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Preview: I Buy Books

I Buy Books

"When I have money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes." -- Erasmus

Updated: 2017-11-16T07:09:42.227-05:00


Goodbye and Hello


So I think I've got the hang of this blogging thing now. Enough that I want to expand what I write about. And I didn't really think I could do that here. So my new blog is called On An Even Keel.

While this blog was mostly about books and reading, I'm going to be writing about a lot more now. And it just seemed a good occasion to start a new blog.

I hope you'll visit me on my new blog. It's a little spare right now, but I'll be adding stuff soon. (Don't forget to update your RSS feeds if you use a feed reader).

Taking a Little Break...


...from The Woman in White. It's not that I don't like it -- I do. But it did seem to take awhile to really get going. It's interesting that Collins is generally hailed as the creator of the modern detective story. It's much more leisurely paced than I'm used to -- and probably most modern-day readers are used to. That's not a bad thing necessarily. I guess I'm just spoiled by modern mysteries that move along quickly. The fact that works like Collins' were released serially probably added to their allure. When you knew you had to wait for the next section, there was undoubtedly a sense of anticipation.

I was flipping channels yesterday and caught the tail end of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on TCM. So I decided to pull that our for a re-read. It's pretty short so I should be able to finish it over the long weekend and pick up Collins again soon.

Cute or Not?


I'm trying to decide if this sweater from J. Crew is cute or not. I love the shape, but I'm not so sure about the print. I know the price ($115) is really outside my usual range for sweaters.

What do you think?

Think, Think, Think


(image) I've been nominated for a Thinking Blogger award by PJ over at The Urban Recluse (thanks, PJ!). It came at a great time, as I've been wondering whether to keep this blog going. I humbly accept my award and will now follow the rules.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

So here are five great blogs that always make me think:

Seth's Blog -- I've been following Seth Godin since he was writing for Fast Company magazine many years ago. He has an ability to really cut to the chase and drill down to the essential business questions to ask.

So Many Yarns -- My goddess of knitting. I always think I can knit better after reading about what she's doing (it's not true at all, but it's nice to think so!).

Consumerist -- Great consumer protection information, as well as ways to spend (and save) money effectively.

Design*Sponge -- Probably the best spot on the Web for anything related to design. I'm always discovering new ideas and new things to think about on that site.

The Bluestalking Reader -- Lisa has such a great writing style that I love her posts, no matter what the topic.

Women In Art


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Another treat for the eyes and ears.

Women In Film


I don't think I've ever posted a YouTube video before. I really don't spend much time there at all. But you've got to see this video. It's just beautiful and a lot of fun to watch.

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Stephen King on J.K. Rowling


Check out this wonderful essay by Stephen King about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter phenomenon.
It was children whom Ms. Rowling — like her Fear Street precursor, but with considerably more skill — captivated first, demonstrating with the irrefutable logic of something like 10 bazillion books sold that kids are still perfectly willing to put aside their iPods and Game Boys and pick up a book...if the magic is there. That reading itself is magical is a thing I never doubted. I'd give a lot to know how many teenagers (and preteens) texted this message in the days following the last book's release: DON'T CALL ME TODAY I'M READING.
How cool would it be to sit down and have lunch with King and Rowling? That could be a book in itself.

P.S. There are spoilers in the article, so if you're still not done, don't click through.



So the knitting problem was, in fact, not my problem. It's the pattern. I started over on a sample swatch today. The truth is, the pattern just doesn't work at the smallest size given. I know math isn't my forte, but after several minutes of carefully counting stitches and following the pattern, I know I'm right. The perils of finding a free pattern on the Internet, I guess. Fortunately, I've decided to go up a size anyway, and I can tell already that the pattern will work with a few more stitches on the needle.

This is good, because I'm really getting tired of basic stitches and very long scarves.



I haven't posted for ages, mostly due to a recent bout of insomnia. The irony is that I take medication to help me sleep. Guess it's time to up the dosage. At any rate, some random musings...

... lack of sleep has meant lots of reading time. I've finished The Sons of Caeser, Everyone Worth Knowing and am more than halfway through This Side of Paradise. It strikes me that I might be getting more out of it if I wasn't so brain dead lately...

... I really wish I knew why knitting a very simple lace pattern completely escapes me. I tried again yesterday (after a failed attempt last week) to get a new project going, with an unbelievably simple lace pattern. By Row 4 of the 8-row pattern, I was already off. And I don't have enough knitting experience to figure out how to undo one row at a time. Which means I probably have to start over. What is it with me and lace?...

