73, 74/150

Jun. 29th, 2004 12:46 pm
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#73: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snickett. Another episode in the seemingly unending misfortunes of the Budelaire children. I liked the fact that Sunny had a noticably larger part in this book.

#74: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. I picked this book up after having read about it in Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt. As you might deduce, this book deals with genes and how they benefit themselves. It was interesting, but a little dry. Parts of it were more repetitive than I like, but I suppose that was done to reinforce the ideas. When this book was first written, it may have been cutting egde, but since so many ideas from it are now more commonplace, it felt like a very long review of what I've learned in biology and genetics classes. The best part of the book to me was the chapter with introductory game theory (used to describe how cooperation between genes is mutually beneficial).


Jun. 5th, 2004 09:49 pm
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The Face by Dean Koontz. This was a supernatural thriller. The surface story is about the imminent disaster planned by a psychopath to inflict harm upon the household of a famous actor and thereby increase the magnitude of chaos in the world. The head of security for the actor must determine what the threat is and prevent it from happening while his world is shaken by inexplicable occurrences. The writing is surprisingly evocative at times, with phrases that I would go back and read several times just for the pleasure of how they felt in my mind. There is plenty of action, but the part I liked best about this book was the exploration of the relationships of the various characters and what drives them to be the people they are. I really enjoyed this - much more than I expected!

64, 65/150

Jun. 3rd, 2004 05:33 pm
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#64: The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the latest book in the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I liked this one even better than the last one. The thing I like best about these books is not the plot, but the pacing and flow of the writing - it gives me a feeling of life slowing down to allow me to consider the small things that are so much a part of my larger happiness. A couple of favorite passages:

"She had never been able to tolerate dishonesty, which she thought threatened the very heart of relationships between people. If you could not count on other people to mean what they said, or to do what they said they would do, then life could become utterly unpredictable. The fact that we could trust one another made it possible to undertake the simple tasks of life. Everything was based on trust, even day-to-day things like crossing the road--which required trust that the drivers of cars would be paying attention--to buying the food from a roadside vendor, whom you trusted not to poison you. It was a lesson that we learned as children, when our parents threw us up into the sky and thrilled us by letting us drop into their waiting arms. We trusted those arms to be there, and they were." (p 82)

"We find what we are looking for in life, her father had once said to her; which was true--if you look for happiness, you will see it; if you look for distrust and envy and hatred--all those things--you will find those too." (p 121, 122)

I love the down-to-earth wisdom shown by the main characters of this book and this series.

#65: Darkness by LE Modesitt, Jr. This is the second book in the Corean Chronicles. Typical Modesitt - the main character just wants to go about his life, but circumstances, talent, amd a feeling of responsibility keep herding him into dangerous situations where he can only survive by learning some new facet of his talent. I like this formula, so I really enjoyed the book. There were a few strange editing choices (or lack thereof) that were occasionally distracting, but it was otherwise a smooth, enjoyable book.

62, 63/150

May. 30th, 2004 08:39 pm
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#62: The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams. If you enjoy Adams' writing, by all means, give this a try. It includes essays, letters, and even a couple of speeches, all written or delivered with Adams' usual eloquence.

#63: Crossfire by Nancy Kress. Settlers arrive at what was classified as an uninhabited planet only to find several groups of aliens in primitive living situations. But these aliens are not native to the planet any more than are the colonists. They are an experiment placed there by another alien race in an attempt to find a way to keep them from wiping out the second group of aliens with their aggressive war tactics. The humans find themselves caught, as the title says, in the crossfire.

I didn't think that this was as thought-provoking as some of Kress' earlier work, or even as much as her recent series, but it was entertaining.


May. 24th, 2004 09:04 pm
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Against All Enemies by Richard Clark. Although there is some obvious anti-Bush bias, this had lots of information about how terrorism was handled before and after 9-11. It just strengthened my belief that we need Bush out of the White House ASAP. I'm passing this on to one of the staff at my favorite lunch spot, The Limelight Cafe. He never fails to ask what I'm reading and stays to chat for a moment about it.

