Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yeas and Nays January through June 2010

Fifteen-year-old Emily has decided to describe 46-year-old Emily's "yea" and "nay" books of January through June 2010. This is because 46-year-old Emily is too tired, and also because 46-year-old Emily plans to write real posts on some of these titles (if she hasn't already). As always with the "yea and nay" lists (when I don't decide there aren't) there are six "yeas" and six "nays." And then, there is this odd title at the end of the list. The titles are arranged alphabetically by author (because 15-year-old Emily is as anal-retentive as 46-year-old Emily is).


Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
When I grow up, I'm going to date Philip Marlowe and help him solve crimes. (Full post here.)

King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany
One day, I am going to ditch my family and go live in Elfland. (Full post here.)

Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
I want to go back to England. Even if my home is bombed. Even if I have to live with a bunch of losers. Even if I am going to be stupid enough to get my heart broken by some dumb American. England is just so much cooler than North Carolina. They go to pubs and drink pink gin fizzes.

This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson
I want to be a cool librarian and surprise everyone with how cool librarians actually are. (Soon to be posted at this site -- I've decided I'm not risking much by linking from this site to that one, as people in these parts are not all that technologically savvy, so I am throwing caution to the wind here and doing so. Now watch: someone from the library will find this blog, my irreverence will shock her, and I'll lose that gig. Oh well...).

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
If I weren't too old for children's books, this would be the coolest book ever. (Full post here.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I hate really popular books with really dumb titles. Just pretend no one's ever heard of it and that it has a much better title, and read it, because it's so much better than you think, especially if you LOVE, love, love Daddy Long Legs -- it's kinda like that. All letters anyway, and the author even talks about loving that book. (Full post here.)


Away by Amy Bloom
I thought it was going to be like Bread Givers, but it wasn't. I hated it, especially since I went through all that for such a bogus ending. ("Full-er" post here.)

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen
A "royal pain" is right. I didn't bother to finish it.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley
That girl was pretty stupid for someone in her twenties. I hope I'm smarter than that when I'm that old (46-year-old Emily assures you she wasn't. However, she didn't need to be reminded of how awful it is to be 22, and she hopes she wasn't quite so self-centered at that age).

The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel
I hate books that make me feel like throwing up, especially when they make me feel like that more than once. (Soon to be posted for the TBR challenge.)

The Shack by William P. Young
Why I hate popular books. I couldn't finish it. Almost as bad as The Prophet.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
(I've read a lot of popular books this year, haven't I?) This has the worst scene I've ever read in a book. It gave me horrible, horrible nightmares. But, the girl is so tough and so cool. I want to be like her (even though I am terrified of needles and could never get a tattoo).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

Happy summer solstice, everyone. When I think back on all the many, many summers I have lived, most of them seem to have "theme songs." I thought it would be fun to share one of those today, especially since here in PA we have most definitely been experiencing the sort of weather that is the reason I have never been a huge fan of summer. I don't know what it's been like where you are, but it's been about 1000 degrees and 120% humidity every day for five days running now with no end in sight, if the weather forecasters are to be believed.

This kind of weather reminds me of the Piedmont region of North Carolina, where I was born and raised, so it's only appropriate to go way, way back in time to bring you a summer theme song. This one hails from the summer of 1978. It was a summer when I never knew whether or not my older sisters were going to deign to bring me along with them anywhere. Occasionally, the sun, stars, and moon were all aligned correctly (a.k.a. my parents had made them pick me up after seeing some movie with a friend or something, and they didn't want to drive all the way back home -- we lived ten miles outside of town --to get rid of me), and (be still my beating little fourteen-year-old heart! You are way too young to have an attack) they would allow me to come with them on night-time escapades, driving around town, seeking out the homes where all the boys they liked lived (why? Do teenage girls still do this sort of stuff? It sounds like we were all priming ourselves to become stalkers. I promise you, all we ever did, though, was drive by their houses -- screaming and trying to duck down in our seats, if anyone actually went into or came out of any of the houses in question. The idea, I guess, was to see without being seen -- impossible, of course, with windows wide open and girls screaming. Once I learned to drive, my own friends and I continued this practice, which, thank God, I gave up once I went away to college). Anyway, as you might imagine, this was not an easy task back in the days of no GPSes. We had to use things like phone books and maps.

