- Fizzy Thoughts: December 2008

Happy 2009!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
October 2008
286 pages

This book was nothing like what I expected, and I think I loved it even more than I would have had it been the book I was expecting. I thought I was going to read about the title character, Olive, who I believed would be a bitter, crotchety old woman. What I ended up reading was a collection of subtle short stories. The stories ranged from those that focused completely on Olive, to those that only referenced her in passing. Okay, yes, this is a novel. But the chapters really felt like short stories to me.

Together these stories hint at the life of a complex woman. We only get a glimpse of Olive. There are things in her past that are touched on, yet never quite revealed. And there are sides to her that are alluded to, yet never explained. Yes, Olive is abrasive and blunt. Yet, some people perceive her as incredibly empathetic and understanding.

Olive Kitteridge is also the story of a town, as many of the chapters focus on other people living in or visiting Crosby, a small, fictional town in Maine.

I tried really hard to explain this book to my uncle at Christmas. I did about as good as a job then as I’m doing now. It’s a simple book, yet it’s still difficult to describe why I actually enjoyed it so much. I guess I’d just sum it up with:

Beautifully done, Ms. Strout.


vote for Mike. Mike Wazowski.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We have a winner.

Lisa correctly identified the inspiration for Mike. It's Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.

He's green, he has one eye (the new computer has a built-in web cam), and he's cute! Now, do you think he might get more than one vote?? And just to clarify, a vote for Mike is actually a vote for Mike Wazowski, as my friend Rochelle feels he should be called by his full name.

Lisa, I'm way impressed! Let me know if there's a book you'd like. You can also wait a few days and hope I read a lot over New Year's...there should be more books in the closet by the weekend!


Going Down South

Going Down South
Bonnie Glover
July 2008
272 pages

I seem to have run out of reviewing steam lately. So…publisher’s comments:

When fifteen-year-old Olivia Jean finds herself in the “family way,” her mother, Daisy, who has never been very maternal, springs into action. Daisy decides that Olivia Jean can’t stay in New York and whisks her away to her grandmother’s farm in Alabama to have the baby–even though Daisy and her mother, Birdie, have been estranged for years. When they arrive, Birdie lays down the law: Sure, her granddaughter can stay, but Daisy will have to stay as well. Though Daisy is furious, she has no choice.

Now, under one little roof in the 1960s Deep South, three generations of spirited, proud women are forced to live together. One by one, they begin to lose their inhibitions and share their secrets. And as long-guarded truths emerge, a baby is born–a child with the power to turn these virtual strangers into a real, honest-to-goodness family.

Hmmm, the publisher seems to have forgotten about Olivia Jean’s father, Turk, who plays a significant role in the first part of the book. Olivia Jean adores her father, but he refuses to acknowledge her as soon as he finds out she’s pregnant. However, Turk isn't alone in acting like an ass. All of the characters are pretty unlovable in the beginning. Even Olivia Jean struck me as a bit whiny. However, once they make it down to Alabama things get better.

Dar very kindly sent me this book, and I am glad she did. It was a good read. Much better than this lame little write-up.


Because I have nothing better to do

Monday, December 29, 2008

You all are so clever. I mentioned my new (but yet-to-be-delivered) green Dell and it's need for a name, and I'm amazed at all the comments.

First, I need to answer Dawn's question about our cars. We have three vehicles (not counting Hamburger's motorcycles) and only one has a name. Gunther. Surf vans aside, we generally don't name inanimate objects, but there's just something about a green laptop that cries out for a name.

Terri started it all off by mentioning Sweat Pea, which I thought was adorable. But I tend to think of computers as male (sorry, guys), so Sweat Pea is a little too precious for something that I will occasionally want to bop on the head. Or monitor.

A couple of you suggested Envy, which is way clever. But I'm not sure I can name my computer after a deadly sin.

Ti came up with Gherkin, which I agree is appropriate. But there's this building in London that is nicknamed the Gherkin:

And yes, it has other nicknames, too. But we won't go here.

So. No Gherkin. But it did make me think of another name. And girasoli evidently had the exact same idea! I think Dill the Dell has a certain ring to it. Plus, there's the whole To Kill a Mockingbird reference.

But then Lisa (who I suspect was kinda hungry, since most of her suggestions related to food) came up with Olive. And since I have a boy computer I turned it into Oliver. Which brings to mind Oliver Twist.

And now I can't decide. I was going to be fancy and make a poll for this post, but I can't get it to work. So I had to stick the poll in the sidebar. Do me a favor and go vote!

Edited to add: You may notice there are now two polls. That's because some people like Kermit. And I had to add two names to make it a poll, so if you can figure out why I chose Mike, I'll give you your pick of a book from the (almost empty) book closet.


the Scrabble report

A few days ago I mentioned that I received Super Deluxe Scrabble for Christmas.

Well, Hamburger and I had our inaugural game and he trounced me. The final score was 700 and something to 600 and something. I've blocked the details.

Hamburger has the irritating ability to use all of his tiles. He usually manages it once a game. Sometimes more. This time it was unleaded that put him in the lead, and I was never able to catch up. I blame it on the fact that I was consonant challenged for a good portion of the game.

Many of you asked if it's the same game, only longer. And yes, it does take a good amount of time to play. But the board is larger, and Hamburger and I agree that you seem to be able to spell longer words. We also made good use of the board. I'll confess to using squee in order to nab a quadruple word score. Hamburger never challenges, and I never confessed my doubt that it's a real word. I figure if I've seen it around the internets it's fair game. Of course, he had to turn it into squeeler and hit a triple word score, so so much for my cleverness. Especially since I just now realized squealer is spelled with an a. I think I need to start reading the dictionary.

Anyways...two thumbs up. I'd recommend it for all you Scrabble lovers. Just make sure you have plenty of time for a game.