We went to see Super Size Me yesterday afternoon. For those who haven't heard of it, this is a documentary about a man who ate nothing but McDonald's food for an entire month. He was initially curious about it because of the lawsuit of two teenaged girls who alleged that they were obese due to the ubiquitous availability and high fat content of McDonald's food. The judge in the case had stated that there was no proof that McDonald's food was unhealthy or that it caused obesity. He started with checkups by three doctors, including blood work-ups. He was healthy in every way they could test. By the end of the first week, he had gained several pounds, his cholesteral was elevated, and he was having liver problems. This was a really interesting movie. If you enjoyed Fast Food Nation, you would probably like this movie too.

57, 58/150

May. 19th, 2004 05:35 pm
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#57 All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark. This was an extremely disturbing mystery. The main character is kidnapped at age four, abused for two years, then miraculously returned to her family due to a chance sighting. When she returns home, all memory of those two years vanish and her parents decide that ignoring the fact that it happened would be better for her than sending her to therapy. (They were in serious denial that anything bad could have happened to her.) She goes about her life without much further incidence until her parents are killed in an accident. She is suddenly acting in unpredictable ways as multiple personalities that had their genesis in her early trauma resurface. When one of her professors is murdered, the book turns into a did she/didn't she drama. It was a good book, but the theme of child molestation that was the crux of the story left me seriously upset.

#58 Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Fantasy adventure book. This is the first book in the Inheritance series. Eragon, abanoned to the care of his uncle as an infant, grows up in a small town, exploring the surrounding mountains and helping his uncle and cousin keep up the family farm. His life is turned upside down with the sudden appearance on one of his outings of a polished, gem-like blue stone. Failing to sell the stone to the nasty-mean butcher for meat to feed the family, Eragon returns home with the stone. But he is not destined to resume his normal life, for the stone is not what it appears and the discovery of its true nature changes his life forever.

Although this seems to be aimed at young readers (no graphic violence even though there are battle scenes), it was tremendously enjoyable for this middle-aged mom. The author is newly adult and I think he has promise. Sometimes the title character, Eragon, seems to learn things too quickly (although I suspect that may be in part due to the tolerances of the target audience), and he tends toward the stereotypical good-at-everything hero, but there are touches of insecurity and fallabilities that keep him interesting. I'll be watching for the rest of the series.

53, 54/150

May. 14th, 2004 06:04 pm
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#53: Proud Shoes by Pauli Murray. This was a lovely biography, lovingly written, of the author's grandfather. This was full of little personal details that bring a closer understanding of the daily struggles of life during the civil war, reconstruction, and the beginning of integration. My favorite passage was one that reminded me of my family:

"It was through these homespun stories, each with its own moral, that my elders sought to build their family traditions. In later years I realized how very much their wealth had consisted of intangibles. They had little of the world's goods and less of its recognition but they had forged enduring values for themselves which they tried to pass on to me." (p 246)

And now from the other end of the spectrum...
#54: Can you Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella. Like her Shopaholic... series, this was a quickly read, fun, fluffy book. I enjoyed it. Shoot, I even got a little teary here and there.


May. 9th, 2004 10:07 am
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Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks.

I loved this book! It was so entertainingly written and a real pleasure to read. I wouldn't advise trying to read this book while your significant other is trying to sleep - the temptation to read aloud the passage that has just mad you laugh like a maniac will be overwhelming and you will not endear yourself to your sleep-deprived (and now thoroughly irritated) loved one. This was full of good-spirited humor as Tony traveled with his fridge in tow, hitching around Ireland and opening himself to possibilities as they presented themselves. It was a wonderful reminder of the good side of human nature.

51, 52/150

May. 7th, 2004 11:38 pm
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#51: Beauty by Sherri S. Tepper. Lovely writing and an interesting take on several well known fairy tales.

#52: Channeling Cleopatra by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. This science fiction novel takes place in Egypt, at an archeological dig, but it's not really about archeology. The main plot device is that DNA holds a person's memories and life experiences and that that information can be transmitted to a new host. Much plotting abounds as several people try to become the recipient of Cleopatra's experiences and one villain tries to force copies of his life imprint on others. This was not a challenging book, but it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.


