Saturday, September 1, 2018

Wrap up of the Read your Shelves Book Challenge...

This year, along with a goal of reading at least 50 books, I wanted to focus on reading the books I already had in my shelves that were not read yet. My bookshelves seem to be bursting at the seems with books I have read and saved to read again, and with books I really do want to read, but it is easy for me to get distracted and turn my attention to the library, the book section at the thrift store or an unexpected trip to the book seller and then there are even more books to stuff into those shelves. I've been trying to be aware of collecting clutter and have been earnestly trying to simplify what we keep around the house, especially after my husband and I each lost a parent and were involved in sorting out their belongings and then having to move a surviving parent to an assisted living arrangement because they need more care than the siblings can manage on their own. So much stuff!

Here's the Read My Bookshelves Challenge List. I wanted to make it simple so I had the flexibility to throw in an additional book here and there that caught my interest, and have a challenge I could succeed at, but I also wanted to accomplish the objective of reading books already on my shelves that were waiting to be read. There are 12 books listed, one for each month, chosen at random from my shelves that have been arranged alphabetically according to author. This has turned out to be the best way for me to keep track of what I have and to find books when looking for them. I have really liked the flexibility of being able to throw in an extra book here and there but still work on the original challenge. I get frustrated sometimes with book challenges that are all consuming and don't leave you any flexibility to go with your current interests every once in a while and if my book reading becomes a chore, then, for me, that defeats the main purpose of my reading. 

  • The Creative Brain (Andreasen)*
  • Between a Heart and a Rock Place; A Memoir (Benatar)*
  • Academ's Fury (Butcher)*
  • Graceling (Cashore)*
  • Crossed (Condie)*
  • Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories (various)*
  • A Darkness Forged in Fire (Evans)*
  • The Fantasy Writer's Assistant (Ford)*
  • The Jaguar Prophecies (Gunderson)*
  • Twice Told Tales (Hawthorne)*
  • Spillover (Quammen)*
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Jemisin)*
      Read Your Bookshelves Challenge-Book Reviews

    The Creative Brain- (Nancy Andreasen) Interesting non-fiction about the brain, not overly technical, understandable, it talks about creativity and the creative process, how the brain develops and functions, the thin line between genius and insanity, and brain plasticity. The book also contains suggestions and exercises to help you "train your brain" to keep it functioning properly.

    Between a Heart and a Rock Place- A Memoir (Pat Benatar)- A nicely told story by rock queen Pat Benatar about her life and her music career. This is a woman of incredible talent and who is made of strong substance to survive and ultimately thrive is the music industry. I have always admired her for her talent and because she was not all over the news with scandals and all kinds of dirty laundry like so many other so called "stars". She is judicious about what she speaks up about and also allows others to have their own opinions about things without all the name calling and nastiness that seems to be the political climate of now a days. This woman is so talented, is drop dead gorgeous in her 60's, has a healthy family life, and was a trail blazer for women in the music industry. I admire her even more now after reading this book and will continue to enjoy her music.

    Academ's Fury- (Jim Butcher)- I became a Jim Butcher fan after reading his Dresden Files series, and I search out all other things that this author writes because they are always interesting, entertaining and filled with action. I am two books into this fantasy series now and even though it is slower reading than the Dresden Files, (the books are the thickness of bricks), the story is set in a rich and realistic world where the history and customs of the people have been creatively crafted by the author, the characters are well developed, and it holds the readers interest through the many pages. When I get into one of these they are hard to put down and I always want to find more time to read because I want to find out what happens next. This series takes a time commitment but I am willing to follow the author on the journey even though it will take a while.

