Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm a reading fool. I finished "Size 14 is not fat either" by Meg Cabot and I can't wait for the next Heather Wells novel. I don't know if Meg Cabot's work counts as literature but it is so much fun to read. Probably it doesn't count as literature BECAUSE it's so much fun to read but it should be literature- because, did I say, it's so much fun!!!!
Heather Wells is an ex-teen pop star who is working as the assistant residence director for a residence hall of a New York college (named New York College - very clever, that). Anyway, students keep showing up dead in her dorm, - oh excuse me, residence hall. Her ex - who is still fairly well-known in the pop music scene - keeps calling her. She has a BIG crush on her landlord - who is her ex's big brother and her father just got out of jail. Also, although she is a just-say-no woman, she is on warm terms with the drug dealer on the corner. What??!!
So, imagine her surprise when she gets to work on time, for a change, and is dragged into the kitchen to find that someone has lost her head - literally. Off we go because although Heather promises EVERYONE that she wouldn't even dream of getting involved in the investigation, she gets involved in the investigation.
You have to read these books. I haven't read one single Meg Cabot book that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. Even her teen "regency" romances are funny, clever and fast paced. I've never read her adult romances, written under the name Patricia Cabot, but I don't really read adult romances very often.
I have to run. I think supper is burn... um, needs my attention. Keep reading.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Has anyone read "Harmless" by Dana Reinhardt? Random House set up an q&a with Reinhardt about this novel and has put the best questions and answers online.
IN the book three friends are caught staying out too late so they concoct a story that results in a criminal investigation and the repercussions thereof.

If you've read the book - and even if you haven't ( I haven't yet) - check out Random House's
Author 411 to see what Reinhardt has to say about the writing process. Then check out the book .

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hey! Wasn't I just here?

I just have a few deep thoughts ;) that I want to share.

I cleaned my dresser drawers this week and every time I open one I am blown away by the microcosm of order it contains; t-shirts are folded neatly with other t-shirts. Socks are all together in one place. If I carefully keep my back to the rest of the room I can convince myself that I am one of those mythical people who really do have control over their own space. But I can't stare into a dresser drawer forever. Or can I?

No, sooner or later I have to face the unmade beds in my life, the dirty laundry (heh heh heh) and acknowledge that I muddle through as best I can. Still, I love those neat drawers. They give me the hope that someday if I just keep chipping away at the detritus of life, I will reach a serene and orderly, but not TOO orderly, space.

Life is like that. Those serene spaces can catch us unawares and if we don't notice and enjoy them, they fade. When we hit a place in life where we feel content, where no one in our family is having a crisis, no cars have broken down, no bills are unpaid - we better sigh happily and enjoy. Like my dresser drawers, those calm and happy periods give me hope that when life returns to heartbreak and backache, I'll get through.

All too often, people spend those brief moments of joy reminding themselves of the pain they no longer have. Then the joy-filled moment passes and they don't remember being there. Poor people! Stop for a moment. Go clean out a dresser drawer. You'll feel so much - well, at least, a little bit better. Every little bit helps.

Okay. Deep thought number two.

Blogging and journaling have a lot in common. They can both be cathartic, clearing the air. They are great for recording the high points of our lives and for wallowing in the misery of the low points - if we so choose. BUT, here's the great big BUT that a lot of people forget. No one ever reads my journal without my express permission. A blog on the other hand is open to the entire world. It is not a private conversation among a small group of friends! Sure, you CAN make your blog private - businesses sometimes have blogs where they post interoffice memos - but for the rest of us the point of blogging is that of being heard, being read by other people - people in Jakarta and Japan or Tanganyika or the Yukon.

If a blogger has attained some level of celebrity, if, for instance, a blogger writes a best-selling novel, that blogger better be aware that someone he or she does not know is going to read that blog. Or, if, as has just happened, someone works for a political campaign - well, only the most naive of naive souls could convince himself (or herself) that what he or she types into a blog will not be sought out and used by their candidate's political opponents.

Bloggers shouldn't act surprised or outraged that someone criticizes what they write. Freedom of speech means that anyone can write anything - except specific threats - and publish it anywhere AND it means that when someone does write something hateful or objectionable - other people have the right to, well, object. Heck, they have the right to strenuously object.

Another way that journals and blogs are different is this. When I am finished venting in my journal, I can rip the pages up, or shred them or even burn them. Those angry thoughts will have served their purpose and no one needs to hurt by what I wrote. But once I put something on the Internet, I can't ever erase it. It's a lot like the Jewish folktale about gossip and the pillow full of feathers. I can shut down this blog tomorrow but I have no control over who has read it, or over what they might do with what I wrote. A harmful remark could get cut and pasted into someone else's blog and so on and so forth, forever.

So, keep those drawers and blogs in order. Anyone can look over your shoulder in cyberspace. I'm very grateful for walls and locked doors when my life gets too messy to be seen.

I think I'll go strighten out a closet, now, and dig out my journal.