Whistling in the Dark

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Whistling in the Dark
Lesley Kagen
May 2007
336 pages

Opening line:
“The after Mother told us she was sick, Troo and me were just laying in the lime summer grass, smelling the bleach comin’ off the wash that jitterbugged on the line and getting ready to play that name game with her.”

I adored this book. I absolutely loved the voice of Sally, the ten year old narrator. The book is set in Milwaukee in the summer of 1959. Kagen does a wonderful job of evoking the close-knit neighborhoods of the past.

With their mother in the hospital for the summer, their older sister preoccupied with her boyfriend, and their step-father off drinking and carousing, Sally and her younger sister Troo are left to their own devices. With a highly active imagination, Sally is convinced that the neighborhood predator that has murdered two young girls is now after her. She’s also convinced she knows who the guy is. Trouble is, no one believes her.

Following Sally and Troo around for the summer was a blast. The mystery is secondary to this story. The real story is Sally, as she searches for the truth and begins to leave her childhood behind.


Dude. I gotta Dell.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Okay, confession time. I bought myself a present today. Well, I ordered myself a present. It won't be here for a few weeks. And I figured since I was spending all that money on a laptop, why not get one in a pretty color? I'm such a girl.

My Toshiba knows something is up, too, because it's running a little slow tonight.

Friday, we ordered Hamburger's new desktop. It's a Dell, also, because I (actually, my co-worker) found an amazing deal on what we needed for the desktop. The desktop is actually a necessity, as our old computer is 10 years old...it's limping along. The other day Hamburger discovered he could no longer upload photos to eBay, and I convinced him to jump into the 21st century, computer-wise.

So then I had computer envy. My laptop still works fine, but it's starting to lag, and the fan runs all the freakin' time. Since it'll be four years old soon, I decided to treat myself to a new laptop. Now I'm counting the days until it's delivered. And trying to think of a name for a green computer. Maybe Kermit?


Christmas intermission

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day!

Really, the US needs to get on board with the Boxing Day holiday. Because working the day after Christmas is...well, I don't know what it is, but it isn't fun.

I still have another Christmas to go, though. We spent yesterday afternoon at Hamburger's mom's house. Highlights included lasagna for dinner, a Starbucks card, and Hamburger's niece calling him a nerd. Tomorrow afternoon it's my mom's house. Two days of Christmas separated by one (half) day of work...it's like today is intermission.

No books to report, although I did get a B&N gift card from Hamburger (after 17 years, the man is finally catching on). And this:

That's right. It's "the scrabble game with More Spaces, More Points and More Tiles." We're talking quadruple word score, two Q's and two Z's.

It's official...I'm a dork.


Ho Ho Ho

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Evidently most of you have been naughty, because Santa did not get very many letters from you all. However, he did really enjoy the ones he did receive.

He wanted me to give a shout out to Eva for the treats, and the water for the reindeer (much appreciated). Also, to Dawn for the cheese...Santa says it's nice to see something different after 349 billion cookies. Ti, Santa says not to worry...no coal in your stocking. And he's looking forward to his stop at your house this evening, as he's got some presents for the kids. Sarah, Santa says Mrs. Claus is a big Emily Dickinson fan, and he's impressed by your scholarly diligence. Jo-Jo, Santa is verrrrrrrry impressed with your charitable efforts and he wishes you a very Merry Christmas. And Veens, Santa very much enjoyed meeting you, and visiting India!

Finally, beastmomma, Santa is so happy you made it home safely for the holidays. He says you are always invited for the holidays. In fact, he'd like to invite you to pick out your book!

That's right, the winner of the very first "write a letter to Santa contest" is beastmomma. Woo-hoo! No need to decide right away what book you'd like, but if you'd let me know sometime in the next week, that would be just spiffy. And if you could email me with your address, that would be even spiffier. For the others mentioned above (Eva, Dawn, Ti, Sarah, Jo-Jo and Veens), I'll send you a book from the book closet, if there is anything you are interested in. First come, first serve, though...so check the comments before you lay claim to a book. Thanks to everyone for being silly with me!

As for the rest of you, well, there's a whole new year coming up. Plenty of time to be nice and work on your letter to Santa!

Happy Holidays!


Angelina's Children

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Angelina's Children
Alice Ferney
217 pages

First off, I'm severely annoyed that when I google for an image of the cover, all I get are pictures of the Jolie-Pitt kids. Hello, Google? Not all of us are into the children of celebrities. In fact, I never even made the connection between the book's title and you-know-who until Google bombarded me with images I didn't want to see. And yes, that includes the first image of a tattoo.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes. Angelina(the gypsy)'s Children. Another spur-of-the-moment pick for me. And I'm not really sure what I think of this one. It's actually a French novel (in translation, because I in no way read French. Or any other language.) and it won a French literary prize. But I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of the French literary prize, and I'm not even sure why it won.

Angelina(the gypsy)'s Children is a story about a family of gypsies, and a librarian who visits their camp once a week to read stories to the children. And really, that about sums it up, because there's not much happening in the way of plot. The book focuses heavily on the gypsy lifestyle, and the marriages of Angelina(the gypsy)'s sons, and how dirty and illiterate they all are, and how there isn't much of a work ethic in the men. I can't decide if the book is condescending or not. It certain plays up the stereotype of gypsies.

On the other hand, the four daughters-in-law were interesting, and I kept reading because I was curious as to how their stories played out. Esther the librarian was simply the woman who visited once a week. Other than her interactions with the family, we never saw her with her own family or at her job. And I'm confused as to how she could hold a job what with all the time she seemed to spend with the gypsies. And other than Anita and Sandro and Michael, the kids were pretty much indistinguishable. So were some of the men, for that matter.

