Thursday, January 13, 2005

Winter Has Finally Arrived but it Feels like Spit Not A Blanket

Winter has arrivedish. It's funny, but I would actually prefer to have some snow right now to this spitty rain stuff. I usually like rain, but not in January. I've lived here for going on four years now and this is the first year that we haven't had multiple snow storms by January. We haven't had any snow yet this year. But on the upside our fridge is being replaced. I take back anything mean I've said about Best Buy, but I'll reserve any praise until after we receive a working fridge. We need one that doesn't make strange loud noises, fail to make ice, isn't dented along the doors, and doesn't leak water from the bottom.

I never realized how expensive and hard it was to find bookcases. Either people never sell the bookcases they have or no one buys bookcases because I can't find any in the used furniture stores around town. I'll just have to keep looking and hope to find some gems at spring garage sales because my book collection just keeps on growing. We actually have a room in our house devoted solely to books I love having them all in one place. For years they've been divided between storage, my parents' houses, my apartment and so on that's why I suddenly need to find more shelves for them all. At some point the plan is to organize them by subject and author. I simply look forward to the time when they wont have to be stacked against the wall. Not having enough book cases does really make us look quite bohemian though.

Our having too many books to begin with doesn't, however, keep me from accumulating more of them and visiting the library as well. Today I visited the library before going to the gym. I came home with a stack of wedding and business etiquette books (not exactly mind altering fare but necessary nonetheless). I also put myself on the waiting list for Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfornate Events, V. 6-8. I've read the first few and had fun with them. They weren't nearly as interesting or intense as the Harry Potter series. Maybe that's because the characters don't really grow or age with every book. The plot is as predictable as the characters. I think the series is exactly what it set out to be: fun. I'd like to read Eragon about which I've heard good things too. Concerning children's books...

  • After reading a version of Aesop's Fables illustrated by Heidi Holder, I realized that I'm really beginning to love pencil and watercolor drawings. This book was beautifully illustrated. I found it in a used bookstore and it was well worth a few dollars. I loved the subtlety of the illustrations; they were soft and dreamlike. This book made me reminisce about the story the Wind and the Willows and the beautiful illustrations that often accompany that story. The illustrator's love of animals is evident from the renderings. I really enjoyed all of the illustrations, especially Country Mouse, City Mouse, Marriage of the Sun, and the Cock and the Jewel. I think that I also like the drawings because they feel familiar to me. Did I have this book or a similar one as a child? Or is there something about the tales or drawings that are familiar to the human conscience? That explanation sounds far too Jungian for my tastes.

On the writing, I would have liked an introduction about the history of the fables and why the particular ones in this book were chosen to be included instead of others, but other than that the book isn't lacking. The fables that most appealed to me were Country Mouse, City Mouse (For those of you that know my sweetie moved from the Big Apple to be with me, you'll understand why this story was especially touching) and Laden Ass. It's a pretty book. Standard ethics fables.

  • The Wit of Oscar Wilde was ok. It was a compilation of things he said or wrote. It was a decent book but only because it encouraged me to read some of his original writings themselves. Beyond that, it's simply a book full of witty but disjointed and sometimes contradictive statements about love, marriage, money, and so on. I have the feeling that Wilde was a not a very happy person. His Portrait of Dorian Gray didn't exactly paint the picture of a comfortable, well-adjusted author. Not a keeper. I've recorded the names of the pieces I want to read: An Ideal Husband etc.
  • I enjoyed Unnatural Fire by Fidelis Morgan but it wasn't nearly as good as it's sequel The Rival Queens. I read them in the wrong order because I found the first one after the second at a book sale. The situations in this one weren't nearly as memorable and the characters were not nearly as engaging. I'm glad I read the second one first or I might not have gotten to the second--better--one.

The characters were not realistically foolish. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the story was too much like the common comedy of manners. The characters were just too dense. Furthermore, with the exception of a character named Betty all the characters that die during the course of the story really don't illicit any emotional response from the reader. In other words, their deaths result in nothing more than a dull thud. The apparent villains are not attractive and are gravely flawed. The villain isn't a fallen hero at all. The place and voice of the story were lacking the same delicious quality that the second book has. It wasn't easy to laugh, nor were the descriptions of period London as well wrought. I'm only tempted to keep it because I'm rather fond of the author's second book.

