Thursday, February 26, 2015

Something Different II

The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion

I read this by mistake... I thought I had put "The Rosie Project" on hold, but I got it wrong.

I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the dull a.r. form of narration, I didn't like the story. I wanted to like Rosie, but she was never a "real" person to me. She was just another flat dull character this nerdy unthinking guy was talking about.  They didn't even seem connected as a couple.

Waste of my time, which makes me think that book one will be as well.

All Girls Filling Station Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg
★ ★ ★

What can I say.... I expected more. The first chapters were so boring that I almost put the book down, then I happened upon Fritzi and her learning to fly. Then the book mostly turned around.

But here's the thing I really didn't care about, Sookie or her family, I liked the Fritzi & her family and that is what kept me reading.

Sookie inadvertently finds out that the woman who she has known as her mother had adopted her.....  However, since Lenore always bullied Sookie, hoping Sookie would be someone/something she wasn't; Sookie  puts off telling Leoner that she knows.

Meanwhile every-other chapter was about Fritzi, her family and the history of the WASPS, and I found those chapters delightful and very interesting.

The coming together of Sookie & Fritzi was interesting but a bit of a let down.
First Frost, Sarah Addison Allen
★ ★ ★1/2

This is a nice sequel to "Garden Spells" and thankfully (because I didn't know that it was the Sequel), I wasn't as invested in liking the book as I thought I might otherwise be, so I wasn't overly disappointed.

Sydney & Claire, sisters who share the Waverley "gift", are now both living in Bascom, NC, married to good men who love and support them. 

Sydney runs the local salon & her work does magical things for her clients, while Claire has set aside her popular catering business changing it into a country-wide famous confectionery. 

Their daughters, Bay & Mariah both have the infamous Waverley "gifts", but they seem to be less pronounced in Mariah which sets Claire to questioning her place in the family and her own Waverley gifts.

In late autumn, just before first frost & the blooming of the Apple Tree, a mysterious stranger comes in to town sending feelings of foreboding through Bay & Claire... 

Sydney is upset as she is trying to give her husband a son; her receptionist at the Salon, Violet, is becoming more of a problem and a thief; and she is worried about her daughter Bay who has fallen for the son of the man that shattered Sydney's world & heart upon graduation.

Cousin Evanelle, is still out & about giving odd "gifts" to those in need of them.....

It is a nice story, but it just didn't have the sense of magick nor did it hold my interest as much as "Garden Spells".  The characters could have been more active in their "gifts" and I would like to have had Evanelle, Apple Tree, & Em be more active in the story because their gifts were important to the story as well.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Little Free Library: Trouble Begins Here