Oh, and get this...the quote on the back cover describes the book as "A beautifully feminine and fertile book." Huh? Maybe that didn't translate well.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The book was short and I read it in a couple of sittings and I didn't not like it. But I'm not going to gush about it either.



Monday, December 22, 2008

I got a Christmas prezzie from Chartroose...

Isn't he cute? In a sort of drunken way?

Thanks Chartroose! Happy Holidays to you, too! And everyone else out there in blogalalaland (to steal her phrase).


My Christmas Story

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When I was a small drink, we lived in a teensy-weensy town in Oregon. Dufur, Oregon. My dad and his best friend Gary worked for the city. And in a town of 500 people, this meant they pretty much were the city’s entire work force. They drove the ambulance. They dug graves. They fixed the roads and other stuff. And they were the garbage men.

One Christmas season, my mom made peppermint taffy. The next day, my dad and Gary showed up on the school playground dressed as Santa and his elf and tossed out the candy. I know this because I was there. It was either first or second grade, and my dad was Santa. And it’s a good thing I had a sense of humor even then, because Santa’s sleigh that he arrived on? It was the garbage truck. Santa and Elf tossed out their taffy, and then they left to finish collecting the trash.

What wacky Christmas memories do you have to share?


A is for Annie. And Ali.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Here are the results of my last minute giveaway of Annie Dunne (although I'm sure half of the people on the list didn't even know they were entered). Congratulations to Ali, with her last minute (literally) comment.

List Randomizer

There were 13 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

ya ya's mom

Timestamp: 2008-12-21 06:06:17 UTC

If you're totally bummed you didn't win, there's still hope! Have you written your letter to Santa yet? No? Well, what are you waiting for??


Annie is a popular gal

Since Annie Dunne seems to be generating some interest, I think I'll do a quickie giveaway. Because 'tis the season and all that. But first...

Did you know the cover photograph is by Dorothea Lange? She's famous for this photograph:

Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange

Incidentally, the picture was taken in Nipomo, California, about 40 miles south of where I live.

I never knew that Lange went to Ireand in 1954 and took many photos of the people of County Clare.

County Clare, Dorothea Lange

While she was there she took this photo, which I cannot find independent of the book cover:

Bridie O'Halloran, Dorothea Lange

And this one, which is also on the back cover of Annie Dunne:

Sunday, Western Ireland, Dorothea Lange

Okay, so enough of the history lesson. Since there seems to be some interest in this book (or maybe it's just the cover), I'm going to give it away to one of you, as long as you leave a comment here in the next two and a half hours (that's up until 10pm Pacific time). Don't worry though, I'm also including the people who commented that they wanted it in the original Annie Dunne post. So if it's tomorrow when you read this, all is not lost (well, as long as you read my blog yesterday). Are you confused? Don't worry, I've got it all under control.


Annie Dunne

Annie Dunne
Sebastian Barry
228 pages

Remember when I read this book because it was set in Ireland? And how I was a wee bit disappointed in the lack of, well, Irishness? Evidently, Annie Dunne was the book I really wanted.

Still, this was a different book for me. I found it quite by accident, when I was wandering around barnesandnoble.com. I had a $25 gift card, and I was in the mood for something different. I started off looking at The Secret Scripture, but it was hardcover and I was trying to maximize the $25. So I ended up with Annie.

The year is 1959. The setting Wicklow, Ireland. Annie Dunne lives with her cousin Sarah on Sarah's small farm. Although both women are still strong and healthy, security is a worry for Annie, as she has already been turned out of one home. When Annie’s great-niece and great-nephew arrive to spend the summer with the women, and the local handyman starts to court Sarah, Annie is forced to take a hard look at herself, her surroundings, and her future.

Annie Dunne is told in the first person point of view, and it’s short on dialogue, something that I always struggle with. However, in this case Annie’s voice is so unique it carries the story. Alternately almost-pompous and very descriptive, Annie is a treat.

Although Annie is forced to face a changing Ireland and a changing world, what struck me most about this book was its detailed look into the daily life of rural Ireland. The farm chores and the household chores seem never-ending, and the book is a glimpse into a way of life that is not so distant but that still seems worlds away.



Friday, December 19, 2008

Diana Abu-Jaber
May 2004
398 pages

I read Origin, also by Diana Abu-Jaber, a few months ago. Despite its melancholy feel, I loved the book and was looking forward to reading something else by the author. But wow…reading Crescent was like reading an entirely different author. This book had such a dreamy, enchanted feel to it.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Half-Iraqi, half-American Sirine is a cook at Nadia's Cafe, which draws the neighborhood's Arab students, expatriates, and exiles. All are hungry for "real true Arab food" and connection to their homes. One is Hanif Al Eyad, a new hire in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the university who fled Iraq as a young man. Sirine and Han fall in love over food: a baklava they make together, delicate lamb dishes, hummus glistening with olive oil.

Populated by colorful and memorable characters—the lovely Sirine; the handsome Han; Sirine's story-telling uncle, whose fantastic fables are woven into the novel; a poet named Aziz; Nadia and her daughter Mireille—Crescent explores the universal themes of love and loyalty to countries old and new, to those left behind, and to tradition. Some of the characters are learning to live in one country and let go of another, and some are not—a fact that sparks a surprising ending.

Despite the good story and the interesting characters, I prefer Origin. Which is odd, since I wouldn’t consider Origin to be the type of book I usually go for. Not that I have a type. Crescent bogged down a bit in the middle, and it took me about two weeks to read it, which is almost unheard of for me. I almost gave up, but for some reason I felt compelled to finish it. And then I read this line:

"...it isn't healthy to abandon a story."

Ack! The book was talking to me! So I obeyed and finished it. And it wasn't bad. I just think I wasn't in the mood for this type of book.


today's winner is...