Love and peace to you all.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The word for today is "simple". Two women's magazines - maybe more - now use that word in their titles; "Real Simple" (cough, cough) and "Quick & Simple".

Anyone who has picked up the hefty tome that is Real Simple will realize that the magazine's goal IS very simple - to provide as many advertisements for expensive home products and clothing as possible. The magazine is HUGE. You can use it for weight lifting exercises. And it really does offer some of the most attractive advertisements of any "women's" magazine. Its stated purpose is to teach its readers how to enjoy the "simple" things in life - like gardening. Then, the magazine offers its readers the $75 flower cutting pail of attractive galvanized steel and the must-have gardening clogs for $$$ (I forget how much. I turned the page so fast it made me dizzy.)
Other simple pleasures? Cooking - um, I never heard of half the ingredients and I'm an equal opportunity veggie eater. But enough about that.

"Quick & Simple" is truly quick. Published weekly, it is full of bite size articles. This magazine is designed for the woman on the go - soccer mom, working mom - overscheduled and stressed. It offers mini-articles on anything, food, styles, hair care, finances, parenting. I am attempting Quick & Simple withdrawal because if I buy every single issue it costs a little over $6 a month - $72 a year.
Still it's not all that simple. It has a fair amount of ads and some of its articles are actually advertisements for objects.

Now I will try to be fair and balanced. "Real Simple" offers a couple of neat features. It has a monthly column on new uses for old objects. Sometimes these ideas are really clever. So, I'm glad that my library carries this magazine.

"Quick & Simple" is just plain fun but it offers bandaids for problems that often need major surgery. I'll still pick up an issue now and then. I'm a hopeless women's magazine junkie and at $1.59 "Quick & Simple" is a cheap fix.

Back to the word - simple. What does it mean? Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lists 16 different definitions and follows that up with a dozen phrases that use the word "simple". The first definition is "having or consisting of only one part". Other more common meanings include "feeble-minded", "having few parts", "unadorned", ""easy to do or understand", "without pretense or ostentation, natural". Then we have "being of little significance", "of low rank", "having no additions or qualifications", "having no guile" , and "foolish". After that we have the meaning of the word as used in music, law and science and the aforementioned dozen phrases. Pretty simple. huh?

Considering all the possible meanings of the word, "Real Simple" could be truly simple, depending on the definition you use.

My personal definition of the word "simple" is something that is plain ("unadorned") or easy to understand. In my opinion, a simple life is one that is not bulging with things to do and places to go and certainly not looking for things to buy. I don't envision a lifestyle that tries to be posh without spending the cash. A simple lifestyle does not care about arugula (a word I love because it's just a salad green, for goodness sake). That lifestyle cares about having just enough to live comfortably.

There is a bumper sticker that reads "Live Simply so that others may simply live." This insinuates that simplicity's intent is to share the wealth. Well, maybe and what's wrong with that? But simplicity can be it's own reason for being. In a simple life, a person appreciates breezes and clouds and the color of the grass in the late afternoon, things that can't buy ads in a magazine.

What I'm doing right now, for instance, is not necessarily simple. I don't NEED a computer and the computer makes my present pasttime possible. And we could all live quite comfortably without Internet access. I know a lot of people who do. So is it possible to live a truly simple life and not get left behind in technology's dust?

There's your puzzle for the day. Think on it. I may add something to this in my next post or - if I'm truly lucky - one of my readers may. Until next time, simply enjoy where you are.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I love the wee free men of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. I finally got to read the first book, "The Wee Free Men" (copyright 2003) and I can't wait to read the second book, "Wintersmith". However, SOMEONE has borrowed it.
Here's the story. Tiffany Aching has always wanted to be a witch - well, at least, ever since she saw what her neighbors and the Baron did to a feeble minded old woman.
Her story starts the day she takes her baby brother, Wentworth, down to the water and sees the Wee Free men. She also sees a green monster and comes back to bonk it on the head with a frying pan. Tiffany is no wimp and neither are the heavily accented Wee Free men. They are brawling, mauling, stealing, reeling, kilted tiny magical men who need Tiffany's help.
And they will do anything ennythin' that Tiffany wants. Verr handy, that. Read the book. It's a romp. And I want a bunch of wee free men to do my bidding.

I also read, for the first time, "Belle Prater's Boy" (c 1995). Guess who's weeding the Young Adult section? I like Ruth White's work a lot. She writes about people in coal mining regions in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Woodrow's mama, Belle, just disappears from the small cabin the family lives in. So Woodrow goes to live with his mother's parents in town. His cousin, Gypsy, lives next door and the two become best friends. Gypsy has nightmares about a grief that she has never come to grips with. Her friendship with Woodrow helps both of them come clean about things that have happened to them.
It's hard to do justice when writing about books like these. There's no fantasy, no sex, the adventures the two kids have are gentle and not even mildly scary. The reader gets to watch two kids grow for a year and the kids deal with some heavy things, sometimes with humor, sometimes not. Read it!