    Graceling- (Kristen Cashore)- This book was an interesting fantasy story and I have been wanting to read it for a few years. I chose it for the reading challenge because I have been wanting to read it and see if I was interested in getting the other books in the series. It had an interesting plot about a girl who goes on a journey and learns of her heritage. It was a satisfying read but the author hinted about the evil nature of the old king in the story, (which the girl turns out to be his heir), and it involved nastiness and the abuse of children for his evil nature so I am done with the series. I don't need to read about that as I read for recreation and experience, not to wallow in the sins of others whether they be real or fake characters. I stopped reading a Tad Williams (Otherland) series for the same reason, have been warned off the Game of Thrones books for the same reason (and have no desire to watch the TV series), I just don't need that in my life. I would feel differently if I was purposely reading a documentary or something like that.

    Crossed- Ali Condie- This one was another first book in a series that I have been wanting to read because I do tend to enjoy dystopian YA fiction quite a bit, as long as it is not too sappy. I read through this fast, in a few days, it has an interesting premise in a future earth-like world where a lot of how you live your life is not your choice and is foisted on you by a dictator type government, you have to stay in a certain class of people, and there are those who become brave enough to try to escape the conditions, break free, and try to find other outcasts and/or start a new and better kind of society. This tale was pretty ordinary dystopian YA and though it was interesting it was not very compelling and had a lot of stereotypes in it so it was predictable. Not sure if I want to invest time in the other books but found reading the first one a quick and interesting enough read to not feel I wasted my time.

    Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories- I love ghost stories as long as they are not mainly horror/slasher, gore filled types of tales. I enjoy the psychological tension, the subtle feeling of unease that permeates in creepy places and the twists that many of the old fashioned (1800's type) ghost stories have in them. This was a thick tome filled with those types of stories. Most of them were good, some were outstanding, a few were duds or so bogged down in wordiness it was tiresome to get through the tale. That is what you get with these types of collections, but overall I did enjoy it even though it seemed a bit daunting when I started reading it because of the length of the book.

    A Darkness Forged in Fire (Iron Elves Book 1)- Chris Evans- Well this one was kind of a disappointment, also the first book of a series that I had been looking forward to reading. Basically 600 pages of not much happening, poorly developed characters for the most part, a lifeless supposed romantic attraction, typical power hungry bad guys, and a very stereotypical fantasy plot that I am getting so very sick of. It is becoming difficult to find fantasy anymore that is not full of stereotypes that it just bores you to death if you have read a number of these types of books. How do author's with mediocre work like this even get published? Give me Brandon Sanderson or Jim Butcher any day over this guy. Six hundred pages! Man, I must have been really bored or had insomnia to actually finish it.

    The Fantasy Writer's Assistant-Jeffrey Ford- A collection of short stories by gritty author Jeffery Ford. His writings are generally filled with weird stuff so I knew what to expect, but the stories are usually pretty compelling, none the less. I've read about six books by this author so I have enjoyed his work in the past. This collection seemed really out there and was hard to get into. Only one or two stories were really worth the time or even understandable for me. Oh well, I have another story collection (The Empire of Ice Cream) by this author which I will eventually read, but after this I am in no hurry to do so.

    The Jaguar Prophesies-Phyllis Gunderson- This book falls under the category of LDS fiction, it was a short novel about the ongoing mysterious adventures of a middle aged female archeologist. I like books with female leads, and being a middle aged female myself I could relate to the main character. I read another book by this author so when I saw this one at the D.I. thrift store, where I haunt the book aisle, it seemed worth the 75 cents to acquire it. Not a bad plot and interesting enough for me to pick up other books by this author if I see them while haunting the used book section of the thrift store.

    Twice Told Tales- Nathaniel Hawthorne-I am trying to become a well rounded reader so I went for some classics, Hawthorne, even though I knew some of it would be ponderous and wordy because of the era in which it was written. He can also pen a pretty good creepy story so I was willing to slog through this collection because of that as well. I found a copy with a nice introduction and brief story of the author's life included, which made the reading of the collection more interesting for me to have some understanding of the historical context. A mixed bag of tales, but I am glad I read this collection, it made me think about the unique history of New England, and how it has so influenced the American mindset in this region, as a result of that history. Hawthorne seemed to have a rather sad and short life so it makes you kind of sad yourself contemplating it when you are reading his works, you can see the influence in his writing.