It's Friday! And it's time for the weekly book closet announcement.

This week Mr. Random picked #55, which just happens to be Cali over at Nite Swimming. See, I told you it was okay that you don't get the whole vampire thing. Evidently the random number integer agrees with you.

Congratulations Cali! Please email me if you see something in the closet that you'd like.

Don't forget about my other contest...this one was a spur of the moment thing, inspired by yesterday's Booking Through Thursday. It's for everyone's inner child...so go and write your letter to Santa.


a letter to Santa (and you)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Santa,

Earlier today, on my Booking Through Thursday (a very cool weekly meme by the way – you should check it out) post, I mentioned that I just don’t get very many books as gifts and that maybe I needed to start writing you letters again.

So here I am. Writing you a letter. Long time no talk to. I’m sorry…I’m not a very good letter writer. Maybe if you started a blog?

Anyhoosie…I’ve been pretty good this year. Yes, I spent maybe too much money on books. And shoes. But it’s not like I’ve got a heroin addiction (like that guy in Apart from the Crowd). And yes, I know I can get a little sarcastic, but I didn’t beat anyone up (unlike Bob Oswald). And I use some bad words, but I’m nowhere near as bad as Chuck Klosterman.

So Santa, all I really want for Christmas is books. Or gift cards to buy books. And Santa, I’ll even help you out, ‘cause I imagine it gets a little hectic delivering all those presents. I’ll buy one person a book, as long as they write you a nice, chatty letter telling you what they want. And then they post the letter on their blog for us all to read. And then they come back here and leave me a link so I know for sure that I’ve read all of the letters. And they keep it under 30 bucks, because sorry Santa, but I just don’t have access to any clever elves or offshore bank accounts (not that I’m implying that you do, Santa). I’ll chose one lucky person on Christmas Eve and buy them a book (delivery not guaranteed before Christmas though, because I don’t have access to the reindeer, either).

Love to Rudolph and Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen and Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And Mrs. C. And the elves.



Generosity and Treat

Do you give books as gifts? To everyone? Or only to select people?

You know, I’d love to give books as gifts. It would make shopping so much easier. However, my life is not filled with readers. Hamburger only reads motorcycle manuals, so no books for him. My mom usually gets a book from me, and I know she’ll read it. My uncle always gets a travel memoir of some kind from me…it’s become a tradition. I gave my friend Rochelle Kafka on the Shore as a birthday present, and she named her fish Oshima in return, so that was definitely a successful gift. And Kate’s gotten a few books from me over the years. But other than that? I don’t have a whole lot of faith that any book I buy for my brother, or sister-in-law, or aunt will ever get read.

How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

Dude…if I only got books as gifts I would be the happiest softdrink ever. Or gift cards for books (okay, and Starbucks). However, that doesn’t really happen, and I usually end up with a sweater or two that I never wear. Maybe I need to start writing letters to Santa again.

And bonus question…

What is the best book you ever bought for yourself?
And, why? What made it the best? What made it so special?

The best book I ever bought for myself is always the one I just bought. Because it’s unread, and it sounded interesting, and it’s got possibilities…



Octavia Butler
October 2005
320 pages

This was a different sort of vampire book. Almost more clinical. Definitely less romantic.

Shori wakes up alone and injured in a cave, without any memory of who she is or what happened. After she heals and ventures out into the world she quickly discovers she is a vampire (because she vants to suck your blood). However, she’s not an ordinary vampire. She has been genetically altered to withstand sunlight. Unfortunately, not all vamps appreciate this trait, as they feel the Ina (vampire) have been sullied. As Shori fights for acceptance, not to mention her life, she starts to acquire the harem food human symbionts she needs, as their blood and affection keep her alive.

At times this book almost reads more like a history of the Ina than a novel. Butler put considerable thought into crafting her vampire society. Almost as if she planned more books. Unfortunately, she died in 2006.

Fledgling is interesting for a number of reasons. Due to the genetic alterations, Shori is black, unlike the rest of the pale-skinned Ina. Racism is touched on. The creepy relationship between the Ina and the symbionts brings up issues of master/servant and free will, since once bitten a symbiont is practically addicted to their Ina.

Fledgling is about as far away from Twilight as you can get while still being in the same genre (because I consider vampire books to be a genre). Despite the almost clinical feel to it, it’s a fascinating book. I’d recommend it if you’re up for something a little different.

Would you like to read my gently used copy of this book? Because I'll send it to you if you're the first commenter who says they want it. You know, because it's the holidays and all. Although I'm not really sure what vampires have to do with the holidays.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Daniel Clay
September 2008
336 pages

At first, the references to To Kill a Mockingbird were so blatant and distracting I was about to quit the book. The main character is named Skunk, her single father Archie is a lawyer, her older brother is named Jed and the neighborhood bully Bob Oswald beats up another neighbor, Rick Buckley, thereafter known as Broken.

Then the book took a bizarre twist and I forgot all about To Kill a Mockingbird. The Oswald family (Bob and his five S-named daughters (Saraya, Saskia, Susan, Sunrise and Sunset)) is so over the top crazy. Actually, most of the characters in Broken are over the top. And a lot of them are crazy.

So it goes like this. Skunk sees Bob Oswald beat the crap out of Rick. Bob's daughters terrorize the neighborhood and the local school. But Bob is a white-trash, tattooed, druggie, partying, biker, welfare recipient who is ridiculously pleased that his daughters take after him (while still being angels at the same time...because in Bob's eyes, they can do no wrong). Between no-good, violent Bob and his five slutty, sinister, sneaky S-named daughters, the neighborhood is pretty much doomed.

All this is being told by a comatose Skunk, although we really don't know why she's in a coma until she catches up to that part of the story. Which I won't tell you about because then you'd know what happens.

