Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Eye of Night The Eye of Night by Pauline Alama

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It starts with a prophet, a fool and a priest. While you might think that is the start of a joke, it isn't. I first heard of this book from author Ann Aguirre (Eye of Night book club discussion). Her high praise was deserved indeed! Pauline Alama has created a stand alone epic fantasy that is quite enjoyable.

The Troubles have come and people are fleeing the North. All except Jereth, Hwynn, and Lady Trenara. One is a prophet, one a fool and one a former priest. These three have in their possession a mysterious orb that may be a living organism, is definitely powerful, but is the power for good or evil? Is their quest a fool's errand or a quest to save the world?

What made this especially lovely was the blooming romance between the prophet and the priest. It isn't your usual romance, but it does give a nod to those fairy stories where the old crone is asking for water at the well and the kind girl who helps her is rewarded. So often it is tiring and unbelievable to read about the excessively attractive lead characters. Here, the characters are flawed, hurting, and not perfect and their humanness is so compelling that when you near the end it is positively aching to read on. But do read on. You will be rewarded

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Infidel Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book that everyone should read. It is the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and it quite simply is unbelievable, especially to an American who has had a very gentle life and upbringing. I could only read a little at a time because it is so heartbreaking and sad. In spite of the anguish one has at reading about her childhood in Somalia, Kenya and Saudia Arabia, where she endured genital mutilation and was beaten by her mother, grandmother, religious teacher and others, one comes to admire her for her stubborness in achieving great things. For her indomitable will and desire to learn and educate herself, to open her eyes and see what is in front of her and question what appears wrong and false. She was raised Muslim, but ends up renouncing it. The renounciation is not easy, quick or simple. It comes about over time, after abuses in the name of her former religion, at the hands of people who should be protecting her. Her life in the Netherlands shows her a different way to live. While she ends up as a member of the Dutch Parliament, the controversy over her renunciation is such that she must give up her post and flee to the US, where she is today.

If you know nothing of the situation in Africa or of how madrassas indoctrinate muslim youth, this book will give you one person's personal story of those things. It will inform you so that you do not just shake your head at genetial mutilation or at angry immigrants, but hopefully it will give you a small understanding of the confusion that exists in their countries and in their minds so that it clouds their thoughts and actions.

This is a tough book to read, but I challenge everyone to read it.

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Silent On The Moor Silent On The Moor by Deanna Raybourn

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is the third in the Lady Julia Grey series. I read the first two books as audiobooks and they were very good, even if it was annoying for them to change narrators. the reviews for the new narrator for the third book were so universally bad that I bought it hardcopy instead. Great decision! Raybourn brings this third book in at 465 pages and I loved every one of them. Lady Julia has determined to go visit Brisbane, uninvited (oh horrors!8-), in the deeps of Yorkshire only to find another mystery centered in the estate he now owns: Grimsgrave.

Raybourn is a master of the gothic romance mystery. This book oozes atmosphere and you can almost feel the cloying moist fog as you try to cipher out the whodunnit. The chemistry between Lady Julia and Brisbane is electric, my only complaint being he has a very small role for the book taking place in his estate. There are some interesting developments between Lady Julia's siblings, but I don't want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, everyone grows and learns from this experience, even Mr. Pugglesworth.

This series is excellent for high school libraries because of the very Austen-esque romance (still to be consumated) and the high vocabulary level. I hope it hasn't ended with this book. While the book came to a satisfactory conclusion, I am still waiting for more.

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Gardens and Spring Cleaning

Here is Willow outside on our patio looking very pleased with herself. It is good to have her outside, because, frankly, she is a shedding machine! That girl could still shed if we shaved her bald.

So some spring cleaning is in order. Fred finished the window project so that means that we are moving on to the cleaning and painting of the moulding.

Fred has outlined all the window panes in painting tape. I went over every pane and used a toothbrush to get out the dirt for everyone knows you can't paint over dirt. That leads to flaking and messiness! So, we are scrubbing and cleaning all the moulding. Fred cut and put in the quarter round, finishing the baseboard moulding. When we bought this house, the previous owners had started many improvement projects, but hadn't finished them all. One of the things that really bothered me was that there was quarter round on some walls and not others. This doesn't bother Fred at all. However, usually once a year, he will add some quarter round to a wall to appease me. I'm hoping that we can finish the downstairs before my parents come to visit. We just have the kitchen and garden room and the east side of the family room to go. Oh and the living room. Keep your fingers crossed!