The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit

Three years ago, The Los Angeles Times published a feel-good story on the Little Free Library movement. The idea is simple: A book lover puts a box or shelf or crate of books in their front yard. Neighbors browse, take one, and return later with a replacement. A 76-year-old in Sherman Oaks, California, felt that his little library, roughly the size of a dollhouse, "turnedstrangers into friends and a sometimes-impersonal neighborhood into a community," the reporter observed. The man knew he was onto something "when a 9-year-old boy knocked on his door one morning to say how much he liked the little library." He went on to explain, "I met more neighbors in the first three weeks than in the previous 30 years."
Since 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a little, free library to honor his late mother, who loved books, copycats inspired by his example have put thousands of Little Free Libraries all over the U.S. and beyond. Many are displayed on this online map. In Venice, where I live, I know of at least three Little Free Libraries, and have witnessed chance encounters where folks in the neighborhood chat about a book.
I wish that I was writing merely to extol this trend. Alas, a subset of Americans are determined to regulate every last aspect of community life. Due to selection bias, they are overrepresented among local politicians and bureaucrats. And so they have power, despite their small-mindedness, inflexibility, and lack of common sense so extreme that they've taken to cracking down on Little Free Libraries, of all things.
Last summer in Kansas, a 9-year-old was loving his Little Free Library until at least two residents proved that some people will complain about anything no matter how harmless and city officials pushed the boundaries of literal-mindedness:
The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins' Little Free Library. They dubbed it an "illegal detached structure" and told the Collins' they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.
Scattered stories like these have appeared in various local news outlets. The L.A. Times followed up last week with a trend story that got things just about right. "Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country's biggest problems: small-community libraries where residents can share books," Michael Schaub wrote. "Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, Louisiana, have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they're in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections."
Here in Los Angeles, the weather is so lovely that it's hard to muster the energy to be upset about anything, and a lot of people don't even know what municipality they live in, so the defense of Little Free Libraries is mostly being undertaken by people who have them. Steve Lopez, a local columnist, wrote about one such man, an actor who is refusing to move his little library from a parkway. His column captures the absurdity of using city resources to get rid of it:
Having written previously about crackdowns on parkway vegetable gardens, I knew the city's argument is that you can't do anything that might block emergency vehicle access, obstruct motorists' views, impede pedestrians or make it hard to open car doors. But the Tenn-Mann Library, at the intersection of a four-way stop, does none of those things. And I can't help but point out that a city tree in front of Cook's house, on the parkway strip, has untamed roots that have lifted the sidewalk a few inches, posing a clear and obvious obstruction and tripping hazard. The city pays out millions of dollars in trip-and-fall settlements every year, and last time I checked, tree-trimming was on a 45-year cycle—no joke. But put up a lending library and the city is at your door in a jiffy.
The column goes on to note that a city spokesman "said that if there is no clear obstruction, it might be possible to keep the library where it is if Cook is willing to apply for a permit. And it's possible that city arts funds could be tapped to pay for the permit." This is what conservatives and libertarians mean when they talk about overregulation disincentivizing or displacing voluntary activity that benefits people. We've constructed communities where one must obtain prior permission from agents of the state before freely sharing books with one's neighbors! And their proposed solution is to get scarce public art funds to pay for the needless layer of bureaucracy being imposed on the thing already being done for free.
The power to require permits is the power to prevent something from ever existing. This lovely movement would've never begun or spread if everyone who wanted to build a Little Free Library recognized a need to apply and pay for a permit. Instead they did good and asked permission never.
Radical libertarians who object to all zoning and building codes are told that they're necessary to keep refineries from operating next to day care centers and to ensure that houses don't fall down in earthquakes or burn up due to faulty wiring. And like most, I favor some zoning laws and building codes. One needn't even be a squishy libertarian to object when power ceded to government for such purposes is then used to interfere with a harmless activity to which almost no one objects.
In Shreveport, there was a community outcry and some much-needed civil disobedience.
The Shreveport Times reported:
To protest the shutting down of a Little Free Library on Wilkinson Street, artist Kathryn Usher placed a stack of books on a wooden block outside her Dalzell Street home. A sign reading 'Free Range Books Take One Leave One' hangs above it. Her action was in response to a notice a Little Free Library's owners, Ricky and Teresa Edgerton, received from the Metropolitan Planning Commission's zoning division—a request they cease operating it because the book swap violates city zoning law. If not, they risked further action if the matter were sent to the city attorney. "I did it in solidarity with Ricky," Usher said. "I'm basically telling the MPC to go sod off."
Eventually a reprieve was granted, and the city is at work on a new zoning ordinance. Alexis de Tocqueville would approve.
"I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men and in inducing them to voluntarily pursue it," he wrote, offering examples including attempts "to diffuse books." He posited that "the most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in which men have, in our time, carried to the highest perfection the art of pursuing in common the object of their common desire and have applied this new science to the greatest number of purposes."
Americans with Little Free Libraries are acting in that venerable tradition. Those exploiting overly broad laws to urge that they be torn down are a national disgrace.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Net Neutrality & Congress

Firefox + You
Something important is happening in Washington, D.C. that you should know about. In just eight days, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on the latest net neutrality proposal. This is a big deal, and we want the FCC to pass the proposed protections for net neutrality as they are written. 

But to be clear: Net neutrality is not a done deal. 

Corporate giants are lobbying hard against the FCC’s proposal, looking to sway votes to weaken it. If they succeed, it means Internet fast lanes for them, leaving slow lanes for the rest of us. Together we can prevent Big Cable from restricting Internet access, stifling innovation, hindering creativity and reducing user choice. Sign our petition to keep the Internet equal for all. Make your voice heard in Washington today, before it’s too late.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Something Different

The Mercy of Thin Air, Ronlyn Domingue 

★ ★ ★ ★

From Amazon: "New Orleans, 1920s. Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she dies in a tragic accident. In an instant, she leaves behind her one true love and her dream of becoming a doctor -- but somehow, she still remains. Immediately after her death, Razi chooses to stay between -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. 