The cover totally contrasts with the story inside, and remains my favorite part of the book. I found Bob to be way too cliched...he's like every bad stereotype all rolled into one character. Same for his daughters. The story was an interesting ride, but I don't know that I'd go around recommending it to just everyone.


Dewey's Books Reading Challenge

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I said I wasn't going to do any challenges in 2009. But then Chris came up with this marvelous idea.

1. Pick one book from each of the 6 years that Dewey has archives of. You can access her archives by clicking on the archive link in the sidebar of her website. It’s a dropdown menu. For instance, you would read one book that she reviewed in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 for a total of six books.

2. The other option is to read 5 books that Dewey reviewed. These can be from any year and I’m guessing that each of us has at least 5 books on our TBR list because of Dewey!

And the rules:

1. Choose either option 1 or 2 from above.

2. Commit to read your books (either 5 or 6 depending on which option you choose) throughout 2009. The challenge will end on December 31, 2009 but we’ll go ahead and unofficially start it right away! We’ll officially start it on January 1st, 2009.

3. Check back to this page often as I’ll put up Mr. Linky’s for reviews and I’ll mention prize giveaways!

I'm going with option #2. The books I have chosen to read are:

Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie

And since I've already caved and committed to one challenge, I'm toying with the idea of a few more. So much for resolutions.


Riding with the Queen

Jennie Shortridge
October 2003
331 pages

Jennie Shortridge has a knack for creating characters I don't particularly like, but that I end up cheering for by the end of the book. They make stupid ass decisions, and then end up growing up and redeeming themselves.

Case in point: Tallie Beck. Tallie is a down on her luck singer who after 17 years away lands back home. On her uptight, resentful sister Jane's doorstep. Before too long she is pissing off her sister with her drinking and smoking and irresponsible behavior. After taking a job at a participatory sing-along bar and moving in with her estranged mother, Tallie sloooooowly starts to work on family relationships and acceptance and her own feelings about who she is and what she wants out of life.

Despite the going-home-and-facing-your-past theme, this is a unique book. As I mentioned, the characters are flawed and not so lovable. Tallie's mom suffered from mental illness and consequently, the girls had a rough childhood. Tallie struggles with forgiveness, despite the fact that her mother on medication and no longer manic. Tallie also struggles with her perception of what a musician is. Eventually, she starts to realize that she can be settled and happy and working in a bar, and still be a successful entertainer.

Riding with the Queen is Shortridge's first book. And I think I like it a little better than Love and Biology. It's characters are quirkier, and while I still didn't really like them, I think I enjoyed them more than the Love and Biology cast.


Matrimony winner

Monday, December 15, 2008

The winner of...



Congratulations Chris! Please email me with your info and I will forward it to Joshua Henkin.


Things I have done...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I stole this from Stephanie at The Written Word because I'm a sucker for a fun list.

The things I have done are in BOLD.

1. Started my own blog (duh)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii (five times)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (and gotten poison oak)
9. Held a praying mantis (no, but remember this guy)
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch (does blogging count?)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked (in Wales)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (unintentionally, because when people dine and dash, guess who pays? the waitress)
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (no, but I've seen them from shore)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (my mom did when I was a kid, though)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (online)
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (small claims court, and we won)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant

For a grand total of 52! How about you? What have you done?


Corn and cake (but not corn cakes)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bethany is encouraging people to post a favorite recipe (and be entered in her giveaway contest for a cookbook), so I thought I would help her pass the word. I'm lazy and cooking is not one of my favorite activities. But I do love to look at recipes and occasionally try new things. So I'm going to give you two recipes. The first is my (and my big brother's) all time favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas side dish (I'm cheating here, becasue I already had the recipe typed up, so it was easy to post). So, first off, compliments of softdrink's mom, I give you...

Chile Corn Custard
2 c drained corn, frozen or canned
1 1/2 c melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 c sour cream
1 c diced jack cheese
1/2 c cornmeal
1 4 oz can diced Ortega chiles
2 tbsp chopped celery (optional)

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 qt casserole dish, or a 9x9 pan. (Tip from softdrink's mom: the shallow pans are better than the round dishes with the higher sides, otherwise the middle doesn't always cook through.) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until set. Serves 6-8, so you might want to double it if you have lots of people, or kids who fight over the leftovers.

For the second recipe, I'll just give you the link to the Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake that I found at Baking Bites. Because there is lots of good stuff over there and you should go visit. The cake is absolutely delicious...I took it to work and it disappeared before noon!



the book closet

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yo, Care! You won the Friday giveaway this week. What book do ya want? Not on the list, but also available, are Fledgling, by Octavia Butler, and Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber (which I need incentive to finish).

Elmo is very happy for you!


Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
October 2007
304 pages

Thirteen reasons why I like this book:

1. The set-up. Each chapter is one side of a cassette tape. Our main character, Clay, is listening to the tapes, and interspersing his own thoughts with the commentary from the tapes, which are being narrated by Hannah, who has committed suicide. Each side of the cassette tapes focuses on one person who affected the life of our dead heroine - and not necessarily in a good way. And the tapes are being sent to each of these 13 people so they can listen (and hopefully learn).

2. Jay Asher is a local author. Not that I know him or anything, but it's still cool.

3. I am convinced the Crestmont Theater in the book is our local Fremont Theater. Also very cool.

4. I am also convinced that the coffee shop is modelled after Linnaea's, another local hangout. When I was in high school it was cool (in a totally nerdy way) to drink coffee there. And I'm going to stop saying cool now.

5. There was good mixed in with the bad. Kudos to the author for not making a book on teenage suicide a total downer...not that it wasn't sad, but it wasn't totally devoid of hope.

