Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best Friends, Occasional Enemies- Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter

I have never read Lisa Scottoline's mysteries. I need to, and will get to them one of these days. But after reading her essay collection Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog, I realized that this was a woman I could love! Daughter Francesca collaborates on this third collection, and it's just as funny to me as the original. I see many echoes of my relationship with my own mother in  their writing.

Take these quotes for example:

Francesca on Apartment Living - When I saw a mouse, the first person I called was Mom. She told me to call my super, but I felt bad bothering him. I hate to bother people. But I love to bother my mother.

Lisa on Things Every Daughter Should Know - Your mother is always thinking about you, but that’s not creepy. Your mother will never forget who did you dirty in the sixth grade, for which you can thank her. And your mother will never stop asking you if you need to go to the bathroom, before you leave the house. Well, do you?

Then I read the Battle of the Green Jacket and really got hysterical. Having had a life-long aversion to Mommy & Me outfits, I can totally understand Francesca's reaction to her mother buying the exact same jacket she bought and wanting to wear it at the same time. My mother and I rarely exhibit the same taste in clothes, but when we do, it seems that we inevitably wind up wearing them out in public together. My mom loves it. I do not. But I feel better knowing I'm not alone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Musings- I hate my job

Actually, I quite like the job itself, it's the building that I'm in (old, moldy, smelly) and the idiotic, psychotic asshats I work with, that I LOATHE.  Rgiht now I have special hate on for the coworker who is the reason that I now have to wear ear plugs when I'm in the general office area. Tonight she's achieved a personal best- the TV is so loud that I can hear it CLEARLY through my industrial strength ear plugs. And yet my bosses say nothing to her.....the last time I complained, the bosses threatened to remove the TV entirely (fine with me) and she worked herself & the rest of the office into such a frenzy that I got threatened by nearly all of them. (The bosses don't care about that either, BTW.) So I said "fuck it", bought ear plugs to wear when I HAVE to be in the general area, and spend as much time as possible in the back. Friday (Psycho's day off) is the ONE day I can actually work at my desk and not have to listen to the damned thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate: The British Chocolate Industry (Shire Library)

After Gail Carriger recommended the tea book reviewed a few weeks prior to this, I searched out some of the other books in the Shire Library Series. How could I resist a book about the history of the chocolate industry in Great Britain? It's a very brief, but informative little book. I had no idea that the Kit Kat bar orignated in England! I just assumed it was an American invention. That tidbit, and many more are included. There are loads of pictures of early advertisements, a brief look at modern chocolatiers in the UK, and a list of references for anyone wanting to know more about chocolate and its history. My only problem with this book? I'm out of chocolate and REALLY want some now!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Musings- 5 W's of Reading

This is a guest post I did for my friend's blog last year. I thought I'd re-post it here for anyone who may be interested:

The 5 W’s of Reading

Who got me started on my path to being a lifelong reader? That would be my mother, Pollyanna. (see earlier guest post if you’re not familiar with that reference) Mom was a devoted booklover long before I came along, and she was determined that I would love books too. This is one of the few things we didn’t fight about when I was a teenager. Some of my earliest memories are of Mom reading to me- Little House in The Big Woods was one of our first books. I also still own most of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books for Young Readers that she’d bought in the hopes of piquing my interest.

Why do I read? With so many amazing things out there to discover, why wouldn’t I read? Books have been my escape from boring classes (not that they had anything to do with me failing Algebra II), a refuge from horrible periods in my life (most of high school, to be precise), and a way to go places I might not get to visit otherwise. I found my way to the back of the wardrobe with Lucy, sailed on the raft with Thor Heyerdahl, danced at Almack’s with countless Regency romance heroines, and went to the stars with the crew of the Enterprise. I’ve learned to cook odd dishes, found new uses for household items, and laughed myself silly at the family antics of authors like Erma Bombeck & Teresa Bloomingdale. No matter how awful my day has been, I can lose myself in a book and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