May. 4th, 2004 09:03 pm
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The Gathering Storm by Kate Elliott. This is the fifth book in the Crown of Stars series. This is exactly the kind of book (and series) that I love - this volume is almost 1000 pages long and there are six books of similar size in the series. There is a lot of dialog and plot movement. There are many different, though related, sub-plots interweaving throughout the book. This volume has a nice ending - there is enough resolution that it is an obvious stopping point, but there are enough unresolved plot lines to make me look forward to the next book. I had wondered if I would like this one because the last one didn't really get me involved as much as the first two books (the third wasn't as good for me either). I don't know if it was the mood I read them in or if it was where the story went - I'll probably reread the series at some point, but not for a while.

For those who are interested, I got the results of my sleep study today. The report says that my latency to acquiring sleep and to reaching REM sleep is longer than normal and my sleep effeciency is 54%. There was no evidence of sleep apnea. The translation is: it takes me a long time to fall asleep and to start dreaming and I don't stay asleep very well, but I don't stop breathing any more often than normal and my oxygen levels don't decrease to problematic levels.

Which, except for the definite lack of apnea, I already knew.

But at least I know that my sleep problems are not likely to have serious health results, so that was worth finding out. :-)

In other news...

I went to my first step aerobics class tonight.


I'm already sore - my arms and legs are threatening to go on strike if I don't give them a break tomorrow (which I will, and it will be easy to do since I have choir practice tomorrow). I've already taken some over-the-counter pain/anti-infamitory medication. I'm hoping that will allow me to get out of bed tomorrow.

The sad thing is that I didn't even do the full-on routine, I had to modify it to keep within my target heart rate range. Oh well, at least that gives me a clear goal for the rest of the year. :-)


Apr. 27th, 2004 08:39 pm
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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
What a fascinating book. I could see the skewed vision as Esther slipped further and further into mental illness, but it was written in such a calm, factual style that her reactions almost seemed reasonable. I'm so glad I had the chance to read this.


Apr. 26th, 2004 08:12 pm
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Probability Space by Nancy Kress. This book is the third in the series. This one has less to do with the culture of the Worlders (a human-derived species that evolved with some interesting traits on a world far away from Sol) than the politics of the Terrans. It was a very entertaining book, but not as compelling as the first of the series. My favorite Nancy Kress book is still Beggars in Spain.

Today was a slow day at work - I had two and a half hours of no-shows and cancellations. It really makes the day drag. I made sure my youngest made it to his orthodontist appointment. He was hoping that his retainers would be removed because the molars upon which they are anchored feel like they are about to fall out, but, alas, it was not to be. He will have to wait. His brother had hoped to have his braces off this month, but that didn't happen either. He's hoping that they will come off before graduation in June. We'll see...

The Kings are playing badly again tonight. I keep waiting for the real Kings to arrive and show Dallas what they can do, but they haven't arrived yet on this road trip. They just haven't played the same since Chris Webber returned to active play. Please guys, show some teamwork and sink some buckets.

EDIT WooooHoo! Finally!
Kings rallied in the second half and won the game!

/happy dances
/wiggles with glee

even Sparky (our dog) is jumping around and celebrating. :-)



Apr. 23rd, 2004 11:39 am
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The Good Journey by Micaela Gilchrist.
My friend loaned me this book and I am so glad that she did. This is historical fiction based upon the correspondance of Mary Bullitt Atkinson, the wife of General Henry Atkinson. It takes place in the Missouri territory in the early 1800's. There are glancing references to many of the people who feature prominently in US history, but for me, the heart of the story was in the many details that built a real place in my imagination as I followed the sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, and always interesting lives of these characters.

If I had a copy of my own, I'd offer it up for a bookring, but since I have to give this one back, I'll just give it a hearty endorsement. This was a 10/10 for me.


Apr. 22nd, 2004 05:41 pm
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Spirits White As Lightning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. This was a fun visit to the alternative reality of bards and elves. In this one, Eric finds an untrained Bard and must teach him all he knows in time to prevent the Dark Elf, Aerune from dragging humanity into a nightmare of death and destruction.


