Saturday, May 10, 2014

Conflicted feelings

Lots happening at work, both jobs, and I'm still trying to decide how I feel about things. I won't go into any great detail, as I value my careers - and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But yeah...lots going on.

On the one hand, I'm sort of relieved about some of it. It takes a decision out of my hands, one I've been contemplating for a while. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for this to be the decision. If that makes any sense, which is probably doesn't without all the facts. And it could be temporary anyway, so who knows what will happen.

The other thing I'm dealing with is jealousy. Well, I guess that's what I'm feeling. I don't really know, as I know I didn't want what someone else got. But I'm still a about it. I think it's because I was asked to move from what I'd always known - and was still working hard to improve - to a whole new situation, but without any increase in pay. Yep. More responsibilities, more staff, longer drive, new everything - but nothing on the money front. Now, I've always been one of those people that will do what needs to be done. I'm not a slacker. And while I get that the move means management has faith in me and my abilities, and while I'm actually getting to like my new assignment, I'm still feeling...upset? rankled? frustrated? by some other things that are happening. Or not, as the case may be. I think I'm jealous of someone else, but can you be jealous when you didn't want a certain position/assignment in the first place? That's my quandary this morning, trying to define how I feel.

Of course, in the end, it doesn't really matter how I feel. Not about any of this. They're just jobs, in the end, ways to make money to do the thing I really want to do, which is make a life with my hubby. Be able to take a vacation every year. Have some nice weekends off with him. And provide for our furry overlord, aka the cat. And now that I've written that, I realize that is what I should be focused on - making the life I want to have. I can't change anything that's happened, or that's happening. I can only control how I react to things. Which means I should stop thinking so much, get myself another cup of tea, grab my book (currently reading Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews - love her!) and sign off the computer for a while. Yes...sounds like plan. :-)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Birthday Boy

It's Friday, and it's also my hubby's birthday. I took the day off to spend it with him, then ended up agreeing to some work time in the morning (a meeting that's kind of important). He said it was OK, seeing as how he has every intention of sleeping in this morning. Still, I feel a bit bad - I promised to spend the day with him.

I'm still working on balancing work and home. Thanks to his illness 4 years ago, when I almost became a widow, I know how important balance is. Much as I love my job, he comes first. To me, that is what marriage is about - putting your partner first.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Hubby, and Happy Friday to all!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Strange book

I'm reading The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones, and it finally got interesting. And very weird. It only took almost two hundred pages for that to happen, far more than I usually give a book. Not to mention the novel is only fifty-nine pages longer than that - I've read over two-thirds of the book already! It's very, very British, set in 1912, and involves a somewhat well-to-do family who may be losing their beloved estate, Sterne. It's Emerald's birthday, and there's supposed to be a party attended by a close friend of Emerald's and that friend's mother. However, things do not go as planned; there's a train wreck, and suddenly the family is being asked to house a group from the accident. A mysterious stranger also shows up at Sterne (cliche, but necessary), a man who obviously has some ties to the family - or the house - in some way.

As I said, I usually give books about fifty pages, then give up. I kept going with this one, and for the life of me, I really don't know why. It's been frustrating to read, as the punctuation is driving me batty! Lots of things I've been taught not to do/use when writing, such as colons and semi-colons in dialog. And the commas! Tons and tons of commas, as if the writer took them by the handful and just threw them across the page - and on every page. Maddening - and yet I kept reading.

It's nice that there's been some vindication to keep going. However, I'm not entirely sure where the story will end up. I could still be horribly disappointed, and then realize I spent a good week or so on this book for nothing. Time will tell...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I finally logged in here for the first time in quite a while. Realized I haven't written or posted anything in, wow, almost 3 months. So I'm once again pondering what to do with this site. Keep trying to do the book review thing? Try something new, go off in a different direction? Maybe more about my work life/library stuff?

Or just shut it down entirely? Since I sort of think no one is really out here reading it anymore anyway.


