Friday, November 30, 2007

Kid Stuff

My eldest son is barreling through the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials Trilogy before the movie version of The Golden Compass comes out next week. Having an 11-year-old avid reader in the house reminds me of what reading was like for me when I was a kid. My son reads obsessively, and if he finishes something that's part of a series, he's uncomfortable until he has the next book in his hands. We practically ran to the library the other day so he could get The Subtle Knife out, after putting The Golden Compass down minutes before. It's times like this I'm glad our local branch is only three blocks away!

I haven't read The Golden Compass, but I'm planning to take the kids to the movie. My son and most of his friends are waiting impatiently for this one to come out, so we'll probably go opening day, or soon thereafter. If anyone out there has seen a sneak preview, let me know what you think!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Local stuff

I was barely coming out of a pie-induced daze, when I turned on the news and heard that there's yet another wildfire here in Los Angeles. It isn't that surprising, since it has been very dry and warm here this fall.

I had to post a link to this wild picture of today's fire in Malibu, as seen from the beach in Santa Monica. It's from local site LAist. The fire has destroyed 35 buildings, and is about 25% contained. I'm hoping they get it under control soon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Widow's War, by Sally Gunning--a review

Looking for local color during my summer vacation in Cape Cod, I went to the bookstore and picked up The Widow's War: A Novel, by Sally Gunning, which was recommended by the woman behind the counter there.

The Widow’s War is a historical novel that takes place in the very village in Cape Cod where my family stays, what used to be called Satucket, but is now Brewster. It is the story of Lyddie Berry, who is widowed when her beloved husband Edward, a whaler, drowns in Cape Cod Bay. The year is 1761, and then, in colonial New England, widows typically got their “thirds”, a third of their husband’s estate, until they remarried or died, with the rest of the estate going to the male heir. Lyddie, unhappy living with her daughter and overbearing son-in-law, challenges both the law and the customs of the time when she fights for her freedom and a house of her own.

The story is written in clean, clear prose and Gunning creates a strong and appealing main character in Lyddie Berry. I found myself truly curious about Lyddie’s fate, so I read later into the night than usual to find out what happened to her.

I read this right after finishing Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, so it was interesting to read about Lyddie’s neighbor, the Indian Sam Cowett, and his relationship to both Lyddie and the English community. Based on what I learned in Mayflower, it seemed realistic that almost one hundred years later, Gunning shows that some Indians lived separate from, but on the fringes of, the white community, and some had taken on the Christian religion, but all, whether living among or apart from the English, were considered “other” and regarded with suspicion.

Overall, I felt this was a well-researched book, and I found it both entertaining and informative.

As a bonus for me, a visitor to the area in Cape Cod where the book is set, the author gives a “tour” of the places in the novel, relating them to present-day landmarks. It was wonderful for me, since I had just been there and could picture just what Gunning wrote about. She also describes the architecture, so you get a sense of how the people lived, and again, if you’re a visitor to the area, you can see real examples of these “Cape Cod” houses that still exist. If my family returns to the spot, I’ll be sure to explore the area with the help of Gunning’s road map.

Friday, November 16, 2007


cash advance

Get a Cash Advance

Here's a little thing I got from Maggie Reads. I think they must just count up the polysyllabic words or something...but hey, I'll take it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday--Preservatives

Today's Booking Through Thursday question is entitled Preservatives:

Today’s question comes from Conspiracy-Girl:
I’m still relatively new to this meme so I’m not sure if this has been asked yet, but I’m curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm more of a preservationist--I don't often write in books. I guess I used to when I was in college. But I do like to take notes while reading, so what I do is use an index card as a bookmark, and write notes on that. I actually have a card file I put these cards into, but I almost never look at them again. But it's somehow comforting to know that if I really wanted to, I could look up some amazing passage I remember reading in Anna Karenina.

I also dogear (is that a verb? I don't think so) books sometimes, if I don't have a notecard handy. But then I usually have no idea why I did it, and have to guess when re-reading a page what it was I thought was so worthy of looking back at.

How 'bout you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick--a review

On a historical kick this fall, I read Nathaniel Philbrick’s book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. This book is Philbrick’s examination of the voyage of the Mayflower, the settlement of Plymouth Colony, and fifty years later, what came to be known as “King Philip’s War”, the bloody conflict that erupted between the English settlers and the Indians they displaced.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book—it was never dry, it was actually a page-turner. Philbrick is a very good storyteller, and he really makes the characters come alive. The book is a bit of a myth-buster, which is always entertaining, but Philbrick also attempts to be fair in the portrayal of both the Pilgrims’ and the Indians’ issues. This was what was so engaging and entertaining for me. I had not really read anything on this subject since learning about it in high school. So Philbrick’s examination of the Indians’ side of things, and his use of really interesting diaries and other primary sources, were eye-opening.

