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3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

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Silver Lies: 04/30/07

Silver Lies

Silver Lies is the second book I've recently read that takes place in Leadville Colorado at the close of the silver boom. Of the two, I preferred the slightly more melodramatic The Golden Fury by Marian Castle who grew up in Leadville.

Silver Lies from start to finish takes place in what would be the first third of The Golden Fury. It's the time when Leadville is still booming but the boom is slowing down. The lucky few will find the remaining veins of silver or find other metals (lead and zinc). Those who are close to the mines can see the bust coming and will move on to other mining towns and the other businesses will try to adapt.

In the middle of this time of turmoil, a man has gone missing and an another, assayer, has been murdered. Inez Stannert the wife of the missing man must work with a questionable cast of characters to solve the mystery of Joe Rose's death. While Leadville is described with full detail making it a believable depiction of a boom town, the mystery seemed both clunky and predictable.

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Tortilla Flat: 04/30/07

Sixteen Short Novels

I picked up Sixteen Short Novels at the September BookCrossing meeting last year. Yes; I went a week postpartum and Harriet went too. My goal is to read and review each of these short novels but if I do it all at once I'll only get this one massive book read for quite some time. Instead, I'll concentrate on each novel separately and count each one as its own book just as I did for the four novellas in Four Past Midnight. At that rate I figure I can read about three of these short novels a month and I should have the book ready for release by Harriet's first birthday.

"Tortilla Flat" by John Steinbeck is the first novel in this collection that I've genuinely disliked. He's practically a local author and certainly a well renowned California author but his style of writing often rubs me the wrong way. "Tortilla Flat" is supposed to be a Depression era "knights of the round table" poke at modern conventions and society. Unfortunately it's so ham-fisted that I came away despising all of the main characters and not about any of their idiotic exploits.

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The Summerfolk: 04/28/07

The Summerfolk

At the April BookCrossing meeting Sean and I were given a stack of children's books. The Summerfolk is one of those books.

The Summerfolk for its delightful illustrations and for its story reminds me a great deal of Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. According to Wikipedia, the book was inspired by Burn's life on Waldron Island.

In this case a child goes out to adventure on the water after having heard the adults speak disparagingly about the hordes of "summerfolks" who would soon be descending upon their island. While out imagining all sorts of evil things the summerfolk's must be doing to ruin his favorite haunts, he meets up with a group of children. They take him on a wild boat adventure to a tree house he has never seen. It turns out that these kids are summerfolk. The lesson learned is that not all outsiders are bad.

What makes the book so magical are the illustrations, also done by Burn. They are what remind me most of the Enright books. Burn's detailed line drawings are reminiscent of the illustrative style of Beth and Joe Krush, the team that illustrated Enright's books (along with many of Mary Norton's).

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My Yard: 04/27/07

My Yard

At the April BookCrossing meeting Sean and I were given a stack of children's books. My Yard is one of those books.

This copy of My Yard is in such good condition that I first thought I has a reprint of the book but looking at the copyright, it really is a board book that has survived since the late 1970s. The little girl on the cover is probably my age!

Sean likes the book because it shows all the different things he likes to do. Each page is a photograph of children doing something in a yard including picking flowers (a Sean favorite), sliding, playing in sand, running, swinging (I think I had that dress!), splashing, gardening (another Sean favorite), running through sprinklers, playing with trucks (my favorite back in 1978) and finally swinging on a tire swing.

The book also gave Sean and me the chance to talk about what my childhood was like. I pointed the girl on the cover and told Sean that she is my age. He shook his head and said she was his age. I explained how the book was made when I was a child and so now the little girl in the book has to be all grown up too. It took a little while for the concept to sink in. Now he's taking more interest in listening to my stories of my childhood.

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Goodnight Moon: 04/26/07

Goodnight Moon

At the April BookCrossing meeting Sean and I were given a stack of children's books. Goodnight Moon is one of those books.

Goodnight Moon is one of those books that's so ubiquitous that one starts to take it for granted. I realized I knew the story and yet hadn't ever read it myself. I don't even know if my mother read it to me. Nor did I know Margaret Wise Brown had written it. In retrospect I should have know she wrote the book, she seems to have written most of the classics.