From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the stories of her lost love, Andrew, and the relationship of Amy and Scott, a couple whose house she haunts almost seventy-five years later. The Mercy of Thin Air entwines these two fateful and redemptive love stories that echo across three generations. From ambitious, forward-thinking Razi, who illegally slips birth control guides into library books; to hip Web designer Amy, who begins to fall off the edge of grief; to Eugenia, caught between since the Civil War, the characters in this wondrous novel sing with life. Evoking the power of love, memory, and time, The Mercy of Thin Air culminates in a startling finish that will leave readers breathless."

This sums it up better than I am able.....  

It was a lovely book, haunting, mysterious told in the first person of Raziela (the ghost), who is still searching for he long lost love whom she left behind when she died.

It was not a difficult read per se, but one that I found to be lyrical and floating in such a manner that I had a difficult time keeping a grip between worlds.....

This book isn't for everyone, especially those who dislike "other-worldly" literature.... nor is this a "favorite" and there was something missing for me, but I enjoyed the story.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Honestly, what a lovely story... It was originally written in 1938, as a "Cinderella" story. It was nicely written and a very quick & enjoyable read...  I finished in a few hours time, because I only put it down once.

Miss Pettigrew is a "Lady" of no means. She is middle age (40), has been asked to leave her flat for lack of payment, and is at the agency for what very well could be her last assignment.  

The agency offers her a choice of positions: one as a lady's maid, the other as a governess....  Although Miss Pettigrew chooses the position as the governess, she is mistakenly sent to the home of a cabaret singer/actress's home.

Miraculously, Miss Pettigrew finds the gumption she has always lacked and saves her would be employer from some sticky situations. As the course of the day progresses (the book is written in 2-3 hour time frames), Miss Pettigrew also helps several of the actress's friends and is taken along with them to the club where the actress works & then to a party.....

It was very interesting to note the changes that occur in Miss Pettigrew as well some of the other characters.... Throughout it all it is noted that Miss Pettigrew is a "Lady" and how the others respect that aspect of her being.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Funny? No.  Weird, oh you betcha! A smile here & there, but I didn't laugh.....

Caitlin born in HI, moved to San Francisco. In need of a job she applied and was accepted at a Crematory in Oakland, CA where she learned quite a bit about death, dying, cadavers, & human nature.  This book is her story of the time she worked as a Crematory button pusher.

She also wrote about the condition of cadavers......  Did you know that Obese people's fat melts and pools in the floor crevices of the crematory and not only that but their bodies decompose faster (and smellier), because all sorts of bacteria & stuff attacks the fat?  I didn't, I do now!  

That even if you "stiff" (pun intended) the mortuary (in CA), they can not withhold family remains... they legally belong to you?  

In CA, bones are now ground up into a fine powder and go w/ the ashes, so there are no chunks?

The chest is the first part to be cremated, because it is the thickest part of the body & the most difficult to reduce?

That the smallest cadavers & parts are cremated last?

That some Crematories once had peepholes so the family could view the cremation?

Ok..... not funny, but very interesting!

Caitlin Doughty went on to become a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the "Ask a Mortician" web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
All Fall Down, Jennifer Weiner  

This is my misguided/disastrous attempt to break away from Agatha Christie.... Normally I ♥ Jennifer Weiner's books, I have been reading her work as far back as I can remember, but this will be my last time reading her, as I find her work is becoming more & more tragic and her characters less & less likable.

From the inside flap: "Allison Weiss got her happy ending-- a handsome husband, an adorable little girl, a job she loves, and a big house in the suburbs. But when she's in the pediatrician's office with her daughter and a magazine flips open to a quiz about addiction, she starts to wonder whether her use of prescription pills is becoming a problem. One one hand, it's just medication, the stuff her doctors give her. Is a Percocet at the end of a hard day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class.... or if your husband ignores you?"