  • Wow. Talk about a serious mindbender. If you think you're good at puzzles and riddles, then you need to read The Exeter Book of Riddles translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland. This took me a long time to read because I tried to figure out all the riddles. They were nearly impossible. It definitely made me miss my friends at St. John's. We could have made a dent in them more quickly with a group effort. It's at these times that I miss you most acutely.
  • I am not a fan of comics. Maybe that's because I didn't grow up reading them, or maybe I'm just too uptight, but my fiance says I should try to read a few just for kicks. I'm not so sure. After reading a highly praised "comic" book that felt kind of flat it's hard for me to jump on the comic book band wagon. It's really a children's book by a notorious comic book author. I know people raved about Neil Gaimon's Coraline (especially people who loved the Sandman series--which I do like), but I didn't like it. Coraline is little like Van Allsburg's books (like The Garden of Abdul Gasazi or The Mysteries of Harris Burdick) but it isn't as inspired.

The characters were dark as was the whole story wrapped within a story plot, but the ending was anticlimatic. At least the style and language of the story were clear. It felt like the story wanted to be a more complex adult novel or a children's book with more illustrations. It clumsily follows on the heals of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, but this remained too simple and too dark throughout. It wasn't magical. I might take a look at some of his other stuff, but I wont rush out to do it.

  • I HATE LAWYER jokes! I hate them not because they're antilawyer but because most of them aren't funny. My father LOVES to give me jokes about lawyers. I think he believes they help us bond because he tells them, and I am one (i.e., I am a lawyer, not a joke). The Best Lawyer Jokes Ever is probably the best one he's given me so far. I actually read every joke in it. I can tell it wasn't too bad because I can still remember some of the jokes well enough to retell them. My personal fav' is the one about the associate who chooses hell after interviews in heaven and hell. I'll keep the book for a little while so that whenever I begin to take my profession too seriously I'll be able to crack it open and come back down to earth. Plus, my ability to recount lawyer jokes will make my dad happy.
  • DO NOT read A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer unless you are A: Doing a study about severe instances of child abuse, B: Feeling really really sorry for yourself without a good reason, or C: aren't appreciating (by appreciating I mean that you're down right rude and ungrateful toward them) the fantastic parents God gave you. Calling the story in this book sad is like making the understatement of the millenium. I thought the story would be about triumph over poor circumstances--and it was for the last few pages--but it was so awful getting there. What Dave Pelzer endured was unimaginable. My first response was to think that he was lying because it pains me to believe that any person, let alone a child, could be put through what he lived through. Maybe I'm just a vengeful person, but because he was only removed from his home and his abusers were not tried in criminal court, I felt like he was not vindicated. That's probably part of why he wrote the book--to have his day in court so to speak. I wanted his parents, both of them, to be punished. I wanted his siblings to be removed from the home too (but they weren't). Plus, to distance myself from the horror of the story I want to know what pschological disorder caused his mother's behavior. Even though I want to know what happened to him once he escaped the brutal treatment by his family, I really don't think I can take the follow up book.
  • On to another brutal story...The Company: Portrait of a Murder was depressing. It was sort of a like a coed version of Lord of the Flies. It is based on a true story. It was an ok read, great for nautical vocabulary building. There's something simply inarticulable that made me disklike this novel. Maybe I felt that it was too heavyhanded in some places and too light in others? I can't think of one memorable sentence in the whole entire book, but I can think of scenes that haunt me. It's definitely a book I would hide from children (if I had any) until they were, oh I don't know?, married. It was, admittedly, well-written. If the author tackled a slightly less violent story, then I might take a look at his other novels. It's rather funny that I don't tend to like these sorts of well-written stories with intensely violent scenes in them since my professional focus tends to be domestic violence and sex crimes cases.
  • Hollywood Interrupted by Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner was ok. After finishing it, I was certainly frothing at the mouth about "Hollywood lefties," but I didn't find the book terribly memorable. It was a quick and easy read, but it didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know or suspect. I suppose it did give me some specific imformation around which to form arguments and it did give me some good websites to visit for related information, like and so on. I have a number of the websites tabbed under favorites on my computer. I'll gladly return the book to my mother who loaned it to me. It wasn't really a book. It was more like a really long magazine article.