When do I read? Basically, any time I have unavoidable down time- like waiting in lines, or at the doctor’s office gives me time to read. I read before I go to bed at night, and on my lunch breaks at work. (and occasionally when I should be working) my days off, I divide my time between reading and cross-stitch, with breaks for meals & shopping. (and praying for the housework fairies to show up so I don’t have to put my book down and clean the litter box/bathroom/laundry, etc)

Where do I read? Everywhere, really. At home I have a spot on the end of my couch with a LED lamp that shines over my shoulder. (it’s also my cross-stitch spot) I put my feet up on the recliner and settle down with a book or two and a cat or three. Bliss. I also read in bed (with a clip-lamp on my headboard, for extra light and so my lazy butt doesn’t have to get up and cross the room to turn off the light if I’m ready to sleep) on lazy days or nights when I can’t sleep. I read in restaurants when eating alone, and long lines. (Thanks to the good friend who bought me a Kindle, waiting at the DMV to renew my license this year was almost pleasant) I read on planes, but not in cars/on buses/subways. For some reason, the latter three give me motion sickness when I try to read on them.

What do I read? I’d like to say EVERYTHING! However, that would be a lie. The librarians at my branch love to see my reserve requests roll in- they say I read the most eclectic assortment of things they’ve ever seen. (I tell them they ought to see my mother’s list. Hee!) While I can’t claim to read everything- I have something of an aversion to religious themed books, self-help, and nearly anything ‘written’ by celebrities- I do read a wide variety of things. Right now it’s mostly mysteries & Regency romances, with the odd fantasy and humor writing thrown in. I’ve become rather enamored of steampunk in the last year or so (Gail Carriger is one of my favorite authors in that genre- an unconventional British heroine with a fondness for tea, werewolves, and vampires!) and I don’t care much for holidays, but find myself fascinated by books about British holiday traditions. I’m something of an Anglophile as you might have guessed, so I also tend to read books by British authors or that are set in Britain.) I love comic strip collections-Bloom County, Two Lumps, and Unshelved are of my 3 favorites. I like children’s books with beautiful pictures and/or funny stories. (The Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems crack me up) I love a good vampire story, but sadly have read a LOT of bad ones while looking for the good stuff. Charles De Lint and Bill Bryson are two other favorite writers, along with Jen Lancaster.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Double Booked For Death- Ali Brandon

Double-Booked for Death (Black Cat Bookshop Mystery #1)

I know, I know- another mystery with a cat and a bookstore, right? Well, when it's well done, it's not so bad, and this IS well done. Texan Darla has moved to NY to run the bookstore left to her by her deceased aunt. She's also inherited the bad mannered black cat, Hamlet. We begin after she's been there for a few months and is about to host her first big book signing, for an author of the latest teen blockbuster series. She's been warned that this author can be difficult to handle, and is calling this her Up Yours tour. The reason? She's a failed romance writer who was only able to get signings at a few indie bookstores around the country before hitting big with her paranormal teen book. Now all the big chains want her to do signings for them, but she's only planning to go back to the stores who acknowledged her earlier books, and Darla's store is the first stop. Darla enlists neighbor & former NYPD officer Jake (short for Jacqueline) to help with crowd control. Things seem to be going well at first, despite some infighting among the bookstore staff, the appearance of a protester and the threat of a church group picket, and then all hell breaks loose. Val, the author, winds up dead in the street when she's supposed to be signing books. The police at first think it's a simple, yet awful accident, but things keep nagging at Darla until she & Jake start putting pieces together, with the unwitting (or is it?) help of Hamlet and they realize there's a LOT more going on than anyone realized. There's also a subplot with mysterious break-ins at the store and Darla's apartment (nothing is stolen, but someone is CLEARLY looking for something), a potential future romance for Darla, and the developing relationship between Darla & Hamlet the wonder cat. All in all, a good read for a chilly day and a promising start for a new series.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Musings- I have the maternal instict of a rabid wombat

There was no post last week because some work drama had taken over my life and it took everything I had to cope without causing GBH to myself or anyone else. But it's been dealt with, to the best of my ability, and hopefully things will run smoothly for a little while.

