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More Aquarium Pictures

>> Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I told you yesterday that I went a little picture taking crazy at the Oregon Coast Aquarium - here are a few more . . . .


Side Effects by Michael Palmer

Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 344
Challenges: Medical Mystery 2008 Challenge #3

Kate Bennett is a pathologist at Boston’s Metropolitan Hospital. She’s got a lot going on. Her boss is getting ready to retire and wants to recommend Kate to take his place as department head. Her husband (who is a first class jerk) and his wealthy father want her to stay home and have babies and be a good wife who supports her husband’s political ambitions. Now she’s investigating the deaths of two young women who appear to have nothing in common other than the odd set of lab results. Throw in a prologue from Nazi Germany and some evil pharmaceutical company antics and you’ve got something that might be a movie of the week.

Neither the best nor the worst medical thriller I’ve read, but it was OK for a vacation book.


Oregon Coast Aquarium - Newport, Oregon

>> Tuesday, July 29, 2008

OK - so I went a little picture taking crazy today at The Oregon Coast Aquarium. We had a great time.


Sunday surprises in the newspaper

>> Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sometimes the books section of my Sunday is just downright enjoyable. Such was the case today. I found a review of Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry which has me considering adding it to my TBR list.

Next I found a gem of an opinion piece by Brian Doyle entitled “
The freedom of not reading a book to its mind-numbing finish.” As someone who has struggled to learn to let go of a book I wasn’t enjoying, this really caught my attention. A few quotes that really caught my eye (the full article is at the link).

Something we don't talk about much when it comes to books and reading is how almost all readers finally arrive at one crucial and telling moment, one that changes your reading style forever -- that instant when you realize you aren't going to finish the book you are diligently plowing through, and you don't have to finish it, and you can fling it off the porch with a sigh of relief, and that such flingitude does not mean you are an ignoramus.

Almost every reader achieves this moment of maturity -- and it is a remarkably freeing line to step over.

Of course, in many books slogging pays off wonderfully

I know only two people who still obsessively finish every book they begin, and in both cases I suspect they are the sort of people who organize the socks and underwear in their drawers by color and manufacturer and country of origin.

But after 10 pages I slowed, and 30 was work and by page 50 I found myself thinking I really should finish this . . . The word should, as you know, is a death rattle, for we never do what we should do, which is the secret to a great deal of human joy and pain.
Ah that “I really should finish this” feeling. I admit to giving in to it and I also admit to having the courage to say ‘yes, I should but I don’t want to.’ I’m getting better at reminding myself that I cannot possibly read all the books out there that I might want to read someday, so what I really should do is put aside the ones I’m not enjoying and read as many as possible of the books I really do enjoy.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of "Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices" (One Day Hill, Australia).


Sand in the City

>> Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yikes - meant to post these last weekend and then forgot.

Sand in the City is an annual sand sculpture event held in Portland's Pioneer Square. For once, I knew ahead of time and was able to take my camera with me so I could stop by after work and get some pictures of the sand sculptures in progress.


The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz

>> Thursday, July 24, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 351
Challenges: none

This is fiction that is clearly based on a real person. The heroine of the story is Haruko, who in the years following WWII, meets and eventually marries the Crown Prince of Japan. She becomes the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Family. It’s definitely a very thinly disguised story of the current Empress of Japan,
Empress Michiko. At least it is until the end which veers from reality (or does it?)

In some ways, this book reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha, a female character written by a man and some wonderfully written passages. It was interesting and even good, but yet I still felt somewhat let down. I wanted it to be excellent and it didn’t take that leap for me. Schwartz does a good job of telling the story as Haruko looking back on her life. The Haruko who is telling the story is a woman who has lived many years in the restrained and incredibly structured and oppressive world of the Japanese Imperial family who really do live in a world apart.

It is said that one crosses the moat only once in a lifetime.
Therefore the storytelling is restrained and even though Haruko is talking about her vibrant life before her marriage, it’s almost as if she’s become such a restrained person over the years that she can’t really tell the story of the vibrant young woman she once was.

On the other hand, I found myself searching online to find the real story about Empress Michiko and her family to fill in the gaps and add some real life to the story Shwartz presents in the book.

It’s hard to decide how I feel about this one. Part of me thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was good and part of me wanted a bit more.


Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta

>> Sunday, July 20, 2008

Series: #1 in the Lincoln Perry Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 291
A-Z Reading #38 (K Author), TBR 2008 #10

When Investigator Wayne Weston is found dead in his home, and his wife and little girl are missing, his father hires private investigators Lincoln Perry and his partner Joe Pritchard. He wants two things, to first prove that Wayne didn’t commit suicide and second to find his granddaughter and daughter-in-law.

What starts out as a fairly run of the mill investigation soon builds into something much more complex. Lincoln and Joe are a pair of ex cops who are now private investigators. We learn early on that although Joe retired from the police department, Lincoln was forced out. The reason for that is one of the pieces of background that is revealed along the way as this mystery gets more and more intriguing. I liked that Lincoln and Joe were a good team and had some funny moments without it being all witty banter all the time. I liked how the characters and their backgrounds were developed throughout the novel rather than beginning with a quick history. It started out slowly and I wasn’t sure about it, at first. It had its flaws (for example a diary by a 5 year old??), but despite that lapse of believability it was still an entertaining enough read.

I first heard about this book from Joy, and although it’s taken me a while to get around to reading it, I’m glad I did and plan to read more of this series.


Do not miss this

>> Saturday, July 19, 2008

Click on the picture to get to the website.

Available free online till midnight June 20th. Later will be on itunes and eventually a DVD.

So many quotable lines - just from Act 1:

"Dude, you're NOT my nemesis"

"Captain Hammer, CORPORATE TOOL!"

"It's curtains for you...lacy, gently wafting curtains."

"The world is a mess and I just... need to rule it."


Non-Fiction Five Challenge Completed

>> Thursday, July 17, 2008

Now that I’ve finished Queen Victoria, I can move another challenge to the completed category. My friend Joy hosted the Non-Fiction Five challenge for 2008 and once again I had almost as much fun making the list as I did reading the books.

The rules were simple:
1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2008
2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

I opted to ignore rule #2 because I hate self help books, and my initial list of 6 (one extra in case of a dud) was:

Then Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve
Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by Don Van Ryn

The list of books I actually ended up reading for this challenge was slightly different due to a couple of library holds that became available during the challenge time frame and a non-fiction book I decided to read for the Southern Reading Challenge. Here is the list of what I really did read – and yes I ended up reading 6 after all (links are to my blog posts).

Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by Don and Susie Van Ryn, et al. – this one was a fascinating story and an interesting, but not great book.
Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein – this could have and should have been a fascinating story, but the book turned out to be a disappointment.
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John – I needed a middle of the off-season football fix and this provided it. It was a fun look at college football fandom.
Then Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson – I laughed my way through this one and then passed it on to The Hubster, who did the exact same thing.
American Eve by Paula Uruburu – Celebrity obsession is not a new phenomenon. This story was fascinating and sad all at the same time.
Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert – a very interesting book about a very interesting person.

I enjoyed the last four much more than the first two and liked the combination of humor and biography that I ended up with in those. As for the three that were on my initial list that I didn’t read, well, they’re still on my TBR list for someday.

Thanks Joy – once again I had fun with this challenge.


Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert

>> Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 502
Non-Fiction Five #6, A-Z Reading #37 (Q Title)

This biography of Queen Victoria has been on my TBR list for a while now. I’m very glad I finally read it. The subtitle “A Personal History” is accurate. This book doesn’t dig deep into the political side of her lengthy reign and legacy. This is very much about the woman herself and her relationships with her family, staff and government officials.

A lot of what is covered in the book I already knew, such as her devotion to her husband and her heartbreak after his death. I also knew of her legacy of marrying her children into most of the reigning houses of Europe at the end of the 19th century. I didn’t know that she and Prince Albert had some pretty severe quarrels – often continued in letters to each other. One of his letters speaks of his wanting to just get away and be by himself, but she continues to follow him and pursue the argument. I was surprised that she didn’t particularly like being pregnant or young children. Her relationships with her children were difficult ones, particularly her eldest son and heir.

Her relationships with her Prime Ministers and government officials are interesting – she often disliked a new Prime Minister only to despair at his leaving office a few years later. She was a woman of contradictions – often selfish and difficult, she also loved and cared deeply about others. She loved to dance and laugh and there is one picture in the book of her smiling (which I had never seen before).

The first part of the book is, for the most part, a chronological telling of her life up to the death of Prince Albert. The second part is less chronological and the chapters are more topics considered in regard to the remainder of her reign (such as Sons, Daughters, Holidays Abroad, etc.) Hibbert touches on her relationship with John Brown, and concludes that it’s unlikely that it was a romantic one.

