she and her mother, a professor who teaches about architectural history, move into the Hazard house, in Heather Hollow (Exeter crossed with Hope Valley, I think). They are both reeling from her father's death, and her mother thought that moving from Providence and their memories there, and taking on the project of restoring the Hazard house would bring them a new start.

Paige is reluctant about the move to start with, and her best friend Amanda adds to her unease by telling Paige about Mercy Brown, the local 'vampire'. As soon as Paige and her mother move in, strange things start happening, and well, I won't say more.

It was really good, though, and had a pretty cool intellectual and feminist flavor. I'll definitely be looking forward to book 2.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany , by Mark Greenside

Oh, zut alors. This tapped into my every daydream.

Writer Mark Greenside plans to go to Finistere, Brittany, France for 8 weeks with his then girlfriend, another writer. Over the course of those 8 weeks, he and she break up, but he falls in love with France. He ends up buying an 18th stone cottage, and living there, and it sounds like paradise.

Oh, the food, the langoustines, the baguettes, the moules, the sausages.

The descriptions of how the tides run and the little villages where there's a cafe, a tabac, the weekend markets with the flower sellers and the home grown vegetables still with dirt on the roots.

Oh, man, if I ever can, this is where I would go.

In French, this area of Brittany is known as Finistere- meaning "the end of the world". That was (not really) (but kind of) an added attraction for me in my doomish sense of humor way. But you know what? In Breton, it is called Penn Ar Bed - meaning "the beginning of the world". Now that's a lovely duality. With langoustines, oh my word.
And crepes. He even wrote about going to a creperie in Locranan, I wonder if it was the same one we went to- it was utter bliss. And so beautiful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rivers and Tides: Working With Time

This was wonderful.

Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates ephermeral nature-based sculptures. Amazing cinematography, loved the soundtrack, but Goldsworthy himself and his art are so magical.

Haunting stuff.

Vantage Point

Damn, this was a pretty fantastic thriller.

20 minutes, from 6 points of view.

Really great, if you like movies where things blow up.

Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O'Nan

This was amazing. His writing is so good and so subtle that it's only after you're done and you feel kind of lost and are still thinking about his characters that you realize how real they are.

A friend of mine who is reading Last Night at the Lobster right now said it best - "I know these people."

This book was a hell of a trick to pull off, too. Rotating narration, a series of unique voices, unmistakable. It could have so easily been confusing or sloppy, but it was incredibly precise.

He's so good at the details.

The story is deceptively simple- one day on the last summer before she leaves for college, Kim Larsen goes swimming with her friends, goes home to shower, and leaves for work. She is never seen again. The rest of the book follows her family and friends and how her being missing takes up more of their lives than her being there ever could have.

It was sad, but never felt exploitative. Wonderful.

Before Sunrise

Re-watch. So good.

Romanced to Death, by Susan Rogers Cooper

Pretty bad murder mystery thing. Set at a romance writer's award weekend-convention thing.

There were about 5 subplots, none of them convincing, and it was all just too much in too little.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas in Connecticut

Lovely silly cute movie.

Barbara Stanwyck was fantastic. I love her in Meet John Doe too, another great Christmas movie.

Enchantingly, IMDB just filled me in on something that had been puzzling me- it is the SAME HOUSE that Bringing Up Baby was filmed in!!! Ok, new life goal- I need that house.

Also from the fantastic IMDB, I understand Hollywood might be making a remake, with Jennifer Garner playing Barbara Stanwyck's role. I hope the studio planning that burns down.

That is all.

All of a Kind Family, by Sidney Taylor

Sweet children's book. Jewish immigrant family living in New York's Lower East Side in the 1910's. Episodal. Rather like The Saturdays, but with less yachts and more gefilte fish.

I was annoyed at the end with how happy the dad was with the 6th child ( a son) but hey.

A Mighty Wind

Christopher Guest's troupe doing what they do so well. This might be my favorite of theirs, actually- Best is Show is funnier, Wiating for Guffman is great, but A Mighty Wind has this sweet spot running through it.

I cry every time when Mickey and Mitch kiss. Yeah, I might be a sap. It's a secret.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Paradise Contained, by William Stites

Lovely, and depressing.

I feel like I will never be this organized, and if I were to somehow manage to time the forcing right (which, see below), I don't have the jardinieres, or the tables, or the Dutch-painting light, or whatever, and then I think about the polar bears and realize what a terrible person I am to even be thinking or looking at nonsense like this. Christ.

Forcing, Etc.: the indoor gardener's guide to bringing bulbs, branches & houseplants into bloom, by Katharine Whiteside

So lovely. Made me actually make it to the shop and get some bulbs, which I am promptly horribly mistreating.

In some ways, depressing as hell.

Flowers for All Seasons :Winter, by Jane Packer

Some very pretty arrangements in this, but all mighty pricey to recreate. Also, she says that anemones are cheap to medium in price, and long lasting. In what universe, I wonder?

OK, just checked, and it was published in 1989. Damn- I guess that's 19 years ago? That doesn't seem possible. Well, I guess that maybe in 1989, anemones might have been cheap to medium. I still don't believe the long lasting, though.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson

Re-read. Bath. Lovely, nostalgic, funny, sad, good. Bryson is a favorite of mine- of many people's, obviously, and this is good Bryson.

And, with the book below, makes yesterday probably the only day I will ever read two books that go into pretty serious details about the life-size sculpture of a cow made of butter that is one of the main attractions, apparently, of the Iowa State Fair. 2 books. One day. Butter Cow. Yeah.

Below, the first pic that comes up in a GIS for Butter Cow. Apparently there is also a Butter Farmer, but no one writes about Butter Farmer. Butter Cow, however, is a star.

Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America, by Bill Geist

Sweet, fast and fun book.

One of those 'quirky towns and people' things, that I almost always enjoy. In fact, I also just re-read Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid (will add to list now) and in that he talks about the Butter Cow, and Way Off the Road actually had an interview with the sculptor of Butter Cow AND a photo. So yay for spending too much freaking time reading about people's experiences at the Iowa State Fair.

I love funny narrative travel books. Looking forward to reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.

Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres, by Martha Stewart

This was somehow heartbreakingly sweet.

After looking past the staggaring yellow dress on the cover, everything was so kind of earnest and the bits she wrote about how she and her then husband Andy would entertain 20 before the theater or whatever made me want to give Martha Stewart a hug and a beer.

And that's not something you say every day.

Food was ok- a bit overdressed and fussed up.

Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson

Ok. Some things looked good, but I didn't feel like I needed the book or anything. Felt like I'd read it before- maybe I had.

Pear galette deja vu. Or does everyone make a pear galette?