Monday, March 30, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - I have not done this review yet, but I wanted to get a placeholder up for the Weekly Geeks 2009-12 project so that anyone else who has reviewed this can add their links here. So, if you have reviewed this book, please let me know, and once I get my review up, I will include your links. Thanks!!

Weekly Geeks 2009-12: Link it up!

Gosh, I have a hard time keeping up with the Weekly Geeks. I think a Week-and-a-half-ly Geeks schedule would work better for me, but I am on board this week! We are working on updating our blogs so that our book review posts link to other reviews of the same book. All Weekly Geeks (and anybody else) please take a look at my "Past Book Reviews" list in my sidebar. If you have read any of the books that I have reviewed, please let me know, and I will add a link to your review at the end of my review. You can leave a comment here, or you can leave a comment on the review itself. Don't worry about it being an old post-I will see the comment come up for moderation. Don't forget to give me the link to your actual review, not just to your blog! :)

What I'm Reading Now-The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas-Wow. Where to begin? First of all, the edition I read (Modern Library, pictured and linked here) had 1462 pages-this is not a quick read! You may remember I started reading this back in January. Let me see if I can sum this up...

Okay, 1800s France, Edmond Dantès has been wrongly accused of conspiring with the Bonapartists. He is scheduled to marry the love of his life, and is thrown in jail on the eve of his marriage. When he finally emerges years later, his loved ones are dead, have disappeared, or are in dire straits, and he is a little bitter. Wouldn't you be? He spends the next 1200 or so pages plotting and carrying out his revenge, and it is pretty sweet, I have to say. I would kind of like to hire Edmond Dantès, actually. I have a few people whose names he could put on his list. This man has nothing but time and money on his hands, and he makes excellent use of it. He is not purely evil though, lest you get the wrong idea. He still has a strong moral code, and he also makes it a point to reward those who have been good to him.

I have to say, by about page 1200 or so, I knew pretty much where he was going with everything, and he could have just gotten on with it by then, and I sort of felt like the buildup of the revenge and the anticipation was much more satisfying than the actual carrying out of the revenge in a lot of cases...perhaps that says more about me and my nature than it does about the writing...

Anyway, there is a lot of background reading here, scenes being played out, introductions being made, conversations being had, and I kept sort of thinking, Where's the action? but then I realized that this was all story telling in one of the finest forms I've ever seen. I don't think there was anything superfluous in these 1462 pages. Certainly, things could have been done more quickly and with less detail (see how nicely I condensed the entire 1462 pages into 3 sentences above?). but then you lose a bit of the richness of the story (again, see same 3 sentences). There are hidden treasures, wrongful incarcerations, bandits, uninhabited islands, disguises, Mardi Gras celebrations, suspense, bankruptcies, Greek slaves, love, unrequited love, murder, illicit drugs, public executions, and, of course, revenge! All of these play out from the very beginning to the very end in this rich, rich story.

In the third installment of the 2009 Weekly Geeks, the subject was classic literature. People were asked to talk about their relationships to classics-love them, hate them, afraid of them-and to recommend some classics for those who may be curious but a little intimidated. Many people listed The Count of Monte Cristo as one of their favorites, and I can see why. In fact, that particular Weekly Geeks is what prompted me to pick up this classic, and I'm so glad I did! (I will try to get some links up a bit later to other WGs who mentioned The Count of Monte Cristo. I just wanted to get this post out so that I can take my way overdue copy back to the library!)

One tip for the reader (and potential minor spoiler): If, around page 588, you think a certain character has died, and then you see him show up again around page 655, and you think WTH? but you keep reading and by page 800 you're still thinking, WTH??, don't go back and skim through the last 700 or so pages trying to figure it out (although in those 700 pages you will probably find a lot of little things that you didn't pick up on before). On about page 851 it will be explained. I'm just sayin'.

One thing that I had a hard time with, besides the lengthiness, was that the entire plot revolved around what seemed to be a huge number of coincidences, but really, when I considered the time span of the story (about 20 years or so) there really was time for all the pieces to be put into place and fall the way they did. Another thing that was difficult for me was keeping track of all that was happening. I am not very familiar with the setting, and I kept having to go back and re-read things to figure out what was happening from a historical stand-point and who everybody was. Monsieur de Villefort is the son of Monsier Noirtier (of course!) and Mademoiselle Morrell is now Madame Herbault and Albert in Rome is Viscount Morcerf in France, etc. As I said, there is very little, if any, throw-away material in this book, so if you miss something early on, it's probably going to be important later.

