Monday, April 25, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves: A Novel (Hardcover)The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova-My brief review on Goodreads said that this book had a lot of potential...all the way to the end.  I still kind of feel that way.  I really liked The Historian, so I was excited to read this, and I really don't have much to say except..."Meh."

I liked the idea behind this story, I liked watching it unfold, I had fun looking up pieces of art online while I was reading, and yet something fell flat with me here, and I can't quite figure out why.  There was a lot of mystery involved, and even though I pretty much had a handle on where the story was going, I didn't necessarily feel like the mystery wasn't good; but I think I kept waiting for there to be an additional twist or a more emotional revelation of the tale or...something.  Augh.  I hate feeling this way about a book.  The only notes that I have for this entire book are:

--Changing narratives didn't really work--voices all pretty similar.


--Love scenes

So.  There you have it.  I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend against reading it, but I wouldn't tell you to rush out and put it at the top of your list either.

Since that's about all I have to say about the story itself, I'll add that I downloaded the Art Authority app to use as a reference while reading.  It's kind of a fun app, and it's a good way to explore art in general--you can explore by period, artist, title, subject, and location; but I think if you are looking for a specific piece, saaaaay...something with swans as the subject, you're better off just Googling whatever it is that you're looking for.

I'd love to hear some other opinions on this, especially if you also read The Historian.  If you liked one, did you like the other?  (I'd like your opinion even if you didn't read The Historian!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Annual Yard Update

Well, I seem to have a habit of missing April's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, as I did once again this year.  I wonder what's up with that?  It's also sort of become a tradition for me to take stock of my yard every April.  Mostly, this had to do with seeing the progress of my lime tree each year, but now I include most of the rest of the yard too.  I think everything has matured to a point where there's not too much difference in growth from year-to-year, but I still like to see what, if anything, has changed.  So, this probably won't be too exciting for anyone else, but you're all welcome to come along with me!

April, 2010

April, 2011-Not much has changed here except that my Puakenikeni (the tree in the foreground) has put on some new growth.

April, 2010

April, 2011-Not much has changed here either except that I've added a few pots, my red ti is coming up nicely next to my orange pot, and I haven't yet trimmed back my Euphorbia leucocephala (in the center, behind the blue flowers).  Maybe I won't this year, and we'll just see what happens.  It's a huge job--it's not that I mind the pruning, but they are full of that white sticky sap which makes it much more of a chore since I do my best to crawl around in the bushes without getting covered in sap.     

No before and after here, just a lizard saying, "Hello?" before he ran away screaming, "My eyes!  MY EYES!"  I probably should have turned the flash off.  Sorry, lizard dude.

April, 2010

April, 2011--My Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) has gotten a little bit taller, Mocha has moved, and my patio is considerably more full of weeds, but luckily you can't tell that from this picture!

FYI, the Monstera make for very dramatic arrangements--with or without flowers! (That's a standard-sized vase, about 12" tall.)

April, 2010

April, 2011-Wow, all of my palms have grown up quite a bit--you can hardly see the variegated hau that is growing along the top of the rock wall.  Also, my palms have started fruiting--I'm not sure what they are, but you know I'm documenting the progression!

April, 2010

April, 2011--The biggest change here is the addition of my Big Orange Pot.  The scale is hard to get in the picture, but it's about thigh-high...if it were a pair of stockings, it would be really sexy.  Anyway, since I got it from Tropical Garden Accents, I've liked it, but I haven't been sure it was the right choice. (It was on sale, so that helped...)  Now, being able to see the before and after, I really like it!  It makes the whole yard seem so much more vibrant...or that could just be my camera.  Nah, I'm gonna go ahead and credit the pot--that just adds to my conviction that it was the right choice.  The two oranges that are growing the pot are a nice touch as well.

April, 2010

April, 2011--Yay!  I love my new pot!

April, 2010--Finally, my lime tree.  Huh.  Seems like I could have taken a better picture last year.
April, 2011--Not much difference in my lime tree, but my Monstera is almost hiding our neighbors' house.  Wow!  I didn't realize how overgrown that has become.  See?  That's why it's good for me to do these comparisons every year.

Well, the transformation from 2010 to 2011 hasn't been all that exciting; 2009 to 2010 was a lot more dramatic.  Be sure to come back next year--by then maybe my Monstera can do its own write-up!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I think my fruit is confused.