I can see the appeal of Goodnight Moon to young children. The soothing rhyme first introduces the characters (the old woman, the two kittens, the young mouse and of course the young bunny) and sets the scene (the room, the toys, the pictures, and so forth). Then it is time to undo the set up by saying goodnight to everything. As a coda, some extra things beyond the initial scene are also wished a goodnight ending with a wistful: "goodnight noises everywhere."

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Gingerbread Baby: 04/25/07

Gingerbread Baby

At the April BookCrossing meeting Sean and I were given a stack of children's books. Gingerbread Baby is one of those books.

Gingerbread Baby starts with the story of the gingerbread boy and is given the Jan Brett treatment.

The book follows the gingerbread baby as he runs amok through the village to escape the hungry mobs of people who all want to eat him. Pay attention to the illustrations at the edge of each page to see just how he will ultimately be caught.

While the illustrations are as delightful as in The Hat, I didn't enjoy the story as much. The Gingerbread Boy isn't one of my favorite fairy tales to begin with so it would have taken a lot to capture my attention.

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Sammy's Hill: 04/24/07

Sammy's Hill

Let me start by saying I've enjoyed Kristin Gore's writing on Futurama and find her stories both witty and funny. When Sammy's Hill showed up at our local BookCrossing meeting I snatched it up, eager to see how she would do with a novel, especially about a subject she probably knows well from her father's time in politics.

Here's the story in a nutshell: young up-and-coming political aid has to decide between love and career. If this were a screwball comedy, she would have ended up with both love and career but the book can't decide if it is chick lit or a thriller.

The other problem is the way Sam is written. To show how green around the gills she is, Gore has Sam question everything (and I do mean everything) that anyone says to her or that she does. While this sort of approach works for the Futurama characters, it backfires horribly for Sam. It doesn't make her seem smart and it makes every scene, even simple ones, take twice as long as they should.

Finally there is Sam's professional relationship with RG. She states throughout the novel her deep respect for her boss and yet she doesn't listen to him. At the very start of things when RG has to compromise with another congressman to get a bill passed, he warns Sam not trust any of this man's staff. So what does she immediately do? Of course; she hops into bed with her counterpart. And yet I'm supposed to think she's smarter than the average Futurama character?

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Contraband: 04/23/07

Contraband

Contraband takes place in a border town aptly named Gibeon in the early years of Prohibition. Carmel Lee, a typical Kelland heroine, comes to Gibeon having inherited the local newspaper. Motivated by the drive to see the floundering paper succeed, she uncovers a vast network of corruption.

As with most Kelland books, the emphasis is on the plucky outsider trying keep the promises made while maintaining a sense of personal integrity. The plot usually revolves around the taking on of a new job and often time far afield of the protagonist's skills. Ingenuity and common sense mixed with pig-headedness help to find unique solutions to long unsolved problems.

I found it striking that Carmel puts herself in danger by taking on the head of this locally brewed crime syndicate. In many of Kelland's books the emphasis is more on the challenge of learning something new than on self sacrifice for a greater good.

The one bit that disappointed me with the book was the lackluster attempt at romance. There is no reason for Carmel to suddenly decide she wants a lover nor any reason for her to pick the man she does except perhaps to redeem the character who up until then had been mostly a source of expository information.

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The Art of Reading: 04/22/07

The Art of Reading

The Art of Reading is a charity book published by Reading is Fundamental to celebrate the foundations 40th anniversary. Forty children's illustrators were asked to write about their memories of reading and to include an illustration inspired by those memories. I read this book as a bookring, something I signed up for just before Harriet was born.

There are so many books for children published every year that I only recognized a couple names among the included artists. Among the books they listed as favorites, I saw many of mine: A Cricket in Times Square, Charlotte's Web, Freddy the Detective, and Millions of Cats.

