When It’s Actually Winter…

So Plinky asks what’s on my winter reading list. And then gives space to search for the image of one book, and not the list I was expecting. So I’ll do it here.

  • Thirty Days Hath September

That cover is not the right book, nor do I know why it pops up. Mine (rather, the library’s) was authored by Dorothy Cameron Disney and George Sessions Perry. The library version just has green library rebinding with a nifty almost tropical pattern.

Of course I found it when they sent me to straighten the mystery shelves, though I’ve managed to avoid them for so long. But at least I didn’t have to go far, only through the H section…otherwise my reading list would be even longer.

“When glittering Jenny Iverson, New York career woman and owner of a successful cosmetics business, invited herself to one of the labor Day week-end parties that climax the season for summer residents along the Connecticut shore, she not only wrote her own death warrant, but also sealed the fate of at least two other persons in the group of sophisticates who were to have shared her company during the holiday.” 1942

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  • The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

Written by Nancy Farmer, this is actually a Newberry Honor Book that I actually read. Way back then, I even read it twice I loved it so much. Only vague memories of what it may have actually been about remain, but I recall awesome characterizations, and then I caught a reference to it on the tvtropes page somewhere, maybe under nightmare fuel, and of course had to try it again.


Cover of

The Ear


“Inspired by Shona mythology, Tendai’s odyssey in the Africa of the future—and, suspensefully, the past—crackles with action. You won’t forget its vivid cast of chracters (black, brown, white, and in on case blue), the Mellower or his mother, the rustling, shadowy vlei people, the strangely endowed detectives, or the three children themselves. And you’ll be surprised to find that a classical tale of courage can be so funny.”

  • Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II

I want to start this off with “well, obviously this is interesting” but I have such varied reading tastes that I have no idea whether my interest is obvious or not, beyond the fact that it is a book and therefore readable.

Anyway, I’m fascinated by history in general, which means every time I’m sent into the History section at the library I come out with a minimum of five more books to add to the reading list. So maybe I should ask for special dispensation. Except all the other librarians have the same problem, but with less time to read. I don’t think I’d get much sympathy.

Though the Japanese internments are still a popular subject, especially in California, and I’ve at least heard about the problems German-American’s faced, I’ve never come across anything mentioning the history of Italian-Americans. When I first saw the book, I was even taken by surprise. (Which, really, I shouldn’t have been, because if there’s an excuse for prejudice for people to act on, they will find it.) Una Storia Segreta seems also to be first an anthology of original writings, too, which I like. I’m not sure if they’re primary documents or not, but since I know nothing else about it, might be more illuminating and interesting than just a textbook.

What the Italians faced wasn’t truly like the Japanese experience of internment camps. That’s not what I find interesting. It is interesting when they aren’t mentioned hardly at all, and I’m not sure why they’d still bother to whitewash the situation like that.


This sign was hung in post offices and in gove...

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“1942, the first full year of World War II for the United States, was a time of fear and uncertainty for Americans of Italian descent. Wartime regulations required that 600,000 Italian “resident aliens” carry photo-identity cards, restricted their freedom of movement, and forced an estimated 10,000 along the West Coast to relocate. Local police searched homes for guns, cameras, and shortwave radios. Within six months after war was declared, 1,500 Italian resident aliens were arrested for curfew, travel, and contraband violations, and some 250 were imprisoned in military camps for up to two years. Even some naturalized citizens had to leave their homes and businesses because the military decided that they were too dangerous to remain in strategic areas.”

Those are just the library books (and none I’m reading currently, library or not), and so I may well end up checking out more. But I rather hope not. Because I have lots of my own books yet to read. And a few borrowed. Those first I think:

  • No Plot, No Problem

By the founder of National Novel Writing Month, Chris Baty. I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year, only this time I fully intended to finish. I even have an idea and can’t wait to start. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in November, that is to say, a first draft. Though I’ve technically started this book (several times, even) I’m counting it, because I’m going to read the second part properly—it’s got a few chapters set by week for the writing itself. So it counts.

  • Secret Societies: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Organizations

An oddly dull, cheap-looking book, despite the almost luridness of the subject matter, I have little to say by this particular book by John Lawrence Reynolds, because it just has a cool title and an interesting subject. Usually such a subject is going to be interesting regardless, but I’ll have to actually start first before I make up my mind.