We also were stuck listening to nothing but a radio, which was always on in the dark blue Datsun B210 (we avoided using the other car, the station wagon, whenever possible). The car actually had a stereo, with two speakers in the back (our first car to have such a thing), but, alas, no tape deck. We were completely dependent on whatever the DJs happened to be spinning that night. Luckily, they spun "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones, one of my favorites, quite a lot. We'd roll down the windows, turn it up, and hit those high notes right along with Mick, as we sped down the roads leading to David's and Jim's and Peter's and whoever else's houses. And, sometimes, we'd even play a little Chinese stoplight, which allowed me the opportunity to wind up in the front seat. Does life get any better than that?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

George, Elizabeth. A Great Deliverance. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

(This was another title read for the mystery/detective book discussion book.)

Before I became a member of the mystery book discussion group, I wasn't someone who'd read a whole lot of mysteries. Yes, I'd gone through my teenaged "Agatha Christie" phase, and when I was younger, I had been completely hooked on the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series, and I had read about half a dozen Hardy Boy books, but other than that, nothing, really. I didn't even read Nancy Drew, which seems to be a female rite of passage in this country.

However, when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I discovered a number of authors that I liked. They were authors who belonged in the mystery genre, because they definitely wrote mysteries, but what hooked me on them had more to do with the ongoing stories of the main characters who showed up to solve the crimes rather than the mysteries themselves. Inevitably, I'd read one or two of the later books in the series and then would have to go back and start from the beginning and read them in order, because that was the only way I could get the full stories. I did this with the likes of Linda Barnes and Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Peters. Janet Evanovich made it easy, because hers are all numbered, so I never read any of those out of order. Tom Corcoran only had two books out when I discovered him, so he was easy, too. Most recently, I've been following Jacqueline Winspear. Often what happens with these authors (Linda Barnes, Elizabeth Peters) is that I lose interest. I don't know why. I just do.

Maybe it's because once I begin to get a little behind in a series (which can easily happen, due to my natural tendency to savor rather than to gobble), I find that I can quite quickly begin to fall way behind, and it just becomes so overwhelming to try to catch up. Then, if I decide to try to catch up, I find I've forgotten so many of the details from the earlier books ("She's married to him? When did that happen? I thought they were sworn enemies"), I almost feel as though I need to go back and start again.

Anyway, that's sort of what happened to me with Elizabeth George. Only her books were a little bit different. I had a friend at work who lent me a few of her books that were published in the mid-nineties, and I got hooked, eagerly awaiting the next installment without having read the earlier works, mainly, I think, because they never seemed to be available at the library. Finally, one Christmas, I asked Bob to buy the first two in the series for me, and he kindly obliged. I still remember the first time I read this one. I was traveling to Chicago for a conference and finished it when I got stranded in the airport due to delays.

My reaction to it, back then, after having read her later works, was that I didn't like it much, despite getting some of the back story on the main characters I'd been missing. And my feelings must have been so strong that I never picked her back up again. This go-around, I can't quite understand what made me feel that way. Okay, some of the characters (all right, all right, put a gun to my head, all of the characters, just some much more than others --annoyingly so) are so stereotyped I can't figure out if she meant them to be serious, or if they were parodies (see: the American tourists in Yorkshire). Despite this irritation, though, as well as the other irritation of coming across something like 15 typos/grammatical errors before I'd reached page 100 (but that's not her fault. I can't blame editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders who fall down on the job on the author, although, has anyone else ever noticed that when you read someone like Julian Barnes, you rarely ever encounter such errors?), I enjoyed the book.