    Spillover- Quammen- Non fiction science writing about events termed "spillover," when diseases in animals transfer into the human population and the events and unique situations that can cause such things to happen. Details about how the epidemiology of the disease is carried and transferred, some of it horrific in it's scope, but chock full of good scientific process, includes stories of putting the pieces of evidence together, field investigation, and the attempted solving of these disease mysteries. I am a scientist currently working in a microbiology laboratory so I am all over books like this, but they are interesting for anyone with a bit of curiosity and not too technical like a text book, so that a non-scientist can still enjoy the book and see the scientific process in action. 

    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin- This one started out with promise but ultimately turned into a bust. The main theme I took away from this book was that the central character just wanted to lust after the dark god in this book. She was a lame person who ultimately achieved nothing in the story except, like I mentioned above, lusted after and had steamy relations with (that thankfully were not described much or I would have put the book down long before finishing it) the dark god in this story, and this is supposed to be a trilogy. Wow. I guess it's like common core makes no sense, and as a reader I felt cheated after reading this book. The author didn't deliver. The book started by setting up an interesting world where there are diverse cultures and the main character is called back to the most important kingdom of this world after the death of her parents, as she is the granddaughter of the reigning leader. This old king has three heirs, a niece, a nephew, and the granddaughter and is taking the measure of them all to see which one he will confer the kingdom on after his death. This ruling family has the ability to command the so called gods of this world, as there is a lot of mythology entwined into the culture of the world in the novel. Instead of taking this interesting premise into what could have been a book worth reading, the author makes it all about the main character lusting after the dark god of the world's mythology and the story premise goes nowhere. Much that happens in the story does not make sense, especially the ending.

     Oh well, 2 1/2 (1/2 for the Jeffrey Ford book), busts in the 12 reads chosen from my TBR shelves is not so bad I guess. After the Jemison book I tried reading a YA book that my granddaughter expressed interest in, to preview it, so I could judge whether I wanted to let her have the book and was again disappointed at the snotty and ridiculous characters in that book, so that one went into the circular file as well. I used to have an aversion to throwing away any book, but lately it feels like I have encountered more garbage books than usual and no longer feel bad about throwing the drek away or returning it to the library unfinished. I then turned to a reliable author for a quick and interesting read to get the bad taste out of my mouth from two bad books in a row. This happened to be Lincoln Child's Full Wolf Moon, which the same granddaughter also expressed interest in and I wanted to preview that as well before giving it to her to read. While his stuff may not be earth shattering literature, I have always received a good, action filled story, with various twists and turns, and have never felt cheated out of my time when finishing one of his books. (I read the book in two days and did not feel cheated out of my time, in fact, I think I will let my teenage granddaughter read it.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Mid Summer Blues

I'm melting,'s been a long hot summer here filled with 100 degree weather days and little or no rain since June. It's also been a challenging year health wise with some serious consequences on my side of the aisle making it hard to keep up with posting, when getting through the day without constant pain, and being able to walk up the stairs and open a jar with arthritic hands is an event for celebration. I am happy to report though that my "Read Your Shelves" book challenge, that was a goal of mine this year, is going very well!

Another book, not on my challenge list but that a co-worker tempted me with and could not pass up.
Having my granddaughter, who lives across the country, visit each summer is also something I look forward to every year as well. This year plans changed and were cut a bit shorter than originally planned but we had a great visit and I was able to be well enough to do some hiking with her, enjoying the beauty of where I live, engaging in a curiosity for nature together, and affirming to myself that I don't have to accept the fate of an "I am sick and unable to function mentality."

I am about half way through the last book of my reading challenge and have been busy writing up reviews for the books on the challenge. That post will follow shortly.

One of the books I read that was not on my TBR Challenge list. I loved this series!