I think this is a book that is definitely worth reading once, and I can certainly see why it is considered a classic. It would probably be worth reading a second time to pick up all those little details that I missed the first time around...but I don't know if I ever will. It was a lot of work, but worth it.

What other Weekly Geeks thought about this classic:

Maree at Just Add Books put in a hearty effort earlier in the year, but had a rough time making it all the way through. I hope she is able to pick it back up-half of a 1400+ page book is a lot to read to then not read the other half.

At Master Musings by Michelle, Michelle points out that TCoMC provides a nice "manly" option in the classics.

Melissa at Book Nut discusses The Three Muskateers and TCoMC here. I felt much the same way about the writing as she did.

Courtney at Galt's Gulch provides a great review too.

Have you read The Count of Monte Cristo? If not, have I inspired you or scared you away for life? (Or am I just giving myself way too much credit?) If so, what did you think?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs

Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs by Andy Hillstrand, Jonathan Hillstrand, and Malcolm MacPherson - This book made me laugh out loud, mostly at the antics of the Hillstrand brothers during their childhood, growing up in Homer, Alaska and on the Bering Sea, but also some of their adult perspectives on life.

Andy Hillstrand on his reputation as the guy who can fix things:
I can fix things. It is as simple as that. And I can outwit, most of the time, the humble crab or the predictable salmon. I fix stuff all the time; I get it running good again. I am doing that all the time. People need me. [...]I fix what I try to fix. Like if I have to fix my wife I say, "You look good, honey. Those pants look great on you."
"They make me look fat, don't they?"
"Oh, no, honey." See? I just fixed something.

There are 5 Hillstrand brothers, and I can't believe any of them made it past the age of about 10. One super-glued his eye shut, a couple of them have shot each other, one was in a tree so the others chopped it down, etc. I guess this sort of devil-may-care approach to life is what's needed if you are going to grow up to be a captain of a crab boat on the Bering Sea.

Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" is a show about crab fishing. I don't like crab. I am scared of the ocean. Fishing's ok, but I definitely have no interest in living on a fishing boat for weeks at a time. I hate the cold, and, overall, I'm a fairly girly girl. By all rights, I should have no interest in this show, but I LOVE it. You know how some people love being scared to death on a roller coaster? That's sort of how I am about this show. It combines all of my worst nightmares-30-,40-,even 50-foot seas, freezing temperatures, 36-hour work days, fish guts, 800-pound swinging metal crab pots, and a boat full of unshaven men who smell like fish guts-and rolls them all into one fascinating look at life aboard a crab boat. Time Bandit is one of the boats featured on the show, and two of the authors, Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand share the responsibilities of captaining the ship.

The book alternates narration between Jonathan and Andy and an occasional 3rd-party anonymous narration, which is kind of strange. Jonathan has gone out fishing on a small fishing boat and has lost power and is drifting at sea. As he tells his story he also tells about life aboard the Time Bandit. Andy has been informed of Jonathan's potential missing-at-sea status and his narration also goes back and forth between his present-day activities on his ranch and his thoughts about their time on the Bering Sea.

If you've watched the show, you will be familiar with a lot of the stories from the crab boat, particularly the two rescue attempts in which the Time Bandit was involved, racing against time, trying to pluck men out of the icy water before they died of hypothermia or drowned.

Overall, this was a quick enjoyable read, but I felt like it was sort of a patchwork of stories-"Let me tell you about this one time...and then there was this other time...and another time," etc. In the end, it all flowed together alright, and I imagine that's a lot how it would be if you actually sat down and talked to either one of these guys, but it didn't make for a very seamless reading.

If you like the show, you'd probably like the book, but I think the show is more gripping. If you've never watched the show, you should watch the show. Although the Hillstrands do a good job of describing life at sea, it's just hard to do justice to a rogue wave washing over the deck of a ship in 50-foot seas. It's much more impressive on-screen. Here's a peek at some of the nonsense these guys put up with:

This next clip is a bit of a spoiler if you're planning on reading the book, but still worth watching in my opinion. It's not like it will ruin the book, but this is the story that they are building up to toward the end of the book, so the book probably loses a little bit of its punch if you have already seen this...sooo...your choice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happiness A-Z: H

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading.  It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


Hawaii-I love living here.  It's warm and it's green, which were pretty much my main requirements when we moved from Nebraska, and now our friends visit us more!

