Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best and Worst of 2007

Best and Worst of 2007
  • All the books I've read in 2007 follow the lists.
  • The date the book was reviewed here follows the title and author.
  • One book per author.
  • I didn't include any books I've re-read.
  • There were several other books I would probably place in the best of category, but I wanted to limit it to ten fiction and five nonfiction. For this reason there is an honorable mention category... and I probably could have put a few more books on that list.
  • I read the Bible daily, but this is not included in the list.
  • At this point I don't have a rating system in place, so books read earlier in the year may suffer in comparison to those read later.

Best Fiction:
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver 9/3 (This book still haunts me.)
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 8/28
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 4/1
The Cobra Event by Richard Preston 4/11
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield 2/18
The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8/19
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 8/24
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 9/29
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult 3/26
Year Zero by Jeff Long 3/16

Honorable Mention:
The Memory Keeper's Daughter 2/5
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields 5/20
The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook 10/30
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver 11/13
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle 11/20
Eifelheim by Michael Flynn 11/24

Best Nonfiction:
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson 2/2
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 2/6
Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky 2/24
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields 5/30
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 9/5

Honorable mention:
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan 1/
Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim by David Sedaris 11/7
A Country Year: Living the Question by Sue Hubbell 6/23
Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel 2/4
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio 2/4

Worst books for 2007:
Nonfiction: Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris 3/13 (pure self-indulgent drivel)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke 10/22 (had potential if it had been edited down to say 500 pages)
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos 10/8

Books read in 2007:

98. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute 12/29
97. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver 12/26
96. The New Springtime by Robert Silverberg 12/24
95. At Winter's End by Robert Silverberg 12/22
94. Forever by Pete Hamill 12/19
93. Girls of Tender Age 12/16
92. A Gathering of Stars by Donald Moffitt 12/14
91. Crescent in the Sky by Donald Moffitt 12/12
90. Dirt Music by Tim Winton 12/10
87. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon 12/3

86. Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch 11/29
85. A Perfectly Good Family by Lionel Shriver 11/28
84. The Bright Forever by Lee Martin 11/26
83. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn 11/24
82. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle 11/20
81. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak 11/17
80. The Rock Orchard by Paula Wall 11/15
79. Borrowed Finery: A Memoir by Paula Fox 11/14
78. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver 11/13
77. Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim by David Sedaris 11/7
76. Whistling In the Dark by Lesley Kagen 11/5
75. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett 11/1

74. The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook 10/30
73. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 10/25
72. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke 10/22
71. Fifty Acres and a Poodle by Jeanne Marie Laskas 10/14
70. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos 10/8

69. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 9/29
68. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin 9/25
67. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller, Jr. 9/21
66. Deeper by Jeff Long 9/13
65. The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child 9/8
64. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 9/5
63. I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson 9/4
62. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver 9/3

61. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 8/28
60. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 8/24
59. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8/19
58. The Judas Strain by James Rollins 8/17
57. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood 8/11 reread

July: (moved half way across the country this month)
56. The Divide by Nicholas Evans 7/30
55. The Wall by Jeff Long 7/25

54. The Bone People by Keri Hulme 6/30
53. A Country Year: Living the Question by Sue Hubbell 6/23
52. American Gods by Neil Gaiman 6/21
51. The Reckoning by Jeff Long 6/18
50. The Circus Fire by Stewart O'Nan 6/9
49. Man and Wife by Tony Parsons 6/4
48. Man and Boy by Tony Parsons 6/1

47. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields 5/30
46. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 8/28 reread
45. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King 5/26
44. Virus X: Tracking the New Killer Plagues by Frank Ryan, M.D. 5/21
43. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields 5/20
42. Level 4 Virus Hunters of the CDC by Drs. Joseph McCormick and SusanFisher-Hoch 5/16
41. Treasure of Khan by Clive and Dirk Cussler 5/10
40. The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks 5/4
39. Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly 5/2

38. Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate by Angus Konstam 4/27
37. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill 4/22
36. Virus Hunter by C. J. Peters and Mark Olshaker 4/21
35. The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen 4/17
34. The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston 4/13
33. The Cobra Event by Richard Preston 4/11
32. The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday 4/7
31. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai 4/5
30. Sleeping at the Starlight Motel by Bailey White 4/2 reread
29. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 4/1