My granddaughters and I hiked up the mountain to see this cave which is a national monument.
The mountain trail to the cave.
Inside the cave.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

                       The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. By Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

                                                                   Book Review

This book was a real brick I mean it was a full 700+ pages long and the hard cover was a good two inches thick and weighed a ton to tote around while I was reading it. I was doubtful when I began that I would ever actually get through it. (Just finishing it is an accomplishment to me.) That having been said, it was also my first foray into ever reading something by either of the authors.

The premise of the book was intriguing... a secret government agency that uses time travel to try and bring back magic into the world. I had heard of Stevenson before and wanted to read something by him so I chose this book. My local library happened to have a nice new copy of D.O.D.O. on the shelf. This book was not quite what I was expecting (I don't really know what I was expecting) but I was highly entertained by it even though the prospect of slogging through 700 pages of it was a bit daunting. If I didn't have such bad insomnia maybe I would have never finished it. Keep in mind though I have no other works by either author to compare it to. I also would not shy away from reading something else or something previously written by either author in the future.

Mix up a studious intellectual type, a straight jacket military type, a bit of romantic tension, throw in some physics and time travel, a few scheming witches, romps through historical times such as Puritanical New England and the smelly streets of 1800's London-in a bawdy house, a cunning banking family named Fukker-I mean Fugger, and a hilarious Viking raid on a WalMart and you will have an idea of what to expect from this book. On it's face its all a bit absurd so you can't be expecting some serious look at human nature that will astonish philosophers into the 25th century. The whole premise of the book is meant as entertainment. If you like plays on words and to poke fun at corporate seriousness you will smile while reading this book. It's a bit of irreverent fun without taking itself too seriously. I rather enjoyed the different forms of getting the story across- diary entries, journals, letters to an Irish pirate queen from her trusty spy- the whore, office communications, silly policy pronouncements, and the odes of Viking warriors. The reader was able to experience the story from different points of view. But there is no denying it was a long book, probably too long.

After reading it I looked at some of the book reviews on Amazon and it seemed that a lot of people were disappointed by the ending or they were expecting some earth shattering insights into the human condition from this book. I thought the ending was appropriate and was satisfied by it, I was not disappointed in my quest to read for a diversion from the seriousness of life. The ending did not scream out "sequel" to me like it did to other people and if the authors choose to write additional novels about the characters in D.O.D.O. I will decide then if I desire to read more of them. The ending let me use my imagination about what the main characters, Tristan and Mel, would be up to now, and the thought also crossed my mind that it might make an entertaining T.V. Series. 
Authors Neal Stevenson and Nicole Galland

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Borne by Jeff review

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (2017)

This is the most recent version of cover art, but the thing on the front does not really seem to me like the creature that is described in the book.
I heard about this book from various literary sources as a hot title for 2017, and after reading the sample on my kindle decided to continue on and read the whole book. This is probably one of the weirdest books I've ever read besides Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. You have to be able to suspend all logical belief and accept bizarre realities when you delve into this post-apocalyptic, eco-disaster type of book that seems like a melding of Science Fiction and Fantasy put together. 

Depiction of the giant murderous bear Mord.
In this book you will find a giant Godzilla type flying monster bear, memory beetles, alcohol minnows, bio tech run amok, scenes of pollution and desolation and a blobby anemone type creature that learns to talk and can't stop "sampling" any kind of life it encounters. The dialogue between the books narrator, Rachel, and the blobby creature Borne (which is where the book gets its title) is entertaining, heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. 

An entry in the Bourne art contest, from the author's blog.

Overall, this book has a dark tone and its rather like a grizzly auto accident that you can't look away from. It makes you think, makes you depressed, and tends to drag a bit in the middle by almost being too morose. 

The ending did satisfy me but it certainly did not tie up all the loose ends that were brought up in the book as the story unfolds, if it had been too neatly explained at the end it would have ruined the books impact in my opinion. Vandermeer fans will enjoy the descriptive, lyrical writing of the author but be prepared for some emotional baggage as you read it. I can't figure out if I liked reading it or regret it. I am not in a hurry to read more books by this author, but he does have a fantastic imagination and a talent for pulling you into the world in the book. During the reading I was recovering from a partial disability so it fit with the emotional zone I was in at the time.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Read Your Shelves!

