Thursday, June 26, 2008


I told myself I was going to write tonight. And I'm going to get to it, just as soon as I do a crossword and link to all sorts of wonderful things I haven't had a chance to read this month.

Jezebel remembers Tasha Tudor.

I was vaguely aware of Instructables, but it took Ananka's Diary to really put it on my radar.

The Onion on the hazards of CEO Barbie (via Feministing)

Cynthia Leitich Smith and Dana Reinhardt

Utterly disgusted. Not much else to say about this one.

Look for Whip Cracking Wednesdays at BookMoot this summer.

Everyone's been having fun with Wordle, but I learned about it first on Justine's blog.

Two pieces of history from Boing Boing.

The other Sarah (yeah, like there are only two of us!) sold me on this one.

Jen Robinson gets credit for this one.

A new toy, thanks to Linda Urban.

Libba's Bad Day.

I've kind of had enough of t-shirts at the moment, but I might just have to get myself some Gallagher Gear.

I have a coworker who started his career at Bennett Cerf's Random House - like I needed a reason to read an oral history.

Speaking of oral histories, how is it that I'm only now adding this collection of Freedom Rider reminiscences to my reader? (via Bookslut)
Now that I've read Climbing the Stairs, I'm almost tempted to take Padma Ventrakaman up on her bindi offer. (Or I could just go visit my neighbor who shares all sorts of pretty things she brings back from Mumbai because she has two sons, who are not nearly as fun to dress up as I am.)

Peter Parley did some of his writing and teaching here in Ridgefield, so I'm going to have to follow up on J.L.'s post. (If you're in the area next Saturday, Ridgefield's 300th anniversary celebration continues with a parade and events throughout the day. And if you make it to the parade, see if you can guess which float has been taking up half my garage for the past two weeks.)

Updates from some of the journalists currently reporting from Iraq. (via FishBowlNY)

Okay. Writing. That's the real goal for tonight.

No, I don't have the mind of a fourteen-year-old boy

Really. But I was thrilled to see that my store ordered a copy of the reissue of Pauline Kiernan's Filthy Shakespeare.

My WNYIP* has a lot to do with people who dislike Shakespeare, so more entendres to choose from is always a good thing.

*Work Not Yet In Progress, because I won't let myself start it until I've completed one draft of the current WIP. I'm suck a taskmaster.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trixie Belden and the brand-new series

Somehow I've never gotten tired of rereading the Trixie Belden books. They certainly have their share of improbable coincidences and cries of "jeepers" - but they're fun.

The first book in the series, The Secret of the Mansion, was first released in 1948. From the first line, you can see why it was a hit with girls of a certain age:
"Oh, Moms," Trixie moaned, running her hands through her short, sandy curls. "I'll just die if I don't have a horse."
That's right. Mysteries, horses, rich best friends, and a dash of not always following the rules.

And just how is Trixie going to get that horse? In the first chapter, it's arranged that Trixie will earn $5 every week for doing her chores. In 2007 dollars, that's an allowance of $45.95, which undercuts Trixie's ongoing moaning about her family's comparative poverty.

But when you live in Westchester County, well, your perspective shifts a little.

Within a few pages, the horse has been pushed down Trixie's list of priorities. (You may notice that this is not an uncommon occurrence in the books.) Her neighbor, both a miser and a hermit in her opinion, is taken to the hospital, leaving his house available for exploration. And Manor House, bordering the other side of the Beldens' Crabapple Farm, is occupied by a family with a thirteen-year-old daughter - shockingly, the same age as our heroine.

Honey Wheeler is the quintessential poor little rich girl:
"It's not nice at all, Bobby. I can't remember when I didn't want to be like other people... When I was little, my nurses never let me play in the dirt the way Bobby is now, and I was never allowed to go anyplace by myself for fear of being kidnapped... I hardly ever saw my father and mother until I got sick. And now they've bought this big old place just for me. But what good is it? What good is anything if you're never allowed to have any fun?"
Bobby, of course, is Trixie's always-around, in-need-of-a-speech-pathologist, occasionally-useful-plot-device little brother.

While Trixie and Honey's friendship blossoms, we're introduced to two more essential characters: Miss Trask, the governess who'd be quite content to see her charge become independent, and Jim Frayne.

I'll hold off on sharing Jim's usual descriptor until the next post - for the half-dozen who both care and don't already know - but in this book he's a runaway, and also the great-nephew of Trixie's miser-hermit neighbor.
"I hitchhiked part of the way and walked the rest, sleeping in the woods, because I didn't have any money, you know. I wasn't sure exactly where my uncle lived, and I didn't dare ask anybody, but by luck, this morning, as I was walking along the road, I noticed the faded letters on the mailbox at the foot of the driveway."
Even for abused children, it really was a simpler time. (Consider that Jim's abuse is almost never brought up again in the books, and he clearly doesn't suffer any psychological scars. Not the way his character would be written today.)