... I don't think I've blogged about this, but I discovered StumbleUpon a few months ago. It's a very cool Web-based service. You set up your profile and pick from a list of interests. Then you install the StumbleUpon toolbar in your browser. Hit the Stumble button to pull up a random site. It's very addictive -- basically like flipping channels on TV. What I can't figure out is why so many people still have splash pages on their Web site. Splash pages seem very 1999 to me...

... If you haven't started watching Mad Men on AMC, check it out. It's very well done. I used to work in an advertising agency, so seeing one set in 1960 is pretty cool. The sets and clothing are just amazing...

Normal (i.e., coherent) posting will resume after I've caught up on sleep.

Not Harry Potter-Related


Well, not much anyway. Everyone has talked about it so much now (Colleen had some great posts and comments on her blog), I don't need to repeat it. It was a wonderful book, a perfect end to the story; I read it all in one 10-hour sitting on Saturday. And though I was sad it's over, I'm looking forward to reading all the books again sometime soon.

In other reading news, I just had another bout of my Mafia obsession. Finished Wiseguy and The Last Mafioso, which I picked up at a recent garage sale. Wiseguy was great; it's the book on which the movie GoodFellas is based. The Last Mafioso was only okay -- I was a bit dubious as to how someone could so distinctly remember word-for-word conversations that were 30 or more years old.

I've moved on to the delightful Sex with the Queen. It's such a guilty pleasure -- a little bit of history along with some very scandalous details.

Hope to have some crafting news soon; I'm back to knitting and have another new craft I'm working on.

Woo Hoo!


According to, my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is currently in Detroit, having left Maumee, Ohio, yesterday. I still think there's a chance I may get it today. Can UPS really deliver the millions of pre-ordered copies in one day? Are they as good as Santa Claus?

I didn't want to go to a store to buy it tomorrow. I'm rather deathly afraid of mean people yelling out spoilers. So I will go on a media blockade, probably starting later today. No more Web, no more TV -- I'll probably even avoid the paper tomorrow morning.

I'll be back next week to blog about the book like everybody else. Have a great weekend.

Beware the Web!


Attention all Harry Potter fans -- You probably want to avoid the Web as much as possible in the next few days. USA Today is reporting that someone allegedly photographed pages of The Deathly Hallows and put it on the Web. I was browsing through StumbleUpon yesterday, and happened on a plain text page that seemed to contain spoilers. I'm not sure if it's true or not -- as soon as I realized what it was, I changed the page. But I may have found out key plot details accidentally (let's just say I really hope what I read is wrong). So watch where you travel on the Web!

Adding to the Stash


It's been about six months since my last trip to one of my local second-hand bookstores. I got eight books for about $28, and that includes a trade paperback and a Virago Modern Classic. The full list:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I read The Moonstone (again) last year and I've heard about The Woman in White many times.

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Seems like something I should read given that I was an English major. And my boss highly recommended it.

The First Man in Rome. Thanks to Siew for the reminder about Colleen McCullough's series about Julius Caeser. I was very disappointed that they only had one of the series of six, but at least it was the first one. I'll be checking out Half.Com for the rest.

This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I really haven't read enough 20th century literature, so I think it's time. I'd had enough Fitzgerald in school (from reading The Great Gatsby three times in about 18 months), but I think it's finally been long enough that I can try some more.

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger. When I've had my fill with Fitzgerald and Collins for awhile, this will be a nice bit of fluff to cleanse the palate.

The Blush by Elizabeth Taylor, a Virago Modern Classic. I wouldn't even know about Elizabeth Taylor or Viragos if it weren't for Danielle. I'm looking forward to a book I otherwise wouldn't have picked up.

Sex With the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politics by Eleanor Herman. Really, isn't the title enough just to make you want to pick it up and check it out? In this case, I read the author's Sex With Kings, and it was quite intriguing. This looks to be the same. Even better? It was a trade paperback with a 10-page color center insert for only $5.00!

Still a little ways to go with Caeser. But it's going to be hard not to pick up one of these before I do!

Also -- I've finally updated my blogroll. Check out some of the really cool blogs I'm reading.

Reading, But Not Blogging


Well, I'm keeping up with reading lots and lots of blogs, but writing my own seems to have fallen by the wayside. Work has been pretty busy the last couple of weeks and grad school sucks up an enormous amount of time.

But -- I start vacation on the 4th and my current class ends this Saturday. So hopefully I can get back to some regular blogging.