I liked George's attention to detail. As I did with the Christie (also a reread), I found myself paying much more attention to it, and discovering that she used it to her advantage. I guess all mystery writers do that, but it's easier to catch when you're revisiting a book. Complain, though I just have about it, some of the stereotyping was great, like the "Old Guard" at New Scotland Yard, men who, for instance, when the head of forensics is being too casually graphic, say things like,

"You're a ghoul, man! At least have the decency to remove that filthy coat
when you come here! Have you no sense at all? We've women on these floors!" (p.

(One of them, of course, being Sergeant Barbara Havers, who has probably been exposed to far worse than a coroner's filthy coat while on duty, and who is about to be paired with Inspecter Thomas Lynley.)

I liked the story of Havers and Lynley being so wary of each other and their having to work it out together. I remember liking St. James and Deborah and Helen (other characters found throughout the series), and I still do. I also like the way George hides skeletons in the closets of all these characters (just because they aren't murderers and murder victims themselves doesn't mean they don't have plenty to hide). I also liked George's sense of humor.

I guess, though, that this go-around, I just didn't like the plot, the actual case and the characters involved in it -- the skeletons in their closets. And, thinking back on it, I realize that that's what left a bad taste in my mouth the first go-round. It just was so unpleasant and didn't seem all that original. Not that murder is ever "pleasant," but I hope you know what I mean.

Then again, it may have had nothing to do with plot. Maybe it's just that I am a horrible snob when it comes to Americans writing books set in England, even though George does a very good job. The only hint I got of "American writing England" was that her American characters were so obnoxious. She overcompensated. Even the English themselves are more forgiving of us than she seemed to be. Don't worry. I am just as snobby about English authors thinking they can write books set in America. I don't care how well you may think you know the other country and its people, you don't. But that's just me, and it's one of the rare instances in which I hold tight to the old "write about what you know" dictum (usually, I'm tossing that thing out the window and watching it get carried off with the wind). Perhaps I just decided I wanted the "real thing" when it comes to English mysteries.

Whatever it was, it's gone. I'm hooked again, and how perfect that I've already gone back and started at the beginning. I'm going to go find the second book in the series, which I know is hiding somewhere on my shelves. I've got lots of catching up to do. The woman is prolific...Oh, who am I kidding? Just typing this last paragraph has me so overwhelmed, I'm practically hyperventilating. Maybe it's best, for a change, just to tiptoe around those snoring dogs lying about all over the place.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The True Confessions Meme

(It seems like I stole this idea from Stefanie, who recently did a similar post, but I promise I didn't. She and I just happen to be on the same wavelength -- not for the first time.)

I was reading O magazine over the weekend (that's my first "true confession," I love that magazine), having, of course, skipped right to the article "What to Read Next: Our 26 Favorite Books of the Summer." Actually, since I'm in a confessing sort of a mood, that's not quite true. It was where I was headed before I got sidetracked by "Take the Intimacy Quiz!" (you will be happy to know that, according to this short little quiz, Bob and I score a "Congratulations -- your friendship and your marriage are strong") and the pictures of all the lovely pairs of clogs in "Love That! Clog Heaven" (falling madly in love, of course, with the pair that cost nearly $400).

Anyway, eventually I got to the article on books, because I am, of course, in desperate need of titles to add to the TBR tome (luckily, it seems that every other one was compared to Amy Bloom, a writer I have decided I don't like, so TBR damage was kept to a minimum). This article had a great sidebar feature in which authors were confessing about books they should have read but never have. "What fun, and how empowering to come clean," I thought, being someone who has lived her whole life trying to avoid people who might say to her, "You haven't read what? I can't believe you haven't read that!" I mean, if Kathryn Stockett can freely admit to Oprah's 5 billion (or whatever it is) followers that she's never read Jane Eyre, and Jennifer Egan can admit she's never read David Copperfield (woo-hoo, Jennifer. I'm right there with you!), surely I can admit to the handful of very kind people who read this blog that I've never read The Old Man and the Sea (or any Hemingway, as far as I know, although I may have read some short stories in high school that I don't remember). In fact, why not create a meme that revolves around such lapses?