28. The Great Mortality by John Kelly 3/30
27. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult 3/26
26. Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson 3/23
25. The Descent by Jeff Long 3/19
24. Year Zero by Jeff Long 3/16
23. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris 3/13
22. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner 3/11
21. The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester 3/8

20. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America 2/28
19. Deep Storm by Lincoln Child 2/28
18. Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky 2/24
17. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield 2/18
16. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester 2/16
15. Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt 2/13
14. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson 2/10
13. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 2/6
12. The Memory Keeper's Daughter 2/5
11. Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel 2/4
10. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio 2/4
9. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson 2/2

8. Lisey's Story by Stephen King 1/30
7. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson 1/26
6. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs 1/24
5. Next by Michael Crichton
4. Black Order by James Rollins:
3. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
2. The Rift by Walter J. Williams
1. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute was originally published in 1950. My paperback copy is 277 pages long. From the book description, "A Town Like Alice tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese 'death march' in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life..." This is ultimately a love story, but it is not a romance novel.

In the novel a young woman, Jean Paget inherits a large sum of money. She had been a Japanese prisoner of war along with some other women and children in Malaya during WWII and wanted to repay the villagers who sheltered her by digging a well. While there she learns that the young Australian, Joe Harmon, who was crucified for stealing food for them, survived and she went to Australia to try and find him. Joe, at the same time, went to England to find Jean. With the help of her London solicitor, in spite of himself, they eventually find each other. Amazon link

This is a lovely book and I highly recommend it.


"Oh yes...It was the most extraordinary thing, as you say. The Japanese commanders marched them from place to place, till finally they were allowed to settle in a village on the east coast somewhere, and there they lived for the rest of the war. There was a very fine girl who was their leader; she spoke Malaya fluently. She wasn't anybody notable; she'd been a shorthand typist in an office in Kuala Lumpur."

"The best she could do was to recollect the words of a prayer that they had used at school sometimes. 'Lighten our darkness, O Lord, and of Thy great mercy...' That was all she could remember, and she repeated it over and over to herself that afternoon. Her darkness had been lightened by the well diggers."

"[T]hey had an opening ceremony when Jean washed her own sarong and all the women crowded into the wash house laughing, and the men stood round in a tolerant circle at a distance, wondering if they had been quite wise to allow anything that made the women laugh so much."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver was originally published in 1988. My paperback copy is 323 pages long. The Bean Trees was Kingsolver's debut novel and you can clearly see her gift for writing. Although her talent is more evident in her subsequent novels, Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible to name two, this was still a fine story. I recommend it.

From Amazon:

Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. A first novel, The Bean Trees is an overwhelming delight, as random and unexpected as real life. The unmistakable voice of its irresistible heroine is whimsical, yet deeply insightful. Taylor playfully names her little foundling "Turtle," because she clings with an unrelenting, reptilian grip; at the same time, Taylor aches at the thought of the silent, staring child's past suffering. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson, Ariz., with two flat tires and decides to stay. The desert climate, landscape and vegetation are completely foreign to Taylor, and in learning to love Arizona, she also comes face to face with its rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Similarly, Taylor finds that motherhood, responsibility and independence are thorny, if welcome, gifts. This funny, inspiring book is a marvelous affirmation of risk-taking, commitment and everyday miracles.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign. I'm not lying. He got stuck up there."

"Lou Ann made the baptism decision purely for practical reasons: if one of the grandmothers was going to have a conniption, it might as well be the one who was eighteen hundred miles away rather than the one who lived right across town."

"Sometimes I feel like a foreigner too. I come from a place that's so different from here you would think you'd stepped right off the map into some other country where they use dirt for decoration and the national pastime is having babies. People don't look the same, talk the same, nothing."

"Don't ignore it then... Talk back to it. Say, 'You can't do that number on me you...' or something like that. Otherwise it kind of weasels its way into your head whether you like it or not."

"I realized that I had come to my own terms with the desert, but my soul was thirsty."

Monday, December 24, 2007

The New Springtime

The New Springtime by Robert Silverberg is the sequel to At Winter's End. It was originally published in 1990 and is 358 pages long. You need to read At Winter's End before The New Springtime. I enjoyed The New Springtime more than At Winter's End. I'd have to honestly say that At Winter's End bogged down in the second half (or toward the last third) of the book. The New Springtime kept the pace up better, although in many ways I thought the two books could have been edited down to one, with a part one and part two. I still prefer hard science fiction, though, so that could influence my feelings. Silverberg is a very good writer and that makes his books enjoyable. I recommend his books if you like science fiction.