In reading, I'm still slogging my way through Caeser. It's interesting, though a bit dry. I have to say, most of my knowledge of Caeser comes from Cleopatra or Rome -- neither of which are very reliable sources. Plus, both of those really only deal with the last few years of Caeser's life. Right now, Caeser is campaigning his way through Gaul (I just love the names Romans gave to parts of what is now modern-day France -- wouldn't it be cool to say "Yes, I live in Transalpine Gaul."?) Yes, I know, I'm a geek.

Caeser was dry enough that I needed a break. I tend not to do that, because there's a strong likelihood that after my break, I don't go back to the book I was reading. I was once halfway through War and Peace and stopped to take a break. Big mistake. Anyway, I polished off Stephen King's Night Shift in the last few days. Stephen King was really one of the first "adult" writers that I read. Reading these short stories again was pleasantly nostalgic -- and really creepy at the same time. The man sure knows how to scare the bejeebers out of his readers.

To The North


When I picked up To The North by Elizabeth Bowen, it was primarily because it was a Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Edition. The distinctive cover immediately caught my eye on the shelf of the used bookstore. But I'd never heard of her or the book.

I had a hard time getting into it. To The North is the story of Cecilia and her sister-in-law Emmeline. Cecilia is widowed but has a suitor in the form of the rather passionless Julian Tower. Emmeline, quiet and gentle, is surprised by her attraction to the "predatory" Mark Linkwater. Bowen's writing style is a bit flowery for me and took a little getting used to. Here's an example:
But intense experience interposed like a veil between herself and these objects. When he spoke or approached it was for an instant as though the veil parted; something unknown came through -- though he was all the time formlessly near her like heat or light. His being was written all over her; if he was not, she was not: then they both dissipated and hung in the air. But still something restlessly ate up the air, like a flame burning.
It was a little odd at first, but her style grew on me. Once I got to the halfway point, I had a hard time putting it down. There are several other novels and short-story collections of hers available, and I would definitely read her again.

Books and Movies


I finished two books over the weekend. The first was The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein. It's sort of a biography of Mary Shelley, her husband, Percy Shelley, Lord Bryon and John Polidori -- especially revolving around that infamous night in 1816 when they challenged each other to write ghost stories. Shelley's Frankenstein is the most popular, but I've read Polidori's Lord Ruthven and it's quite good. It's supposedly the first fictional appearance of a vampire in the form we recognize today -- and the model for all vampire characters since. Poor Lord Bryon -- Lord Ruthven is supposedly based on him and it doesn't paint a very nice portrait.

Mary Shelley's life was unbelievably sad; her mother died in childbirth, her father never paid her any attention and she lost her first three children at very young ages. But I learned a lot about her and I'm very tempted to pick up Frankenstein to read it again.

After The Monsters and Mao, I needed something a little lighter and I cruised through The Nanny Diaries in just a couple of sittings. It was exactly what I needed -- something light and fluffy with just enough of a character to root for. It's structured almost exactly like The Devil Wears Prada, but I liked The Nanny Diaries much better.

I've also seen a bunch of good movies lately. Notes on a Scandal was kind of like watching a train wreck; you didn't really want to see it but you couldn't pull away. Judi Dench is unbelievable. I don't watch many foreign films but Zhang Yimou is fascinating to me. I watched Curse of the Golden Flower and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Seriously, watch one of his films sometime. I'm sure I'll get comments about this, but I can't think of an American film director who shoots movies like that. It's almost like color is another character in the movie. Curse of the Golden Flower is Hamlet-like with lots of family intrigue and violence. And definitely worth seeing.

Finally, last night I watched The Queen. I'd had the movie in the house for more than a week and a half, yet I kept putting it off. I think I really didn't want to relive that terrible time when Diane died. I was a very impressionable 15 years old when I got up at 4 am to watch her get married; and she was only four years older than I was. It was hard to have to sit through her death again. And let's just say the members of the Royal Family do NOT come off very well in this film. It is, of course, difficult to judge some of the conversations. You know the Royal Family isn't talking about that and I doubt Tony Blair is either -- so how accurate they are is anybody's guess. Still, given what the public saw, the conversations seem realistic. And Helen Mirren is, of course, fantastic as Queen Elizabeth.

Posts will continue to remain spotty as graduate school takes up more time than I imagined. But my refuge is still reading for my own pleasure, and I'm going to try to do as much as I can.

8 Things Meme


Okay, so now I've been tagged twice for this meme: first by the Literary Acquisitionist and then by Amy at Books, Words and Writing. So here are the rules:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4: Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 random facts/habits:

1. Although I have this image of being very clean and neat, I take a perverse pleasure sometimes in letting my house get really messy. And then it gets too messy, and I freak out and have to clean everything.