Happiness-Well, duh, right?  Otherwise what's the point behind my Happiness A-Z project?  I'm not averse to wallowing in self-pity every once in a while or feeling sad when I'm sad, but overall, I like being happy.  

Heat-I HATE being cold.  It pisses me off.  

Humor/Hilarity-I like to laugh, especially the kind where you are laughing so hard you are crying and can't make any noise except for the occasional snort or wail.  This is the best if not always the most graceful!  "Recent" occurrences (recent being loosely interpreted to mean within the last 2-1/2 years) involve cheese, Salamander Man, and Tickle Me Almo.  I've told you my cheese story, which I realize is probably not that hilarious to anyone but me, but it was funny at the time.  Perhaps someday I will tell you about Salamander Man and Tickle Me Almo.  I bet you can't wait! 

Honesty-I've always been a pretty honest person, and I expect others to be the same way.  Sure, I'll tell the occasional white lie to spare someone's feelings or avoid a pointless confrontation, and there have been occasions where I might have exaggerated my inability to work due to some physical ailment (although, to be fair, I don't think I've ever outright lied about being ill, just the extent to which I thought it would affect my ability to make it in to and be productive at work.)  I have called in tired before.  It's a long drive, and I did not want to risk falling asleep at the wheel, and I didn't want to lie about being sick.  What?  It's a long, winding drive, and I didn't want to risk my life or anyone else's!  See?  Very honest.      

Houses-I am very happy about the fact that I have one right now.

Hounds-Traditionally, I think of Bassets and Bloodhounds (awwww!), but after reading about Jay's lovely Greyhounds, I see that they fit into the goofy, lovable hound category too. 

H sounds at the beginning of words-We are not in France, people; it's humor, not umor, historic, not istoric, and some other one that I've been hearing a lot of lately but can't think of. 
Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule like hour, honesty, and herb, (unless you're English, in which case you can say herb and pretty much anything else you want because it always sounds adorable.)


Friday, March 20, 2009

They do read my blog!

I told you guys the Toyota people read my blog!  How else do you explain this?  You think they came up with the idea for a sexy hybrid all on their own?  Not likely.  (No offense, Toyota.  Call me later, 'kay?)  

Thanks to lance_agena (who was retweeting Mollywood) for bringing this to my attention.  Y'all understand how exciting this is for me, right?!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Silversmyth is giving away jewelry!

I have mentioned my friend, Julie, a few times on my blog while trying to provide you with last-minute gift ideas, mostly because I never plan far enough ahead to just give you gift ideas.  Anyway, Julie makes beautiful, hand-crafted jewelry, mostly sterling silver, and now she is giving some of it away!  If you head over to blog right now, you can enter to win  a pair of sterling silver earrings.  Go!  Go now!   

Also, here's a tip for a great mother's day gift:  Buy your mom some jewelry from  See?  I can do non-last-minute gift ideas!  Also, Easter-when is Easter?  Ooh!  April 12, that gives you plenty of time to get yourself some pretty new earrings or a nice bracelet to wear to Easter services.  Cuz, you know, Easter's all about the bling.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-March

Wow, I completely forgot that today is GBBD!  Well, to check out what other people have going on in their gardens around the world, go check out May Dreams Gardens' Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post.

Here's what's blooming in my garden today.

First up, remember when I mysteriously found some orchids in my car?  Well, these were a part of that January 20th group, and they are still blooming!  It's hard to see in this picture, but the tops of the pedicels, the part where the stem meets the flower, is sort of fuzzy and bumpy, so it's almost like having a fuzzy pet of a flower!

Okay, next, remember how the birds have been germinating things for me?  Well, this is one of the sunflowers that resulted from that.  It's not exactly what I was expecting, but it was a nice surprise when I walked outside today.