I have oranges the size of eggs,

Limes the size of oranges,

and tomatoes the size of blueberries.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-The Angel's Game

The Angel's GameThe Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated by Lucia Graves-I never know whether to give credit to an author or translator when I feel that a book is beautifully written--was it as lovely in its original language as it is in English or did the translator add her own flair to make it sound better?  Either way, I thought it was beautiful--very atmospheric and disappearable (meaning it was easy for me to disappear completely into the story).  I suppose "engrossing" or "consuming" would work, but what better reason to make up words than to describe a story?  What words do you use to describe stories like this?

Well, David Martín had lots of words--he is a writer in 1920's Barcelona, wasting his talent writing serial novels for a less-than-reputable publishing house when a mysterious man comes to him with an offer--a hundred thousand francs for one year's work.  The commission is something I won't give away, but the money's good and David accepts.  I was fascinated by the job he was offered and was looking forward to how the project would take shape, but that's not really where this book goes; and while I'd still like to see that story played out, I'm not at all disappointed with where it went instead.  I liked David and was rooting for him, but at one point we get a hint that David might not be an entirely reliable narrator and that there might be a much darker side than what we've been seeing.  Throughout the book, things spiral downward into darker and darker revelations, and to the end we are left wondering what is really going on, but in a good, ooooh-was-he-or-wasn't-he? kind of way, not in a WTF?? kind of way.          

Although it's been on my TBR list for a while now, I haven't read Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind, but I know that some of the characters carry over into The Angel's Game, and The Cemetary of Forgotton Books makes a reappearance.  All in all, I'm quite happy that I discovered this book on my library's "New Arrivals" shelf!

**Random Extra Bits***

The Cemetary of Forgotton Books is "a colossal labyrinth of bridges, passages, and shelves full of hundreds of thousands of books, forming a gigantic library of seemingly impossible perspectives."  The rules:  "Article one:  The first time somebody comes here he has the right to choose a book, whichever one he likes, from all the books there are in this place.  Article two:  upon adopting a book you undertake to protect it and do all you can to ensure it is never lost.  For life."  That in itself is cool, but what I thought was even cooler was that on the same day that I was reading about this place of forgotton books, I stumbled across a Care's Weekly Geeks post (prompted by this Weekly Geeks...prompt) that talks about forgotton words and how you can adopt one of your own...just like a forgotton book!  I haven't committed to anything yet, but I kind of like snollygoster.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-Changeless

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate)Changeless by Gail Carriger-Changeless is the second book in The Parasol Protectorate series, and like its predecessor, Soulless, this book was a fun take on the supernatural in Victorian England (and Scotland).  One of the things that made Soulless a fun read was the heat between Miss Tarabotti and Lord Maccon.  The heat is still there in Changeless, but now that Miss Tarabotti is Lady Maccon it's a little more...discreet, which is sort of the way it goes, isn't it?

Lady Maccon wakes one morning to find her husband, Lord Maccon, the alpha werewolf of the Woolsey pack, in a frenzy.  It seems that all of the supernaturals in the London area--werewolves, vampires, ghosts--have suddenly lost their supernatural abilities.  To date the only known power against a supernatural (one with an excess of soul) is a preternatural (someone without a soul) Lady Maccon; but the only way for her to affect change (or lack of change, as it were) is through direct physical contact.  The phenomenon seems to be on the move and is affecting large areas. Eventually the Londoners regain their abilities to change into werewolf and vampire forms (alas, all the ghosts have been exorcised and are gone), but soon it is clear that Lord Woolsey's former pack in Scotland is suffering from this plague as well, and it seems to have stalled there.  The pack is currently without an alpha male (Lord Maccon abandoned them and their new alpha is dead) and lacking an ability to change into wolf form, so they are in a rather vulnerable state.  

As head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, Lord Woolsey takes off to Scotland to investigate, leaving his wife to take matters into her own scientifically-minded hands in London.  Lady Maccon is naturally curios about  what is happening, but she is also well aware that, given her rare preternatural state, she is at the top of the list of suspects.  After consulting with her flamboyant vampire friend, Lord Akeldama, and her new acquaintance, Madame Lefoux, the lady scientist who runs a hat shop and likes to dress in men's clothing, Lady Maccon decides to head off to Scotland in a dirigible.  At the last minute she is encumbered with her bubble-headed but endearing friend who, although recently engaged, has a slight crush on Lord Maccon's assistant and werewolf hopeful, and her style-over-substance half-sister who has been dumped on her doorstep by her exasperated mother.  They go to Scotland, hijinks ensue, a mystery is solved, and all is well...until the end where things go awry and we are left waiting for the next book, Blameless.