Decision time, I guess.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

When Chet and Bernie happen upon a prison work crew that includes Frenchie Boutette, an old criminal pal they sent up the river, getting a new case is the last thing they expect. But Frenchie, who comes from an old Louisiana family full of black sheep, needs help finding his one law-abiding relative, his brother Ralph, a reclusive inventor who has gone missing with his houseboat. Though he's temped to take another job (with a big payday) in Alaska, Bernie decides to set course for the bayous of Louisiana, a trip that will introduce Chet to a world of sights, smells, and tastes that are like nothing he's ever encountered.

Out in bayou country, Chet and Bernie meet the no-good Boutette family and their ancient enemies, the maybe-even-worse Robideaus, and at first it seems as if Ralph's disappearance is connected to a dispute over a load of stolen shrimp. but when Chet uncovers a buried clue, the investigation heads in a dangerous new direction involving the oil business and an impending environmental catastrophe. The more Chet and Bernie discover about Ralph, the more treacherous the job becomes, and soon they're fighting not only Big Oil, but also shadowy black ops figures, a violent biker gang from back home, and Iko - a legendary bayou gator with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Meanwhile, deep under the Gulf, the pressure just keeps building.

With top-notch suspense, humor, and genuine insight into the ways our canine companions think and behave - all set against a rollicking new Louisiana backdrop - The Sound and the Furry will make you howl in delight. 

There really isn't much I can say, except it's another great entry in one of my favorite series. I liked that Chet got to describe lots of different smells, especially the ones relating to water. Living in the desert, most of the books don't go into wet smells, just Bernie's rants about the aquifer and such.

I was surprised by one of the relationships, and thought it was very cool of the author to include it. And I love, love, love Chet's way of explaining how alligators smell!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

F in Exams: the very best totally wrong test answers by Richard Benson

Everyone's been there. You study hard. The big test arrives. You turn over the paper...and you draw a total blank. Not a clue. 

Collected in this book are examples of the more creative and hilarious ways that students have tackled those particularly challenging exam questions.

An incredibly short but funny book, the sort of thing that takes you maybe 30 minutes to read. Just be sure you're among friends if you're reading it around other people, as you will be laughing out loud - and you don't want people thinking you're weird. Also good to be reading around friends as you'll definitely want to share some of the crazy answers. You can tell some of the test takers just didn't care that they didn't know the answer; they have fun making up stuff. Some of the answers are so wrong, they make you weep for the future of our youth. And then there are the misspellings that lead to hilarity, such as the following question/answer:

"What were Jesus' closest group of followers known as?"

"The 12 decibels"

Great for a good laugh. And yes, I completely relate, as I can remember blanking out on a test question or two in my day.

My Planet: Finding humor in the oddest places by Mary Roach

Follow New York Times bestselling author Mary Roach - but be careful not to trip - as she weaves through personal anecdotes and everyday musings riddled with her uncanny wit and amazingly analytical eye. These essays, which found a well-deserved home within the pages of Reader's Digest as the column "My Planet," detail the inner workings of hypochondriacs, hoarders, and compulsive cheapskates. (Did we mention neurotic interior designers and professional list makers?) For Roach, humor is hidden in the most unlikely places, which means that nothing is off limits. Whether she is dwelling on her age or talking about the pros and cons of a bedroom night light - "A married couple can best be defined as a unit of people whose sleep habits are carefully engineered to keep each other awake" - Roach finds a lesson, a slice of sarcasm, or a dash of something special that makes each day comical and absolutely priceless.

Full disclosure before the review: I listened to this as an audio book, rather than reading it as I usually would (in a physical book). I've recently taken on a new assignment through work, and now have alternating 10 and 16 mile drives back and forth to home. I thought maybe it was time I gave audio books another try, as my previous assignment, at only 4 miles from our apartment, barely gave me time to listen to one song on the radio. After trying this particular title, I can't say I'm sold yet on the idea.

I love Roach, ever since reading her first book Stiff: The curious lives of human cadavers. She's got a really neat way of looking at things, and a nice writing style - never dumbed down, yet always accessible. So it threw me for a loop when I found myself nearly nodding off at this audio version of her short vignettes (and that's definitely not something you want to do while driving!) I think it's not so much the words as the presentation. I've been told that the narrator makes or breaks the audio book, and in this case, well...for myself, it was a case of break. Angela Dawe is, I'm sure, a very nice person, and probably does some excellent work in film, TV, stage, and possibly other audio books (all talents of hers according to her bio on the back of the case). But I think she was the wrong choice for this title. She reminded me a lot of the voice you hear when you call your bank, the automated teller. And that's to her advantage for one of the tracks, "42 minutes" where she recites Roach's typical interaction with the automated voice of her credit card company. For that track, Dawe was perfect. For the others? Not so much.