2. I absolutely HATE grocery shopping. Seriously, I will wait until all I have left in the house is some peanut butter and maybe a few questionable eggs before I shop again. But I am deliriously happy when I have food in the house again. I agree it makes no sense.

3. Finally, at the advanced age of 41, I've discovered that I'm a pretty light sleeper. We had some early warm weather a couple of weeks ago; not enough for the A/C but enough to for me to pull out my table fan. I suddenly found I was sleeping much better. Now I run it just for the white noise.

4. I have a confession to make: For all my love of Victorian literature, I have read Wuthering Heights only once. And I really didn't like it. That was, like, 15 years ago and I haven't been persuaded to pick it up again and give it another chance. And I feel guilty about that.

5. I am in deathly fear of finding out about the end of The Sopranos and what happens in the last Harry Potter book. I don't have HBO and my sister is the one with the HP book on order. I figure by July, I'll need to go into serious news blackout. I have suggested to my sister, only half-kiddingly, that I take the day off, she can ship the kids to Grandma's, and we spend the day reading the book out loud to each other until we're finished!

6. I have an embarrassing amount of yarn for the actual amount of knitting that I do.

7. According to LibraryThing, I have 649 books in my library (there is a small handful I haven't cataloged yet.)

8. I am very glad to be done with this meme!

I've seen nearly everyone do this. But I'm tagging Nose in a Book and So Many Yarns next.



Although it really didn't take me long to read it, I can't tell you how glad I am that I am done with Mao: The Unknown Story. It's really the only time I can remember being so happy to finish a book -- in the sense that I don't ever have to pick it up again. Mao was a thoroughly evil tyrant who cared for nothing but himself. The author estimates that 70 million Chinese died while Mao was in power -- the vast majority of that in peacetime. I don't even really want to think about it too much more. It was interesting and I learned a lot. But I need to move on to something else.

I've been tagged by the Literary Acquisitionist for the "8 things" meme, which I hope to get to later this week. I'm getting busier at work and I started grad school last week. It's been a long time since I had to fit homework into my schedule and it's going to take a while to figure this out. More to come soon, I hope!

Educational, but Depressing


Haven't posted in more than a week again, but I have been reading. Currently in bed with me at night is Mao: The Unknown Story. It is one of the most unrelentingly depressing books I've ever read. Now, I don't know as much as I should about communism. But I don't think what Mao was doing had anything to do with communism.

Mao was easily more evil than Hitler and Stalin combined. He seems to have been a complete sociopath who cared only about his own comfort. He sacrificed millions of his own countrymen to amass personal power. Seriously, I haven't read one good thing about him yet, and I'm more than halfway done with the book. I haven't even come to the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The author's parents were killed in the Cultural Revolution, so there may be some bias there. But it appears to be well-researched with ample sources. I'm waiting until I'm done with the book to read some reviews (I generally like to make up my own mind before reading reviews).

I suppose I'm getting a better background in world history. But I may have to cheat on Mao with something with no literary value whatsoever. I can't take this much longer.

100th Post!


Woo hoo! My 100th post. Happy anniversary to me. Considering I've had this blog since last summer, it's hard to believe I'm just reaching my 100th post -- some bloggers could do that in much less time. But it's been fun and I'm sincerely grateful to my very, very small group of regular commenters.

On to the reading. Just yesterday, I finished The Introvert Advantage. If you are an introvert (and you know who you are), GO BUY THIS BOOK! If you are an extrovert (and you definitely know who you are) and know and love an introvert, GO BUY THIS BOOK! I really can't think of any other book I would recommend so highly. Even though I know I'm an introvert, there were several "aha" moments in the book for me. The section on brain chemistry was fascinating: Did you know that in some people (usually introverts) it actually takes longer for the brain to access long-term memory? That's why we take so long to answer a question sometimes -- or even get completely tongue-tied. And I now totally understand why I hate returning stuff in stores.

What I really liked is that the author (an introvert herself) takes pains to make sure you understand that there is nothing wrong with you. Being an introvert is like having brown hair or fair skin. It's just as normal as anything else -- except that we are outnumbered by extroverts by 3 to 1. She also talks about ways to handle stress and how to break out of your shell just a little bit to live a fuller life. Really, just go buy it and read it.