Apr. 9th, 2004 04:40 pm
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Bedlam's Bard by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon. This is actually a reprinting of two books in one binding: Knight of Ghosts and Shadows and Summoned to Tourney. These were very fun, light books about music, magic and elves. The action takes place in the eighties, first in L.A., then in S.F. Along with the fun, the books touch on other things like courage, personal responsibility, loyalty and discrimination (but mostly it's just a relaxing way to spend an afternoon). ;-)

As a side note, this is one of the books I purchased at the Friends of the Library sale last May in Sacramento. The stack has shrunken a little since then, but I don't think I'll be able to finish or release all the books I acquired that day before the time comes for this year's sale. It's so hard to restrain myself when books are only $5/bag on the last day.


Apr. 2nd, 2004 08:17 pm
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The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the fourth in the mystery series featuring Precious Ramotswe. These gentle stories are a soothing vacation from today's seeming obsession with sex and violence. Favorite quotes from this book:

"She had a great respect for books herself, and she wished that she had read more. One could never read enough. Never."

"... friends had tried to persuade her to stand for the legislature, but she had declined, saying that she liked to talk about interesting things, and that there was never any talk of interesting things in Parliament." :-)


Apr. 1st, 2004 11:19 am
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Legacies by LE Modesitt, Jr. This was very much what I've come to expect from this author. It was very entertaining, occasionally thoughtful, but fairly formulaic as far as some of the psychic talents the characters have and how they can be used.

In other news, the lj_serialadder is gone from my friends list now. Either the joke is over or my journal gave him indigestion. :-D

35, 36/150

Mar. 24th, 2004 10:43 am
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#35 The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. I kept imagining plot twists that never happened, but I guess that's because I wasn't thinking of it as the chidren's book it is. I enjoyed it very much, including my inaccurate speculations.

#36 (A blast from the past...) Forever... by Judy Blume. This was in one of the boxes of books that my friends gave me. I started registering a few of them last night and came across this book. The book was such a big deal to me to read as a preteen that I had to read it again. It amazed me how different my perspective was compared to my first reading of it. I remember being crushed at the end of the story when I was young, but this time it seemed inevitable. I didn't really remember any of the plot, so I was always surprised when something would happen in the book that triggered a memory of my previous reading. It was a lot of fun to revisit this, but I'm going to register it tonight or tomorrow and send it on its way. Anyone interested? :-)
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Joust by Mercedes Lackey. This is a departure from her Valdemar series and takes place in a land resembling Egypt, but with dragons that are tamed to bear elite fighters. Although this book can be read as a stand-alone, there is the feel of a sequel or series to come because several things are left unresolved. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to further adventures in this world. :-)

And now, another reason to babble on to everyone you know about your addi... I mean, your involvement with BookCrossing...

Sometimes people call you up and want to give you books!

Someone I work with called me Friday (his day off) and told me that his wife had cleaned off several bookshelves and when she had asked what he thought she should do with the several boxes of books she no longer wanted, well, he naturally thought of me and my little "book club thingy." I stopped jumping up and down long enough to graciously accept his offer to let me "dispose" of those books, and will get to pick them up tonight when hubby and I are over at this friend's house for a wine tasting party.

You know, life doesn't get much better than this... (even though I've yet to find a wine that I actually like - it never hurts to try, does it? :-))

And now I'm off to the store for a few items I need to make the hors d'oeuvres I'm supposed to bring to said party. I suck at making these things, but did figure out something to make that was pretty tasty on this morning's test run.


Mar. 2nd, 2004 06:23 pm
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Passage by Connie Willis. A very believable story about several people researching near-death experiences (NDE's). Each has a particular angle on the research - Joanna is trying to get unbiased documentation of how each person perceived his particular NDE, Maurice Mandrake is trying to make a name for himself by exaggerating the religious suggestions of NDE's, and Richard Wright is attempting to document the physiological basis of NDE's by simulating them with a drug while recording his subject's brain activity. Richard and Joanna team up, with Joanna eventually becoming a subject and developing an obsession about discovering what NDE's actually are (all while trying to avoid the odious Mr. Mandrake). I was really fascinated by this book, but was severely disappointed by a turn it took 2/3 of the way through. Even though I was wishing for a different ending, I really enjoyed this book.


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