Friday, December 28, 2007

OMG, I read non-fiction. well, listened...and not by choice....

In her book The Planets, Dava Sobel begins her book by introducing the reader to her own relationship with the planets. After a personal glimpse into the author’s fascination, the reader is more open to the creative writing that follows. Sobel’s essays are well-researched, but her presentation of the astronomical facts is blended with history, biography, mythology, physics, science fiction, astrology, music and literature. Our solar system is centered on the sun, and so are these essays. Beginning with the sun, and proceeding from Mercury to Pluto (with an essay on Earth’s moon added in just before Mars), Sobel shares the known and unknown about each heavenly body. Anecdotes about the scientists and amateurs involved in the discovery of each planet help us imagine how the ideas of humans about the solar system have changed over time, and also help us remember that these ideas will continue to change as we are able to learn more. Each essay is given a unique narrative perspective. For example, the essay “Sci-Fi” is written in the first-person from the perspective of a Martian meteorite and “Night Air” is written in the form of an imagined letter from the daughter of the man who discovered Uranus. As fits a collection celebrating the planets, Sobel’s story concludes at a party where scientists have gathered after the Cassini spacescraft successfully entered Saturn's orbit in 2004.

This delightful book of essays also provides a sound overview of the planets in our solar system. I admit that I don’t read much non-fiction. So when I discover an author who can make something millions of miles away both intriguing and relevant, I am probably more amazed by the experience than someone who regularly espouses the joys of reading narrative non-fiction. My willingness to give this book a try may have been influenced by fact that I was trapped on a long Christmas-time car-trip with my dad and my husband, and this was the only audiobook in the car. That said, Sobel’s other books have interesting titles and I plan to check them out: Longitude: the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time and Galileo's daughter: a historical memoir of science, faith, and love
I listened to it, 5.5 hours.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book i just started at lunch....

And finished the same night! Another great recommendation from M - I had actually read another of this author's books several years ago - Truth or Dairy - and enjoyed it, so this was a nice treat.
From the cover and title, I thought it would be a wintry book, but it is set in the dead of summer as a girl named Peggy Fleming Farrell works at a gas station coffee bar to pay back her parents for wrecking the car before her senior year. Even though she thinks nothing is going on this summer, she makes new friends, including some boys. Her mom is nine months pregnant, her dad is trying to make a comeback in ice-skating, and her other three siblings are spending a lot of time with their big sister. Frozen Rodeo by Catherine Clark. I checked it out. 287 pages.
Well, I'm off to check to see if the library owns any of her other titles.....

My most popular video EVER!!!!

I made my own Warcraft commercial parody.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a version of the truth

A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack

Cassie Shaw has never been much of a scholar. In fact, she dropped out of high school and got her GED because trying to thrive with dyslexia in an academic setting was just too frustrating. Now that she’s 30, and a widow, and living back home with her mom again, Cassie just wants to move on with her life.
Potential employers all want to talk about her education though, and even the temp agency jobs require a college degree. Cassie knows she doesn’t want to work with her mom at the wildlife center forever, so she lies on her resume to get an interview for an office job. It works; she’s hired to assist two psychology professors with typing and filing at the local university. Cassie has to work extra hard at tasks that involve reading and writing, and she is succeeding at her job. She even starts attending the animal behavior lectures of one of her bosses, Professor William Connor. With her years of living in the wilds of Topanga Canyon and all of the time she spent at the wildlife center, Cassie immediately takes to the subject matter. It doesn’t hurt that Professor Connor is handsome, charming and a bit of a flirt. Cassie begins to transform herself to blend into the academic world. She changes her clothes, her hair, her hobbies, her friends – and not everyone agrees that these are improvements. Underneath all of these changes, though, is the big lie on her resume, the one she is trying to cover up, and possibly even to make true eventually. But for now, Cassie Shaw is only living a version of the truth.

In this story, the characters really drew me into the action. Cassie’s challenges are never explicitly referred to in terms of self-esteem, but her deceased husband was certainly not an encouraging or supportive man. Even though I personally am not into the great outdoors, I appreciated the beauty and comfort that Cassie found there. Without preachy environmentalism, the authors share a profound connection with nature and the benefits of heading out into the woods. Another sign of our times was that Cassie’s friend had a brother serving in the military in Iraq. While this was a minor part of the story, it seems fitting to acknowledge some of the ways that the current war is affecting families and friends back home in the literature of the times. These authors, Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack, worked together previously on the delightful Literacy and Longing in L.A. which I reviewed here. This book again features intelligent writing, appealing romance, and (best of all) a multitude of reference to other books (this time with a natural and environmental focus).

I read the ARC and actually, shockingly, got the review written on the same day the book came out, for once... 325 pages.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Larklight: a Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space by Philip Reeve, decorated throughout by David Wyatt

What if Isaac Newton had invented space travel and by the mid-1800s space travel and colonizations of the planets in our solar system was commonplace? What if Queen Victoria of England extended the influence of the British Empire around the globe but also to planets like Mars and Jupiter? Author Philip Reeve dares to explore this shocking advancement of space exploration in Larklight!

Art Mumby lives with his father and sister in a very strange house called Larklight. Art's father is a scientist who studies rare varieties of icthyomorphs, which are sort of like fish that swim in the aether of space. The Mumby's receive regular supply ships, as their home, Larklight, it traveling through space on an orbit far past the moon. Art's older sister Myrtle is concerned about the proper ladylike behaviors for a girl of her age, but Art is more concerned with adventure, especially when an unexpected visitor arrives. If huge, invading, and destructive space spiders weren't enough of a challenge, Art and Myrtle soon encounter man-eating-moths and are rescued by space pirates who are running from the Royal Navy (who use space ships to pursue their enemies in the vast aether of space.) If they survive, maybe they can get back to Larklight and save their own father from the giant spiders, who seem to be awfully intelligent and organized compared to others of their species and are much too large to swat with a rolled up newspaper.

I think that children and adults of all ages will enjoy this adventuresome romp through the universe with Art and Myrtle. The writing has a Victorian Britain influence, but is still quite understandable for the 21st century reader. Black and white drawings by artist David Wyatt illustrate almost every page, bringing the strange characters and creatures to life.
Even better, you can expand your reading by visiting the book's website; it is designed to evoke the Victorian era and continues the old-fashioned advertisements and quaint language of the book. A sequel is now available: Starcross: An stirring adventure of spies and time travel and curious hats.

I read it - 400 (child sized) pages.

Monday, December 10, 2007

watching not reading

I watched the fabulous Bollywood adaptation of Sense and Sensibility called I Have Found It.
This is probably the best Sense and Sensibility adaptation I have ever seen, even for all of it's differences.

I also watched the complete first season of psych, which is about a fake psychic who is a detective. The writing is first rate hilarious - I highly recommend this series if you like to laugh.

Okay, and I did read the book Silas Marner for book group today. I was too lazy to get a copy of the book though, so I read the text online. I tried to use the super-hyped google books thing, but it had the first 5 pages and then skipped like 50 pages, so that didn't really work out. I ended up reading it at

Tips from my first online book reading experience -- Make the font bigger on your browser, and resixe the window so that you are only getting 10-14 words on a line, it makes your eyes happier. Then sit a normal distance away from the monitor as if it were your book, and cut down on glare by any means neccesary (I read all of Part Two in the dark).
The print book is about 200 pages I think. I didn't count how many screens I read!