Here are my miniature rose pots.  Can you tell it's been raining much?  This has been more or less the constant state of these pots since about November.  The one on the left has a small crack in it somewhere so manages to keep itself drained-I was actually surprised to find standing water in it today when I went out.  The one on the right I have to empty out on a regular basis, but it's a small price to pay.  I love my tiny roses, and they smell great too!

Speaking of things that smell great, let's move around to the front of the house and check out our pua kenikeni tree. You can see the newly-opened flowers, which are the light, creamy color, and an older orange flower.  These flowers are extremely fragrant, and every year around May/June, we have a little old lady from down the street that comes to our gate to ask if she can pick some flowers off our tree to make lei for graduation.

Continuing through the front yard, our lime tree is in flower.  I always check to see if these have any scent.  They never do.  But I always check.

Some chives that I inherited from a moving friend.  They've been blooming faithfully in their pot for a couple of years now.

And, finally, my blue plumbago, also inherited from a moving friend.  This is another one that is in pretty constant bloom.

So, there you have it, a peek at my March garden.  I hope you've enjoyed the tour!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happiness A-Z: G

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading.  It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


Grease - The first time I saw this movie, I think I was about five, and that's when my long-standing crush on Danny Zuko, uh, I mean John Travolta began.  I still like John Travolta; I'm glad he made a comeback with Pulp Fiction even if he wasn't in quite the same...ah...form, shall we say?  

Anyway, this is another movie that completely ruined high school for me.  I was never the mysterious adorable stranger from a foreign land, there was never a nationally-televised dance off in our gymnasium, nobody ever asked me to wear his ring in the middle of a drive-in movie, and we totally did not have our own private carnival on the last day of school where I was able to transform into a smokin' hottie and win over the man of my dreams in a skin-tight black leather-like outfit, bust out into perfectly-choreographed song and dance, and then drive off into the sunset in my boyfriend's FLYING CAR.  (I never really did get that part.)  I'm just glad that the Harry Potter books didn't come out while I was still a kid.  I would have spent my entire school career waiting for my letter from Hogwarts. 

Geckos - They are a common sight here in Hawaii, and I know some people are skeeved out by them, but I think they are cute.  I like the side-to-side wiggly way they move, and they eat all kinds of bugs (like cockroaches).  Plus, their cute little feet with their cute little round toes are pretty impressive from a scientific standpoint.  

Generosity - I don't just mean people with a lot of money that give to worthy causes, although that can count too.  I mean people who are genuinely generous in spirit, people who see a need and do what they can to fill it without thinking twice about it.  Whether it's lending somebody money, helping somebody on the side of the road, rescuing an animal stuck in the middle of traffic, feeding a stranger, or offering to teach somebody else how to do something just because they've expressed interest and you know how, this is an impressive quality.  My husband is amazing like this.  In fact, that was one of the things I realized about him on the night that we met that impressed me, and it still does today.  

Green -  I know those of you in the colder climates can relate to me on this one!  Green signals spring and life and new growth!  Green grass, green leaves on trees and flowers, I love it all!  (Green on my cheese or my bread, not so much, but that's ok, that's manageable.)  

Gardening - This encompasses my love of green.  I like to play in the dirt, I like to watch things grow and see how they develop.  I like worms; I don't mind picking them up and moving them from location to location.  I like discovering new bugs that are good to have in the yard, like Mealybug Destroyers aka Cryptolaemus montrouzieri-they look like black ladybugs, and their babies look like frosted shredded wheat with legs.  I'm serious.  If you ever see one you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 

I'm sure there are lots of other "G" things that make me happy, but for now, those are at the top of my mind, so I'm going to leave it at that.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thanks, we needed that!

Isn't it great when someone surprises you with something nice?  Shana, of So Not Zen, mentioned it here, and maybe it's something in the air because it seems to be going around.

On Saturday, we went to see Jimmy Buffet at the Waikiki Shell.  Long story short, we need to work on our planning.  The concert started at 7:00.  When we were still driving around looking for parking at 7:45, we were getting a little frustrated.  To be fair, I have never been to anything that has started on time in Hawaii, so I thought we had until at least 7:15 if not 7:30 before he would actually take the stage.  Turns out, Jimmy Buffet is one on-time performer, at least he was Saturday night.  