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The Grouchy Ladybug: 04/21/07

The Grouchy Ladybug

I think it's fair to say that Eric Carle is one of Sean's favorite authors. Before Sean I wasn't all that enamored with Carle's books but Sean has been eagerly collecting them and has always enjoyed us reading them to him (and now he enjoys reading them to Harriet). The Grouchy Ladybug is Sean's latest addition to his collection.

The ladybug in question is having a very bad day and decides to take out his frustrations by picking pretend fights with various creatures, each one larger than the next. Rather than stay to fight he always claims that the creature he's accosted is too small even as the creatures get steadily larger than he is.

The passage of time is marked by a clock and by the inclusion of the time in the text. Sean who has been learning to tell time now for about a year and a half finds the clock bit very funny.

My favorite bit is the end in that the ladybug's temper tantrum runs its course, leaving him with nothing to show except a wasted day and a big appetite. Fortunately his friends forgive him for his bad behavior and the day ends on a happy note with meal shared among friends.

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The Old Maid: 04/20/07

Sixteen Short Novels

I picked up Sixteen Short Novels at the September BookCrossing meeting last year. Yes; I went a week postpartum and Harriet went too. My goal is to read and review each of these short novels but if I do it all at once I'll only get this one massive book read for quite some time. Instead, I'll concentrate on each novel separately and count each one as its own book just as I did for the four novellas in Four Past Midnight. At that rate I figure I can read about three of these short novels a month and I should have the book ready for release by Harriet's first birthday.

"The Old Maid" by Edith Wharton has been a play and a film. It takes a hard look at the skeletons in the closet of a powerful family. In this case, the skeleton is in the form of a "foundling" named Tina who is actually the daughter of a cousin. To save face but keep her daughter near, Tina's mother mustn't marry and has to play at being her daughter's "old maid aunt."

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Baby Island: 04/19/07

Baby Island

I picked this book up from the Dublin library discard shelf around the time that Harriet was a newborn. Feeling a little overwhelmed by how much attention and care she needed those first couple months, I picked up the book. It had an absurd title and was short enough to finish quickly. From the cover art, I was under the impression that Baby Island was written in the 1960s or early 1970s. Actually though it was first published in 1937.

Mary and Jean on a ship bound for Australia where their father has relocated for work. They have befriended the parents of the youngest passengers and have been the on-board baby sitters. In the middle of a huge storm, they end up on a lifeboat with four babies: the toddling twins Elijah (Blue) and Elisha (Pink), Ann Elizabeth (age 1) and Jonah (age 4 months).

The story is a classic desert island / shipwreck adventure akin to the first half of Robinson Crusoe or the horrible Swiss Family Robinson except from the perspective of a group of children. While the necessities of food and water are covered in the plot, along with the need for a safe and dry shelter away from the tide, nothing is mentioned about the infants numerous diaper changes. There is some hinting at the problem with the many times Mary and Jean are washing Pink and Blue's outfits but it's done in such a saccharine way that being stuck on an island with a handful of young children and limited supplies seems like such a magical adventure.

After the initial at sea disaster where the children were genuinely scared and aware of how much danger they were in, the book began to bore me. Mary and Jean are so busy having fun that they never stop to think of the ramifications of their situation. Nor do they seem to care for the children beyond seeing them as cute (and hungry) play things.

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Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: 04/18/07

Wild Parrots of Telepgraph Hill

I heard about the documentary about the wild parrots on NPR and when they mentioned the book I wanted to read it. My reasons were two fold: experience with another flock of parrots (in South Pasadena) and because I live so near San Francisco. A generous BookCrosser RABCKed me a copy last year and I've just finished reading the book to RABCK the book on to another BookCrosser.

While the book had some interesting chapters, over all it was a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for another memoir of a layman's learning of a subject as in Cats Are Not Peas but Bittner's book is more about his own inertia than about his process to learn about the parrots.

My favorite chapter is "The Science of It" where Bittner gives a brief rundown of the biology of the parrots, what they are, where they are from, and their history in the city. Unfortunately he never fully pursues any of these threads. I would have loved to read more about the history of the parrot flocks in San Francisco.

Instead, the book is padded with the names for the various birds, how they are fed, and so forth. After the second or so chapter introducing yet another parrot and his or her daily activities, I just started skimming hoping for a few more nuggets of interesting information.

