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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Have I mentioned my mad love for Kelley Armstrong’s Nadia Stafford series? I like some of the Otherworld books (the Magic ones never did it for me) but I ADORE these books. There are only two so far and I am wicked hooked. Short version: if you wanted to hang out with someone who was a hitman (and you didn’t know), it would be Nadia. Chock full of creepy and/or paranoid serial-killers-with-a-mission. Cross between Buffy (albeit no vampires or monsters- at least not the otherworldly sort) and Dexter.

Also read: Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Free on the kindle and MAN this was a grabber. Corporate espionage thriller that was miles better than The Firm. It jumps in hard and if you hang on for the ride, the ending is total payoff. Dug it and I will totally check out more of his work.

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I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and I’ve got to say my latest guilty pleasure is the Magic series by Ilona Andrews. Just finished the latest book and they are well- written, fast-paced, kick ass protag, and have interesting world building. Two thumbs up, highly recommended. Reminds me of what Anita Blake could have been before she became a magic-induced nymphomaniac without principles.

The Year of Magical Thinking is pretty fantastic. I thought about picking it up for ages and finally did. Didion’s memoir of the year after her husband’s death will resonate with anyone who’s lost a loved one. This bit especially:

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shck. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able to even get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and the meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absecne that follows the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness.

I also finished the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It is precisely as good as you’ve heard it is.

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman is a recent release and it’s beautiful and touching and wrenching and honest. Love her work.

All the recipes I’ve been making lately come from Dana Jacobi’s The Essential Best Foods Cookbook. Unlike Rachael Ray, they don’t promise you’ll be done in 30 minutes but I haven’t run into anything that takes much longer. The food HAS been fantastic, including the Salmon with Coconut Curry Chutney that I served for dinner on Friday. P.S. Cookbooks on the kindle are THE WHIP.  Easiest way to ever shop for groceries. I’ve also discovered that the rice which cooks perfectly at 10,000 feet is Basmati, properly soaked.

I also read the latest Mercy Thompson book by Patricia Briggs – she’s a consistently good storyteller, period.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it previously but I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s one of those books whose cover design grabbed me but I didn’t pick it up. Finally got it on the kindle and it’s great. An interesting mystery with compelling characters, and a dose of social commentary thrown in. I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

I keep finding free books for the kindle, so I’ve got a mess of things in the TBR list. Probably I will not do much reading while Mom is in town and I’ve been keeping track of the books as I finish them on my facebook page. I believe I’m in the high 30s so far, which means hitting 50 by year’s end shouldn’t be tough.

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Days off

Today I spent a perfectly lovely afternoon reclined on a picnic table bench, reading a book. The dog stretched out next to me and alternated between napping and rolling in the grass. I started and finished The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman.

I think the first Hoffman book I read was Practical Magic, which I adored. It’s one of the few novel-to-film adaptations I also enjoy – the movie keeps to the sentiment of the novel, if not the letter, though the book is to be preferred.

When I had to describe Hoffman’s work to a friend last night I said it wasn’t fantasy, it’s more like fantastic fiction. It has every quality of ‘literary’ fiction but each work contains something magical or otherworldly that’s thoroughly woven into the narrative in such a way that it almost stops being fantastic and simply another element in a great story. It bridges genres and never fails to surprise and delight me. There’s never the sense of a re-tread or staleness, no matter how many novels I’ve read (and re-read). She’s one of the few authors whose work I can reliably buy in hardcover or, in this case, kindle.

All in all, a wonderful and relaxing afternoon.

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I went to the doctor for a physical and a thyroid function test (since Mom has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer). The P.A. (or NP) proceeded to tell me that I needed to do more weight bearing exercise and cardio because yoga provides neither. I politely corrected her. Please to not be telling me what yoga practice is, when you clearly do not a) practice or b) know anything about MY practice. I had already told her I’ve been teaching for almost three years. Yoga is ABSOLUTELY weight bearing and MY yoga provides cardio work as well. Suck it, lady. The RIGHT way to go about this is to ask how much weight-bearing and cardio my practice provides, not look at me like I’m daft and speak slowly.

In related annoyance, while HIPAA does not prevent my insurance company from providing me any and all information about my benefits over the phone – including my member ID number – apparently it prevents my prescription benefit manager (Caremark) from providing any helpful information at all. Thanks for nothing, Caremark. Love you long time.

While I’m home next week I’ve got to get my contact lenses fitted and get my medical records and breast films transferred out here. There’s a great cancer center with state of the art gadgetry about an hour away, so guess where I’LL be getting my annual boob squishing? So now I’m collecting medical release forms so that I can drop them in the mail and get all of that great stuff taken care of. Moving, gotta love it.

On the kind of funny side, she said, “Wow. So your family does the cancer thing.” Ayuh. Understatement.

My new haircut is rocking my (polka dotted) socks. I blew it dry this morning and didn’t even need to flat iron it. The stylist in Frisco was the first person who has ever addressed the whacked out cowlick on the right side that makes my hair curve differently. I wasn’t initially thrilled with having to drive an hour to get my hair cut but there wasn’t a SINGLE place open in town on Saturday. As I was THISCLOSE to taking out the scissors and chopping off the offending bits myself – a plan of action that I think we can ALL agree would be a mistake – I made an appointment and the drive. The salon was very nice and it was just the stylist and me.