From Amazon:
[Second of 2 "New Springtime" novels.] The death-stars had come, and they had kept on coming for hundreds of thousands of years, falling upon the Earth, swept upon it by a vagrant star that had passed through the outer reaches of the solar system. They brought with them a time of unending darkness and cold. It was a thing that happened every twenty-six million years, and there was no turning it aside. But all that was done with now. At last the death-stars had ceased to fall, the sky had cleared of dust and cinders, the sun's warmth again was able to break through the clouds. The glaciers relinquished their hold on the land; the Long Winter ended; the New Springtime began. The world was born anew. Now each year was warmer than the last. The fair seasons of spring and summer, long lost from the world, came again with increasing power. And the People, having survived the dark time in their sealed cocoons, were spreading rapidly across the fertile land. But others were already there. The hjjks, the somber cold-eyed insect-folk, had never retreated, even at the time of greatest chill. The world had fallen to them by default, and they had been its sole masters for seven hundred thousand years. They were not likely to share it gladly now. Locus Poll Award Nominee


"What a pathetic imitation of lost greatness we've created here! And we're so proud of what we have done. But in truth we've done so little - only to copy, like the monkeys that we are. What we have copied is the appearance, not the substance. And we could lose it all, such as it is, in the twinkling of an eye."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

At Winter's End

At Winter's End by Robert Silverberg was originally published in 1988. My hardcover copy is 404 pages long. This story is continued in The New Springtime. Although I would recommend this to those who enjoy science fiction, I would have to say that I enjoyed the Majipoor Chronicles books by Silverberg more. My less-than-hardy recommendation could also be based on the fact that I generally prefer hard science fiction. At Winter's End was enjoyable, however, and I'll be reading The New Springtime next.

From Amazon:
After a recurrence of the cataclysm that killed off the dinosaurs and a resulting Long Winter of 700,000 years, the eventual New Springtime sees only two of the far future Earth's original Six Peoples emerge from their deep cocoons: the resilient, insect-like hjjk-folk and the simian tribes who regard themselves as heirs to humanity. Young Hresh-full-of-questions is a member of one of the latter, a small band that must radically change its ancient rituals and taboos to adapt to their new life. Taking up temporary residence in the shell of a once great city, the group fearfully meets another people, is itself torn in half by rivalry and, through Hresh, achieves a new realization of who they are. This solid, dramatic novel expands on a favorite motif of Silverberg's: the mixed terrors and pleasures of freedom, of going out into the wider world without guide, map or a sure sense of one's own capabilities. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"It is possible that we are the only ones left anywhere, Torlyri thought. The idea was frightening. Just one fragile little band of some sixty men and women and children standing between humankind and extinction! Can we dare take any risk of destruction, she wondered, if we are the sole remnant of our kind?... It would be folly for the People to huddle in their cocoon until the end of time, waiting for absolute knowledge that it was finally safe to emerge. The gods never gave you absolute knowledge of anything. You had to take your chances and have faith."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Forever by Pete Hamill was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't quite what I expected, which was good in this instance. I recommend it. My hardcover copy is 613 pages and was published in 2003 by Little, Brown and Company. There were a few places where the pace of the story slowed down, and, although I can't say that I enjoyed all the sections the same, in the end Hamill tied it all together nicely, at least for me.
From Amazon:
This novel demands that the reader immediately suspend disbelief, but if this summons is heeded the reward will be a superior tale told by Hamill (Snow in August; A Drinking Life) in the cadence of the master storyteller. The year is 1741 and this is the story of Cormac O'Connor-"Irish, and a Jew"-who grows up in Ireland under English Protestant rule and is secretly schooled in Gaelic religion, myth and language. Seeking to avenge the murder of his father by the Earl of Warren, he follows the trail of the earl to New York City. On board ship, Cormac befriends African slave Kongo, and once in New York, the two join a rebellion against the British. After the rising is quelled, mobs take to the streets and Kongo is seized. Cormac saves Kongo from death, but is shot in the process. His recovery takes a miraculous turn when Kongo's dead priestess, Tomora, appears and grants Cormac eternal life and youth-so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan, thus the "Forever" of the title. What follows is a portrait of the "city of memory of which Cormac was the only citizen." Cormac fights in the American Revolution, sups with Boss Tweed (in a very sympathetic portrait) and lives into the New York of 2001. In that year he warily falls in love with Delfina, a streetwise Dominican ("That was the curse attached to the gift: You buried everyone you loved"), and comes into contact with a descendant of the Earl of Warren, the newspaper publisher Willie Warren. His love, his drive for revenge and his very desire to exist are fatefully challenged on the eve and the day of September 11. This rousing, ambitious work is beautifully woven around historical events and characters, but it is Hamill's passionate pursuit of justice and compassion-Celtic in foundation-that distinguishes this tale of New York City and its myriad peoples.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"To Robert, such words seemed to be said that day for the first time in the long history of the world. You can't give up. You must try again. Important things to be said by a master for whom the most important of all the things in the shop was the anvil."