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Games to Play with Babies: 04/17/07

Games to Play with Babies

Since I have the youngest child in our local BookCrossing group I've been handed down a bunch of parenting books. One of those books was Games to Play with Babies. While the book seems to be well meaning, it rubbed me the wrong way.

For parents or caregivers who lack empathy or are intimidated by an infant's needs, Games to Play with Babies would be a good primer. It has the different games broken up by age and by what the activity purports to teach.

The educational value of each of these games is what bothers me the most. Infants are like little exchange students thrust into a foreign culture. They're under total immersion around the clock. Everything is a learning experience for them. To try to mark out what each of these entertaining little games will teach is just silly.

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Buffalo Grass: 04/16/07

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo Grass is one of about 100 books I was given by a man who was moving from San Jose and didn't want to take his collection of old books to his new home. I am still reading through them as time permits but this book I had offered it on the now defunct book relay site so I had to read it now. I wish I had read it sooner because I loved it.

Buffalo Grass is a historical novel about the founding of Pawnee City (currently in Nebraska, but part of the Kansas territory at the time of the book). The book published in 1956 was later made into a film, The Big Land, in 1957. The town is built on blood money, 25 thousand in gold coin from a Confederate war chest. The war is over and two Union soldiers figure no one will miss the money.

For twenty dollars and two bottles of whisky, they buy the land and begin to build. The stresses of building a city and seeing it take on a life of its own splits friendships and forges new ones. If the character dynamics were just between Joe and Chad, the book would have been interesting. The inclusion of two strong female characters as well who are equal to their male counterparts makes this book a page turner.

Helen, the bookkeeper (and sister of Joe) and Cass (the rancher from Texas) both have stakes in the success of Pawnee City. Helen wants the city to succeed as a business venture; Cass sees it as a vibrant town where struggling families such as hers can reinvent themselves in the boomtown economy.

Buffalo Grass is no simple western of good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. It is place grounded in the messy post Civil War politics. Characters are well rounded and three-dimensional with conflicting goals and desires. They can make mistakes. At the end of the book, there is no real winner, expect perhaps Pawnee City which has survived its infancy.

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The Gryphon: 04/15/07

The Gryphon

The Gryphon takes the story of Griffin and Sabine on a tangent by introducing two new characters: Dr. Mattheson and his fiancée. Most of the correspondence is between these two long distance lovers with Griffin and Sabine (mostly Sabine) interrupting with their own cryptic messages.

Before I read The Gryphon, I went back and reread Griffin and Sabine, the first in the series. I was amazed to see how simplistic the original illustrations are in comparison to those in The Gryphon. These postcards and letters are luscious and worth spending minutes on just admiring each one as a separate art piece.

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Valley of the Dolls: 04/14/07

Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls is one of those books I heard of as a child as it was one I think every adult I knew had read. I even remember one adult telling me in the voice one uses to talk about impolite things, "Oh they're not those sorts of dolls." That much I had figured out already. Why else would adults be reading it?

It was also one of those books that I figured I'd never read. Flash forward to last year. Before I was telecommuting, I used to listen to Radio 4 at work. They did a radio play version of the novel and I was surprised to find myself entertained by the story. As with so many of the books I've heard Radio 4 adapt, I wanted to read to read the novel.

The book covers two decades in the lives and careers of three women: Anne, Neeley and Jennifer. All of them are thrust too quickly into fame and fortune and are not emotionally equipped to deal with the stress of such high profile lives. One by one they turn to the dolls to help them sleep or stay awake or just plain cope.

The film version has a happy ending and one that frankly I find more in character for Anne. Neeley and Jennifer start the book rather broken and more willing to succeed by any means possible. Anne who starts the book with such high standards falls just as hard as her friends even though she is the most resourceful and smart of the three.

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A House Divided: 04/13/07

A House Divided

Back in seventh grade we were given a list of books to read from and we had to read a minimum number (I don't remember how many as I read nearly the entire list before the school year ended). Among the lot was The Good Earth which I remember being a tough but enjoyable read. At the time I knew next to nothing about China and the book fascinated me.