Oh, and Jim's logic: "But, anyway, you don't go around socking older people. You just beat it."

Honey is often the reasonable, well-informed, and worldly half of the detective agency. This time, not so much:
"Of course you don't have to go back. You can come home and live with my family. My father'll adopt you. I've always wanted a brother, and Daddy's got lots of money so you can have a horse and a dog and anything else you want. Nobody'll ever beat you again."
But Jim knows that's not going to work. He stands to inherit if it turns out his great-uncle does in fact have some sort of wealth, and he's on the run from his stepfather. (It took me many, many readings before I realized that "Simon Legree" was a reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin. The hazards of literary allusions in children's books...)

The three spend some time riding, exploring the old mansion, and such. And the tension just keeps increasing, until Jim decides he needs to run off again.

You were wondering how Trixie's detective mind works? This sort of deductive reasoning is not uncommon:
"Oh, joy!" she cried triumphantly. "I'll bet this fits a treasure chest. Now all we have to do is find the chest."
Trixie also jumps to conclusions when she meets people. After Jim disappears again, his great-uncle's lawyer turns up looking for him. Within half a page, she decides he's completely trustworthy:
"Even if Jim didn't want anyone to know he was still alive, she knew she could trust this man and that he would be a real friend to Jim."
And sometimes it's that simple for Miss Belden. Not this time, though. The Secret of the Mansion is really Part I of the two-part introduction to the series. Next up: Trixie gets to demonstrate that she can blow off housework even when the house in question is a trailer - a red one.

Bonus: I haven't read through this yet, but it looks like someone's put together Trixie research. Something else for the reading list.

My unique reading habits?

Apparently no one else on LibraryThing has read Climbing the Stairs or The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop, the last two books I added to my library.

Seriously? I'm not usually that much of a trendsetter.

I probably won't get around to actual review for either of them (I know, I haven't written one in ages), so I'll just offer two quick recommendations: The first is a great YA read, and one I'll keep in mind for mothers who don't want their tweens reading about s-e-x. (Argh. All I'm saying.) The second, Christine, will probably be a great fit for Harry.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The latest in book promotion

(Enjoy it while it lasts; I think it goes back behind the paywall after two weeks.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What I'm doing this weekend

Revising (if I can get the printer to cooperate)
Knitting in public
Hanging out with Christina
Admiring John Scalzi's ability to get to the point (and bumping Zoe's Tale a little further up the TBR list)

I think the first Trixie post will also be coming up soon.

See y'all next week!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Books galore (and the pictures I mentioned)

Courtesy of Lisa Chellman:

1. One book that changed your life:
A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle.2. One book that you've read more than once:
Pretty much all of them, but let's go for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King.3. One book that you'd want on a desert island:
Something really long - maybe Les Miserables.4. One book that made you laugh:
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. (And all the sequels, too.)5. One book that made you cry:
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, by Dana Reinhart.
6. One book that scared you:
I deal with those books by refusing to talk about them. You will not find the ones that truly scared me in my LibraryThing.
7. One book you wish had been written:
I really don't know what to put for this one - my TBR list is so long I don't think it's fair for me to talk about should-have-beens.8. One book you wish had never been written:
See #6.9. One book you're currently reading:
I started a reread of Persuasion last week.10. One book you've been meaning to read:
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson.And yes, there is a seal (or a sea lion; I'm not really up on my pinnipeds) on that rock.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yes, I've been away from the blog

This was what I did instead of blogging last week:
I was using a scanner, though, so imagine a touch of this thrown in:In short, I spent most of BookExpo America stationed at the door to the ABA Lounge, scanning badges and making sure that only members came in.

I also ended up greeting most of the authors who came by for signings - and as I mentioned earlier, we had a great line-up. Autumn Cornwell was adorable, Michael Reisman was absolutely charming (still kicking myself for not finding out if he's single) and Robin LaFevers and Barry Lyga were both great - I brought home books from all of them, plus a few more.

(Haven't read any of my new books yet; currently rereading Persuasion and catching up on critiques and such.)

And I spent a few days beforehand down in Orange County, trying to remember my way around my former home. (The GPS was much more useful.) Pictures to follow, once I offload them.

Not that I need another project for this summer (that WIP I planned to finish by the end of June? Yeah, about halfway there.), but a recent Fuse post pointed me to the Nancy Drew series Leila did.

Go. Read them all. They're fabulous.

They've also inspired me to do something similar with my stack of Trixie Belden books - and Cherry Ames, if this goes well. Because:
a) The Stratemeyer Syndicate can't have all the glory.
b) When I read these growing up, I always thought it was so cool that the books were set (albeit in a fictional town) just down the road from me. Who needs River Heights?