I enjoyed this biography, but would like to read more about her someday. There is so much to her life and reign that it’s difficult to cover in one book.


Columbia Gorge

>> Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We were up in Trout Lake this past weekend and decided to play tourist on the way home and take a few pictures. This is Mt. Adams from the Trout Lake School - this is currently the staging area for the firefighters battling the Cold Springs fire - which you can see the early stages of here.

The White Salmon River - that's Husum Falls just under the bridge - lots of whitewater rafters out the day we were there.

Mt. Hood from the north side - it's not the view I'm used to from Portland, the mountain always looks not quite right to me when I'm not looking at the west side of it.

If you look close you can see the remains of a very old wooden log flume from back in the height of the logging days. It's hard to see because I had to have the camera on maximum zoom to get the picture.

Always stop at the historical markers (forever known as hysterical markers in my family). You can learn all kinds of interesting things.

For example - that sometimes it gets a bit windy in the Columbia River Gorge.

Just outside of Stevenson, We saw this bald eagle on it's nest. There must be babies or eggs in there because it didn't stay away from the nest for very long.

Beacon Rock. There's a trail to the top and the views of the gorge are amazing on a clear day. I haven't climbed it in years, but maybe this fall if we can get a clear day that's not too warm.

Just a pretty view of the Columbia River and the west end of the gorge.


Two years ago. . .

>> Saturday, July 12, 2008

I posted this:

I had decided that it might be interesting to put my notes about my books on a blog. It would be a fun thing for me to have as a record and maybe a link to give to a few friends when they asked if I had any book recommendations.

I wasn’t sure exactly where this book blog was headed, but I’ve certainly had a great time on the journey for the past two years.

I’ve managed to meet so many fellow readers. I was shocked at extent of the book blogging community I found. When I think of all the things that this blog has led me to the list is long. The first and most important is a whole new and expanded circle of reading friends all over the world. By getting to know other readers from their blogs and book reviews I’ve made some connections that extend beyond books and reading.

  • It was fun to make some Oregon Coast restaurant recommendations for Les
  • I had to giggle when seeing a lizard in the Arizona desert made me think of Bookfool
  • Speaking of Bookfool – I will never review a mystery/thriller without thinking whether or not it passes “The Bookfool Test” (good without causing nightmares).
  • Worrying about folks I’ve never met in person – fretting about Wendy as the California fires got closer to her home.
  • I’ve even started an additional blog (The Pirate Bendy blog actually came before this one, but I’ve added Occasional Other Stuff for, well, the occasional other stuff).

But, I shoud get back to books and reading and all the things I wouldn’t have without this blog and the book blogging community.

  • Reading challenges – fun, but I learned the hard way that I must limit participation to allow for sanity and my whimpulse reads.
  • Yahoo book groups – TBR Challenge, A Novel Challenge and Book-A-Week. Many of you are in one or more of those groups along with me. I’m not a big participant who posts a lot in any of them, but I read all your posts and enjoy them.
  • Seeing BBB (before book blogging) friends get their own book blogs started and join in the fun.
  • Recommendations, reviews and comments from so many different people. When that connection is made and I find someone who loves/hates some of the same books I do, it gives their reviews and recommendations that much more weight. It’s so much more meaningful than a random review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because it’s a review from someone who I know a little better as a reader by knowing some of their likes and dislikes.

Of course, I should probably mention that there’s also the time I spend not reading my books now because I’m reading all your blogs. That list of blogs that are in my Google feed reader over there on the right is what keeps me busy online nearly every day. If your blog is on that list, I’m reading it. I may not comment a lot, but I’m reading.

If you’re reading this – thanks! I never expected you to be here, but I’m really glad you are. You're a great big bunch of enablers and I love you for it.

As for why I haven’t posted any new review in a while, it’s because I’m about halfway through Queen Victoria: A Personal History. It’s a bit of a chunkster and will take me a while, but it’s interesting and I’m enjoying it.


Beer is good

>> Friday, July 11, 2008

We take our beer seriously here in Portland. July is Oregon Craft Beer Month, culminating with the Oregon Brewers Festival the last weekend of the month. It's easy to plan for future visits. It's always the last full weekend of July.

Turns out that even George Will is onto the importance of beer. His column earlier this week explains how beer is health food.

No beer, no civilization.

The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World." It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way:

"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."