The Good Earth was the first in a trilogy and A House Divided is the end. I haven't read Sons, the middle book, but A House Divided stands well enough alone without knowing what happens in Sons. I was hoping to revisit that sense of the world opening up to me as it had with The Good Earth. Instead, I found stilted language and dull, unlikable characters.

The plot is almost a complete reversal of Cat's-Paw (1934) in that a Chinese man is sent to the United States for education only to return home to China a changed man. I read A House Divided but didn't enjoy it like I had The Good Earth.

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Andrea: 04/12/07

Sixteen Short Novels

I picked up Sixteen Short Novels at the September BookCrossing meeting last year. Yes; I went a week postpartum and Harriet went too. My goal is to read and review each of these short novels but if I do it all at once I'll only get this one massive book read for quite some time. Instead, I'll concentrate on each novel separately and count each one as its own book just as I did for the four novellas in Four Past Midnight. At that rate I figure I can read about three of these short novels a month and I should have the book ready for release by Harriet's first birthday.

The first story in the collection is "Andrea" by John O'Hara. Told from the point of view of Andrea's first lover and perhaps longest lover over the course of a couple decades. Neither has an especially happy life but they go about the motions, meeting up as their paths cross.

"Andrea" is a story of events and what-ifs. Every chance they get to make a decision they make the wrong the one and go farther down a path of loneliness and unhappiness.

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Little Cricket's Song: 04/11/07

Little Cricket's Song

When we first moved to the East Bay, Sean was newly enamored with trains. A cheap and easy way to entertain him on Saturdays was to take him for a ride on BART. We spent a five week period in 2005 riding BART down to Fremont (end of the line) and walking to Half Price Books. At the bookstore we'd pick up a book or two and then we'd stop at Burger King for lunch before our return trip.

Little Cricket's Song was one of our Half Price Books purchases. It has two little cricket clickers (a mother and child) that can be clicked on each page as the story progresses. Just as the kitten must learn how to purr in Have You Got My Purr? the little cricket must learn how to sing.

The story, told in a simple rhyme, covers the course of a night while the mama cricket teaches her child how to sing. They sing to frogs and owls and other night time creatures. At long last the cricket child feels confident in his ability to sing and he and his mother serenade the sun rise.

It's a short but sturdy book that has kept with Sean from his toddler years through his preschool years. Although he's getting old enough to read it himself, he still enjoys having us read it to him while he clicks the crickets. Now that Harriet is getting old enough to enjoy books, she sometimes like to help click the crickets too.

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The Leopard Hat: 04/10/07

Leopard Hat

I picked up The Leopard Hat right after Harriet was born at a local BookCrossing meeting. I'd recently enjoyed some other memoirs and I liked the leopard spotted cover.

The Leopard Hat is Valerie Steiker's memories of her mother, Gisèle who died unexpectedly of breast cancer when the author was in college. The loss of a loved one, especially one as close as a dearly loved parent is difficult and sad. Writing this memoir was part of the healing process for Steiker but I wish I had spent my time reading a different memoir instead.

Steiker grew up in the sort of families that the New York Times is always covering — the ones who stress over au pairs, private preschools and all sorts of other luxuries that leave the rest of us scratching our heads over. So when Steiker, as an adult is looking back on her childhood and bemoaning how hard it is to do things for herself now that her mother is gone, I find myself thinking of Lenina Crowne from Brave New World who has been so programmed by society to be infantile in her needs and desires.

I realize I'm being overly harsh but I didn't have much to relate to while reading this book beyond my own love of my mother. Readers who are familiar with New York, have traveled in Europe and lived the single life into their thirties will probably come away with more from the is book than I did.

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How I Read: 04/10/07

How I read

I've been asked many times where I read and I how I keep track of all the different books I have going at once but never how I actually read a book. This year I'm on track to read 365 books. If I do, that will be the most books I've ever read in a single year. The other half of that goal is to write a book review every day I update my blog. Right now I'm finding the reading half of the process taking less time than the reviewing half. I have about a two week backlog of books to review!