Read Your Bookshelves!

For many readers the new year brings new book reading challenges. Some people love book challenges, some don't. I am of two minds about them. I like them and I feel trapped by them as well.... It is nice to have a goal to work for, and then when you accomplish it, rewarding to check it off and give yourself a nice pat on the back. The downside to that is you also might be the type to beat yourself up mentally if you happened to not reach your reading goal. I find reading goals do tend to motivate me but I often I start to feel like I can't read anything else unless it is within the confines of the specific challenge and then there is another book I am really interested in reading, but it does not fit in the challenge, so I am reluctant to start it but not all that interested in reading the next challenge book. I've decided on a compromise reading challenge that allows me to have some goals to accomplish but yet gives me some flexibility to deviate from the plan a bit and read as my heart desires as well. I'm excited about it!

This challenge, the "Read Your Bookshelves Challenge" serves two purposes- you get to more fully enjoy the books you already have on your shelves, and you get to set and reach some reading goals. This is a 12-month challenge, with 12 books as the goal. You can approach it in two ways. The first way is to just go to your bookshelves and grab one book. That is book number one for your challenge. Then you grab 11 other books next to it on the same shelf and they become the rest of the books in your challenge. Make a nice list and have fun crossing each book off as you read it. It is an achievable goal of 12 books. The second approach is that you start with one of your bookshelves and grab a book off of it. After you get that first book chosen, proceed to choose one book from each of your successive bookshelves and they become your challenge reading books. Again, it is nice to make a list and post it someplace so you can see your wonderful progress as you work your way through all 12 books in the challenge.

Knowing myself, I will read more than 12 books in a year, but this kind of challenge allows me to have a realistic, not an intimidating, goal and still have the ability to follow my reading whims if I decide to delve into a particular genre or author in a more specific way. I still get the satisfaction of reading the books I already have (a long term goal of mine), and not being trapped to only read specific titles I chose one day at the beginning of the year. 

Here's my Read Your Bookshelves Challenge list for 2018:

Read Your Bookshelves Challenge (I went with each successive shelf and my shelves are arranged alphabetically by author. I stuck Spillover in at the end because I wanted another science book in the list and because I had also just purchased it.) You can read them in any order you desire or you can work your way through the list in order.

  • The Creative Brain (Nancy Andreasen)
  • Between a Heart and a Rock Place; A Memoir (Pat Benatar)
  • Academ's Fury #2 Codex Alera (Jim Butcher) (I read #1 previously)
  • Graceling (Kristin Cashore)
  • Crossed (Ally Condie)
  • Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories (various)
  • A Darkness Forges in Fire ( Chris Evans)
  • The Fantasy Writer's Assistant (Jeffrey Ford)
  • The Jaguar Prophecies ( P. Gunderson)
  • Twice Told Tales (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin)
  • Spillover; Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (D. Quammen)
This list is a nice variety of genres-Science, Fiction and Non-Fiction, Fantasy, YA, Ghost Stories, and Literature, right up my alley! Now your job is to make your own list and get reading!!!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Reads; Bunches of Books!

 Another fulfilling year of reading. As usual I have scattered my favorite genres in the midst of all the books. I will always be curious about the supernatural and include stories of both "fact" and "fiction"about it in my reading choices. Science fiction, Fantasy, and History are usually favorite categories, too. I had a goal of 70 books total for the year and I have made it to 68 with a few more hours left in the year, and I am currently about half way through the next book that I  am currently reading.   

Only a few things on this years list would be considered busts- those being Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkein, which I just could not get into, even though I love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books by this author. Maybe it was my mindset, I'm not sure, it was not that fulfilling to delve into. The other bust was one which seemed to have so much potential but made me want to skip all future zombie stories ever, it was the compilation Zombies vs. Unicorns, it had such a fun premise but really, only the unicorn stories were good! I'm just not a zombie type of gal even though I liked I am Legend in both book and movie forms, but not having liked the zombie book The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and never getting into The Walking Dead in any way, shape, or form. 