Well, now I'm off to work on crossstitch and read the Voucher Wars.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Starting with a Whoop and a Holler

I love owning a home, but you wouldn't believe the heinous inconvenience it can be to deal with a half-functioning kitchen appliance. Our refrigerator hasn't made ice since the day it was delivered in August. I have spent hours on the phone with Best Buy trying to get them to live up to the warranty agreement that we spent hundreds of additional dollars on. That hasn't been time well spent.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm on the receiving end of that commercial where someone is being taught how to always answer "No" to any incoming calls concerning the use of frequent flyer miles. But Best Buy is slightly more subtle, meaning that they say yes, but they really mean, no. It makes me want to print pictures of a giant turd and paste copies of it all over Best Buy some night. I know, that's not very Catholic of me. So what? I'm a work in progress. By the way, I'm an attorney, and I can tell you that many attorneys have these thoughts (and worse) about plaintiffs/defendants (and their attorneys) all the time but they just don't talk about it. I guarentee that when teachers unions and school choice advocates leave the Supreme Court after oral arguments they aren't thinking "Gee our differences aren't really that big. Let's have lunch and quell our desire to beat each other into steaming bloody piles of flesh." They're, however, thinking "That @#$*&$*. I can't believe he said that. His children should have to go to public school...and be born with horns."

Well, enough of that. Let's get back to my favorite topic: books.

  • This children's book is split into three sections. The title is With a Whoop and Holler by Nancy Van Laan. I liked Parts 2 and 3 but not Part 1 so much. It was an ok book with pretty great illustrations. My fear is that it's just another coffee table book for adults clothed as a children's book. Do super-artsy highly graphic illustrations appeal to children? I don't know. I don't have any (children that is). I would suspect that the illustrations would appeal to older kids only. Nonetheless, I liked the Superstitutions and Wise Old Sayings. Also, I liked the fable/morality tale stories--i.e., the stories that "explain" why animals are the way they are.

I'll keep this book in my library if only for the source books it lists. Plus, I would like to see what else the illustrator has done. I think Old Gally Wander is the south's interpretation of one of my personal favorites. My favorite tale involves a girl doing good deeds, a witch at a well, being bewitched, and the girl being rewarded for her deeds. It's only from sheer laziness that I haven't found out what the title is and I only vaguely remember its plot. It was my favorite when I was 8. I should probably do a reread before I claim it's still a favorite. Anyway, I believe Gally Wander is an adaptation because the sentiments in the my favorite and this one were really similar. The sentiments represent a very black and white perspective of the world (as do many children's stories, see e.g., Brother's Grimm, i.e., be kind and you will be rewarded and others will help you or be self-involved and mean and others will do their best to screw you). English Christian morality tales? Work hard now. Get paid well later?

  • Plagues and Peoples is a switch back to more ordinary academic fare. I began the entry in my book journal with "I'm finally finished." It was a good but very slow read. Firstly, I don't generally have to look up so many words. I have a doctorate, but I couldn't claim to know (without some serious parsing of latinate and germanic roots) what pollulate, schistosomiasis, and ungulate mean. By the way, pollulate = to sprout; schistosomiasis = infestation with or disease caused by an elogated tremotode worm; and ungulate = hoofed herbivore. I fully understand that a book about diseases will contain the scientific names of those diseases. But this tried so hard to be erudite that it went overboard in its use of large and seldom used words. Thumbs up for this historical essay--it was a challenge.

The first half wasn't nearly as interesting as the second. Perhaps, that's because the first half concentrated on Asian History with which I have little familiarity. My facility is with Western History and Writings. Still, the book was well-written by a person with an extraordinary sense of the "big picture." It contained sustained thoughts and themes through to the end (which many history books fail to do). There were many interesting tidbits in it, like the idea that without small pox the Spaniards would have had a difficult time conquering the New World and how Moslem politics and bigotry kept that culture from mimicking "Christian practices" that would have kept them safe from disease. It's a keeper.