The picture the day of the haircut is nice, but the TEST is a picture of the haircut after you’ve washed and dried it yourself. ;)

While I have NOT assembled the pot rack, I DID pay all the bills. I have thus far sent it all through the Michian bank’s electronic system and all payments will clear by the time I’m back in town next week, so I can close the account for good. Yay!

I’m most of the way through book 8 and anticipate that I’ll get through a lot more tonight at work.

I have not packed a single thing and am thus far mostly unprepared for my trip back to MI. Go me.

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Awards

One of the books I’ve read in the new year has won the Newberry Medal! Yay Neil Gaiman!

I’ve been keeping a running list on facebook, but my ‘accomplished’ list is thus:

1. Watchmen, Alan Moore – Graphic novel (which will be a major motion picture in a few months) about an alternate universe where the Cold War is not over. Ordinary folk put on disguises to fight crime and – rather than the typical comic acceptance – society reacts as you might expect. It takes what I loved about the darker Batman comics (after they broke his back) a few steps further by looking at the ‘superheroes’ as normal people and examining (a bit) the psychoses that might be involved and how they affect their interactions. As good as I’d hoped it would be, and I’m looking forward to the film.

2. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman – A really charming novel about a graveyard full of ghosts who take a little boy under their protection. A fantastic and unexpectedly warm and fuzzy ‘horror’ story. If you don’t believe me, ask the Newberry People.

3. Peacekeeper: A Major Ariane Kedros Novel, Laura E. Reeve – I’m not normally a ‘hard’ sci fi fan but this novel sounded interesting. Main character is a female military operative, ostensibly retired but still doing shadow work. She’s got some serious issues (post traumatic stress, alcoholism) and a complicated mission in this particular book. While I glossed over some of the technical detail, I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the character development. Also, no gratuitous sex. No sex at all, actually (unlike most urban fantasy). I liked it enough that I’ll be looking for the next book in the series.

4. Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford Series, Book 1), Kelley Armstrong – I’m a sucker for assassin stories. This is about a female cop-turned-assassin. She and some assassin acquaintances decide to track down a serial killer that they suspect was one of their own. Good action, pleasantly convoluted personal interactions (as you might expect of people who don’t trust anyone), and a generally fun read. I am not a fan of all of Armstrong’s other work (her witch stuff leaves me cold) but I really liked this departure.

5. Bone by Bone, Carol O’Connell – Hands down, my favorite crime writer. I buy her stuff in hardcover, if that tells you anything. The latest novel doesn’t disappoint. O’Connell’s books are strongest (in my opinion) because they involve as much character development as they do unraveling the crime. In every book, the protag has to come to grips with some part of his/her own history while they’re figuring out whodunit. This one was particularly interesting because it involved murder in a small town, with all the interesting dynamics inherent to that particular society. Loved it.

6. Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Cherie Priest – This book has been out for a while now and gotten very good reviews. I finally picked it up and it’s definitely worth the read. Mystery + ghost story + great urban fantasy.

7. Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel, Anne Cushman – Cushman is a regular contributer to Yoga Journal and a yoga teacher. The novel is a kind of funny, half-serious/half-spoof on the yoga ‘industry’ and the search for enlightenment. I’m not sure if the asana descriptions before each chapter were intended as humor, but I found them to be hilarious. I’d never describe the asanas in that way in any class I was teaching. The book also reminded me of some of my least favorite yoga classes, where everything is taken very, very seriously and not much fun is had. Her trip to India is the anti- Eat, Pray, Love which is sort of great as well.

I’ve got a few others in the works or on my To Be Read list.

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I have officially unpacked all of our books. Spouse had a head start before I arrived, but I unpacked the last 9 boxes. That’s right. We still had 9 boxes of books remaining after he’d unpacked and filled almost three bookcases worth. *sigh* The perils of being an English major.

If I like a book, I’ll read it over and over again. There are many books on my shelves that I reread at least once a year. Spouse is of the read-and-discard persuasion. I don’t think he’d ever purchased a non-textbook before he met me. Luckily we have similar tastes in reading (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, historical fic, et cetera) so that anything he purchases, I’ll probably read. I tend to lean hard on urban fantasy as well, of which he’s not as much a fan. I have a photo of the six cases of books we gave away, which will find a home on the fridge shortly. Go to the effing library already!

I haven’t unpacked the office but I got the credenza/buffet settled and unpacked the books, which means I can feel at least a LITTLE accomplished tonight.

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End of the work week

Such as it is. I’ll spend the rest of the calendar week running errands and checking out potential employment. But first! Today was a GORGEOUS day.

 

I still cant believe this is right outside.

I still can't believe this is right outside.

People keep telling me I’m going to get sick of the snow and, while I’m not discounting their experience, I can honestly say that I’ve walked outside and gotten an enormous smile on my face every single day since I got here. Snow or not, I can’t stop the big grin because it is just SO beautiful. The snow here is so different from home and I don’t remember a winter when I’ve ever seen this much sunlight. If you think the photos I’ve posted here are redundant, you should see all the ones on my hard drive that I HAVEN’T posted.

I’m part of the way through book 4 of 2009 and I think I’m going to start making posts about each book individually. So far my selections have run the gamut, which you’ll see when I begin the posts tomorrow.

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