The other disappointment was Cassandra Claire's City of Bones series. The first one or two books were good but the series devolved after that. It became full of angst that was never resolved, made me dislike the characters for their spineless personalities, and became an uninteresting story of Alex, an older teen who did not have a starring role (but was always a support character) trying to have a relationship with an ageless warlock. One of the main characters, Jase, also turned into an abusive twit and I could go on no longer. There are so many other better things to be read and I felt a bit cheated after investing time into four of the author's novels. (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, then I stopped.) Generally I enjoy reading YA but it is hard to stomach characters doing these earth shattering feats and then being immature boo boos while they make a bunch of stupid decisions that just increase their trouble, making the reader feel like the carrot that is out of reach is not worth the effort to catch by reading further.

I always enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's series about Precious and the Ladies Detective Agency and am slowly working my way through it. (I have not seen any of the TV adaptations so cannot offer any comparison there.) In fact, I can reliably turn to that series when I am looking for something interesting to read and want some consistency I can count on from an author.

I explored more of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series and like the character of Kitty (she is a werewolf with a late night radio show), better now that she has learned to stick up for herself. Kitty predictably gets herself into unusual circumstances and always entertains as she works her way out of them. Carrie Vaughn wins the jackpot for the author I read the most books from (8) this year.

Now that I have read all the Gideon and Agent Pendergast books by Preston and Child, I explored some of their other writings together as a winning author pair and as separate authors, they never dissapoint. I purchased Child's newest Full Wolf Moon (Jeremy Logan series) and I am impatiently awaiting the January release of their newest Agent Pendergast book, City of Endless Night. Preston does a good job writing non-fiction as well (Dinosaurs in the Attic, Lost City of the Monkey God, etc.)

Hot off the press was Pullman's Book of Dust. Having enjoyed the golden compass books I was looking forward to this new one. It is set in the time when Lyra, of the golden compass series, is a baby. It is a good mix of real and fantasy, but the author belabored some of his anti-religious dogma a little too much in it. I don't remember this really being a problem in the previous books but some people find this aspect of his writing a good reason to like his books. He tells a good fantasy with engaging characters and that is why I read his books. It does not really matter to me what his political or religious views are if he is telling a good story and can deliver that to the reader without being too preachy about it.

Titles I read for exploring more gothic literature were Ghost Stories of California, Ghost Stories of Virginia, She is not Invisible, The Foreshadowing, Oxford Book of 20th Century Ghost Stories, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Kwaidan Stories of the Strange, Porcelain, Among the Shadows, Dark Shadows Angelique's Descent, April's Grave, Call in the Night, Ghostlight, In Ghostly Japan, and The Haunted House Handbook (15).

I discovered a new author of classic science fiction, Clifford Simak, and read two titles by him, The Trouble with Tycho, and Way Station. I might have to visit Way Station again, it is that kind of story. He is an oldie but somehow I had never read anything by him before. I hope to read some more of his work in the coming year.

When I moved my residence back in 2000, packing was made easier by donating many of the books I had to the local second-hand charity store. I regretted that decision later and have tried to rebuild some of the series I had then but had not been able to read yet. I can say I have remade a healthy library here in this house, now book shelves seem to be taking over! That is perfectly fine with me, but then again I am not the only one that lives here. My challenge now is finding a place for everything. I alphabetized my books by author recently instead of by genre which is how I had it before and it is a bit easier to keep track of what I have now. One of the ways I'd like to work through reading in 2018 is by taking one book from each successive shelf and going through my library that way to get a nice variety of subjects and different authors to read. I have to limit trips to the library or else I will always be reading books I don't own and would never work my way through the "to be read" shelves here in the house. 

Definitely on my list of author's next year are: Brandon Sanderson, Preston and Child (together and separate, and Carrie Vaughn. I'd also like to catch up with the full books of some titles I have read previews of on kindle, and I'd like to delve into more History and science/medical stuff this year.

