Monthly Archives: April 2008

The reading chair, take two


I got a table to put next to my reading chair, so I don't have to use the top of my radiator as a beverage holder. Of course, it is getting to be spring, finally, so the radiator wouldn't be so warming, but I still think the table is better. I like the artwork, too.
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Some statistics


What is the point of having a big geeky spreadsheet of what I read, if I don’t go do analysis every once in a while? LibraryThing is a big help here, too. I am aware that this type of thing puts me well into geek territory, but I find it very interesting, so I don’t mind ;-).

First, about my purchases:

Total books purchased in 2008 (so far): 49
January: 19
February: 9
March: 11
April: 10

As you can see, I really do have a serious problem. January involved some pent up desire to purchase, since I did hold off in December, while I was busily purchasing gifts for other people (plus, Christmas tree ornaments; I have a serious problem with those, too). As a comparison, some numbers around what I have read so far this year:

Total books completed (so far): 28
Books purchased in 2008 that I have read: 18
Number of books I purchased that are not going on the TBR list: 4*

So, that means that of the 45 books purchased this year that I actually intend to read all the way through at some point, I have read 40%. I also read 10 tbr books that I already owned before this year, reducing that number from 106 to 96, and leaving my total TBR list at 123 (96 from before this year, plus 27 remaining from the books purchased this year).

Now on to the books that I have read:

Science fiction: 9 books, or 32.14%
General fiction: 7 books, or 25%
Non-fiction: 6 books, or 21.43%
Mystery: 6 books, or 21.43%

Not a bad distribution, I think. It always amazed me, though, that I consistently read more science fiction than any other category, but my largest category of books in my LibraryThing library is Mystery, and always has been. I think part of this is that box of books in my closet, which I suspect has quite a bit of Science Fiction in it. I think it has a fair amount of Agatha Christie books, too, though, so who knows what is up with that. Maybe it is partly that I am more likely to re-read science fiction than any other category.

I am slightly behind pace, with 28% of the book goal completed, with just over 29% of the year over. I am not worried about this, though, because the summer is usually when I read a lot more. I may even make it past 100 books this year!

*2 cookbooks, 1 complete works of Shakespeare, 1 book I had already read that I bought in hard cover because I found it on the bargain table



26. Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler

I have already talked about this in the posts below, about the reading I went to, but I will say again: very good.

27. Spin State by Chris Moriarty

Great book. I love this kind of hard science book that also looks at relationships and the human implications of our increasingly advanced technology. By that I mean that this book explores artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation, what makes a sentient being human, fear of the unknown, and how people set up artificial lines between us and them. Fascinating stuff.

28. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Okay, this was only 55 pages long, but it was in its own book, and I am way behind pace here! Great story, although very sad of course. I never saw the movie, and I don’t think I will. I am sure it is good, too, but so depressing.

Cupcake party!


I got a copy of Vegan Cupcakes take over the World something like a year ago. I wanted to make all of the cupcakes right away, but I have really gotten out of the habit of baking. So, I showed the book to some friends, and they were enthusiastic, too. We picked out some recipes, and made vague plans to have a cupcake party.

This weekend, we finally did it.

I invited two friends over, and they came with their two children each. S invited 2 friends, also. So, we had 11 people in my small kitchen. Well, we mostly kicked the 4 boys 7 and under out to play, but at one point we did have all three adults and all 4 girls crowded around the table. I was in charge of reading the recipes, washing measuring cups, and fetching spoons, forks, and various other implements to mix, measure and taste.

We started with the sexy low fat vanilla cupcakes with fresh berries. The girls made these under my supervision, and then we kicked them out, too. I think I may have underestimated my ability to handle chaos, but it really wasn’t that bad once we got things calmed down for a bit.

We made gingerbread cupcakes with lemony cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cherry creme cupcakes with vegan buttercream frosting. This all took a lot more time than I thought it would, but it was so much fun! Most everyone had three cupcakes, one as we finished each batch. This isn’t quite as unhealthy as it sounds, since we used whole wheat pastry flour instead of the all-purpose white flour, and at least there wasn’t any high fructose corn syrup in anything. But mostly, it was so fun and delicious, we didn’t care about the calories or sugar or fat!

My favorite was the vanilla with fresh berries, Tracy’s was the gingerbread, and Andrea’s was the chocolate cherry cream. This is not surprising, as those are the recipes we each picked. But they were all amazing, and we are definitely doing this again! I have my eye on the orange pudding filled cupcakes. We are thinking about an adult cupcake party with black forest cupcakes (the choc cherry cream made with cherry brandy) and maragarita cupcakes. I feel very in this cupcake trend, which no doubt means it is pretty much past the height of trendiness. No matter, I love the cupcakes!

The Reading


I did go to see Karen Joy Fowler discuss her new book last night, and I am so glad I did. She was very witty and interesting, which is really no surprise, since I love her work. Also, I mentioned that the line between reality and fiction is blurry in Wit’s End–it is even blurrier than I realized, because the cult that she mentions in the book, along with a lot of the details of the cult founder and the place they lived, are actually true. Fascinating stuff. I also find cults very interesting (I did a research paper on mind control as practiced by cults for my high school Psychology class), so I totally understand how she could get caught up in that kind of research.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time I have been to a reading by an author that I know and like (or any author, for that matter). I am not big on talking to “celebrities” in general, because it seems weird to me to talk to people that seem like people you know, but that are, in fact, strangers. A co-worker was telling me about meeting some professional hockey players, recently, and going out to lunch with them, and I was frankly mystified as to why anyone would want to do that. Granted, I am not a hockey fan, but I would feel the same way about baseball players, or actors, or anyone whose work I admire and enjoy. They are strangers. You know you have one thing in common, sure (love of hockey, certain types of movies, whatever), but then what? You can only spend so much time saying “Wow, I think you are great,” before you need to move on to other conversational topics, and what would those be? I am not good at talking to strangers. And it’s even weirder if you do know personal details about the person–because it seems weird to bring those up to a stranger, without any of the small talk that usually gradually brings you to those details, after you are more comfortable together. Intimacy should be earned, I think.

