Tuesday, September 30, 2014



A note about BOOK REVIEWS. Sort Of.:

These are not, in any way, meant to be comprehensive reviews. They are intended to acknowledge that I have read the book, and give my honest core impressions.

If a real review is what you wish, there are many wonderful book blogs available, and I have provided some tools to find them under the tab marked "Useful."

Pagan Spring (audiobook) - G.M. Malliet

"Max couldn't say he opposed Thadeus' views on architecture, but what was it about the man that made him want to disagree, if only on principle? And what made Thadeud an expert anyway? The Bottle's new house was a known eyesore. 
'At least we're finally getting a good reputation for cooking,' He said."

I have had the joy of reading a lot of wonderful authors over the years, but rare these days is one also a storyteller in the old fashioned vein. How do I explain what I mean by that?

The story tellers of my childhood were the Irish women like my grandmother, who told captivating tales of another world. When looked at objectively, the stories were simple. But they were imbued by these women with a rare magic that could transport the listener.

I feel a bit of that as I listen to these stories, and look eagerly forward to the next.

The Fire Dance (ebook) - Helene Tursten

"As soon as she had read the first chapter in the book, Irene had found herself irritated by all the mistakes the investigators were making. There were also a surprising number of wine enthusiasts and opera lovers in the literary police department."

The resolution to this one was not surprising, but it was still well written, with engaging characters.

It was also somewhat refreshing to read about a wet Swedish Autumn in the heat of a dry California Summer.

Out on the Cutting Edge (audiobook) - Lawrence Block

"Are you saying they can do a better job?"
I thought about it. "No," I said. "But they may be able to give the appearance."

This one had an added surprise at the end. Nice.

Indigo Slam (ebook) - Robert Crais

"I thought about Teresa and Charles and Winona, and how the daddy I was trying to find wasn't the same daddy that Terri was searching for, and I thought how sad it was that we often never really know the people around us, even the people we love."

Have you ever noticed that sometimes life is all messy and doesn't fall into easily definable categories? But we still have to make our choices and move forward as if it did.

So often, I cheer the hero on in a risky course of action that I believe will ultimately do the most good, all the while knowing that I could never be that brave in real life.

Sunset Express (ebook) - Robert Crais

"Women with ponytails raced along the wide boulevards on Rollerblades and shirtless young men pedaled hard on two-thousand-dollar mountain bikes,and everybody had great tans. Aging vaqueros selling rubber-hose churros weren't in evidence, but maybe I hadn't looked close enough."

Justice. Law. Right. Wrong.

The relationship between these words is a slippery and changeable one.

The Forgotten Man (ebook) - Robert Crais

"The world grew unstable when rain fell in Los Angeles. Soil held firm only moments before it could flow without warning like lava, sweeping away cars and houses like toys."

We don't always need the answers to our most burning questions, no matter how we feel driven to search for them.

The Sentry (ebook) - Robert Crais

"Twelve fucking million dollars and this guy is making sandwiches in Venice?"

Money doesn't always make for a better quality of life.

(Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind trying.)

Murder Makes A Pilgrimage - Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

"'We've an old saying back home. . . .'
Mary Helen groaned.
Impervious as always to Mary Helen's reaction to her bits of wisdom, Eileen continued."

Sister Mary Helen continues her murder solving ways, even outside of the country.

Killer - Jonathan Kellerman

"All she had to do was keep her mouth shut. Not doing so was classic mediocre psychopath."
"Mediocre," he said. "What do the good ones do?"
"Run for office."

I wait a whole year for each new Alex Delaware novel, and this one was worth the wait, once again.

The Litter of the Law - Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

"A silence followed this, then Susan said, "Nothing is simple, is it?"
"Not when it comes to human beings." Reverend Jones smiled. "What always strikes me is how most of us try to normalize an abnormal situation."

The murder mystery takes center stage, and while Ms Brown does have {an important message} she wishes to share, she has structured the plot well enough to support it.

This is much better than the last book in which I found her message a distraction from the plot.

The characters, themselves, were also much more pleasant to be with this time around.

Hard Time (ebook) - Sara Paretsky

"After fifty years of the Cold War, we've gotten into such a reflexive posture of belligerence that we start to chew up our own citizens."

Must ... confess ... some parts of this were hard ... to ... read ... while recovering from ... abdominal ... surgery.

All in all, another good one.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Farmer's Market - Taking Stock

Created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and now hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

I started my own Tomato plants this year, but I started them late.

This means that they sprouted late and I got them into the ground late.

It also means that they started setting fruit late.

I've only had a few at a time throughout the summer, but as Autumn closes in, the vines are filling with beautiful green tomatoes.