Evidently the USF botanical garden is spring cleaning as well. We found this bird's nest on a bench. I'm not sure if the bird got tired of it or the botanical people felt compelled to remove it from its home. I'm sure it was not built on the arm of the bench!

I think this is a wood stork. He was HUGE. There were also some Mallard ducks at the gardens. While the USF gardens are small and untidy, they are also calm and relaxing and must be a place of peace for stressed out students. They have a native plant sale coming up in June, which I plan on going to.

I also recommend Bok Tower and Santuary and Selby Gardens if you are in a mind to go to gardens. They are magnificent.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our First Guidedog Meeting at St. Pete Market

We went to our first meeting of the Suncoast Puppy Raisers yesterday. It was held at the St. Pete Farmer's Market. It was great.

We got to see Jean again! Here she is on the left with her puppy raiser mom, Donna. Donna and her husband Don (see next photo) are also the North Pinellas area coordinators for Suncoast Puppy Raisers. We are in their group. Jean remembered us! That was nice, because we really liked her and thought she had a pretty good time at our house. 8-)

You might notice that there are lots of light green shirts in this photograph. The green shirt is the official puppy raiser volunteer shirt, with official embroidery and everything. I'm not sure when you get a shirt (perhaps only when you get a puppy?), but boy do we want one!

I took this photo for a couple of reasons:
  1. Don is holding Cool Beans who is Jean's sister and a Vizsla
  2. You can see in the background several other kinds of dogs, a smooth coated collie, a labrador retriever

The guide dogs come in many flavors: labrador, goldadore, smooth coated collie, australian shepherd, vizsla.

During this part of the meeting, everyone was in a circle and we were given news about the dogs. At one year, the school would like for the puppies to start wearing the harness with out the handle for 15 minutes at a time to get used to the weight and feel of it. This is pretty important. If the dog can't get used to the harness, it will wash out as a guidedog for the blind. When we took a tour, our volunteer tourguide and puppy raiser said that her puppy had been washed outbecause she literally couldn't bear the harness, it rubbed her the wrong way. 8-)

So it is crucial that the dogs begin to like the harness and associate wearing it with fun times.

I like this shot because you can see all of the dogs doing a practice obedience session. You have older dogs, puppies, and everything in between and they are all doing a great job! There are moms, teachers, teens, business people, retirees, anyone you can think of has the ability to be a puppy raiser. You can see the variety of dogs and puppy raisers.

It was a great day. We met some very nice people and even shopped a bit for fresh veggies.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is a slim, charming read coming in at 196 pages. Chabon is probably better known for his extremely long and dense Pulitzer Prize winning The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union. This book is a twist off of what he usually writes. It's an adventure novel, what he calls a Jews with swords book. And it is delightful. Set in the far past, circa A.D. 950, Amram and Zelikman are adventurers who step into a controversy and decide to see it through to the end.

Each chapter begins with a fairly long witty title, the first chapter is called On Discord Arising from the Excessive Love of a Hat. From the titles you get the sense that this is an adventure book with a sense of whimsy. It is also a romantic tale, one filled with black humor and, surprisingly, elephants. There is a tortured hero. His partner is not just a sidekick, but a real partner and friend for life. They truly are Gentlemen of the Road. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys a good adventure novel, but most certainly for those snobs who like that adventure novels can't be good literature. This book proves them wrong.

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Perfect Video about Twittering by John Cleese

Neil Gaiman just tweeted about the UK's list of who is god-emperor of Twitter. Stephen Fry was knocked down from the #1 position. As I was going down the list I saw John Cleese, who happens to be one of my favorite writers/actors. He has a very funny blog to which I now subscribe. He also has a very silly video on Twitter. Watch it!

Plus, he raises chickens, just like my friend Gisah. What's not to like about that?