So let me qualify the review by saying; had I read the flap first, I'd not have checked out the book to begin with. Had I read the flap before I opened & began reading the book... well, I'd have not bothered. As it was, I didn't and so you are going to get a scathing review.

Immediately, in the first chapter I hated Allison & her misbehaved bratty daughter.  They are in the pediatrician's office and the kid begins whining that she doesn't want to wait.... The when she wants a drink of water she refuses to use the drinking fountain in the office, because of all the sick kids drinking from it (lest she become sick).  Then without permission digs into her mother's purse, pulls out Allison's bottle of Vitamin water & with an impish look on her face proceeds to drink it all....  At the last minute she spits the last swallow back into the bottle and screams: "Ellie! Backwash!"

So here we have a woman with the life, family, job, & home that she has always wanted and she's stressed, unhappy, and now is taking drugs.... Plays the song: "Mothers' Little Helper" by the Stones

So I say: "Boo Hoo... who cares?  I sure don't!"

The characters were nothing more than spoiled "me-mes" and I felt no pity, compassion, not anything for them....

So I guess I'll go back to my Agatha Christie marathon......
<em>Elder Rage</em> Book CoverElder Rage: or Take My Father, Please, Jacqueline Marcell

★ ★ ★ ★

I'd say it was "humorous", if I wasn't dealing with a similar (yet not as advanced) situation.....  Her father's psychotic dementia induced rages were not funny....  They were frightening.

From her webpage: 
"Are You At Your Wit's End
With Elder Care
And coping with an elderly loved one who:

Makes unreasonable demands, wanting all of your time?
Is experiencing memory loss or dementia / Alzheimer’s?
Is obsessed with ill health, but refuses to see the doctor?
Has become depressed, manipulative, distrustful or hostile?
Refuses any mention of caregiving or elder care help?

Then you'll love this riveting true story, written with compassion, heart and humor—and realize that you're not alone with your countless frustrations and conflicting emotions. This incredible roller coaster ride is a can't-put-it-down page-turner, as well as a how-to guide for struggling caregivers. Triumph with this devoted daughter as she mends her frail mother and finally turns her rebellious "Jekyll & Hyde" father around, with the right doctors and medications, adult day care, and creative behavior modification—at 85 years old!
Eldercare Expert, Jacqueline Marcell, 
Answers Your Caregiving Questions!

You Will Learn

How to get an accurate diagnosis for dementia/Alzheimer’s.
Behavioral techniques for managing challenging elders.
Creative ways to get an obstinate elder to give up driving.
Where to find resources to make caregiving less stressful.
How to successfully navigate the maze of elder care.

A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Elder Rage is a unique combination non-fiction novel and self-help book. Includes a wealth of practical information, valuable resources, Alzheimer’s disease information, startling statistics, long term care insurance, caregiving tips, eldercare services, long term care trends, recommended reading, and how to hire live-in caregiving help. Suitable for anyone facing the challenges of caregiving and for everyone who thinks it will never happen to them!

"Jacqueline's story and style of writing will surely grab a large readership. Studded with flashes of humor, it demonstrates the enormous resourcefulness and resilience of the human spirit."

—Hugh Downs"

All I can say, is I learned several things about Elder Rage, and the loss of control that helps bring it on....  I highly recommend it for anyone dealing with elderly parents who have spontaneous outbursts of uncontrollable anger....

I left my copy for my parents to read.
Season of the Dragonflies, Sarah Creech
★ ★ ★ ★

When her marriage fails, Lucia, returns home to the family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where her mother Willow & Mya (Lenore) run the family business.  

The Lenore business is that of a making a secret scent that has been in the family's trademark for generations.  The scent empowers those who are who are carefully chosen & groomed by the family for success.

When Mya's lust for power &amp; control of the business takes over, Mya makes several bad business decisions. Those decisions threaten to destroy the Lenore family & business forever and awakens Mya's Great-Grandmother's curse upon her.

Not being able to trust Mya, Willow, subtly shifts the control of the business over to the unsuspecting Lucia.

This is a wonderful book filed with magic, romance, & one too many happy endings (hence - 1 star). It was engaging, evocative and from the beginning to the end it held my interest.

A delightful dose of Magickal realism.