But, this was still worth the time, and not as strange as I feared it would be. Ms. Fowler spoke a bit first, and several people asked questions, so there was a nice give and take. And she was very gracious and welcoming. I think I will try to go to more of these author visits. Michael Chabon is coming to St. Louis next month, I would love to get my copy of Yiddish Policeman’s Union signed!

Catching up


Okay, I did make lots of progress in War and Peace, but then I got really mad at Prince Andrei and had to take a break. Sanctimonious, sexist, idiot jerk. But, I figure being too involved with the book is better for my prospects of actually finishing it, than not being involved enough.

In the meantime:

21. Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

I LOVED this book! I love the idea of wearable computers. When I think about how much more advanced my BlackBerry with an internet connection is, compared to what my life is like just 10 years ago, I get even more psyched about the idea of what that kind of connectivity could do for society. I also thought the characerization was very well done. Robert Gu’s transformation from a complete jerk to a pretty nice guy was actually pretty believable, which is quite an accomplishment, especially when you consider how really terrible he was at the beginning.

22. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Another fantastic book. Set in a near future when genetic modifications of fetuses are widespread and a profitable business, the book explores what would happen if we could modify children to not need sleep anymore. Of course, prejudice rears its ugly head fairly quickly when people realize how much more someone can do without the need to sleep. The main character has a twin sister who was unexpectedly conceived, and who does not receive any modifications. She loves her sister, but her father, who chose to make his daughter Sleepless, does not. He considers the unmodified child inferior. I can’t even begin to narrow down my thoughts on this wonderful book, but it was hard to put down. The characters were well-drawn, and I found myself sympathetic to most of them, even when I completely disagreed with their points of view. The political and social environment of the book was well-thought out, and intriguing. The story was just fascinating. Also, I think it is very hard to convincingly write about characters that are smarter and wiser than most people, or that are advanced beyond the current state of the human race (I am thinking about the Supers that the Sleepless breed later in the book here), but Kress managed it. I did feel that the Supers really were superior, even while reading about their learning processes and insecurities.

A couple of thoughts about the last two books I read:

* I thought it was odd that I read two books in a row featuring a young, gifted girl named Miri, since that is not a common name. Not that this is meaningful, it was just a funny coincidence.
* I recognized elements of both of these stories as being from short stories I had read in the past. When I read big compilations of science fiction short stories, I wonder if I really retain these, but when I got to the parts of the books that drew heavily from those stories, I recognized them right away. That was kind of cool.

23. Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

This is the sequel to The Sparrow, which I read earlier in the year. I thought this book was more interesting, and more nuanced. It was a little bit less dark, although still pretty tragic. I liked learning more about the alien characters, and the way that they were shown to be more complex than originally supposed. Sequels can be a bit of a risk, but this one definitely didn’t rest on the laurels of the praise received for The Sparrow, and it had many interesting things to say, still. Great book.

24. Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb

The title of this one is rather clever, as this is actually a cosy, small-group-of-people-who-know-each-other murder, unlike some of the in Death books, where it might be anyone in New York City. I thought this one was stronger than the last one, with a slightly lower eye-rolling, Eve-Dallas-is-really-badass quotient. Fast and fun.

25. My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox

Re-read. I loved this the first time, and I loved it again. The author is making up a memoir of a 100 year old woman in one night, so the pace was a bit frenetic, but in a good way. It was amazing how he was able to make the woman both obviously fake, and yet seem very real. Even as it becomes obvious that the woman does not exist, and he starts talking more and more about his (fictional) own life, she has a recognizable voice, and really does seem to be a separate person. The end was really great, too. I picked this up off of a bargain book table, and I am glad I did.


According to LibraryThing, I have 40 books purchased this year. That’s wrong, though. I loaned my CueCat to a friend, so I have to type in ISBNs, and I didn’t feel like it last night. If I am remembering right, I have 5 books to add still, although it might be 6. I need to lock myself in my apartment and read, read, read! I have lots of books I am excited about, but not enough time to read them all, and no willpower to stay away from the bookstore until I catch up (HA!).

I had to go to the bookstore to get Karen Joy Fowler’s newest book, Wit’s End, because she is coming to St. Louis tomorrow. The kids will be at their dad’s, and going to a book reading is the kind of fun thing I don’t often get to do (I missed Kate Atkinson last fall, much to my dismay). I wanted to at least have the book, but I think I might be able to get it read, too–it’s very good. The line between fiction and reality is really blurry in this book, and it is quite disorienting. I feel almost dizzy as I read it, trying to figure out what is real, and what is fictional (within the fictional novel, of course). It’s very heady stuff. I hope the reading is not too crowded, and I can get my book signed!


I am slightly behind pace for 100 books for the year, but way ahead of where I was last year at this time (16). So, that goal is looking good at least.