So, let's talk about children. I don't like them and I'm not comfortable around them. I didn't really like them when *I* was a child. As I entered young adulthood, I regarded baby-sitting as a necessary evil to obtain money since there weren't many job opportunities for Queen of the Entire Freaking Universe. (A job I'm still seeking, I might add) I don't mind pictures, and will coo over baby photos offered by friends and family, but that is as far as I go.

Someone once told me that I'd like children once I had some. Um, no. My dislike for children, and all that comes with them, is why I DON'T have any. I don't like dealing with bodily fluids/secretions, I like my privacy and not having that many restrictions on my life, I enjoy both peace & quiet and the occasional bout of headbanging music. I do not enjoy having conversations interrupted by bouts of crying/screaming/barfing, having plans made around little sweetum's sleep/school/activity schedule (all of which are liable to be cancelled at a minute's notice),  having my purse gone through by mommy's little darling ("He/She's exploring new things!" No, she's broken my Kindle, ripped apart my wallet, eaten my lipstick, and absconded with my cash -OR- He's 14, should know better, and has just stolen my MP3 player, pain pills, and the cash his younger sibling missed), having my hair pulled, and worse.

I've been told that I'm a selfish cow and a horrible person for not liking/having kids. Yes, I suppose I am selfish. However, isn't it better for someone who doesn't like/want kids to NOT have them? How many children are abused/neglected by parents who don't give a damn about them?  How is that fair to a child?(not saying I would do that, but let's face it- a LOT of people do)  I also have a fair number of genetic flaws that it wouldn't be fair to inflict on another person. Granted, I don't think my parents planned for me to inherit some of the worst traits from both sides of the family (as well as some of the just plain odd ones- like being able to use my toes to pick up 2 liter bottles of soda and other random objects. My ex, the Schmuck- another person who should NEVER be allowed to pass on genetic material- called them my monkey toes) but I don't feel the need to risk passing them on.

Now pets are a different story. I love my fur-kids to death, and jokingly refer to myself as their mama. I love dogs, but don't have any because I have a somewhat erratic work schedule and it's not fair to a dog to be cooped up alone all day and then not get any exercise because their owner is too tired or in too much pain when they DO get home. I currently am owned by 3 cats (let's face it- they own me, not the other way around) and I feel guilty when work takes me away from them for extended periods. But it's much easier to play with them, even when tired and in pain (I have bad knees and degenerating vertebrae in my lower back which cause pinched nerves and general pain) and they love to just climb up on me and snuggle in. I LOATHE the litter box, but most cat people feel the same.

I feel the same way about my pets that some people feel about their children, and that's fine. They don't have to like my cats, I don't have to like their kids. Life will go on and all will be well with the world. As well as it gets, anyway.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Soulless- Gail Carriger

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)
From Goodreads:
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

My Opinion:

I can't believe I hadn't posted a review of this book before now! LOVED it. My friend Jessica had bought a copy and I spotted it on her table before dinner at her house one evening. I picked it up, read the blurb on the back, and knew I wanted to read it. Jess, showing what an awesome friend she is, offered to loan it to me before she'd even had a chance to read it herself, but I couldn't do that to her. So I went straight to the bookstore after dinner and bought my own copy. I devoured this book in one sitting- Alexia is my kind of girl, opinionated and not afraid to show it, with a fondness for tea and sweet treats. Fighting off an attacking vampire, she accidentally kills him and now has to deal with werewolf Lord Maccon who Queen Victoria sends to investigate the matter. Further interaction as Alexia insists on being a larger part of the investigation than Maccon is happy with, an education in the matter of vampire society, and a series of attacks make this a thumping good read. The sequels are fun too! The next book in the series is due soon, and while I'm sorry it's the last Alexia adventure, Gail Carriger is NOT abonding her entertaining world. There are two more series to come, with new characters, and I suspect a few familiar faces will appear.