"The boy admonished himself for wanting everything to be a story. and now realized that some journeys were not stories. On some journeys, nothing really happened. You just kept taking steps. Once he had that in his brain, even arithmetic seemed easy."

"And heard Mary Morrigan speaking to him: If an unjust act is done in the family of a man or woman, it must be avenged. That is the rule... He rose then in a crouch, sheltered now by the seeping darkness. Thinking: I have my tasks now. Things I must do, or live, and die, in shame."

" 'I don't know what that means. To truly live.' Kongo paused again, his eyes wandering to the walls of the cave, to the blackness at the far end. 'To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.' "

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2008 Challenges

I was looking over my stacks of books to be read in order to prepare for some challenges this year and realized that by far the challenge I need the most is the TBR Challenge. With that in mind, I'm only going to officially join the TBR Challenge and the book-a-week group even though there were several other challenges that would neatly fit into my TBR stacks. Oh, I will naturally do Dana's Justforthehellofit challenge. And I'll stick with the Book Awards group.

Challenges in 2008: TBR, Book a week, Booker, Pulitzer, Justforthehellofit, Book Awards

Life & Times of Michael K - Coetzee, Booker, TBR
Martin Dressler - Millhauser, Pulitzer, TBR
The Known World - Jones, Pulitzer, TBR
Echo Maker - Powers,TBR
The Lost - Mendelsohn, TBR
Atonement - McEwan TBR
The Uses of Enchantment - Julavitis, TRB
Water For Elephants - TBR
The Kite Runner - Hosseini TBR
Oppenheimer - Bird & Sherwin, TBR
The Amazing Adventures of Kavaler & Clay - Chabon, Pulitzer, TBR
The Terror - Simmons, TBR

The Heavenly Man - Yun
The American Plague - Crosby
The Traveler - McLarty
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - See
Gold Bug Variations - Powers
The Effects of Living Backwards - Julavitis
Independence Day - Ford
The Bounty - Alexander
English Creek - Doig
Prairie Nocturne - Doig
Ride With Me Mariah Montana - Doig
These Granite Hills - Stonich
The Way the Crow Flies - MacDonald
Tying Down the Wind - Pinder
The Giver - Lowry
Neverwhere - Gaiman
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Haddon
Obernewtyn - Carmody
History - Morante
Their Father's Gods - Rolvaag
Peder Victorious - Rolvaag
Boat of Longing - Rolvaag
The Center of Everything - Moriarty
The Rest of Her Life - Moriarty
Ten Days in the Hills - Smiley

Plus we can add to the alternates the titles in a huge box of mysteries from my father-on-law that I haven't even counted. I need the TBR Challenge and the book-a-week group desperately.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Me and Santa

Just Me has been making little Santa figures around Christmas for a few years now. If you want to see close up pictures of her fine work, please visit her blog, Alas A Squirrel Passes By. Looks like someone is itchin' to get coal in her stocking.


I'm officially not a spam blogger!
Now back to our regularly scheduled book reviews and more...

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog." Sigh... They are now going to have to confirm I'm a real person.
Edited to add: I blame the Cheez Waffies posts for looking like a list of nonsense words. It's either that or I have to stop linking to and quoting from Amazon on my book reviews.