2017 Reading List

  1. Ghost Stories of California by Barbara Smith (True tales of ghostly encounters in California)
  2. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith (Book 10 of the Ladies' Detective Agency series)
  3. The Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (oldie but goodie Children's literature)
  4. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith (#9 in series)
  5. Ghost Stories of Virginia by Dan Asfar (True tales of ghostly encounters in Virginia)
  6. There Were Jaredites by Hugh Nibley (Ancient History and religion)
  7. Atlantis Rising Issues (New age book-magazine publication)
  8. She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick (YA and fits in gothic category)
  9. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe (Poe!)
  10. Porcelain by Benjamin Read (Gothic graphic novel, independent press in the UK)
  11. Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake (Science and a bit of new ageness)
  12. Among the Shadows by L.M. Montgomery (author of Little House on the Prairie books, but this is a compilation of gothic tales)
  13. Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston (Non-fiction, archeology discovery in Central America)
  14. Oxford Book of 20th Century Ghost Stories Ed. By Michael Cox (A meaty offering of tales)
  15. The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick (YA and a bit gothic)
  16. Tales From the Perilous Realm by J.R.R Tolkein (Fantasy/Folk Tales)
  17. The Ice Limit by Preston and Child (Action and Adventure)
  18. Beyond the Ice Limit by Preston and Child (Action and Adventure)
  19. Kwaidan Stories of the Strange by Leftcadio Hearn (Ghost and strange stories/asian)
  20. The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child (Action and Adventure, mystery)
  21. Deep Storm by Lincoln Child (Action and Adventure)
  22. Dark Shadows Angelique's Descent by Lara Parker (Old soap opera popular in the 70's, continuing drama with Barnabus Collins the Vampire)
  23. The Abraham Enigma by Jack Lyons (LDS author, Adventure)
  24. Readings in Social Studies: Ancient Times Prentice Hall Library (compilation)
  25. The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (#11 in the series)
  26. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith (#12 in the series)
  27. April's Grave by Susan Howatch (70's gothic)
  28. Call in the Night bySusan Howatch (70's gothic)
  29. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith (#13 in series)
  30. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis (YA Fantasy)
  31. The Companions by R.A. Salvatore (Fantasy)
  32. Ghostlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley (70's gothic)
  33. City of Bones by Cassandra Claire (YA Urban fantasy)
  34. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn (Paranormal/fantasy)
  35. City of Ashes by Cassandra Claire (YA Urban Fantasy)
  36. Billy Blacksmith Demon Slayer by Ben Ireland (YA Urban Fantasy)
  37. Unfettered: compiled by Patrick Rothfuss (Sci Fi collection of stories)
  38. Underground Bases by James and Lance Morcan (NF)
  39. Beyond the Fur by Tammy Billups (NF for animal lovers)
  40. Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn (Paranormal/fantasy)
  41. Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn (Para/fantasy)
  42. Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn (Para/fantasy)
  43. Classic Mystery Stories by Dover (Mystery)
  44. Low Midnight by Carrie Vaughn (Para/fantasy)
  45. City of Glass by Cassandra Claire (Urban fantasy)
  46. In Ghostly Japan by Leftcadio Hearne (Paranormal tales with a Japanese twist)
  47. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Claire (Urban fantasy)
  48. Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy)
  49. Refuge of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy)
  50. The Trouble with Tycho by Clifford Simak (Science Fiction)
  51. The Haunted House Handbook by D. Scott Rogo (NF)
  52. Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy)
  53. Stuff Matters by Mark Midownik (NF)
  54. A Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley (Fantasy)
  55. The BFG by Roald Dahl (Children's Lit Fantasy)
  56. Old Venus by G R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Sci Fi compilation of stories)
  57. Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black (Fantasy compilation of stories)
  58. Dr. Mutter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz (NF, medical/science)
  59. The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp (Children's Lit/fantasy)
  60. The Return of the Dragon by Rebecca Rupp (Children's Lit/fantasy)
  61. Kitty's Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn (Paranormal/fantasy)
  62. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Preston and Child (Action and Adventure/mystery)
  63. The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman (Fantasy)
  64. Justinian's Flea by William Rosen (NF, History, Roman Empire, Science, Biology of plague)
  65. The Golden Age of Science Fiction Volume 1. (compilation)
  66. Proofread of a new book, not yet published (Sci Fi)
  67. Way Station by Clifford Simak (Sci Fi)
  68. The Reaper by Eric Niven (Western)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Sunflower field in Nebraska.
I am native to North and South America, I follow the direction of the sun. Helianthus is my genus and my family is Asteraceae. The common variety that will grow in a field or your yard is known as Helianthus annuus. Flowers can range from a few inches to about a foot (.30 meters) in diameter. I am a sunflower. Helios means sun and anthos means flower, hence my name, sunflower.