6. As a former teacher of teenagers (not one of the highlights of my life), I think Asher did a fantastic job of capturing both the incredibly shitty behavior that teenagers are capable of and the fleeting moments of maturity that they also exhibit.

7. Which reminds me yet again why I'm glad I'm not a teacher. Thank you, Jay Asher.

8. Teenagers lie. They party. And they have sex. Asher tells it like it is.

9. Clay. I heart Clay.

10. Despite the occasional confusion of Clay's voice competing with Hannah's voice, the story sucked me in. Sucked me in, tied me down, and kept me from cleaning the house.

11. There's a website. And it has the map. (Hannah includes a map of places of significance in with the tapes that she sends to the 13 reasons why.)

12. When I was exploring the website, and Asher's myspace page, I saw lots of comments from teens. And while it's technically a YA book, Thirteen Reasons Why is getting all sorts of positive responses from people of all ages. I love books that transcend genre.

13. While this final reason is not necessarily related to the book, the author is also part of a joint blog, the hysterical Disco Mermaids.

Don't forget to enter my Matrimony giveaway!


Sedaris it ain't

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of all the books, and all the authors in the world, I get this crap...

The following authors are coming to your area in the next 2 weeks. Below this list you'll find the details on their events:

BradyGames, author of Octagon (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
Barnes & Noble
Monday, December 15, 7:00 PM
894 Marsh St Bldg G, San Luis Obispo, CA

I'm so dumb-founded I can't even think of a suitably scathing remark. Help me out here, people!


Time is of the essence

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?

Not only no, but h-e-double hockey sticks no. I’d love to stay home and read all day long. Or stay up all night and read. But I have to go to work so I can buy all the books that then sit around my house feeling neglected and unloved. It’s a vicious circle, I tell ya.

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

I would read all of the above-mentioned neglected books. I can hear them calling my name when I’m asleep. Those are mostly fiction books published within the past 5 years, with some travel memoirs thrown in to make me dream about places I want to go. I always think I’d like to read Newsweek on a regular basis, but let’s be real. Given more time, I’d just pick up a book instead.


Apart from the Crowd

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apart from the Crowd
Anna McPartlin
August 2008
448 pages

Product Description (from amazon)

In a little Irish town like Kenmare, there's no need to worry whether people will discover your secrets. They already have.

For Mary, that means being remembered for her tragic losses, even if she'd rather get on with her life. For her cousin Ivan, as close as a brother, the gossip is all about how his wife took the kids and ran off with her new lover. For Mary's friend Penny, it's an old romance that didn't work out quite right, and a current affair with a bottle of vodka.

Then Sam Sullivan rents the cottage next door to Mary, and within hours the whole town is talking about the film-star-handsome American. When Sam hurts his back while helping his new neighbor and spends the next week confined to a mattress on her floor, gossip runs rampant. But neither Kenmare nor Mary know about the secrets Sam is so successfully hiding....

For Mary's circle of friends, Sam's arrival marks more than one change. And Mary -- whose unlucky history has kept her apart from the crowd much of her life -- has finally found a man with whom she feels she might truly connect. But so long as both are captive to memories they dare not reveal, the past is a barrier that will keep them forever alone.

In this powerful novel, Anna McPartlin perfectly captures the drama, the emotion, and the laughter of a small Irish community, for those who fit in -- and those who don't. Apart from the Crowd mixes wit and insight to create an engrossing tale that will keep you reading to the very last page.

Okay, ignore the sappiness in the description, because the book isn't as bad as the above synopsis makes it sound. And I wouldn't say the gossip runs rampant, either. Thank goodness. Because I must confess I bought the book because it's set in Ireland, and I lust after Ireland. Although there wasn't a whole lot of Ireland in the book. This was definitely a character driven novel.

When I first started this book I was a bit annoyed. I was expecting a story focusing on Sam and Mary. And Sam was interesting from the get-go. But Ivan and Penny and Adam and even Mr. Monkels (the dog) kept interrupting. Luckily, at about the halfway point, the story started to even out and it wasn't so jarring to skip between the characters. In fact, Sam became less interesting and Ivan and Penny more so. And Mary? Although the main character, she was never quite as intriguing as the others.

Anna McPartlin has also written Pack Up the Moon, a book that has spent a lot of time of those tables I always walk by at Borders. I can't tell you how many times I've picked up that book and put it down. Has anyone read it?


Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
"Like a creature leaving a chrysalis, she began the metamorphosis from slave to muse. He found he likes to contemplate her curled up on the lawn while he ate his morning scone and he liked to watch her peeling loquats while he worked on his conjugation of Croatian intransitives."

from Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber

And don't forget to enter my Matrimony giveaway!


Matrimony Giveaway

Monday, December 08, 2008

Did I tell you I met Joshua Henkin at the Book Group Expo in San Jose? I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to talk about the Book Group Expo anymore. I lied. But I have a very good reason for bringing it up again.

Because I talked to Josh at the Expo, he is now sponsoring a giveaway...right here, right now, on my blog. And although I haven’t read the book yet (but it is sitting right next to me in the tbr pile!), Josh said it was okay. And you know, we had dinner together, so we’re best buds. Right Josh?

Okay, on to the seriousness.

Joshua Henkin has very graciously offered to send a signed (yes, I said signed) copy of his New York Times Notable Book, Matrimony, to the winner of this here giveaway.

First, let's talk a bit about Matrimony (the book, not marriage):

It's the fall of 1986, and Julian Wainwright, an aspiring writer, arrives at Graymont College in New England. Here he meets Carter Heinz, with whom he develops a strong but ambivalent friendship, and beautiful Mia Mendelsohn, with whom he falls in love. Spurred on by a family tragedy, Julian and Mia's love affair will carry them to graduation and beyond, taking them through several college towns, over the next fifteen years. Starting at the height of the Reagan era and ending in the new millennium, Matrimony is a stunning novel of love and friendship, money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith. It is a richly detailed portrait of what it means to share a life with someone-to do it when you're young, and to try to do it afresh on the brink of middle age.

