Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

Yeah. I can hear it.

Can you?



In the spirit of simplifying a few things in my life (including a kicky, shorter hairdo and the trashing of tons of empty boxes "I might need someday" from my garage), I recently decided to redo my computer's desktop by filing docs, changing icons and keeping it simple.

Pretty effective, no?

The deets:

Wallpaper found on deviantART (I think - I looked at a lotta wallpaper...)
Icons from David Lanham
Shortcut arrows removed with Vista Shortcut Manager

It makes me all happy when I sit down to use my computer now - it's all slick and shiny and organized. I feel like a stud. :-)


Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton

This is an interesting twist on a typical genre book, as it's partly a knitting novel set in a lovely New England town, and it's part supernatural romance, where vampires, trolls and selkies are just part of the scenery in Sugar Maple.

Chloe Hobbs, the owner of Sticks and Strings, is a half human, and the only person in Sugar Maple without magical powers - which is becoming a real problem for the village. Enter a beautiful woman, a mysterious death, and a sexy new sheriff in town, and Chloe's world is turned upside down.

This is just a charming read: I love the way the "creatures" aren't given any sort of hype at all, they are just a part of the story, and the romance between Chloe and the cop is sweet and sparking, and the setting is just lovely. I tore through this novel, glad to curl up with it for a few hours!

A great genre-bending read: recommended!


What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

This young adult novel, which won the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, is set in 1947 New York City. Evie's stepfather Joe has returned from the war, reuniting with Evie's mother Bev. A spur of the moment trip to Florida takes up the bulk of the story - they stay in Palm Beach, they meet potential business partners, and Evie finds a new boy to crush on - a boy named Peter that Joe knew in the war.

So what happens when things go horribly awry, and a tragedy rocks this family? A further spinning web of lies, which even Evie can't discern...

This is a very classic noir novel, but written for YAs. I found the writing brisk and inviting, and was rooting for Evie, even as I knew things were going to end badly. This isn't my usual cup of tea for a read, but I enjoyed it.


The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

This book chronicles the story of five women who first meet in the heyday of the 1960s and tracks their growing friendship for the next thirty years.

Meeting first in a park while caring for their children, our five characters slowly become friends, then devote themselves to writing and trying to be published, all while struggling with family, loss, disease, infidelity, and the Miss America pageant every year.

This is a lovely portrait of the relationships between women, and how women in the 1960s viewed themselves as opposed to today's culture. I loved reading of their writing triumphs, and hoped for a happy ending - which I got.

A well-written, engaging novel in the vein of all the "book group, knitting club" books, but well above so many others. Recommended!


Per beginning the tradition last year, here are my picks for best Oscar looks on the red carpet last night.

Yes, I watch the Oscars are much for the pretty dresses as for the awards. So do you - admit it!

(But this year, we had the added bonus of Hugh Jackman, who I thought did a great job, and I really loved the restaging: the new sets, the groups of past winners introducing nominees without the clips, the way the music was done, the crystal curtain - bravo, Oscars!)

So, time to channel my inner Tim Gunn:

Natalie Portman.

I thought the colour was so fresh and pretty, and her unfussy makeup and hair just right.

Actress Natalie Portman arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Award

Anne Hathaway.

One of my fave looks, two years in a row! I loved this column dress - the colour, the fit, the makeup and hair worked beautifully together!

Actress Anne Hathaway arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Taraji P. Henson.

Now, I'll admit, I'm not familiar with Taraji, but I loved the gown and the bling she matched with it - the scale of the necklace with that dress just worked.

Actress Taraji P. Henson arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awar

Ryoko Hirosue.

Now, this is another actress with whom I'm not familiar, but I liked the gown, but I LOVED the necklace. My favorite piece of jewelry from the night, for sure.


Freida Pinto.

She has been working the gowns in the last few months, and I love that she always wears pops of colour. True, I wasn't crazy about the one sleeve thing, but otherwise, she looked fab!

Actress Freida Pinto arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

I will say though, my fave Freida dress this season has been the lovely purple gown that she wore to the SAG awards...


Well, there you have it - Oscar Fashion Review, '09!

Who were your picks?

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A Body At Rest by Susan Petrone

Susan Petrone, the author of this truly unique new novel, contacted me to see if I would be interested in reading a copy of her new novel, put out by a small press publisher. Knowing how hard getting the word out can be, I eagerly volunteered to help a fellow writer!

Susan's first novel features slacker generation roommates Nina and Martha - twenty-something barmaids with little direction and even less enthusiasm for their current situation. A few novels, a roadtrip, a cornfield and a couple of tattoos later, their lives certainly aren't boring anymore:

Because they are beginning to morph into Emma Woodhouse (of Austen's Emma fame) and Don Quixote by Cervantes.

And not just a few speech affectations or empire waist dresses.

They are TURNING INTO the characters.