The other thing I had a hard time with was the fact that 3 of the 4 cds ended in the middle of a story. Why? None of the tracks is particularly long, and when I got to the forth cd, I was shocked that it was over after 16 tracks - most of the other cds ran at 20 or so. Why not take those three interrupted stories and put them on that last disc? I've been told that sometimes the audio publishers do it this way, sometimes they don't. All I know is that I found it weird, distracting, and incredibly inconvenient - I mean, hello! I'm driving and you want me to switch discs all of the sudden?

Overall, I can't say whether the book itself is good or not. I think it is, but I'll reserve that judgment until I read it. In a nice cozy chair, using the voice inside my head. As for the audio version, I didn't care for it. I'll give one more title a try (maybe something in fiction) before I give up, but I'm leaning toward the "I'm just not a fan of audio books" school of reading.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman, King of the B Movie by Chris Nahawaty

[This book] is a rollicking account of the life and career of Roger Corman - one of the most prolific independent producers, directors, and writers of all time. Known for low-budget cult classics such as Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), and Galaxy of Terror (1981), Corman is the self-proclaimed king of the B movie, and it is thanks to his films that actors like Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson found the limelight.

As told by Corman himself and by the showbiz legends that got their starts alongside him, [this book] provides a comprehensive oral history of more than six decades of American cinema. Renowned directors and actors including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert de Niro, and Peter Bogdanovich candidly recount working with Corman in the years before their big breaks, as if trading anecdotes at a Hollywood cocktail party.

Brimming with never-before-published behind-the-scenes photographs and ephemera drawn from Corman's personal archive, [this book] provides an unprecedented glimpse into the world of a film legend. Full-page reproductions of classic Corman movie posters trace his impressive filmography, and critical essays on Corman's most daring and influential films - including The Intruder (1951), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Boxcar Bertha (1972), and The Big Doll House (1971) - make the case for Corman as an artist like no other. [This book] is the definitive chronicle of a singular career and personality - the giddy, fun-filled companion to a Roger Corman drive-in retrospective. 

I've always been a fan of Roger Corman, but after reading this book, I'm also inspired by the man. I knew about some of his movies, having grown up watching them, but wow! The man is literally unstoppable, a true work-horse, and an innovator in every sense of the word. And still making/producing movies today, in his mid 80s! I had no idea just how long he'd been in the business, nor did I know how many people he helped out along the way. Granted, his tactics weren't always the most popular, but his credentials are impressive (bring up his page on IMDB and there's over 400 entries listing him as producer. Four hundred plus.)

The movies of his I love best are the ones based on Edgar Allan Poe stories, starring Vincent Price. Back when I was in grade school, our local NBC affiliate (WTHR, Channel 13 - back in the days before cable) showed movies at 4 pm weekday afternoons. I would race home when it was Price week, as they almost always pulled out all the Corman flicks: Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher...all fabulous films with one of my favorite horror movie actors, very atmospheric and creepy. Never mind that I was young enough that the plots were sometimes over my head. Those movies made a big impact on me. Of course, Corman would have been happier if I had somehow bought copies of those flicks, as he was always looking to make money on his movies.

And make money he did. The things I learned from this wonderful love letter (because that's really what it is - a love letter from a fan) are amazing, such as the fact that Corman almost never lost money on his films, able to produce/direct/distribute at a profit. Think about that for a moment. At least 90% of the time, maybe even 95%, he made a profit. What other Hollywood type can say that? Corman worked his casts and crews to the bone, always asking them to do as much as was humanly possible in the least amount of time for very little dough. Many of the actors/directors/other staff quoted mention how they "survived" the Corman School of Filmmaking, not a real school but the very experience of working with/for Roger. And work they did, grueling schedules on shoots plagued with problems.