Granted, I'm lucky enough to have a long growing season here in Northern California, but it's still doubtful if they will all ripen. 

The Cape Honeysuckle is big and beautiful right now. 
It is just starting to bloom, and should do so up until frost hits. This is only it's second winter, so I'm not sure how long it will really stay in bloom.

With some help I was able to get my Agave pups into the ground.

The first one pictured has barbs, not only on the tips, but along the sides as well.

It's a wicked one! Its mom is against the side fence, away from traffic.

I put this little guy in the center of the Crepe Myrtle bed, between the Lavender and the Lantana.

I've created a small dry bed for some Succulents.

Over watering is still my biggest issue in the garden, and this is an area where the results could be devastating.

It's is a new endeavor and I'm hoping for the best.

The next picture (sorry it's so blurry) is of an Agave that is almost the same as the first, except it only has spines at the ends of its leaves.

Those spines can still be wicked.

The last one is a softer Agave with no spines at all.

Even my local nursery didn't have names for these different Agave, so I will end up doing some research.

I understand that there are somewhere around 150 different types.

So, wish me luck.

When I can finally work in the garden again I have a lot to do.
  • It's time to prep the beds for winter. 
  • I need to build a second cold frame. 
  • There are some odds & ends of repairs needed. 
  • I need to build raised beds and finish my vertical Basil planter
  • The fruit trees need pruning and will soon need to be sprayed.
  •   . . . 

The list is endless, but I don't know what I'd do without it.

I'm considering not putting in vegetables next year. I need to build some raised beds, and at this point I have neither funds nor capability. I'm considering spending the year getting my act together so I can do things the right way.

There's a first time for everything! Right?

I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.

- Arthur Conan Doyle

Thursday, September 25, 2014

We Got Some Rain! Hey. In California that's a Really Big Deal.

Banned Books Have Helped Shape This Country!

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book. The book presents the life story of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, who was a human rights activist and who has been called one of the most influential Americans in recent history.

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970
Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953
Rather than ban the book about book-banning outright, Venado Middle school in Irvine, CA utilized an expurgated version of the text in which all the “hells” and “damns” were blacked out. Other complaints have said the book went against objectors religious beliefs. The book’s author, Ray Bradbury, died this year.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic -- of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
Kern County, California has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939). Objections to profanity—especially goddamn and the like—and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s. It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 50s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.

Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956
Following in the footsteps of other “Shaping America” book Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg’s boundary-pushing poetic works were challenged because of descriptions of homosexual acts.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
Ellison’s book won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction because it expertly dealt with issues of black nationalism, Marxism and identity in the twentieth century. Considered to be too expert in its ruminations for some high schools, the book was banned from high school reading lists and schools in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington state.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906
For decades, American students have studied muckraking and yellow journalism in social studies lessons about the industrial revolution, with The Jungle headlining the unit. And yet, the dangerous and purportedly socialist views expressed in the book and Sinclair’s Oil led to its being banned in Yugoslavia, East Germany, South Korea and Boston.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855
If they don’t understand you, sometimes they ban you. This was the case when the great American poem Leaves of Grass was first published and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice found the sensuality of the text disturbing. Caving to pressure, booksellers in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania conceded to advising their patrons not to buy the “filthy” book.

Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
Richard Wright’s landmark work of literary naturalism follows the life of young Bigger Thomas, a poor Black man living on the South Side of Chicago. Bigger is faced with numerous awkward and frustrating situations when he begins working for a rich white family as their chauffer. After he unintentionally kills a member of the family, he flees but is eventually caught, tried and sentenced to death. The book has been challenged or removed in at least eight different states because of objections to “violent and sexually graphic” content.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971
Challenges of this book about the female anatomy and sexuality ran from the book’s publication into the mid-1980s. One Public Library lodged it “promotes homosexuality and perversion.” Not surprising in a country where some legislators want to keep others from saying the word “vagina.”

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961
The book was actually retained after a 2003 challenge in Mercedes, TX to the book’s adult themes. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class, a common school board response to a challenge.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
Parents of students in Advanced English classes in a Virginia high school objected to language and sexual content in this book, which made TIME magazine’s list of top 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
Sendak’s work is beloved by children in the generations since its publication and has captured the collective imagination. Many parents and librarians, however, did much hand-wringing over the dark and disturbing nature of the story. They also wrung their hands over the baby’s penis drawn in In the Night Kitchen.

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002
The works of Chavez were among the many books banned in the dissolution of the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Unified School District disbanded the program so as to accord with a piece of legislation which outlawed Ethnic Studies classes in the state. To read more about this egregious case of censorship, click here

(complete list)