Girls of Tender Age

Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is a memoir originally published 2006. My hardcover copy is 287 pages long. Although it is entertaining, it is also troubling. This memoir is broken into 5 parts, with the first part, Mortality, being the longest. While reminiscing about growing up in the 50's and her family back ground, she also discusses where the man who would murder one of her classmates was during the same time. An essential role in her family story is her autistic brother, who will bite his wrists bloody over loud noises and a distant mother. At the end of the first part, Smith is in 5th grade and her classmate is murdered. The children are told to not speak of it at home and school. Part two, Brain Jog, deals with the recovery of Smith's repressed memories from two years after the murder. Part three is called The Quest and covers when Smith finally finds out what happened to her murdered classmate all those years ago. Part 4, What Goes Around, and five, The Future is Now, deal with the death of her parents and her brother. I recommend Girls of Tender Age and I will be looking into the other fiction books Mary-Ann Tirone Smith has written.

From Amazon:
The recovery of repressed memories of the 1953 murder by a serial killer of an 11-year-old friend and neighbor in a blue-collar enclave in Hartford, Conn., triggered Smith's absorbing memoir. In recalling her childhood, she is compelled to describe her upbringing in a fractured family whose existence centered on placating her older brother, Tyler, an autistic boy who couldn't bear sounds of any kind (crying, laughing, sneezing, dog barking). The narrative is further enriched by the author's investigations into the life and crimes of the psychopath who preyed on her friend and other little girls, and by her insights about the unequal rights of girls and women before feminism. The making of a writer is the subtext here; forbidden by her strict Catholic upbringing to question her parents, Smith was forced to develop her imagination. She was blessed with a nurturing father, who was the lifesaving antidote to her cold, selfish mother. Smith's ironic narrative voice, familiar to readers of her Poppy Rice mysteries and her sensitive and witty novels, serves her well. Larger than the sum of its parts, this book illuminates a social class as it recounts a tangled story of a family and a crime. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information,

"This is the chronic response to crisis in my family. First, there can be no cry. That is because of Tyler [autistic brother who can not stand noise]...The second response... follows immediately upon the heels of the first; my mother assigns blame... Until I am in the first grade I have no idea that when you are hurt, some people have the urge to hug and comfort you."

"I find that today's weddings aren't the wild fun they used to be because no one is racing around the dance floor. polka-ing and shouting hoop-eye, shoop-eye at the top of their lings."

"[T]here is no room for all the hostesses on the stage, so they face the audience in a long line in front of the stage. In front of me. They each hold flashlights inside of toilet paper rolls painted red to look like Christmas candles. Illuminated from below, their faces are ghoul-like, their nostrils appearing like black walnuts. This means that many of the kindergartners sitting up front on the floor have to be taken out, traumatized."

"This was much better than the time my second grade class made candleholders for Mother's Day out of empty Wisk bottles. My mother opened her gift and said...what the hell are those teachers thinking? Then she threw it in the wastebasket."

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Gathering of Stars

A Gathering of Stars by Donald Moffitt is book two of the Mechanical Sky. My paperback copy was published in 1989 and has 281 pages. This was an enjoyable and satisfying conclusion to the two book series. Donald Moffitt knows how to write good science fiction. I highly recommend all of his books.

From Amazon:

The ambitious Sultan of Alpha Centauri can only claim the illustrious title of Caliph if he makes a ritual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. This journey completed, he will rule the entire population of the greater Islamic universe. But human knowledge has not yet been able to overcome the significant challenges presented by interplanetary travel. However, the Sultan resourcefully enlists the help of Abdul Hamid-Jones, a clever fugitive with a price on his head and the law on his heels. Thrown into the bewildering world of the Sultan-s schemes, Abdul receives a hasty introduction to complex physics and the even more complex political intrigues of the Sultan-s court. Responsible for the successful execution of the Sultan-s plan, Abdul slowly realizes with horror that the fate of the entire Solar system could be resting on his shoulders.
"The colonel's eyes glittered under his bushy brows. 'Stir things up. spill a little blood. Doesn't matter whose blood it is, in the long run. It makes people disaffected, destabilizes the government.' His eyes misted over as he contemplated truth and beauty."

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Just Me has been posting some good pictures lately.
Check out her pictures of birds at our feeders on her blog. Hopefully she'll get some even better pictures once the sun comes out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Crescent in the Sky

Crescent in the Sky by Donald Moffitt (the Mechanical Sky series, Book 1) was originally published in 1989. My paperback edition is 280 pages long. Crescent in the Sky begins with an interesting premise, the Islamic conquest of space. Since it was written in 1989, this science fiction novel is set in an interesting alternate history/what if... context. I recommend it. (Since this is book one of a two part series, you will want to have book two, A Gathering of Stars, available when you finish this first book.)