Often the most pure fluid available was alcohol -- in beer and, later, wine -- which has antibacterial properties.

Read the whole column here - I'll see you at the Brewers Festival.


A life has been saved

>> Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Once again, earplugs have saved my husband's life.

I'm just sayin'

And yes, I put the earplug in my ear and controlled the urge to shove two of them firmly up his nose.

I deserve a medal.


Addiction by G.H. Ephron

>> Monday, July 7, 2008

Series: #2 in the Dr. Peter Zak Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 291
Medical Mystery 2008 Challenge #2

Dr. Peter Zak is a psychologist who works at The Pearce Psychiatric Center. He is the one who discovers the body of one his colleagues and her troubled teenage daughter holding the gun. His efforts to help the daughter and to find the truth about his friend’s death are an interesting and quick read. This second in the series definitely held my attention and kept me turning the pages. A few of my guesses as I was reading turned out to be correct, but a few ended up being red herrings.

I enjoy this psychological thriller type of book. G.H. Ephron is actually the team of Hallie Ephron and Dr. Donald Davidoff. I’ll be continuing with this series. The recurring characters and their struggles with their own issues takes a bit of a back seat to the current mystery in this one, but the continuation of their stories is well done along the way.


Audiobook – Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

>> Sunday, July 6, 2008

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Jim Dale

This is the second in the Peter Pan prequel series written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Pirates, Indians, kidnappings, Starstuff, Peter, Tinkerbell, The Lost Boys, Captain Hook, etc. etc. etc. The adventure continues and this time the evil villain is really evil. He’s a creepy inhuman creature named Lord Ombra who is some sort of combination of vampire and the smoke monster from Lost. Don’t let him touch your shadow or you’re doomed.

Jim Dale does a fabulous job of reading this. His character voices are amazingly varied and add a lot to the story.


Thoughts on camping - "not me, not on your life"

>> Friday, July 4, 2008

At least Anne Taintor and Celia Rivenbark understand . . .

For years my motto has been “If God had intended for me to camp, he would not have invented hotels”. Celia Rivenbark (whom I adore) has summed up my feelings just perfectly in her column this week. Read it here


Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

>> Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Series: #1 in the Sarah Booth Delaney series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 318
A-Z Reading #36 (T Title)

This one could also count for the Southern Reading Challenge, but I’m sticking with my original list for that one. I first heard of this series just a week or so ago when
my very favorite Montgomery, Alabama bookstore sent out a notice about a booksigning by the author. I checked into the series and decided to give it a try.

Sarah Booth Delaney is 30 something, unwed, unemployed, about to lose her family home. She’s also hounded by (because that’s a more accurate description than haunted by) the ghost of her great great grandmother’s nanny. The ghost, Jitty, is a hoot. For some reason she’s into lat 60’s and early 70’s fashion. She’s also concerned about Sarah keeping Dahlia House.

From the book cover:

I shouldn’t have listened to that ghost . . .
If only I hadn’t kidnapped the dog . . .
But the ransom paid the mortgage . . .
Now I seem to be a private eye . . .
This is pure light cozy mystery with a fun poke at Southern Society in Zinnia, Mississippi. Sarah is unconventional for a Southern Belle, and I liked her a lot (although she’s a bit obsessed with her womb). The mystery was about a 20 year old possible murder and the cast of characters included some fun quirky folks.

It was light fun and a quick read. I’ll probably read more of the series someday.


The Play's the thing . . .

>> Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This is where we went this past weekend.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

We saw two plays this trip. One was great - the other not so much.

The Comedy of Errors was entertaining enough, but not nearly as good as the production they did a few years ago. This year’s version was heavily adapted. They changed a lot and turned it into a semi-musical. I’m not a big fan of adaptations like this. I love the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and it’s rare that I don’t enjoy a production, but I like my Shakespeare pretty true to the way it was written. I enjoy seeing the original dialogue but in interesting staging and settings. Julius Caesar with the cast in WWII era dress is powerful. The Winter’s Tale with Bohemia looking like something out of the 1960’s flower power era complete with daisy painted VW bug was fun. The Comedy of Errors turned into Annie Get Your Gun didn’t do it for me.

The next night however, made up for it. Othello was wonderful. Some of my favorite actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Acting Company gave great performances. It was well cast and well performed.
Dan Donohue’s Iago was fabulous to watch. His almost hypnotic manipulation of the other characters was an impressive performance.


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