We finally decided to park in one of our standard, go-to parking spots about 1.2 miles from the Shell.  We started walking, not quite realizing how far away we were but finally decided it would be quicker to grab a cab.  We hailed a cab, and he came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road (I think we both thought the cab in front of him was going to stop for us, so when it didn't he had already passed by us.  Luckily, the road was fairly empty.)  We jumped in and said we were going to the Shell, and he was ON A MISSION.  He started sifting through radio channels, trying to find us some appropriate Shell music.  We assured him that wasn't necessary, but he insisted we needed something to set the mood.  He finally settled on some music that soon turned out to be the local Christian station, not exactly Jimmy Buffet at the Shell, but that's all right.  He was focused on driving at that point.  He got us to the auditorium, and the meter read $5.something.  My husband tried to hand over a $10 bill, but he waved it off and told us not to worry about it.  We just wanted us to go and have a good time.        

His timing could not have been better.  We were all stressed out and a bit harumphy from missing the first half of the concert, so this was a perfect re-set.  So, thank you, friendly cab man, whoever you are!  

P.S.  If anybody found a thin blue jacket/pull-over/fleecy thing in a cab around Waikiki on Saturday night, we'd really like to get it back.  While we really appreciate the intention of the free cab ride, we are a little bummed by the actual $40 cost of it.      

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Check me out!

I have just been included in the 33rd Festival of the Trees!  Doesn't that sound lovely? In my mind it consists of a huge, old-growth evergreen forest, complete with ribbons and music and baubles and dancing, probably with totally anthropomorphized Disney cartoon critters.  In reality, it is a very well-put-together collection of articles relating to trees.  I'm not going to tell you which article of mine was included, but if you've been around for very long, I'm sure you can guess.  Whether you can guess or not, please go check out  Local Ecologist's  wonderful compendium of festival submissions.  Whether you're reading about a tree you've never heard of before, reminiscing about your favorite childhood hiding place under the canopy of a great big maple, or just looking at the beautiful pictures, I'm sure you will find something to enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"You like me, right now, you like me!"

These, of course, are the famous words from Sally Field's 1985 acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. (It's right, look it up.) This is sort of how I felt when I popped in to read Heather J's blog a couple of weeks ago. There was a long list of awards she had received from other bloggers (rightfully so!) and was passing along to others. Well, one of the others was me! Yay, me!  Luckily, she did not list "responds promptly to awards" as the reason for my award.  So, without further ado, here is the award:

Proximidade Award

"This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes of self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

My choices for next round of this award are:

Heather J-Age 30+... A Lifetime of Books and not just because Heather gave me the award first! She was one of my earliest readers and commenters (thanks, Heather!) and is prolific in the blogging community-not only does she get together a good roundup of her blogging finds every week for the rest of us, but she is also active in several other blogs/blogging communities.
Florinda-The 3 R's:  Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness - Florinda brings together people from all over the blogosphere (in fact, I think one or two of my other awards are going to blogs I found via Florinda's site) and always has something insightful to say about whatever the topic-of-the-day happens to be.

Mike-Everything Under the Sun - I just like reading Mike's blog.  He is funny, yet down-to-earth and generally pretty light-hearted about this thing called life.

Carol-May Dreams Gardens - Carol is the famous host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day .  Visit her blog and you can see how much she loves gardening and helping out anyone else in their gardening endeavors.

Laurie-Crazy Aunt Purl - I've mentioned this blog before, but it's another that I always look forward to reading.  It's one of those that I read and think, I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that/says that/acts like that/thinks that!

Frances-Fairegarden - Frances has the most gorgeous pictures, showing you what's going on in her garden every day.  Also, she will respond to everybody's comments.  Even if she's got 60 comments, everyone gets their own, personal response.  Seriously, you must go check out her last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post.  You've heard of food porn?  This is like flower porn. 
Sassypants Wifey-Care Across the Cities - This is a brand new blog, so I can't vouch for much other than the idea behind it.  Sassypants Wifey wants to bring "bloggers together for common good, common caring and common courtesy."  I think that's a great goal, so please stop by and see what's going on.

Rude Cactus - I don't have any kids, but I do read a few "mom blogs" and "dad blogs."  This is one of the dad blogs that I find charming.  Yeah, he's funny, but every once in a while you get a glimpse of the soft underbelly of parenting that, fairly or not, I think we all expect to see from moms but are pleasantly surprised to see exposed in dads.