From Amazon:
A junior cloning technician for the Royal Stables of the Emir of Mars becomes a pawn in an interstellar struggle between Islamic planets for the right to unite all the Muslim worlds under one great Caliph. Featuring an intriguing premise--the Islamic conquest of space--and an engagingly ingenuous hero, this sf adventure/intrigue belongs in most collections. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Like it or not, he was an Anglo-Arab - forever to be known in the social scheme of things as an Arab al masta ariba, 'one who becomes an Arab.' "

"Strength, he had often had cause to notice, was not as important in the world as height; it was eye level that counted."

"The Nadha [Great Awakening] had been predicted for centuries. When it finally came it was because of a convergence of historical forces - four of them, principally... Demographics. Oil. Fervor. And the historical coincidence of a newly available frontier in space that was able to give shape to them."

"The second thing the oil-rich nations did was to buy into the West in a big way, to make their temporary affluence permanent. They worked to gain control of banking, real estate, basic industries, agriculture."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Insignia® Shelf System

5 Minutes For Mom is giving away an Insignia® Shelf System! Check this out!

Best Buy also has an excellent sale on it right now. You could purchase it for $127.99 and save $32! (There is still time for guaranteed Christmas delivery too. Check out Best Buy for details.)
Here is a quick rundown of the product features of the Insignia® - 75W DVD/CD/HD Radio Compact Shelf System with USB Port
* CD/DVD playback compatible with DVD/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/CD/CD-R/MP3/MP4
* Digital AM/FM with 60 presets
* HD Radio receiver
* iPod device docking with charger and function control
* Front USB input
* Audio outputs: optical and coaxial
* Video outputs:componet and S-video

Two more memories

Two more memories from when I was attending public school in the 60's.

1. I wore a dress or skirt to school every day. All the girls did. If it was winter and bitterly cold, we girls would wear pants over our tights, but we took the pants off at school. This would have included 3 different cities. I never wore pants to school until we moved to the (disliked) small town in the early 70's.

2. At one large city school we all brought butter knives or dandelion diggers to school one spring day and all the classes were assigned the removal of dandelions from part of the lawn. Obviously, this would never be allowed now. I'm actually kind of surprised it was allowed then.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dirt Music

Dirt Music by Tim Winton was originally published in 2001 and is 407 pages long. This was my first novel by Winton, an acclaimed Australian author. Initially I had to overcome Winton's style of writing (no quotation marks; sparse, stream of consciousness writing) and my lack of knowledge of Australian slang. Both interfered slightly with some of my enjoyment reading Dirt Music. I almost set this book aside after the first 90 pages or so, when the two protagonists, Georgie and Lu meet. For me it was a weak, contrived beginning. After that point, when they went their separate ways, the story actually became stronger. Their inner turmoil made more sense. I may need to reserve my judgement on Winton until I read another one of his books.

Arguably one of the finest of all Australian novelists, Tim Winton shows that he remains in top form with Dirt Music, a wistful, charged, ardent novel of female loss and amatory redemption. The setting is Winton's favorite: the thorn-bushed, sheep-farmed, sun-punished boondocks of Western Australia. The cast is limited but spirited: the two chief protagonists are Georgie Jutland, a fortysomething adoptive mother with a vodka problem, and Luther Fox, a brooding, feral, bushwhacking poacher.

The plot is something else altogether: an elegantly wearied, cleverly finessed mutual odyssey that opts to follow the sometimes intertwining, sometimes diverging lives of poor Georgie and Luther as they try to deal with the odd alliance they comprise, as well as the complex and fractured lives they want to leave behind. The way Georgie deals with her unwitting inheritance of two dissatisfied adopted kids is particularly touching, poignant, and well written.

Best of all, though, is the prose. Somehow it manages to be simultaneously juicy and dry, like a desert cactus. This is especially true when Winton touches on the scented harshness of the Down Under outback: "the music is jagged and pushy and he for one just doesn't want to bloody hear it, but the outbursts of strings and piano are as austere and unconsoling as the pindan plain out there with its spindly acacia and red soil." This is a wise and accomplished novel. --Sean Thomas,


"When Georgie sat down before the [computer] terminal she was gone in her seat, like a pensioner at the pokies, gone for all the money. Into that welter of useless information night after night to confront people and notions she could do without. She didn't know why she bothered except that it ate time."