You can read more about Matrimony on Josh's website, which also has a video of him discussing the book, a reading group guide, and a place to request Josh's participation in your reading group. Pretty cool, huh?

Matrimony has also received considerable notice around the blogosphere. Here are some of the bloggers who have reviewed the book:

And Josh has also done guest posts at the following blogs:


Now, for the giveaway:

Leave a comment by midnight (Pacific time) Sunday, 12/14/08.
Wait until next Monday, when Mr. Random and I will choose and announce the winner.

That's it. Easy-peasy.

But wait, you said you’ve read it? Never fear…think of what a great holiday gift a signed edition would make. Or maybe your copy isn’t signed. Then it could be a gift for your very own self! Because we all enjoy gifts, right?


A Weekly Geeks for Dewey

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This week’s Weekly Geeks is dedicated to Dewey. Becky came up with this idea:
I was thinking that it might be nice for those bloggers who are Weekly Geeks to pay tribute to Dewey in the next week or so. To take the time to post to their blogs a "Weekly Geek" post about Dewey--maybe share their favorite posts from her site, maybe share a memory or two about participating in weekly geeks, the bookworms carnival, the 24 Hour Readathon, or one of Dewey's challenges, maybe just share a favorite memory of Dewey in general, what they'll miss most, how they'll remember her, etc. I'm going to post mine today--but bloggers anywhere and everywhere are encouraged to post whenever they want. Please come back to this post to leave your link. I'll be rounding up responses.

On her blog Dewey stated:

My main focus in blogging is community. I want to share my love for books with other bloggers, hear what they think of what they’re reading, and have lots of bookish fun. My non-review blog activities, such as the Bookworms Carnival, the Read-a-thon, Weekly Geeks, the challenges I host or join, and the contests and giveaways in my blog are all meant to build community.

I know many people have referenced this paragraph over the last week. And that’s because Dewey was remarkably successful at what she stated she wanted to do. So successful, in fact, that many people are now carrying on Dewey’s ideas. I think that it’s a wonderful tribute to such a beloved member of our book blogging community that so many people are eager to join together to see her ideas continue.

Of all Dewey’s ideas, my favorites are Weekly Geeks and the Read-a-thon.

I had been reading other people’s Weekly Geeks posts for awhile before I finally jumped in. I loved the diversity of topics, and the fact that Dewey often made us think outside the box. Weekly Geeks was fun, but it also made me think. The Read-a-thon was fun, too, although I only participated as a cheerleader. Still, I met so many new bloggers…Dewey truly was a master of community building.

So, thank you Dewey, for all that you did...and all that you continue to do.


a message from Chris

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hi folks.

Chris here. Chris Tree. You may remember me from a couple of years ago, when I was just a sapling. I've grown a lot since then, huh? I just arrived at Hamburger and Softdrink's house from my timeshare in Softdrink's mom's backyard. That's where I like to spend the rest of the year. 'Cause she has other plants in her backyard, and she waters us, and takes care of us. It's good times there.

But I like to spend the holidays with 'Burger and 'Drink. Especially since I'm not so much into the bling, and they go for a minimalist holiday theme. Plus, my needles were getting a little cold, and as nice as Softdrink's mom is, she wasn't about to knit 500 mittens for all of my needles. So I like to spend December indoors, right in front of the tv. Hamburger and I can't wait for the Charlie Brown Christmas special to come on.

Anyhoosie, I just wanted to say hi and pass on some holiday cheer. I wish you all lots of...

...this holiday season.


-Chris (aka the tree)


late breaking news

Friday, December 05, 2008

Steph from The Kea won this week's book closet giveaway. In the words of Homer:

Steph, please email me with the book you would like (Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, perhaps?) and your address. And congratulations!


Life After Genius

Life After Genius
M. Ann Jacoby
October 2008
400 pages

Theodore "I prefer Mead" Fegley hasn't had the best of childhoods. Taunted by his classmates for his genius (he's skipped a few grades), his name (how do you like the floor, Theodore?) and the family business (his dad is the undertaker), and hounded by his mother, Mead is happy to escape to college at the young age of 15. However, the week before graduation, he escapes college and heads back home. Why did Mead walk away from college?

Life After Genius bounces back and forth between the past and the present in an attempt to answer this question. While the story was enjoyable, the characters were too stereotypical for my taste. Teddy/Mead is the harassed smart kid, always dressed in khakis and button-up shirts. His cousin Percy is the popular jock, beloved by all. Teddy's mom is the domineering mother consumed with image. Herman, Mead's college nemesis, is the uber-rich trust fund kid. Dr. Alexander, Mead's college advisor, the nutty professor. There are a few more, but you get the picture.

As we move back and forth in time Teddy's story unfolds, and his years in college turn out to be not all that different from his childhood. Additionally, now that he's home, he seems to be hallucinating, as people keep popping up in his bedroom to offer advice. By the time I got to the end of the book I wasn't entirely sure that Teddy was sane. In fact, for awhile I was doubtful that the ending scene wasn't a hallucination. And let me just say, I hated the end.

Having said all that, I didn't not like the book...I just had a few issues with it. I have read plenty of positive reviews of this book, though. For example, bethany really liked it (plus she hosted the contest in which I won my copy of the book...thanks!).

Who else has read this one? What did you think of the ending?


5 for Favorites

Thursday, December 04, 2008

1. Do you have a favorite author?
I'm fickle, so I change favorite authors depending on my mood. But Christopher Moore is always a good answer to this question. He always makes me laugh, and then I wonder how he comes up with the stuff he does. My favorite Moore books are Island of the Sequined Love Nun, because he does a better job of explaining cargo cults than any of my anthropology professors ever did; The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, which is set in a fictional version of the area I live in (Pine Cove = Cambria, California, if you're wondering); and Lamb, which is just sheer genius.