So, here you go. This is the true confessions meme. Think of ten books it seems you should have read by now but never have. Post them. Feel free to say anything you want about why you haven't read them. Tag others when you're done.

1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
I love the hard-boiled genre. People have told me for years that I can't really say that without having read this classic. We read The Glass Key a couple of years ago for the detective book club. I planned to read this one right after that. I never did. Still planning to read it, though... Really.

2. Light in August by William Faulkner
I love Faulkner. About 20 years after having read it, I still think The Sound and the Fury is one of the most brilliant books I've ever read. I want to read this one. I pull it from the shelf from time to time, but, for some reason, I keep putting it back unread. Maybe it's because Faulkner takes real commitment, and I'm too much of a commitment-phobe or something.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
I was living in England when everyone read this one in ninth grade. Thus, I never read it. I know what it's about, though. Do I really have to read it? (I was thrilled a number of years back when both my parents admitted to me that they'd never read it, either. Maybe we Southerners just have a hard time with that Puritan stuff.)

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
I never get around to this one, despite my love of Mark Twain, because I keep thinking I need to reread Le Morte D'Arthur before doing so, and, well, I never get around to that (despite the fact that I love it). I did, last year, try to listen to the audiobook version, but that just convinced me more than ever that I needed to revisit Malory, and so I gave up on it.

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
My sister told me, back when I was in high school, that I had to read this book. I've been having and planning to read it ever since.

6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Can anyone think of a single good reason why I haven't read this book that is so up my alley it smells like garbage and has alley cat paw prints all over it?

7. Call of the Wild by Jack London
Is it horrible that I just really have no interest? Despite the fact that everyone tells me I'll love it?

8. Shogun by James Clavell
It's just so damn long, isn't it? The copy we have is actually in two volumes. I mean, no matter how good everyone tells me it is, who has time for that?

9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
It's not long. I loved The Secret Agent. Why haven't I read this one?

10. Black Boy by Richard Wright
Again, I have no excuse. In fact, I ought to go pull it from the shelf right now and begin. But I won't (for the 100th or so time).

Oh well. At least there is one book I can say I've read that most haven't: the Bible (yes, the whole thing, although not the Apocrypha). I think that definitely makes up for never having read all these others. Maybe the next meme ought to be "books I've read that make up for those I haven't." (Madame Bovary three times, not by choice, certainly fits that bill).

So, now, everyone but Stefanie, because she basically already did it, who is reading this, must do the meme. I mean it. If I can confess, so can you. Or at least tell me: how many of those I've listed have you not read?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

Does this one need any explanation whatsoever? I think not. Just play. Watch. Sigh. Repeat.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

5 Things My Inner Feminist Hates About Me

1. Most men are at least five inches taller than I am. This means that, often, when I am hugged by male friends and family members, they have to lift me off my feet. Don't I sound so cave-womanish by saying I like that? "Me tiny little woman. You big, strong man who easily lift me off my feet."

2. I like to choose what I want from a menu, tell Bob, and let him order it for me. My inner feminist hates to go out to eat with us. I just snap at her, "I have to do so much in life. Why not let someone else who is willing to do so do this for me?"

3. If I am lugging heavy boxes/bags, trying to open a door when my hands are full, etc., and I see a perfectly capable man watch me without offering to help, I hate him. I have been known to decline an offer of help (very politely. I don't know who all these rude women are who have, apparently, cowed all the men I know from ever wanting to hold doors, because they all have stories of women snapping and yelling at them when they did so) when I really don't need it, but I consider it horribly rude of a man not to ask. I tell my inner feminist this has nothing to do with gender. I'd hate a perfectly capable female (especially if she obviously seems bigger and stronger than I) if she saw me and didn't offer assistance. However, I'd be lying if I said I don't like it when a man holds a door open for me even when I am hands-free and not burdened down with a thing (I won't hate him if he doesn't, though. I probably won't even notice, as it isn't something I expect).

