Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Girl Waits with Gun

I read a book that I quite enjoyed: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. It is set in northern New Jersey in 1913/14 - at a time when most of New Jersey was still rural and Paterson was a mill town. It was a little slow to get started but I didn't want to put it down at the end. The characters are all sympathetic and the tone of the book was so evocative - I really felt immersed in this family and their associates.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: The Good Fairies of New York

I read another book! Wow, if this keeps up, I may actually get back to reading regularly sometime before my daughter turns 4. Sigh. Anyway ...

I read The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar. It's a little hard to describe so I'm just going to paste the back of the book description here:
When a pair of fugitive Scottish thistle fairies end up transplanted to Manhattan by mistake, both the Big Apple and the Little People have a lot of adjusting to do. Heather and Morag just want to start the first radical fairy punk rock band, but first they’ll have make a match between two highly unlikely sweethearts, start a street brawl between rival gangs of Italian, Chinese, and African fairies, help the ghost of a dead rocker track down his lost guitar, reclaim a rare triple-bloomed Welsh poppy from a bag lady with delusions of grandeur, disrupt a local community performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and somehow manage to stay sober enough to save all of New York from an invasion of evil Cornish fairies.

If they can stop feuding with each other, that is.
This book is about as silly as they get but then there will be these moments of heartbreaking realness - like when the human heroine changes her colostomy bag or a homeless person dies in her front step. It's kind of a strange mixture but is easy to read and hard to put down. I'm not sure I need to read everything Millar's ever written now, or anything like that, but I enjoyed it.

Find The Good Fairies of New York on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finance Blogs (& Books)

Since my daughter was born, I've taken getting my finances in order way, way more seriously than I ever did before. In fact, I had a freak out when she was a few weeks old, started looking closely at my financial records, and decided I needed to do something about it all, particularly if I ever intended to send her to college or some other useful thing.

The first step, for me, was Personal Finance blogs. I started with Get Rich Slowly, just going back and back into their archives until I had read almost everything they had. GRS was founded by JD Roth but is now run by a company and has multiple authors, all in various stages of financial health. From there, I found a bunch of other good blogs, my favorite of which is Mr. Money Mustache. I like MMM because he's a little more irreverent and funny (and having spent much of my career around contractors, cursing doesn't bother me).

After devouring the archives of several PF blogs, a few book titles came up multiple times as being very influential for the bloggers own lives. Foremost among these was Your Money or Your Life. YMYL is about, above all, having enough and living your life to your best purpose, by letting money support you and not drag you down. It's simultaneously practical (how to save, etc.) and very powerful.

The other book I read and really liked was the well-known book The Millionaire Next Door. This takes a very statistical dry look at financial health by using surveys to identify real millionaire's common traits. And by real millionaire, I don't mean the flashy guy driving a Bentley but who has two mortgages and no savings, but the man with the paid-off house in the good, but not prestigious neighborhood, who never has to work for a living again. Underneath the statistics, Millionaire Next Door is, like YMYL, about having enough.

Let me know if there are any good PF blogs or books you'd recommend.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My New Pastime - Audiobooks

My life is so different now than when I started blogging. In the past four years I've become a mom, moved into a bigger house, switched jobs, and, most recently, started commuting by public transportation. I like my life a lot more now than I did four years ago but one thing kind of sucks - I don't read books anymore. I still read magazines, websites and some blogs, but I hardly ever sit down and read for an extended period of time. And I get terribly car sick, even on the train, so that's out. Happily, I recently found a solution - audiobooks!

This may be an incredibly obvious solution to you, but it took me a while to warm up to the idea. "Listening to a book doesn't count," I thought. And I think being read to is terribly boring (I even hated it when I was a kid in school). But my husband loves audiobooks and when a friend lent me her old iPod, filled with good books, and I decided to give them a try. I love it.

The caveat, of course, is finding the right audiobook. It's important to find a good book from a good writer and it may be even more important to find a good narrator. The best audiobooks aren't like being read to at all - they are more like listening to old radio plays. Two of my favorite books I've listened to so far are The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere, both written by and read by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman does voices and just imbues the story with so much charm - I loved them. On the other hand, I tried listening to Gaiman's Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett and reviewed by me here). No offense to the narrator, but he just left me cold and I found my mind wandering from the story. I stopped after just a few chapters.

By the way, I highly recommend using an audiobook app, like Audible, to listen, rather than just playing the book via your regular music player. The ability to just back a few seconds and to place bookmarks is key - it got rather frustrating when I was listening to my books on the iPod.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Poetry Month

Today is the last day of April, the cruelest month, and therefore the end of National Poetry Month.

When Adrienne Rich died last month, I found a letter to the editor she wrote in 1997 on Why [She] Refused the National Medal for the Arts. She wrote a lovely, thought-provoking letter, but my favorite part quotes other writers, which I present in honor of April.
"If there were no poetry on any day in the world," the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, "poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger." In an essay on the Caribbean poet Aime Cesaire, Clayton Eshleman names this hunger as "the desire, the need, for a more profound and ensouled world."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

An update, of sorts

Um, hi, everybody. It's been pretty quiet around here, hasn't it? I posted only 14 times in all of 2011. and most of those were posts I had at least started before my daughter was born. What did I do instead of blogging? Mostly, I got to know my daughter. She's 14 months now, on the cusp of walking and has the best laugh in the world.

I also had a pretty tumultuous year, career-wise. Not long after I returned to work after maternity leave, I was laid off from the position I had held for six years. It was awful to be let go, but really liberating, too. I spent the summer freelancing and doing contract work, which gave me the opportunity to spend some great time with my family. At the end of the year, though, a new opportunity came up and I went back to work full time for a new firm.

I haven't quite decided what all this means for my blog. As much as I love reading and sharing my passion for books, I don't know if that passion extends to blogging anymore. But neither am I ready to go away entirely. So I guess I'll just keep posting when I feel like it and see what happens here once my life settles down a little. Feel free to drop me a line anytime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Magyk: Septimus Heap, Book One

There are a lot of books out there angling to be the next Harry Potter, aren't there? That's certainly how the Septimus Heap series was being advertised when I picked up the first volume, Magyk (last year, when the sixth novel was published). There are a few parallels - there's a magical boy and his friends - but not a lot.

The series is about a boy who is the seventh son of the seventh son and therefore has extra special magic powers. His best friend is secretly the heir to the castle, which is ruled by the bad guy. Book 1, Magyk sets up the series and not much else. I felt that, as a stand alone book, it was pretty thin. Maybe this is one of those cases where I'm not the target audience and a middle grade reader would love it. Then again, why should we assume kids need to be talked down to? If I can see the "twist" ending telegraphed from page one, I think my 8-year-old nephew could too. It's not a terrible book - the characters are interesting, the premise is fine - but it certainly doesn't make me want to read the rest of the series.