I've moved on to another biography: Mao, The Unknown Story. When I was an undergrad, everyone at my university was required to take a class on another culture. I chose China -- and was fortunate to have one of the best professors I've ever had in any subject. I am fascinated with old cultures; America is still such a young country that it's always intriguing to read about cultures that are thousands of years old. The bio is supposed to be the first in-depth look at Mao from someone whose parents were killed in the Cultural Revolution. The book is unsettling -- Mao's almost total lack of empathy develops early on -- but it's also hard to put down.

What I've Been Reading


Kind of fell off the wagon for awhile there, didn't I? Well, at least I have been reading that whole time, though I haven't been blogging. So there's lots to catch up on.

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason was great fun. As I'm sure many of you have discovered, it's very weird to read the novel of someone whose blog you read on a regular basis. And who lives in the same state that you do. I love books that have such strong heroines -- and it's amusing watching Victoria trying to be the proper Englishwoman that she is, while at the same time saving the world. And the next book in the series, Rises the Night, comes out in less than a month -- yeah!

I also made it quickly through E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. I'd never read him before, so I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I would describe his writing style as staccato -- and I don't mean that in a bad way. Short sentences, sometimes just sentence fragments. The way the plot was laid out reminded me a little bit of Pulp Fiction. It was these seemingly disparate stories that all kind of melded together and made sense. It was an interesting take on turn-of-the-last-century America.

Then I finished the Lindbergh biography, which was fantastic. I'd wanted to read more about Lindbergh after he played such a central role in Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. Lindbergh was a fascinating character; he really was the first celebrity, yet he hated the attention. It was interesting to read about his famous flight across the Atlantic; today, air travel seems such a burden and inconvenience. It's nice to know that at one time it really was something amazing. What particularly interested me was Lindbergh's actions around World War II and the taint of anti-Semitism he carried his entire life. The bio did a great job of putting Lindbergh's actions in perspective; I felt better about him after I'd finished the book.

I'll save current reads for my next post.

Dickens World


I am not making this up.

Charles Dickens Theme Park Set to Open.

Reading Update


Well, I didn't last too long with Isabel Allende. The House of the Spirits is back on the TBR pile. I've read her before and I like her; this one just wasn't working for me. In its place, I'm reading Colleen Gleason's The Rest Falls Away. Why did I wait so long to pick that up? It's a great romp and I'm speeding through it. That was purchased with a gift certificate for some freelance work I did -- along with a copy of the DVD of Persuasion.

I'm also reading The Introvert Advantage during my lunch hour at work. I wish someone would have told me to read this years ago. A lot of this stuff I've already figured out. But it sure is nice to see -- in writing, by a professional -- that it's okay for me to absolutely HATE parties. Now, a small group of people I know well? I'm fine. But get more than 10 or so people in a room and I start to look for the exit.

And despite my great haul from the secondhand bookstore about a month ago, I've got more on the way. The Monsters from the Quality Paperback Book Club. And for some insane reason, I decided to join The History Book Club. I could get four books for $1 apiece -- with no obligation to buy more! So four more books on topics ranging from Julius Ceaser to Mao Tse-tung are on their way. And (yes, I know, it's already too much), my interlibrary loan request for A. Scott Berg's Lindbergh has been filled and the book is waiting for me in our library. Plus they have a couple of other books on isolationist Americans during World War II that I'd like to check out (thanks a lot, Philip Roth).

Really, really need to buy some more bookshelves.

Just Like a Real Library


Most of us book bloggers have fairly extensive libraries. And we all have our various methods of organizing. Here's a fun little item to make you feel like you have a "real" library. Library Shelf Labels from Levenger. They come with pre-printed titles like Classics and Biography. Plus extra labels for your very own categories. A set of six is $28.

The Thirteenth Tale


I whipped through The Thirteenth Tale so fast, I didn't even get a chance to list it in my sidebar. The funny thing is I didn't really like the beginning all that much. I started it on Tuesday and read a couple of chapters before I went too bed. I didn't like the writing at the beginning; it seemed a little too "in the know" somehow, too self-reverent: oh, look at me, I'm the beginning of a dark and creepy tale." It just didn't do much for me.

But I guess the joke's on me, because I sped through the rest of the book in a marathon reading session yesterday. My eyes were really burning from a day of staring at a computer screen so I came home and took my contacts out. There's really not much I can do without my contacts except read (gee, what a shame!). So from about 5:30 to 1:30 the next morning, I just couldn't put this book down.

Now, it's not the best writing I've ever seen. And there just a few too many pointed references to Jane Eyre. One or two would have been fine; you don't need to beat the reader over the head with it. But it is a compelling, gothic story and moves along very quickly. It's fun to get so caught up in a book you don't want to put it down.