"Here on the midwest coast the wind might not be your friend but it was sure as hell your constant neighbour."

"She had never understood the grip that places had over people. That sort of nostalgia made her impatient. It was awful; seeing people beholden to their memories, staying on in houses or towns out of some perverted homage."

"I did think about goin north, he said. Just wanted to leave everythin and bolt. You know, disappear. I already felt like a ghost...But then I thought, I'm gone already. Why not disappear without leavin?"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Do not drink and take drugs

Just the other day I was thinking about something that happened way back when I was in junior high, in the very early 70's. We had moved from a large city to a small town. This was not a good move. It was a difficult adjustment in numerous ways, especially socially. But the move is not what I was thinking about.

Part of the curriculum in this small town school system was, naturally, to warn us of the evils of alcohol and drugs. The teachers told us, "Do not drink and take drugs." Seems simple enough, huh? The only problem was that these teachers assumed that you knew the "drink" they were speaking of was alcoholic and the "drugs" they were referring too were illegal. That assumption in itself implies something highly interesting and very true about the community, but I digress. Coming from a comfortable large city suburban school system to the melting pot of an insular small town didn't exactly include an instruction manual on small town living. I was, perhaps, the only student in that middle school (another concept I had difficulties with at that time) who did not know that "drink" meant alcohol and "drugs" were of the illegal variety.

When I was told, "Don't drink and take drugs," I took it at face value since I had no other information to base it on. In my mind it meant you shouldn't take any drug (legal, prescribed variety) with any liquid other than water... and just enough water to wash the pill down. Sometime after hearing this anti drug and alcohol "lesson" my older brother was taking an asprin. He was going to take it with, gasp, orange juice. Having taken the lesson to heart, I had to tell him, just in case he had missed that class, "You aren't suppose to drink and take drugs!"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cloisonne vases

This is my first Cloisonne vase. I love it.

Front detail
Back detail
Isn't it pretty! I always thought it would be my favorite but...

This is my second vase. I love it.

See the pretty little birds?

Look how pretty it is... see all the intricate details on this one?
It's hard to say which one is my favorite now. I guess I love them both the same, just like I love Wonder Boy and Just Me the same.

Just me likes the sparkles in the new vase's enamel.

Thanks to Just Me for taking the pictures so I could share my vases with you.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Speed of Dark

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is the story of an autistic man living in the not too distant future. Even though The Speed of Dark falls into the category of science fiction, it is not hard science fiction so it can be appreciated by a wide variety of readers. The Speed of Dark was originally published in 2003 and is 340 pages long. This is a thoughtful, compelling book that actually takes you into the mind of an autistic man and his day to day anxiety to live with people who are "normal". I highly recommend this book, especially if you know someone who is autistic. Moon's son is autistic and you can clearly see her intimate knowledge with autism.

From Amazon:
"If I had not been what I am, what would I have been?" wonders Lou Arrendale, the autistic hero of Moon's compelling exploration of the concept of "normalcy" and what might happen when medical science attains the knowledge to "cure" adult autism. Arrendale narrates most of this book in a poignant earnestness that verges on the philosophical and showcases Moon's gift for characterization. The occasional third-person interjections from supporting characters are almost intrusive, although they supply needed data regarding subplots. At 35, Arrendale is a bioinformatics specialist who has a gift for pattern analysis and an ability to function well in both "normal" and "autistic" worlds. When the pharmaceutical company he works for recommends that all the autistic employees on staff undergo an experimental procedure that will basically alter their brains, his neatly ordered world shatters. All his life he has been taught "act normal, and you will be normal enough"-something that has enabled him to survive, but as he struggles to decide what to do, the violent behavior of a "normal friend" puts him in danger and rocks his faith in the normal world. He struggles to decide whether the treatment will help or destroy his sense of self. Is autism a disease or just another way of being? He is haunted by the "speed of dark" as he proceeds with his mesmerizing quest for self-"Not knowing arrives before knowing; the future arrives before the present. From this moment, past and future are the same in different directions, but I am going that way and not this way.... When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same." His decision will touch even the most jaded "normal." Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.