4. I don't want to be asked, "May I kiss you?" I just want a man who so desires to do so, to do so and not to be wimpy about it. Just kiss me with all the passion you are feeling, if you are. Don't do it again, if I tell you not to, but if I like it, I am likely to say something like, "Could we do that again?" (I'm speaking theoretically here. I'm a happily married woman, but if men, other than my husband, were to start kissing me passionately, I don't think I would remain so.)

5. I don't mind at all if I get whistles and appreciative looks from strange men on the street (especially if they are attractive strange men). It happens very rarely, but I have never felt the least bit threatened when it does. No, I'd say it puts a spring in my step. It gives me a tiny little taste of how movie stars must feel. Inner feminist may be sulking, but I just say, "Look, it isn't as if they yelled something nasty or lascivious at me. That would be completely unacceptable." But that's never happened to me, and if it did, well, I have a middle finger for a reason.

Friday, June 04, 2010

That Old Attacking the TBR Tome Challenge

Some of you, especially those of you brave enough to have taken up my TBR Challenge, may be wondering how that's been coming for me. After all, if you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I have not posted on any books for the challenge in...oh...months. Have no fear. This does not mean I have not been reading books for the challenge. I have definitely been reading from this list, just not as faithfully or as quickly as I would have liked.

You also may be wondering: does that mean that I have not bought any books since December? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! (Sorry. I think the laughter is now under control, or at least, no longer out loud.) Actually, I was doing very well when it came to buying no books until the annual library book sale last month. I'd only bought a few books (okay. okay. I don't know of anyone who would define "ten" as "a few." But it all depends on your perspective. Ten bees down your pants leg is not "a few." Ten drops of water in the ocean? Well, they're barely noticable). But then, the book sale came along, and I HAD to go (must. support. the. library.), and well, with paperbacks being only fifty cents a pop and hardcovers being anywhere from $1.00 - $4.00, let's just say I bought nearly as many books as I'm supposed to read for the challenge (you know, not too many, but a little more than "a few").

By the time I did that, though, I had actually already changed the rules (without telling anybody). The new rules were that I had to read at least 5 books on my original list, at least 10 others that I had already owned prior to 2010 and give away at least 20 books I either will never read or will never read again, and then I was allowed to start buying books again. By these new rules, I well deserved my library sale purchases. Not only have I, at this point, read 6 books from the list, but, including those six, I have read a total of 21 books that I already owned prior to 2010, and I have given away 22 books (mostly forgettable thrillers or cookbooks picked up at book shows and given to the library, but I have passed a few that I enjoyed, knowing I will never read them again, onto friends I thought also might enjoy them).

I have not changed the rules so much, though, that I do not still plan to read (or attempt to read) all the books that were on my original list. And I will begin to post on them, too. They've all been written about in my book journal, so it's just a matter of transcribing those entries here. Maybe (but don't hold me to it. It seems that the minute I lay out some sort of plan when it comes to reading and writing is the minute that plan goes awry) I'll start putting up one post a week or something.

So you see? It's, thus far, been a banner year for attacking the old TBR tome. I've just been attacking it from a different angle. Oh, and I've been keeping up all my math skills to boot.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Brilliant Observation

If you are new to my blog, you can skip this post. If you have been reading my blog for some time, then my guess is that you have certain views of life that will guarantee your appreciation of this absolutely brilliant work of art, which a friend of mine was kind enough to link to on her Facebook wall, so I wouldn't miss it. I'm doing you the same favor, in case you haven't seen it yet. You must go take a look at it and tell me if you don't nearly wet your pants laughing like I did. That is, unless you are a twenty-something, in which case you must tell me whether or not it made you laugh out loud (when you get to be my age, that's pretty much synonymous with nearly wetting your pants laughing). While you're at it, you can also tell me whether or not you are now convinced someone's been spying on you all your life. Enjoy!