And yet, everyone interviewed speaks of their time at Roger's feet with love and admiration. I would liken it to summer camp or something similar. Also, not many people worked with/for Roger more than one or two films, specifically if they showed talent; Corman himself would tell them it was time to move on. He showed them the ropes, gave them a crash course education, and then kicked them out of the nest. He did what any good manager should do - he grew his people so that they could move up in the business. And grow them he did, lots of very famous names, such as those listed in the book blurb, not to mention the women he mentored: actresses like Pam Grier and Angie Dickinson to directors like Penelope Spheeris, Amy Holden Jones, Deborah Brock, and Katt Shea. He gave women a chance when others simply wanted them for Roger knew they had assets, and not the ones that were visible. He truly broke new ground, and did it over and over again.

If you're a film fan, this book is for you. If you're a B movie fan, this book is for you. And if you're a Roger Corman fan, this book is definitely for you. Big, beautiful, and yes, even a bit cheesy at times. Everything that makes a Corman film a Corman film.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Rose Baker seals men's fates. With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in the New York City Police Department, Rose is like a high priestess. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their transgressions, and Rose records their crimes.

But 1923 is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her women bob their hair short, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. Yet prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear. When glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie's spell. And soon her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.

This is one of those really good books that drives you nuts once you reach the end. In many ways, I'm reminded of when I read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; when I finished that book (which is awesome!) I realized that I wasn't sure I'd read the story correctly. And that's how The Other Typist feels - I'm not sure I read the story right. If I had the time, I'd love to go through it again, see if I can figure it out. Because it's one of those books, with not only an unreliable narrator, but also an ambiguous ending.

However, it's a very well written book. Rindell has done a wonderful job capturing the feel/flavor of Prohibition New York, of the start of the flappers, and of the underground world of the speakeasies. And she did an excellent, and creepy, job of showing how a mild-mannered, by-the-book person like Rose could fall under the spell of someone who seems to have it all, falling so hard as wanting to be like her. The story is told in first person POV, which is really the only way to write the unreliable narrator. At times, Rose comes across like one of the nuns that helped raise her in the orphanage - cold, unfeeling, unwavering, and frankly, not very nice/likable. At other times, though, her yearning for a good friend (a "bosom-friend" as she keeps referring to Odalie), for a home, for a family, is just heartbreaking. You, as the reader, can completely understand why she does some of the things she does - she so wants someone, anyone, to love her.

A very interesting book, and thankfully, a debut novel. Which means that Rindell will hopefully have many more books to come.

Friday, January 3, 2014

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

A murderous fall down icy stairs is nearly the death of Anna Hitchcock, the much-beloved "American Agatha Christie" and Christopher Holmes's former mentor. Anna's plea for him to host her annual winter writing retreat touches all Kit's sore spots - traveling, teaching writing classes, and separation from his new lover, J.X. Moriarity.

For J.X., Kit's cancellation of yet another romantic weekend is the death knell of a relationship that has been limping along for months. But that's just as well, right? Kit isn't ready for anything serious and besides, Kit owe Anna far too much to refuse.

Faster than you can say "Miss Marple wears boxer shorts", Kit is snooping around Anna's elegant, snowbound mansion in the Berkshires for clues as to who's trying to kill her. A tough task with six amateur sleuths underfoot. Six budding writers with a tangled web of dark undercurrents running among them.

Slowly, Kit gets the uneasy feeling that the secret may lie between the pages of someone's fictional past. Unfortunately, a clever killer is one step ahead. And it may be too late for J.X. to ride to the rescue.

This is the second book in Lanyon's Holmes & Moriarity series, and it's a pretty fun read. Plenty of red herrings, and also lots of danger, as well as exploring the on-again-off-again relationship of Kit and J.X.