  • Master Dating by Felicia Rose Adler is not nearly as funny as Excorcising Your Ex but it did contain alot of common sense advice about getting asked out. Something I will NEVER EVER EVER need again as I'm getting married. Hi, sweetie. I love you! Uhum. It's advice coincides with my own experiences, i.e., that when you feel confident and appear genuinely interested in what a person of the opposite sex is saying, then you get asked out. If you're into confidence building excercises--which I'm not--then I believe it had some pretty good ones. I've never read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, but from what I've heard this book is along the same lines as that one.

Probably the most insightful observation it makes is that what men (and I would say women too) fear most is rejection. As you can tell, that leads to a big problem. People don't always ask others out when they should, and in my case it encouraged me to date some men that I shouldn't (e.g., the one who started talking about his acid trips with his friends while we were on our first dinner date. I wasn't that opposed to the topic--I'm open minded about what people may or may not have tried when they were younger. The problem was that that was all he talked about. For those of you that know me, that was the dinner where I ran out of things to say during the appetizer. As you can tell from my blog, that's saying a lot). I read this when I was single, and I really don't like the whole self-help genre, so take what I've said with a grain of salt. It wasn't an entire waste of time, but it definitely is not a keeper. Back out into the world this little bookie goes.

  • I realized I hadn't read poetry in a while, and so I delighted in finding an usually lighthearted T.S. Eliot book called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats while perusing titles in one of our many used books stores. How could one fail to love a book about cats (sort of) that uses the word terpsichorean? As an aside, one of my cats is having a kitty dream and is snorting and twitching beside me--I hope it's a juicy one (yes, that's intended to be a really bad pun). Anthing that mentions derivation from the Greek muse of dance and song or prestidigitation and leger domain, and so on is cool in my book (yes, I seem to be a in a terrible pun mood. Please forgive me.). It's a very sweet book, and, while I'm aware that many well-educated linguists would not call it good poetry, I can't help but like it.

It captures a lot of human nature and cat nature at the same time. Anthropomorphism is fine with me. I liked Growltigers Last Stand and the Ad-dressing of Cats very much. This was a good quick read for being poetry. I always find poetry sticks with me the most, but has to be read slowly too. I also think that children might like this book. It possesses enough variation in pace and rythm to entertain children. One story was a troubling: the relationship between Cats TM (the musical) and the poem Mr. Mistofelles. They sound related, borrowed, etc. it displeased me. This tiny book is definitely a keeper.

Even though I have very little understanding of art beyond knowing what does or doesn't please me, (that's even though I am marrying a fine artist and have taken college level art courses), I feel ok saying that although I like the drawings as illustrations, I probably wouldn't think much of them without the poems--that's even though the illustrator is a favorite of mine, namely Edward Gorey. The best illustrations accompany Growltiger's Last Stand, Rum Tum Tiger and Macavity. As another aside, while I was writing this review in my paper book journal, the cat that sits beside me dreaming was chewing on my pencil, sitting on my book, and all the while making look at me noises, flicking me with her tail. So needy. T.S. Eliot perfectly captures the eidos of the Cat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Engaged and Book Journal Begins

So, I know that I have been less that dedicated to my blog, but I do have a good excuse. I've been traveling, have had pneumonia, and have gotten engaged since my first post. I hope those reasons suffice as good excuses. Well, CONGRATULATIONS to me. I have a wonderful, dedicated man in my life. He is a brilliant artist whose older works can be seen at His more recent works will be added soon, but we have to steal them back from galleries and buyers to finish the scanning process. I'm going to be baptised at Easter, and I passed the Bar.