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
My sister decorated her kitchen with sunflower decor, Van Gogh made a famous painting using the them, if you drive through the state of Nebraska or through the great plains, you will see fields and fields of sunflowers from your car window as you are zipping down the highway. Tourists enamored with Tuscany will conjure up pictures of sunflowers fields as they dream of their romantic getaway. (Those sunflowers originally came from North America.)
Sunflowers are a common and popular symbol. Their usual yellow stands for "sunniness" generally meaning happiness. No matter how hard we try to eradicate them, we usually get a bunch of volunteer wild sunflowers growing on the edges of our vegetable garden each year. I usually leave them be if they are getting bigger because they provide a lot of cover for the wild birds and also feed them with the delectable seed heads in the fall and winter. The stalks are tall and tough and sometimes a bit difficult to remove when clearing out the garden bed but I wind up liking them there because they are fascinating to watch grow. Right now we have some wild ones growing at least ten feet tall along the garden patch. The birds and bees are always flitting through them.
Sunflower field in Tuscany

I found out some interesting tidbits of information recently after staring at the sunflowers in my yard and deciding I wanted to learn more about them. All species of the sunflower are native to North America (explorers brought them to Italy in the 18th century where they were first used as ornamental plants), except for three species that are native to South America. Sunflower roots are used in herbal medicine, the leaves are used in teas, the flowers are used in dyes, and the stalks are used as fiber in paper and cloth. The seeds, of course are used as food for humans and animals and for oil, in grain products such as bread, or made into a butter like peanut butter. 

The oil is considered a premium oil because of the mild flavor and light color, low saturated fat content. There are the black oil-seeded types (used as oil and bird feed) and striped seeded types, most often used as a snack. Sunflower roots are said to clean soil up from lead or arsenic contamination. Because they are known to clean up toxic substances, millions of them were planted in Japan after a tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear reactor to help rid the ground of radiation poisoning. 

Fukushima, Japan
Each sunflower is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. The type of flower is a composite of disk flowers and ray flowers. The disk flowers are in the center and each disk flower makes one seed. The ray flowers are generally yellow and surround the middle containing the disk flowers.
The ray flowers can be fried up and cooked as food. Sunflowers are fast growers classed as annuals. When they are growing the emerging flower head follows the sun in the sky as it grows. After blooming it stops this behavior of following the direction of the sun, which is known as "heliotropism". At sunrise the heads will face east and by the time sunset arrives they will face west. They are generally easy to grow, requiring adequate water and a place that gets lots of sunshine in the garden. The French word for sunflower is tournesol, and it means 'turns-with-the sun', the Italian word is girasole, meaning sun-turner. Sunflower seeds which arise from the tiny disk flowers, are arranged in spirals in the flower head. The spirals in the head follow the Fibonacci sequence, which is an amazing mathematical formula found in many places in nature such as flowers, sea shells and in the proportions of living things.

Sunflowers have disk flowers and ray flowers.
Spirals in a sunflower head

Sunflowers are pretty amazing.

Closeup view of the disk flowers of the suflower.