Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not about books

About six years ago I planted a peach tree and two apricot trees in our yard. This is quite the leap if faith since I live in Wisconsin. But hope springs eternal.

The peach tree flowered and got a bunch of fruit on it in the third year but after they grew to the size of nickels, the peaches all fell off. The second year the same thing happened so I took samples to the university extension office and found out I have a virus that isn't curable. In the meantime one of the apricots broke off in the wind. I needed two apricots for pollination.

Fast forward to 2007. The tree that had broken off had grown back from the root stock. We had a hard frost late, but the trees both blossomed. I started watching and one day I saw, way high up in one tree a little round thing. I kept an eye on it. Once I even used my binoculars.

Today when I looked up, the little round thing was gone. I was horrified. Darn blackbirds was my first thought. But, I scootered over and there on the ground was a little gold quarter sized apricot.

I picked it up and it was soft, but looked good, nice and lightly fuzzy. I took it to show my husband. I felt like a proud parent.

I broke it open with my fingers to make sure there were no worms or bugs in it. It was perfect. I put a piece in my mouth and was astounded by the flavor of the best apricot I had ever eaten. Yum!

Maybe next year I'll get two. I guess I won't be taking orders anytime soon, but still. Yeah!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rusty Nail by J. A. Konrath

I almost hate to say that this book did nothing for me. Konrath wrote two other books about Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels that I really enjoyed. They are smart, funny, sassy books with an amusing cast of characters and fun little mysteries set in Chicago and the surrounding burbs. Jack is a police lieutenant with the Chicago Police department. Her partner is Herb, who is typical, eats too much, weighs too much, but is there to help take down the bad guys. Her ex-partner is a kind of a creepy slob who gets in the way and ends up being helpful a lot of the time. Her love life stinks. Her mother plays a part in the books and in this one, is in a comma. You get the picture, pretty standard mystery fare here, but generally amusing.

So, what am I bitching about when in comes to this book? Well, the mystery is lame. As soon as the "bad guy" was introduced I knew it. Not that I need a giant mystery when I read these quickie genre novels, but come on, keep me in the dark for like, five seconds. And second, this book was a little violent. I feel kind of funny saying that, because I read violent serial killer novels all the time, but I guess I wasn't expecting what I got here. I don't remember the other two books in the series being this graphic. I might be wrong about that, but I have to say, with this book, I was a bit turned off, at one point, a lot turned off. Plus, there were some lose ends that I didn't think were wrapped up as well as they should have been. One dead guy that I really didn't quite follow as to why he died. Maybe that was just me, though, my attention may have been wandering.

So, I will give Konrath another try if he comes out with a new book in the series, but just one more try. There are too many other choices out there to waste my time on something that makes me shrug and say, eh.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam. Jr.

I am not sure how I missed this book when it came out in 1998. I was working in a public library at the time and I remember it being popular when it was published, then the movie based on the book, October Sky, came out and the book became popular all over again. I saw the movie and really liked it, but I still didn't read the book.

That has been remedied. My book group is reading this book for June and I am so glad. What a lovely memoir.

The time is 1957, the place is Coalwood, West Virginia, and the inciting incident is the race for space. Russia had launched Sputnik and suddenly the world was a new and bigger place. Hickman and a group of his buddies, nerds we might call them, started building and launching rockets. Family drama ensued. Mom wants her kids to be all they can be, to escape the coal mining life that she and her husband live. Dad sees in Homer a possible successor in his job as foreman at the coal mines. Homer dreams of space and working with the big guys in rocket engineering.

As harsh as the times and place are, this is a kind story. I suppose there is a Leave it to Beaver quality to it. Bad things and roadblocks to dreams do happen, but still I think Hickman would say that he lived the good life where neighbors knew each other and cared about each other, and cheered on a bunch of teens who where blasting off rockets in the mine slag heaps.

You know that people who read memoirs sometimes recommend them by saying they read like novels and I suppose this is true of Rocket Boys, but more than that. It is a story about a real person who has a goal and works hard to attain it. I am very glad that I finally got to read this book. Highly recommended. And if you have teenage boys who need a summer read, I think this book would be a perfect choice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Invisible Prey by John Sandford

This is Sandford's newest addition to his Prey series starring detective Lucas Davenport.

I love this series. I would even go so far as to say that they are my favorite in the serial killer/police procedural books. There is some unevenness in the books in the series but for the most part they do not disappoint.

Invisible Prey, like most of the books in the series is set mainly in Minneapolis with forays in fast cars to small Wisconsin towns. This one focuses on the antique trade and is not nearly as violent as some of the others. Oh, there are dead bodies piling up, but I never really felt that Lucas himself was in any danger. That was unusual because as far as memory serves, usually he is in some danger.

Lucas Davenport is the sexist of the series detectives I read. That sounds kind of funny to me, but the way he is described and the randy times he has with his wife are certainly titillating and I think written with women in mind.

This is another series where I feel part of the family. Davenport has gone from a skirt chaser early in the series to a married man with a family. His wife has a career as a plastic surgeon and is a strong character--kudos to Sandford for writing a real woman character.

This was not my favorite book in the series. There is very little "who done it" because we know almost from the first chapter who the bad guys are, so the fun is in following the detectives and they figure out the how and why of it. I like other books in the series better, I think because there is more peril and more mystery.

As in other books of this genre, this is a fast read and fun. I would recommend that if you are reading the series, get it, if you have never read any of the series, start from the beginning. It is more fun that way I think.

Finally, as a side note, part of the mystery in this book is about antique quilts with curses sewn into the quilting stitches. That was rather interesting and made me want to do some research to see if this was based on any true stories. Quilters might find this book interesting for that reason.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

the house of blue light by David Kirby

I must gush about this book. What wonderful poetry!! If you don't read poetry, or think it is beyond you, or that you won't like it, I'm here to tell you that David Kirby is a marvel. One of the poems in this book had me laughing so hard, pop came out my nose. That can't often be said about poetry.

I think, first of all, that David Kirby doesn't believe in periods. If he had to give up any punctuation mark--no question about it, the period would be gone. And that is the marvel of these poems--they just run on in a kind of riff on whatever topic David chooses to expound on and you can't help being sucked in and go gladly along for the ride.

I want to give you a taste of one of his poems. They are all quite long, but here are two stanzas that tickled my fancy. And a note on this text, I don't know how to make it work, but every other line should be tab indented. Enjoy!!

Catholic Teenager from Hell Goes to Italy

Jock DuBois found out in our senior year
that one out of every seven Americans was Catholic,
so he figured if each of us would rise up
on a secret signal and kill seven non-Catholics,
we could take over the whole country in,
like, three or four minutes, a hypothesis
that cost us several jobs,
since Jock couldn't stop talking about his plan,
and even devoutly Catholic bosses
had no desire to see their employees
doff their brightly-colored paper caps
or throw down their mops and brooms
and start killing customers who had come in
for a burger, shake, and biggie fry,
not to have their throats cut by pimply fanatics.

That didn't stop Jock from talking,
even though I said the plan might work in America,
but what about the rest of the world,
including our immediate neighbors?
It just didn't seem like something
the Canadians would take lying down.
I wasn't sure I wanted Catholics
to run the world anyway, even though
JFK had just been elected president,
and some people were saying he was already
getting secret orders from the Vatican,
and others were passing out what they called
"Kennedy quarters," the ones
where Washington is wearing a papal skullcap
they'd painted on with red nail polish.