Some time ago, I began a book journal. When I first began I decided to keep a book of my own impressions and favorite quotations from whatever I was reading, my intial entries, which really included little more than vague musings, fell short of what I had set out to do. But at least it's a start.
  • I loved the Harry Potter series, especially V. 3-5. Very Good!
  • I thought Five Mile House was poor. I very rarely get sucked in by a book cover, and now I remember why. Too many cover illustrations promise more than they can deliver. And, for those of you with tawdry inclinations, this was not a piece of porn clothed as a "romance novel." I recall that it had something from the pre-raphaelite era on the cover. It was a terrible book that tried to be scary but barely acheived being boring.
  • Excorcising Your Ex was actually quite entertaining. Before I met the man I'm currently engaged to, actually right before, I broke off a relationship with a crazy man. For those of you that know me you might ask, "Which one?" The one that I met at law school. I knew law school drew extremists, but I thought that they were simply narcissistic know it alls not the kind of extremists that imagine they are incompetition with your cats for attention, that drinking liquor is sin (something discovered after I had spent an evening recovering from final exams by drinking homemade margaritas with one of my finest friends), and that was soooo hated by that dearest friend that she attempted to craft an argument in favor of bestiality, while at the dinner table, just to annoy him. He was the kind that call at 2:30 in the morning, after you've broken up, just to see if you're home. Anyway, this book isn't going to win the Pulitzer, but it was very entertaining and gave me many a laugh at a time that I wasn't very much in the mood to smile. It hit home on many levels. It included many amusing anecdotes. Though I have never been quite so distraught about a break up as to committ a post break-up sin, like doing a "drive-by"--that's where you drive by your ex's to see who he's spending time with or if he's as miserable and alone as you--I have felt the desire to other stupid things like leaving a beligerent drunken message on an ex's answering machine. Just for the record, I haven't ever done. The book was good for laughs. By the way, that whole margarita incident has probably contributed, at least in part, to my having found myself a man who can most certainly, and has, drink me under a table with both hands tied behind his back. By way of explanation, he is Irish Catholic. Need I say more?
  • I read some Nancy Reich's books. Given my propensity to watch and read mysteries I thought that it would be entertaining, especially since she has been compared to one of my favorite beach book authors, (I don't mean this in a pegorative sense. I merely mean that I find her books to be a quick and interesting read), Patricia Cornwell, I thought the book was flat in terms of character development and plot. The primary character that acts as the story's narrator is too introspective given the narrow plot and themes. It was strong enough that I'll try another in her series, but the second will have to deliver more than the first for me to spend time finishing the rest of the series.
  • Now, here was a gem: Nicholas Griffin's House of Sight and Shadow was great. It was self aware without being self absorbed. It was insightful, intriguing, well-written, and when I finished I wanted to know what else he had written. It's difficult to describe the book because I liked it so much. I'm tempted to go too much depth and that's even though I read it during the summer of 2003. It's a period piece--think Dickensian meets Freudian. Good for those who like philosophy and especially entertaining for those who have some familiarity with the history of science (thought that's absolutely not a necessary ingredient for enjoying the book).
  • I thought that Fidelius Morgan's The Rival Queens was funny and effectively adapted the comedy of manners, see, e.g., Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play, The Rivals, into a novel form. I found it to be much more interesting than many actual manner comedies. It's characters were amusing. Think "Ms. Malaprop." The mystery plot was credible, and the story, while bawdy, was not boring. That's my estimation. Strangely enough, though, one of my dearest friends did not agree with me, so I'll throw her caution disclaimer in just for fun. Though she has actually read and acted in The Rivals and has most definitely read other comedies of error, she disliked this piece so much that she couldn't get past the first few pages. While I found it to be full of antic spirit and coarse entertainment, she just couldn't get in to it. As an aside, she also absolutely detested a book we read in college by Madame de Lafayette called Le Princess de Cleves (1678) which I adored then and now as a wonderful historical novel which fights to define love and morality. I would not advance the theory that it wins that fight, but it defintely exerts an admirable effort which is more than I can say of most. I don't recall exactly why she hated it, but only that she did.
  • After reading through tedious law texts, papers and articles, I was in the mood for a cheery book. I loved the movie Bridget Jones' Diary and so the book seemed like a good choice. This was one of those rare exceptions where I read the book after seeing the movie. I hate to admit it, but even though Jane Austen is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, authors I still haven't seen Sense and Sensibility because I haven't had a chance to read the book. Anyway, I was looking forward to this read but was disappointed because the book wasn't nearly as lighthearted as the movie. I thought the movie was much more interesting. The movie succesfully ferreted out a decent present day adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Granted, the book wasn't terrible. I merely found the movie to have done a better job creating engaging characters. I found the variations in plot between the book and movie to have made all the difference. I'd still recommend it for anyone that liked the movie. It's a short quick read. I did like the style and it did contain witty quips.