My books, on the to-be-read pile, are numerous. I was going to say something clever, but I can’t think of anything. But I will mention a few I want to get to first.

  • Fingersmith

Sarah Waters wrote this novel, which I picked up because it sounded like it had an interesting storyline, and frankly, it had a pretty cover (there may have to be a separate post on that later, if I can remember whether I’ve actually written it before, and if not, I can remember to actually devote a post specifically and only to that phenomenon).

  • A Reliable Wife

Well, a book that right on the back states the two characters want to kill each other. Or maybe only the wife does? Either way, Robert Goolrick’s novel does have an interesting premise. Can’t judge it by the back cover description though, because it does indicate (to me) that there’s a switching of point of view between the male and female characters. If it’s not first person I could probably live with it, but—well, what am I saying? I don’t want to doubt it before I’ve even started!

  • The Somnambulist

Jonathan Barnes’ novel sounds fa-scinating! (please try to read that last word with the enunciation of a flamboyant-type television character). But my first thought on reading the description was that it sounded like a homage to Sherlock Holmes, only without any direct references. So there seemed to be clues, but nothing certain. So I want to find out if there’s an “easter egg” hunt of references behind the scenes, if it’s a deliberate play on the character, or if it’s mostly just innocent.

What with the kind of effect Sherlock Holmes had on popular consciousness, I can’t say wholly innocent unless Mr. Barnes is completely oblivious.

Of course, I found it when I was in the Sherlock Holmes section of my cycle of obsessions, however, references aside, it does sound like an interesting work. And in this case, no spoilers please! I actually have a sense of mystery with this one, and that doesn’t happen very often.

And then, gosh, there are so many more. Reading is a depressing endeavor, once you get behind.


Book Sniffing


The subject catalogue (

Image via Wikipedia


New books have little more than a papery, maybe slightly inky smell—like a newspaper, only less so. But the allure is more from the overall package than the lingering traces of glue and fiber. A new book doesn’t have any wear along the edges to betray its weakness, and there are no creases to mar graphic impact on the cover. Interior papers still have their texture un-oiled by (many) human hands. Hardcovers’ jackets don’t have any tears and paperbacks have intact spines. Unless you’re unlucky, for which the Borders and Barnes&Nobles of the world give no credit (believe me, I’ve tried).

Only older books get a little honest stink. Not that it’s much. When you gather them all up, like in the proper used book stores (those with squeaky, painted wooden floors, sagging shelves, and preferably cats), you walk in the room and smell book.

Musty seems to be the most common adjective. And it’s a hard one to argue with, mostly because it’s entirely accurate. Old books wear the patina of must with pride. I’m not even entirely sure what the word is supposed to mean anymore, now that I’ve become so familiar with it as a descriptor in the bookish context. And I don’t have the greatest sense of smell myself. But one of my “currently reading” list, The Biography of a Cathedral (plus exceeding long subtitle on link) predates the ISBN at 66 years

This complete copyright edition is produced in full compliance with the Government’s regulations for conserving paper and other essential materials.

and reminds me every time I even give it the scarcest glance (or whiff) what any good old book smells like. It’s the dust mostly. Even if it isn’t actually dusty. The date due slip only has three dates marked: the first with a return date of “NO 29 ’01” and the second to mending. Finally, my own is SE 10 ’10, because nowadays even a Modoc County Library patron can renew her books online (thank goodness). And the little orange card in front from earlier circulation methods (so cumbersome!) has quite a few dates stamped. Once side:



The original library card—as in not the one you keep in your wallet, if you have even the slightest culture at all. Unless your library has those little keychain ones. You just better have a card to check books out with at the library is all I'm saying.


and the other, on the back, and on the same page as the date due slip (I suppose someone was new?) we have a checkout at the Stronghold branch (or so I assume BR. stands for. I could be wrong) and at Willow Ranch. JAN 31 1946 and OCT 31 1956, respectively. I nearly left the second date in the year 1936, which would have been quite a feat, but I still appreciate the Halloween due date, even if it wasn’t mine. Oddly, though I’m familiar with Willow Ranch, even if their library branch is gone, I only know Stronghold as the name for the school in Canby (and that only because I’ve subbed there). I’m a terrible historian of my local area.