Not quite. I haven't read either A Dirty Job or You Suck yet, although I do have You Suck.

3. Did you LIKE everything?

No. I never did mange to finish Coyote Blue. And I tried twice.

4. How about a least favorite author?

Dario Castagno.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?

Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende. Too many long sentences and not enough dialogue. They both exhausted me.


Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman
August 2003
256 pages

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is the shit. And I have to say that, otherwise Raych won't be my friend no more.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is a collection of essays on thought-provoking topics, such as Saved by the Bell, The Real World, internet porn, and tribute bands. Okay, maybe not so thought-provoking. But if you're of a certain age (say late 30's to early 40's), most of Klosterman's topics will be incredibly familiar and entertaining. However, you damn well better have a sense of humor and a high tolerance for bad words. Case in point:
"Fake love is a very powerful thing. That girl who adored John Cusack once had the opportunity to spend a weekend with me in New York at the Waldorf-Astoria, but she elected to fly to Portland instead to see the first U.S. appearance by Coldplay, a British pop group whose success derives from their ability to write melodramatic alt-rock songs about fake love. It does not matter that Coldplay is absolutely the shittiest fucking band I've ever heard in my entire fucking life, or that they sound like a mediocre photocopy of Travis (who sound like a mediocre photocopy of Radiohead), or that their greatest fucking artistic achievement is a video where their blandly attractive frontman walks on a beach on a cloudy fucking afternoon. None of that matters. What matters is that Coldplay manufactures fake love as frenetically as the Ford fucking Motor Company manufactures Mustangs and that's all this woman heard. "For you I bleed myself dry," sang their blockhead vocalist, brilliantly informing us that stars in the sky are, in fact, yellow. How am I going to compete with that shit? That sleepy-eyed bozo isn't even making sense. He's just pouring fabricated emotion over four gloomy guitar chords, and it ends up sounding like love. And what does that mean? It means she flies to fucking Portland to hear two hours of amateurish U.K. hyperslop, and I sleep alone in a $270 hotel in Manhattan, and I hope Coldplay gets fucking dropped by fucking EMI and ends up like the Stone fucking Roses, who were actually a better fucking band, all things considered."
So if you're still with me after all those fucks (and I can't wait to see what this post does to my Typealyzer rating, and all those other blog rating thingies, not to mention my keyword search statistics), you'll have figured out that this book isn't for everyone. But if you love references to popular culture (especially from the '80s and '90s) and snarky comments and a twisted mind, then really, you should read this.

Here's another example of why I love Klosterman. There is a brilliant short essay on why math is a lie (page 148 if you want to skip to the good stuff). If, like me, you loathed statistics, then this is pure genius:

"When push comes to shove - when you truly get down to the core essence of existence - there is only one mathematical possibility: Everything is 50-50. Either something will happen, or something will not."

and later...

"Math is not religion. Math is the anti-religion, because it splinters the gravity of life's only imperative equation: Either something is true, or it isn't. Do or do not; there is no try."

I'm tellin' ya, good stuff, Maynard.


Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

"Now females find mates for their sons, and males for their daughters, and it’s all very civilized. But long ago, groups of sisters competed to capture groups of brothers, and the competition was chemical."

From Fledgling, by Octavia Butler


In Memory of Dewey

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Leaf Fell
by Raymond A. Foss

a shriveled, curled leaf
fluttered toward the ground
as I stood, still, watching its path
gliding, curling through the December air
falling toward me, catching on my suit jacket
ever so briefly, falling further to the ground, lost instantly in the leaves
already there, joining its brethren
in the passage from life to renewed life
in the turning over of itself to the earth


I'll miss you, Dewey.


The Likeness

The Likeness
Tana French
July 2008
480 pages

So Trish convinced me to read this book. After the frustration that was In the Woods I had vowed to ignore The Likeness. But Trish raved about it. And then she lent me her copy. So really, how could I say no?

The Likeness is the follow-up to In the Woods, but it could very easily be a stand-alone book. Sure, there are references to what happened in the first book, and you'll definitely have a better understanding of Cassie if you've read In the Woods, but it's not absolutely necessary. And better yet, it's not a requirement to have actually liked In the Woods.

While In the Woods focused on the character of Rob, The Likeness is Cassie's book. Cassie is a police detective in Dublin, Ireland. One day she gets a call from her boyfriend telling her to get herself to a crime scene...tout de suite. So Cassie shows up and whoa...she discovers the dead girl looks exactly like her. And then, more whoa...she discovers that the dead girl is carrying ID saying she is Lexie Madison, the very same name Cassie used as an undercover officer. So Cassie's former undercover boss, Frank, cooks up a scheme to have Cassie reprise her role as Lexie. Lexie will recover from her wounds, and Cassie (as Lexie) will resume her former life in an attempt to sniff out the murderer.

Thing is, Lexie lives with four other post-graduate students in a big ole house in the country. So Cassie really has her work cut out for her. However, before you know it, she's been accepted as Lexie and is enjoying her life with Rafe, Justin, Abby and Daniel. In fact, she may be enjoying it a little too much.

So yes, I liked this book much much much more than In the Woods (although I felt it was a wee bit too long, and there were things about her undercover role that never rang true...like they all shared one bathroom and Cassie/Lexie mentions her towel...but how did she know what towel was hers?). But French does a wonderful job of creating the close-knit world of Rafe, Daniel, Abby, Justin and Lexie. So much that you don't blame Cassie for not wanting to find the killer...in fact, you kinda want to move in yourself and join the party.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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