So onto the how. When I first pick up a book, I speed read enough of it learn a few things. I want to know in a nut shell what is happening and in what style it is written. Next I want to be able to decide if the book is worth finishing. I've gotten to a stage in my life where I no longer feel compelled to finish every book I start. Once I have the book read through quickly, I set it aside for the rest of the day.

Before I review in on the site, I go back and read the book a second time, at a more leisurely pace. I let myself get more involved in the story and characters. I might do some online research about the book or the subjects covered in it.

Then once the book is finished a second time, I write a quick review on BookCrossing to capture my initial thoughts and I will often-times make release notes for the book. If the book is for the "Keep them Moving Challenge" I will also post that I've finished the book and how I plan to release it. At long last, I write the review for the book that I post here on the blog.

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Dirt in the Well: 04/09/07

Dirt in the Well

BookCrossing in its six years has inspired a half a million members to register nearly four million books. It has also inspired a handful of members to write books. One of those books is Dirt in the Well by Linda Lyon.

The book is a mystery/thriller disguised as an Aga saga. I struggled through the domestic soap opera introduction, waiting for the mystery to kick into full gear. For such a short book, a large percentage of it is wasted on Fiona's dysfunctional family: her husband's affair, her mother's constant neediness, her previous marriage, her weight problems, and so forth.

The story takes off once Fiona pokes her nose into the account of one of her pharmacy clients. There's money to be made if she lets the client continue to take his "special" discount and danger for herself and her family if she doesn't. The ending while tight feels both rushed and forced. It seems unlikely that a man who has managed to commit the perfect crime will put that all at risk but it does provide the opportunity for Fiona to prove herself.

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Brave New World: 04/08/07

Brave New World

There is no way in this short amount of space I can do Brave New World justice. It was written in the 1920s as a rebuttal to an unpleasant trip to the United States. Huxley was put off by the excesses of the "Roaring Twenties": jazz, chewing gum, youth culture, skyscrapers and Henry Ford.

He tosses all these annoyances together to create a world where Ford is the new god (shudder), classes of workers are mass produced, families don't exist (except among the savages on reservations) and people are conditioned for how they should think and feel for every condition.

As with the other books of its era, it is more social commentary than actual story. The first third is not much more than world building, the setting up of the grand "what-if". The second third looks at a few of the privileged lot to see if they are as happy as they've been programmed to be. It also shows the other side of the coin, life among the "savages". It ends when the savage world collides with the civilized world. As this is a dystopian look at the future, the "savage" loses.

The book covers themes that will surface again in Philip K. Dick's novels: consumerism, advertising, sex, and drugs.

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Ginger: 04/07/07

Ginger

Just as Harriet was given a book at her last well baby appointment, so was Sean for his pre-kindergarten check. Sean's book is called Ginger and it is a much better read than Baby Angels.

Ginger as the cover art implies, is a ginger colored tom. He lives happily in the home of a little girl and has a comfortable basket-bed in the kitchen. Unfortunately his life is turned upside down when the little girl brings home a kitten.

On the kitten's first day the little girl doesn't think of Ginger's feelings and things don't go well. The kitten takes his bed, eats his food, and generally makes a nuisance of himself.

The story is one of sibling rivalry and the responsibility of becoming a big brother. It's also a reminder to parents to include the oldest child when having to take care of the needs of the baby. Show love to both and both children will grow to love each other.

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The Golden Mean: 04/06/07

The Golden Mean

At the end of February I received a RABCK in the form of The Gryphon which is the 4th book in the Griffin and Sabine series by Nick Bantock. As I hadn't yet read The Golden Mean, I treated myself to a copy.

The Golden Mean finds Griffin at home again in London and Sabine disappeared back to her island home. The feeling of unease left at the end of the previous continues on in the form of artists block for Griffin and an unsavory interloper named Victor Frolotti.

Frolotti's letters to Griffin begin to work their way into the narrative and are presented as well as colorful postcards and letters (albeit with sinister designs). Tales of his snooping into their lives also come in Sabine's letters. In fact, this book is mostly about Frolotti. Is his threat real or imagined?