In a perfect world, books smell like books.


Lit cigarette

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As a non-smoker, books exposed to great amounts of cigarette smoke are in no way related to my perfect world. Which may well be selfish. But when looking up the titles of donated books in the library catalogue (online yay! even if they don’t spell it with the “-ue”) I came across several, mostly about the civil war that just wafted the leftovers of some dirty habit.

Now that was mean.

And even though something about cigarette smoke, unlike any other kind of smoke, simply make me ill, at least such books can be aired out. I don’t doubt some of the books on my shelves have been exposed to such a smell, and don’t bother me. Likely even Biography of a Cathedral. Especially when you consider the era.  So while undoubtedly cigarettes leave their own scent on the leaves of used books to make up that entire experience, that’s okay.

Unlike dropping a book in coffee. Coffee smells delicious in a cup, but I’m not sure how well it mingles with dust and cigarettes. Mostly you just get sticky stiff pages, if you’re lucky; or it’s simply unreadable from the warps. (A few drops on the pages, well, then I know it’s a well-read book.)

Smells Like Lamp Oil and Candle-Smoke

Cropped version:A worker climbing down an elec...

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Just about 9 am the oven started clicking and the kitchen light flickering. Did a ghost move in when my mom left for work?

No, the power grid was just on the way out.

Less than an hour later, the power went out throughout the house. Well, it was sunny outside, and so not particularly dramatic, but nonetheless unsettling. Especially after calling the power company revealed that they didn’t know why it was out and it wasn’t supposed to be back until noon. And then realizing that not even the radio station had power—or for that matter, anyone else in town.

One of the few places with a phone not reliant on electricity, the librarian picked up the phone when I called. Naturally, the library itself was not open for business, but I could come in to volunteer if willing. I was because with the power out what else was there to do?

Actually, the library had pretty good light, at least enough to read the shelves. (Make sure the books are in proper alphabetical order.) The series books were all over the place: Twilight on both the ‘new’ and regular collections, Brisingr the same, and then I had to move over several series books from the general YA collection over to the series and almost ran out of room. And still more should have been.

And lo, I was entertained for two hours.

And learned that apparently power was out not just through town, but also most of the county. But wasn’t supposed to come on again until six at night. And the gas stations were closed and the grocery stores closed. The book sale, held by the Friends of the Library, stayed open though, and called Cedarville’s radio station to advertise. So at least at that point they had power, though later I heard most of Surprise Valley lost power too. Anyway, because the sale was open, I could pick up the last book they held for me and paid with the last of my spare change, so I can’t get any more.

Then I went home, and gossiped with the rest of the family. RiteAid was closed, my brother might need to go to Klamath Falls, OR to finish his homework, and the power wasn’t coming on again until midnight.

What is there to do when the power is out and it’s a sunny day?

I’d killed some time by riding my bike to the library (and back). Cat Cat came with me outside and I hula-hooped for maybe ten minutes. But I’m not outdoorsy and there aren’t really any convenient local trails for hiking and I’m not currently on good terms with the dog.

Time to catch up with reading!

  • Finished Spies. Beautiful, shivery lyricism all the way through Stephen’s perception convincing both as his actions/reactions as a child to the events and knowing the overly of his older self. His conviction, despite his doubts, never wavers and throughly ensnares the reader. His world opens tragically but segues almost smoothly into his later years, and though it up ends his life, he lets it be eclipsed by what comes after.  And, and, it’s too good to review, because I find good books harder to talk about unless they need defending like New Moon with the Old.

My troubles are getting not better but worse. Everything’s getting more and more confused inside my head. I’m haunted by the dark figure who’s simultaneously falling through the moonless night and lying on the bare earth in a strange country, dying of cold and hunger. All around him, mocking is loneliness, is the sweet reek of some intangible happiness and the faint melancholy notes of an old sad song called Lamorna.”

