A Little Mystery

We went shopping on Saturday night, not for diamond rings, but for books and coffee, and while I went in looking only for a pair of Vampire Romance novels by Carol Gleason, I left disappointed – they’d just returned them to their distributor (I’ve since grabbed them from Amazon) – and a little excited, because even though I didn’t have the books I went to find, there was a buy-two-get-one-free sale on mystery novel, and I do love a good mystery.

I also bought Keith R. A. DeCandido’s Q & A, which is both poignant and hilarious. I’ve put off posting his interview until I finish it so look for it on Tuesday.

Reviews of these titles will come eventually. I post about every book I read, but sometimes it takes me a while to catch up.

Snapshots Untaken

It was a cool wet day today, so the dogs and I raced around the house playing fetch and dog-tag, and other indoor games between bits of my job, but when I went out to check the mail, I saw one of the neighbors’ teenagers chatting with her young man. He was driving a vintage ragtop – in the rain (!) and was snapping a tonneau cover onto it, because apparently it’s okay to drive in the rain, but not to park…

What does this have to do with books, you may wonder? Well, both young folks are college students – I’ve met them on brief occasions, and they’re both well-spoken and polite, as well as reasonably intelligent, which is why, I had to laugh when the young man unsnapped only one section of the cover to retrieve a book.

The image of him, sweatshirt clad, trying not to lean on the car, but fishing blindly for his books, made me smile.

If only I’d had a camera…

The Junk Room

I’ve been thinking a lot about our library lately. Not the library around the corner, which has a reading porch, rocking chairs and free (if not particularly good) coffee, but the fourth upstairs bedroom in our home that was clearly designed to be a second living area (the closet is a token space, but technically its presence makes the room a legal bedroom) and that we’ve designated our library.

Right now, it doesn’t feel very libraryish. Oh, our old couch is there, and shelves of books, but it’s also got boxes and bags left over from Christmas, and piles of miscellaneous stuff we’ve never quite found room for, and I swear it’s all illuminated by one of the most hideous light fixtures ever seen in a real house.

I originally wanted the big L-shaped space as my office, because it doesn’t have a real closet, and it does have huge floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the side street, while all the other upstairs bedrooms have “normal” windows, and yeah, it’s still carpeted, but I kind of like having carpet under my bare feet while I work.

I’ve tried many times to convince Fuzzy that he should let me move my things into this room, and he keeps reminding me that we agreed on the rooms we have because they’re about the same size.

To which I say, “who cares?” I work from home. He doesn’t. He has a couch in his office, I don’t.

Meanwhile, the most beautiful room upstairs has become the junk room.

And it bothers me.

Branching Out

Every generation has one. The Book Aunt. The person you can always count on to send you fascinating things to read at Christmas and your birthday, with the corners of the dust covers cut off so that you can’t see the price, and a warm message scrawled in peacock blue ink on the inside cover.

For me, the book aunt is my mother’s younger sister, Patti. For our nephews and nieces the book aunt is…me. And I’m cool with that. Fuzzy’s family is big on reading, though they’ve never really had much exposure to the classics, and my step-brother’s kids are becoming readers as well.

But books seem anticlimactic when compared with iPods and jewelrey and pictures of dead presidents, so I’m wondering if I should do theme boxes… like, when I give my young nephew a copy of The Jungle Book I could throw in some animal print bedding, a copy of the movie, and a box of animal crackers. (As an aside, I love animal crackers.)

Or when we gift a young niece with Black Beauty maybe we could include a horse figurine, a charm for her bracelet, and perhaps donate to her riding lesson fund.

I like theme boxes. I like small presents wrapped with great love. I like making reading something more than words on a page.

This idea has potential.

Five for Friday: Magazine Rack

While I generally prefer books, especially thick novels with vivid characters, I have a special fondness for magazines. I only indulge in really girly magazines in the salon, I try to avoid things that feature ads for cigarettes or incontinence products because neither fits into my life, and I don’t have any more subscriptions (must fix that), but I do buy them at stores – they’re great for reading during lunch when I’m spending it out by the pool, because I don’t care if I forget to bring them in.

This, then, is a list of five magazines I read often.

  • Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion: Yes, it’s a little bit kitschy, but it’s artistic kitsch, and even though I have zero talent when it comes to painting and drawing, I grew up with a mother who was always making, sewing, crafting, and I have a deep appreciation for it. Besides, after looking through some of the houses featured in her pages, my house seems decidedly uncluttered.
  • Writer’s Digest: While I don’t generally use the prompts, and have considered, but never managed to actually submit an entry to, their contests, I love to read this, because it always leaves me in a writing mood. Also, I compare my writing to some of the people who do win, and feel good, because frankly? I’m better than a lot of them.
  • Discover: This is really Fuzzy’s Christmas present from my parents, but I always steal it when I think he’s done, or when I think he’s had enough time to be done, even if he isn’t. I confess, this is one of my favorite bathroom reads, because there are lots of short filler items, but I do read it all, cover to cover.
  • Real SimpleSunset doesn’t seem to have a Texas edition (their Southwest edition covers Arizona and New Mexico, I think) so I’ve switched to Real Simple since moving here, three years ago. I like the recipes and some of the organization tips, and when I’m done reading it, I leave it in the guest room for my mother to read on her annual visits. Well, when I remember.
  • Ms. I started reading this when I was about eight, and my mother would leave her copy in the bathroom, or I would check the mail and get to it first. It’s both extremely candid and extremely educational, and while I realize that feminism is no longer popular, especially among gen xers, I don’t really care. I am who I am, and my choices are my own, but we are all influenced by our parents’ beliefs, and in this, I am totally my mother’s daughter. I’m lucky to have grown up in a household of free thinkers, and constant encouragement to read, explore, experience.

Book Geeks in Love

October evenings make me cook more, because it’s actually cool enough to use the oven. Also, I just re-read Julie Powell’s book about cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a book I’ve drooled over while visiting others, but have yet to acquire a copy of.

Tonight, as I made midwestern food for Fuzzy, who works scary hours and never remembers to eat lunch, I thought about other October evenings, when we were first married and lived in South Dakota, and we would use one of our evenings off work to go to Barnes and Noble, me in my favorite leather bomber jacket, he in an ancient North Face jacket that has long since been destroyed. We’d browse through our favorite sections, then meet up and exchange smooches in the science fiction aisle, wash, rinse, repeat.

Afterward, we’d share a table in the little cafe, and I’d have a mocha, and he’d have hot chocolate or hot cider, and we’d share the peach tart they used to sell.

We don’t often linger in the cafe after bookshopping any more.
In fact, lately, our bookstore visits have been surgical strikes rather than literary sojourns.

But we still exchange smooches in the science fiction aisle.

Booking Through Thursday: Live and In Person

The folks at Booking Through Thursday asked:

  • Have you ever met one of your favorite authors? Gotten their autograph?
  • I’ve never really seen the point in autographs on slips of paper, but I do like to attend signings when I have the opportunity. I’m also not really one to just interrupt someone and goggle at them. That being said, I have contacted a few authors whose work I enjoy, or think I’ll enjoy, and asked them to do interviews for me, for this site…there are two to be posted (one I’m late on) this month.

  • How about an author you felt only so-so about, but got their autograph anyway? Like, say, at a book-signing a friend dragged you to?
  • I’ve never been dragged to a signing. I did stumble into an author at one of the reception desks in a bookstore once, and ended up not only buying her book, but having it signed. (Um, I still haven’t read it though.) She was holding a signing I hadn’t known about.

  • How about stumbling across a book signing or reading and being so captivated, you bought the book?
  • Yes. See above.
    I’ve stayed for readings at bookstores in SFO, too – there’s something so cool about hearing words read aloud in a public venue. It reminds you of how very much humanity is born of Story.

Frustration: The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

This is not a review. Why? Because you can’t review a book if you haven’t read the whole thing, and after a week of attempts I’m still only about forty pages into Barbara Samuel’s The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue.

The cover blurb made it seem like a book I’d like – a story about different women coming together in friendship.

The structure is one I would normally find refreshing – it’s told partly in reproduced email messages, partly in first person accounts. It’s different stories braided together.

But I can’t get into it. I can’t get to the zone – you know the one? – where you’re totally sucked into the story, and just can’t read fast enough, and you can hear/taste/see the people and places described? I can’t get there. And so I’m frustrated. I mean, I could be reading about Tampa real estate, and it would be more gripping than this book.

I’ve read reviews of Goddesses…. that praise it, and call it brilliant and wonderful. Is there something wrong with me, that I just don’t see it?

Is it a flaw in the book, or just a sign that I’m supposed to be writing, not reading, right now?

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is put a book aside, and go back to it later. I’m afraid I’ll have to do that with this book.

save our homes

Lost Titles

Every time Fuzzy goes to Florida for work (which is at least once a quarter), he brings home brochures for Boca Raton real estate and Orlando vacation rental property, and I read them so I can get a sense of what the market there is doing.

I found one the other day, and turned to a page that had a house I swear I’d read about in a novel. Sadly I don’t remember the name of the book, but it took place in Florida, and the lead character was an artist, a painter. I don’t remember it being chick-lit, exactly, but I’m not sure it was overly dramatic, either.

I have a feeling I didn’t read the end, and I can’t remember the title. It might have been a woman’s name, or a reference to art.

But I really want to read it again.