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After the Funeral: 04/05/07

After the Funeral

After the Funeral: The Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses has been making the rounds at our local BookCrossing meetings. After having read and enjoyed similar books like Stiff, Spook and Teasing Secrets from the Dead I had to take this book the last time it showed up at one of our meetings.

After the Funeral is a rather lighthearted look at death and the bizarre things that people do to the dead (or parts of the dead). The book as the title promises, focuses on the misadventures of famous dead people. It's divided up into themes: heads, hearts, bodies and miscellaneous. Each section has a lot of repetition (same style of burial or adventure but different celebrity) so I found it more fun to read out of order. I read the book by picking out the names that most interested me and then going back and reading one from each section until I had read all of the stories.

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Demons Don't Dream: 04/04/07

Demons Don't Dream

Ten years ago when I was freelancing I read most of the Xanth series in order. Usually I don't binge on a book series like that but I somehow had most of these books and they were easy to read while I was riding the train to and from San Diego to work with my main client. Although I think I've had Demons Don't Dream for a decade I somehow missed reading it.

So ten years in, my tastes have changed and matured. I read up chapter four and had to put the book aside. The puns were forced. The plot was forced. Then there's the whole demons using a video game to trick humans into fighting their duel for them. Of course there is a Companions of Xanth game but I've no desire to play it having now suffered through four chapters describing it in painful (punful) detail.

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Sun Dog: 04/03/07

Four Past Midnight

Four Past Midnight contains four novellas by Stephen King. For the purpose of my book count, I'm counting each novella as a separate "book" and I'll be posting a separate review for each one.

"Sun Dog " is the final novella. Kevin receives a Sun 600 Polaroid camera for his birthday but there's something wrong with it. It only takes pictures of a dog — a vicious, blood thirsty, mouth full of teeth.

As with the best of King's stories, no one can explain why the camera only takes the photos of the "sun dog" or why he's so angry. He just is and everyone knows he is coming and that's he's bad news. Interestingly, the sun dog exists in the same universe as Cujo.

Had Kevin followed his instincts and smashed the camera after the first few photographs, the story would have been over before it started. It is when the camera comes into Pop Merrill's custody that the horror elements come to the surface. Pop reminded me throughout as an evil version of Morgan from Morgan's Passing.

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Marianne Dreams: 04/02/07

Marianne Dreams

When Ian and I were first dating, he raved about a film he had just seen, Paperhouse (1988). When Marianne Dreams was offered as a book ring via BookCrossing, I jumped at the chance to read the book that inspired the film (I still haven't seen the film).

Marianne, the protagonist of the book, falls ill over the summer with an unnamed disease and is confined to bed for a number of weeks. During this time she meets a boy Mark, confined to a mysterious building and unable to walk. The only catch, Marianne only meets him through her dreams. Is Mark real? Does Marianne have control over Mark's environment?

As a children's book it's a great introduction to the horror genre. It is also beautifully (and eerily) illustrated by Marjorie-Ann Watts. The book held my attention and I managed to read it in one sitting (staying up past my bedtime by an hour or so in the process).

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100 Words Per Minute: 04/01/07

100 Words Per Minute

I don't remember where I heard about 100 Words Per Minute but as Adina Sara is a local author, I can guess that it was for a review in one of two papers I regularly read. Anyway, it sounded like an interesting read and I know that the book will probably spark the interest of the other local Bookcrossers. I know that I wanted to read it in part because I almost landed in that line of work (and have been clocked at between 80 and 100 words per minute when typing).

100 Words Per Minute covers almost three decades of Adina Sara's work as a legal secretary (and later as a staff manager in a law office). It starts in the era of typewriters, heralds the coming of the FAX machine, and ends with computers, keyboards, mice and email.

Each chapter is a vignette of maybe ten pages. One of Sara's poems introduces the characters before the chapter and serve to set the tone. Over all it's an interesting and quick read. Without interruptions, one could read it in a matter of hours. I recommend it to anyone who has worked in a high stress, high workload environment (especially if one has worked as a temp or needed to hire a temp).

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