  • Also finished the last three pages of The City of Falling Angels that I just couldn’t quite get through last night when I was reading the last few chapters. This might be because when I finally got to the last chapter I was reading every page twice because I kept forgetting to pay attention. Recommendation: pick it up from the library, read the prologue and first chapter, and turn it in again.Instead of actually focusing on the real Venice, Berendt focuses on what the old, titled, aristocrats of Venice envision it as. So yes, Venice is a cesspool of inefficient bureaucracy and corruption, but it’s Venice and therefore awesome.  And the nicer the speech and the prettier the face, the more Berendt is on that side; for instance, in one particular dispute over Ezra Pounds papers he has this observation on the ‘bad guys’.

Our meeting was perfunctory, and although I was neither charmed nor terribly impressed by the couple, the  interested me.

Admittedly, their actions had painted them as more than a little guilty as charged. But, at this point more than halfway through the book, I was so irritated by the beautiful, perfect, wonderful aristocrats of Venice I wasn’t inclined to go along with his conclusion. Especially as this was first meeting! Some objectivity.

He didn’t need objectivity. I’d just had much higher hopes after all his talk of finding the real people of Venice. No, he just wanted the pretty people.

Also, the rest of the book is entirely disjointed. Each chapter after the Venice is primarily about some bit of scandalous gossip of misbehavior among the rich people, so be prepared to learn a lot of names. Who won’t show up again until the very last chapter most likely. The anecdotes are progressively less connected, and the later chapters entirely lost track of the supposed frame (of the burning of the Venice and its rebuilding). Until the very last chapter. Frankly, Berendt’s perspective became rather ugly and dismissive.

In the end, an unpleasant read.

  • However, I also pulled off an old new book from my shelves. That is, a book I bought a while ago, and never got around to reading. Actually, it’s two books in one (which I didn’t realize) and I only finished the first. But it still counts. And I think I can be forgiven by not realizing it was:Jane-Emily and Witches' Children
    Witches’ Children doesn’t receive equal billing until the title page. Even on the back, Jane-Emily is the only story to get described, with mention of a “bonus novel”. You know, the kind that takes up almost exactly half the full length. I suppose the publishers decided Witches’ Children wasn’t a famous enough title to sell them both, but then again I’d never heard of Jane-Emily. It’s a lovely cover (with actually much stronger green on the author’s name).

    And it’s a very genuine novel. The characters are engaging, both ‘romances’ are convincing, the Emily-spectre is frightening, and the resolution satisfying. Jane really acts like a little girl, and little-Adam is similarly plausible as a preteen boy (I’ve had issues with the portrayal of fictional children lately). The entire story is just shy of 140 pages, but Clapp still manages beautiful character development, a suspenseful ending, and a believable romance! But it helps that the writing is spare, and though Louise does dwell a little on her dresses, she’s only eighteen, and rather silly in the beginning. And there aren’t any extraneous details or subplots. Though characters like Katie and old Dr. Frost only get one scene each, they don’t need anymore and still manage to be developed, if static, characters in their own right.

    I call a lesson plan for Stephenie Meyer

  • I did get a few chapters of The Nobility of Failure in, but nothing really remarkable happened. It doesn’t help that I know so little about Japanese ancient history and he keeps throwing around new names, and multiple names for the same person every once in a while. And while his style of footnotes don’t interrupt the reading (they’re numbered in the margins alone, and reference the back of the book) it makes it a little harder to read them along with the text. I just wait ’til I finish the chapter.

I also wrote some notes for my next post, and…well, no, I don’t think I accomplished anything else. I was going to clean my room today—but wanted to watch The Search for Spock while I did, because ironically having something in the background keeps me focused. I also wanted to run—but I will only run on the treadmill, because I don’t dare run outside where people might see me. And I didn’t get any revision work done—but I have to revise on the computer, because I want to submit a story to Watershed, but the computer screen adds needed objectivity to my own work.

And my dad lit the two oil lamps when it was still light at six, and pulled out the Christmas candles when the darkness truly fell around seven. At 7:40 the power came back on and stayed on and we got internet back and scattered. Within five minutes of hearing the hum of machinery four rooms had lights, the TV was on, and we had three computers plugged in.

Hey, I had an excuse. I needed to write this post.

The Flickering Torch Mystery

Totally not relevant, but I was so happy when this popped up in the random recommended pictures! I loved the HBs!