There's the usual cast of characters that one would expect from a writers' retreat (or what I imagine would be the usual cast of characters): the ingenue, Nella House, a young 20-ish something who shows promise as a writer, someone that Anna has said she'll take under her wing; the cold fish, Poppy C. Clarke, who dresses in manly clothes and may have had her ex-husband killed; the tenant, Victoria Sherwell, a writer living in a cabin on Anna's estate; the chubby guy, Rowland Bride, who is rather heavyset, always looks "hot" as in perspiring hot, and who obviously has a crush on young Nella; the cool, biker-looking writer, Arthur Gohring, whom no one knows anything about; the PA, Sara Mason, who has been with Anna several years now - and who writes "for herself"; the longtime editor, Rudolph Dunst, who might have a less-than-professional relationship with his author, Anna; the obnoxious stepson, Ricky, who stands to inherit quite a tidy sum of money and his deceased father's catalog of work - but only once his stepmother is dead; and the ever-lurking handyman, Luke, who is young, an ex-con, and might be tending more than Anna's outside gardens.

It's a lot of characters to keep up with, but Lanyon does a nice job of developing them enough that the reader has no trouble remembering who is who. Plus, said characters start dying pretty quickly, which helps us not only keep track of the players, but emotionally invests us in Kit's investigation. Because he is also in danger, suffering injuries in a fatal car wreck early in the book. He needs to find out if someone really is trying to kill Anna, or if her accidents are just that - a series of very unfortunate events that have her imagining assassins around every corner.

J.X. shows up after the car wreck, and that's where things really take off. Kit's lover has his former profession, that of law enforcement, on his side when trying to explain that sometimes, an accident is just that - an accident. J.X. obviously cares greatly for Kit; it's Kit who is holding back, fearing their age difference (only 5 years, but when you turn 40, any difference feels pretty big), J.X.'s fame (he's also a writer now, and pens very popular, bestselling, "utterly readable" thrillers), and his, Kit's, own writers block. Kit's series starring Miss Butterwith has been around for twenty some years, and much as he loves her and her cat (and her very obviously gay male friend), he's running out of ideas for her. He seems a bit bored with her, but also afraid to try something new. And yes, every time I read Miss Butterwith, I think of the syrup, Mrs. Butterworth. Hard not to, and then I want some pancakes. Hm...

But I digress. The mystery was pretty well-written, and I didn't realize whodunnit until pretty much the very end. I read a few reviews on Amazon where people thought Kit complained/worried too much about the possibility of losing J.X. Well, who wouldn't? Kit's ex-husband, David, had left him for a younger man, and that's gotta hurt, no matter who you are. J.X. is written to be smokin' hot, while Kit thinks of himself (and as such, so do we, the reader), as pretty much an ordinary 40-ish, middle-aged man. Not too firm, but not too flabby, having trouble seeing small print, not bouncing back from things nearly as quickly as he used to. I can see where he'd be nervous about letting J.X. get too close...and I thought this installment moved along their relationship very nicely.

Overall, my only disappointment was that a few characters were introduced, became part of the mystery, then just sort of disappeared. I would love to know what happened to them, and what their exact relationships with Anna were. Oh well. Can't have everything!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hello 2014!

As always, my first promise is to keep up with this blog. OK, to do better at keeping up with this blog. Oh, alright, to at least post once a month on this blog.

I didn't make my reading goal of 2013 of 100 books - only made it to 75, maybe 76. It's hard to keep track; I use two different online bookshelf sites, and they don't always have every title available. Either way, I didn't succeed. Then again, 75 or 76 books is still nothing to sniff at. I've already set my goal of 100 books for this year on both sites, and wonder of wonders, I've already finished one book. And it's only the 2nd day of January!

Big changes are happening in my work life. I've been reassigned to a branch pairing in my library system, so I'll be responsible for two branches, two communities, and of course, all new staff (all new to me, that is). I've been at my current branch for 11 years. It's where I started my library career, and it's been very hard, the idea of leaving the people behind. And, since I work for county government, and one that is still struggling with very skeletal budgets, there is no raise for taking on more responsibility. In fact, we had to pick up a second car, so according to my husband, we're actually losing money with this move. Oh well - I still have a job, and that is definitely nothing to sneeze at (as anyone working in a library knows).

My hopes for 2014 include lots of great books, hopefully at least one good vacation, and to finish the year off still sane and maybe even 10 pounds lighter. Hey, it could happen! My hopes for you, my (very few) readers, is that you stick with me, don't give up on me, and that you have lots of great books in your future, too.