Naturally, this is a premise for a novel I've never run across, but Petrone does a splendid job of keeping the cadence and language of Austen and Cervantes consistent throughout, even as the reader is trying to suss out what is going on, and whether it's a dream sequence, an acid trip, or something more...

This is not a run of the mill, formulaic novel, instead it is a unique plot with well-defined characters and swift writing. Once I read the final page, I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it, but I certainly appreciated it!

Susan can be found on the web here, and her publisher here.



Now, I realize I'm a little late to this party.

After watching Dr. Horrible last year, I started following Felicia Day on Twitter (who has 91,000+ followers! That's pressure!), and thereby bookmarked The Guild as something to watch when I had time.

Which, somehow, I didn't for a long while.

But the night my friend Mary passed away, I was up at 3am, lost and distracted and unable to go back to sleep, and decided maybe it was time to watch an episode or two of The Guild.

And I'm so glad I did, because I was hooked.

These webisodes are usually 4 to 8 minutes in length (bite sized!), and make me laugh out loud at least once or twice at the premise of a Guild of gamers who interact electronically...and then in real life.

With, uh, mixed results. ;-)

Felicia is just pitch perfect as Codex, and Vork (Jeff Lewis) and Clara (Robin Thorsen) never fails to make me laugh at least once.

So - even though I've never been a gamer - I totally love this "show". Be sure to check it out!

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That was the subject line of the email Jen sent me today.

And, of course, I had to respond. :-)

Here are the instructions:

Create your band's first cover.

1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit "random"
or click
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on "explore the last seven days"
or click
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

I think I have a future as a band creator, no? ;-)


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A World I Never Made by James Lepore

I was given an advance copy of this "novel of suspense", and eagerly tore into it and it's locales of Paris and Prague...

Pat Nolan is called on New Year's Day to identify the body of his daughter, Megan, who has apparently committed suicide in Paris. What he finds when he arrives at the morgue, however, is that Megan isn't the girl on the slab, and some clues begin to take him on a race against time to find his missing daughter. Along the way, he joins forces (and lips!) with Catherine Laurence, a Parisian detective who takes a leave of absence to join Pat in the search for Megan...

Running parallel to Pat's story is the story of Megan, set a year before, as she explores Morocco and falls for an Arab man who is not all he seems...

This is a well-paced, intriguing story that weaves a lot of threads together before finally bringing them all back for the somewhat surprising finale. I really enjoyed the locations, the intrigue, and for me, Megan's struggle to extricate herself from a good situation gone bad...

Recommended for fans of fast paced suspense!

Note: This title will be released in April 2009.


Envy by Anna Godbersen

There are several of us at the library who are first in line when a new book in "The Luxe" series comes out, and this one was no different.

(Isn't that newest dress on the cover to die for?!)

This YA series is set in 1899, and follows the lives of several privileged teens in New York City, complete with scandal, treachery, romance, family drama and a fair bit of gossip and backstabbing. This time, though, we have a change of scenery, as the gang moves to Florida for a few weeks of R&R...

(romance and retribution, methinks)

This one had another few jaw-dropping revelations, and I hope the final book in the series (Splendor, due out in October) will tie a few things up, in a good way, because this one was a bit of a wrencher...

This is a GREAT series for teens and adults alike! Recommended!


Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

This is one of those books that's been floating around as "ideal for a book club!" titles for a while, so when I saw it on our shelf (for once!), I thought I'd go ahead and give it a shot - even though it's been a while since I picked up a pair of knitting needles (that's my sister's territory)...

This is the story of a small New York City yarn shop, Walker and Daughter, and the women who gather each week to work on projects and talk about their lives. At the center is Georgia Walker, a great central character, dealing not only with the relationship with her daughter but with her daughter's father, who has made a sudden reappearance into their lives...

This is a pleasant enough read - full of interesting characters and a gentle tone - though I was rocked back by a tragedy that takes place later in the book. I won't say this was my favorite "group of women" novel, but it was a pleasant enough read, though reviews say that the follow-up, Knit Two, is by far a weaker effort.

A good reader, even for non-knitters...


Too Far From Home by Chris Jones

Yup, my space dorkdom rears it's ugly head again. :-)

This non-fiction piece focuses primarily on the plight of astronauts Ken Bowersox (Bedford, Indiana, represent!), Don Pettit, and Nikolai Budarin who, after the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, were stranded aboard the International Space Station for longer than was intended.

This work perfectly weaves the story of these three men along telling about the Columbia tragedy, while also throwing in a fair bit of history of the American and Russian space programs.

I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into the daily workings of the ISS, as well as the workings to keep man in space, and how to bring him safely home again. This isn't necessarily filled with technical jargon, but is written in "person speak", telling an interesting story while not talking down to the reader.

I didn't know much about the ISS or its history before reading this, but now I'm even more fascinated by our continual presence in the skies...



Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann

I always make sure I'm first in line at the library when a new "Troubleshooters, Inc." novel comes out from Brockmann, and this one did not disappoint!

Picking up about 24 hours where the last novel left off, this novel continues the story arc for three of our dudes: Nash, Decker, and Dave.

Let's just say, diehard fans are up in arms with who ended up with who (no spoilers!), but I still thought it was an enjoyable, escapist, nail-biting, fast moving, sexy, action-filled romp of a ride!

I most enjoyed the arc following Deck, who's just an oddball character, and honestly, could have done without Dave altogether, but that's for debate with other Brockmann fans...

In any case, I can't recommend this series enough - Brockmann really does a masterful job of combining action and suspenseful adventure with lots of simmering lust and sexy scenes. And of course, lots of our favorite Troubleshooters make appearances in the books...

And when is Lopez gonna get HIS story?

Highly recommended!


So, yeah, TinyTown was hit pretty hard with the ice storm that blasted through the Midwest last week.

Luckily, I was only without power for about 12 hours, which was entirely long enough for me to know I'm not cut out for pioneer life - I need my computer, my TV, my stereo, and god knows, my furnace. ;-)

We were socked in for three days, and the library was closed during that time. Afterwards, however, I went out to survey the beauty - and the damage - that was left in it's wake...

Two foot icicles off my back porch...


The view of my backyard and the field beyond...

Snowy Backyard

The library's entrance is there...somewhere...

January 29

Icy detail...

Red Berry

Snow and ice...beautiful but damaging...

Snowy Limbs

It's time for another round of book blurbing - look alive people, this one is going to go fast! ;-)

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Ackroyd

Beautifully laid out, concise, and an English major and librarian, I've only read 65 of the books. SIXTY-FIVE. Lots of books I've never even HEARD of, and lots of books by the same author. Now, if watching BBC productions would have counted, I would have easily topped 100. ;-)

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Hilarious, insightful, concise, readable...did I mention HILARIOUS?

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Sweet memoir from Summer, 1945 in New York City as two girls from Iowa dance with midshipmen, work at Tiffany, and explore the city. Very warm and fuzzy...

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Next in the Sookie Stackhouse series - good times! Bill is hardly in it (yay!), but Eric is. ;-) Have I mentioned I hate the cover art for these novels? Because I do, but the stories are great!

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House of Daughters by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Despite not being much of a drinker, I absolutely adored this novel, set in the vineyards of Champagne, France, where 44-year old Clementine is struggling to keep her generations-old family vineyard and champagne producing operation running when her father unexpectedly dies. What Clementine doesn't know is that her father left the vineyard not only to her, but to her two half-sisters - one of which she didn't even know existed.

These three women, who are prickly at best, must try and band together to turn a profit, as well as their own wrecked lives, around. This is a beautifully written novel that truly delves into the relationships between sisters, as well as the struggles people are willing to undertake to save their dreams, their livelihoods, and their very existence.

I absolutely devoured this beautifully written, beautifully situated novel - highly recommended!

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

I don't know how to accurately summarize the plot of this mesmerizing novel, other than to throw out words: private high school, adoption, blended families, secret pasts, new loves, old loves, scandal, sex, drugs, history...

I really don't know how to summarize it, but I can tell you this is a totally engaging read. It took a few pages to get my attention, but then I was completely pulled into the lives of a small town in New Hampshire as old and new lives collide and clash, sometimes with happy, and more often with very unhappy results.

This is a beautifully written, well told, twisty, turny novel that I devoured. Recommended!


Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs by Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand

I've made a promise to myself that not only will I read oodles of library books this year, but I'll FINALLY try and get around to reading the stacks and bookcases full of books in my house that I've not gotten around to, mostly because I'm always reading library books!

I bought Time Bandit ages ago, and decided instead of lamenting when the fourth season of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" was going to start, I'd read about the brother Hillstrand - Andy, incidentally, lives not far from TinyTown!

For fans of the show, this is an engaging read, filled with great stories of life on the Bering Sea, as well as family history, fishing, disaster, and a bit of grit and grime thrown in. This memoir certainly isn't all sweetness and light, but it's true to the voices of the Hillstrands, and makes for damned entertaining reading. I really enjoyed this one - go Time Bandit!

Now, on with Season Four!


A Gentleman's Honor by Stephanie Laurens

This is the second in the Regency Era "Bastion Club" series, this time featuring Viscount Anthony Torrington, who falls for Alicia, a widow trying to marry off her gorgeous younger sister. Unfortunately, when Tony first meets Alicia, she's standing over the body of a dead man...

This is a sexy, sensual novel that focuses not only on the relationship between Tony and Alicia, but also involves more of the Bastion Club members (yay!) as they try to unravel blackmail, profiteering from the war, and general mayhem. I really like the further involvement of all the key players, and can't wait to see how things progress with the next novels in the series.

If you enjoy Regency era novels with a bit of spice, this is for you!