But when the noise came back up again I missed the quiet. Although I don’t know that I’ll miss reading by lamplight, which rather strains the eyes. And I don’t think I’ll miss the next book I’d started, The Lost Girls. The females of the Darling line of Peter Pan fame get picked up by Pan every generation. They tell their daughters “Pan will come and he’s beautiful and will take you to Neverland once you hit puberty and it will be wonderful, except then you’ll come back and nothing will be as awesome again.” And really? Creepy. Just tell her to tell Peter to get out. And then teach her to get a life. So far they’re all whiny and unsympathetic. They conclude all men are childish and exploitive, but I don’t believe them. There is missing grandmother Jane (!) but I don’t think I’ll stick around for the off chance she’s awesome.

The Literature Conspiracy

I don’t know exactly what this post will be about.  I just read the title of Will Thomas’s “The Hellfire Conspiracy” incorrectly, and I like the sound of it.  Maybe I should write about Terry Pratchett.  There can never be enough discussion about Discworld as far as I’m concerned.

In 2004/2005 a book called Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature was published.  I would dearly love to read it.  Unforunately the only edition I found for sale was on Amazon for about $350 dollars.  He’s that awesome.  Or people are just that opportunistic.

Actually, I start lots of drafts far more than I have posts (as if I have all that many), and so since I started this one, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve been really lethargic and out-of-sorts lately, kinda depressed, and it’s making it very hard to get things done.  I’ve always had the bad habit of procrastinating on homework, particularly papers, mostly because I usually can write papers fairly well in a rather short amount of time.  The more you get away with something, the harder it is to stop.  Can’t do much about that now, actually. So I’m going to write about NaNo.

National Novel Writing Month (more completely NaNoWriMo) which is in November and means that you’re supposed to write 50,000 words in one month, specifically November.  Turns out that November just came at a really bad time this year. For me. At least I distinctly remember October, but the beginning of November started way too early and I missed it. I think it was the the forth (?) or something before I remember that I was supposed to start this whole fifty thousand word thing.

The only thing discovered is that I simply don’t write fiction well. Or at least quickly. Summary is okay, the summary of a story, but all the rest of the parts of fiction–dialogue, description, etc., I just write really, really slowly.  That same day, when I started the only fiction I could think of–fanfiction, because NCIS wasn’t on because of the election–and got about 645 words. About. Not like I counted. Word did it for me, and that is kind of the point. Well because of that I counted the other writing I did that day…only the stuff I did on the computer.

Found out I can’t write fiction, but I can write a whole lot about myself and my opinions really quickly. And usually at the times when I really don’t have much to say.  So that day, or the next maybe, I wrote almost a thousand words in an email to my aunt, and then a note on facebook got…I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure more than I got on that “story.”

I think the problem is that I’m simply not much of a storyteller.  Either of my brothers, now, they were born telling stories. I just prefer to read them, and occasionally watch them.  I can tell, usually, when I’ve read a good story, and whether it was told well–entirely separate issues. So I know well enough the aspects of writing…in fact I own far too many how-to-write books (maybe I should sell them?). The only reason I got them though was because, really, I like to read them.  I’m not very good at following advice. At least in from books, I don’t know if I get much advice in real life. If I do, I think we can safely assume I don’t follow it.

Anyway. So I like the title of the post, but I really have nothing to say.  Very sad that I can’t live up to the title.

I can say I went to the library to pick up a copy of a novel for class. I own it, but the only problem is that it’s part of a collection, and that book is a nice copy, but heavy, and I’d like to keep it nice too. Anyway, I got it at the school library first–picked up two others too, even though I was in there for about fifteen minutes or so–wait, that’s pretty good for me. I didn’t like that copy (at the school) because it’s old, from maybe 1948. And it’s hardback and looking like it will fall apart.  Risky for taking to class. I got a bit luckier at the county library (and I can’t believe there’s only one in this town, I used to have access to three in the same town) and they had a far newer, paperback, lighter copy. Much easier to read too, without the old-fashioned typography. I was in that library for about fifteen minutes too, and that time I picked up five others.  None of these extra books are really all that likely to be read either, I suppose.

I miss reading.  The kind of reading I did as a kid. Used to be I was never caught without a book. Now I have the books I’m reading for class, but I don’t actually carry all that many others.  For an English major, and such a lover of books, that’s a very sad state of affairs.

I’ll blame the internet.  Why not?