I think I’ll let Philbrick do the talking, as he sums up his book quite well himself. The Pilgrims, who had not been free to worship as they pleased in Restoration England, had moved to Holland, but were afraid of assimilating there, so they planned to move to America. Philbrick summarizes their early experiences, coming to an area of New England where the Indian population had recently been decimated by plague:

The Pilgrims had come to America not to conquer a continent but to re-create their modest communities in Scrooby and in Leiden. When they arrived at Plymouth in December 1620 and found it emptied of people, it seemed as if God had given them exactly what they were looking for. But as they quickly discovered during that first terrifying fall and winter, New England was far from uninhabited. There were still plenty of Native people, and to ignore or anger them was to risk annihilation. The Pilgrims’ religious beliefs played a dominant role in the decades ahead, but it was their deepening relationship with the Indians that turned them into Americans.

By forcing the English to improvise, the Indians prevented Plymouth Colony from ossifying into a monolithic cult of religious extremism. For their part, the Indians were profoundly influenced by the English and quickly created a new and dynamic culture full of Native and Western influences. For a nation that has come to recognize that one of its greatest strengths is its diversity, the first fifty years of Plymouth Colony stand as a model of what American might have been from the very beginning.

By the midpoint of the seventeenth century, however, the attitudes of many of the Indians and English had begun to change. With only a fraction of their original homeland remaining, more and more young Pokanokets claimed it was time to rid themselves of the English. The Pilgrims’ children, on the other hand, coveted what territory the Pokanokets still possessed and were already anticipating the day when the Indians had, through the continued effects of disease and poverty, ceased to exist. Both sides had begun to envision a future that did not include the other.

And so the stage is set for King Philip’s War, a war that upset the delicate balance between the English and the native peoples, and changed their relationship forever. And afterward, the English practices, while not out and out war, effectively wiped out or relocated the Indians, so that ultimately the English owned America.

Overall, I enjoyed Philbrick’s fresh take on this historical territory, and his engaging storytelling style.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pictures from the Writer's Rally today

Yesterday I picketed with my husband (and actors Eva Longoria, Nicolette Sheridan, Marcia Cross of Desperate Housewives, and William Peterson of CSI--because SAG members were out supporting the writers). My feet were killing me when I got home, but the support from passersby was amazing!

Today the WGA picketed at Fox studios only, and held a rally. There were thousands of writers there, and my husband took some pictures for me on his phone. Here they are:

And here are the actresses (Eva Longoria, Nicolette Sheridan, Marcia Cross) picketing yesterday with their showrunner, writer/producer Marc Cherry. Not such a clear photo, but that's why I'm not a paparazzo:

Booking Through Thursday: Volume

Here is this week's Booking Through Thursday question, entitled Volume:

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

Here's my answer: I read less than I used to, but only because of time constraints. Being a mother of three takes up a whole lot of reading time. And worse than that, parenting young children makes you so tired that you can't read as much in bed as you'd like. I just fall asleep--I can't help it. That's why I sometimes rate books according to whether or not I could stay awake reading them.

I must say, though, that I still read as much as possible. And I read a wider variety of books. I do feel that there are so many great books out there that I haven't gotten to yet, and I'm behind the eightball, so to speak--there will never be enough time to read everything I want to read!

How about you? Do you read more or less than you did when you were younger? Why?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Writers Strike Update

As you probably know, my husband is on strike. Right now he's picketing in front of Universal Studios. He's tired when he comes home every day--picketing is physically demanding, and yet boring at the same time. But he's out there for the cause.

But just what is the cause? Well, here's a video produced by members of the Writers Guild to answer that very question, in case you're interested. There's also more info at

If you're not interested, sorry for this personal post! I'll get back to books next post, promise!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Half-finished books, a writer's strike, and a trip down memory lane

I'm stalled a bit in my reading, half way through Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham, (which I'm reading for the Outmoded Authors Challenge) and half way through Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky, which I'm reading for my book group meeting (this Wednesday night--yikes!).

I'd like to blame the AMPTP (Hollywood studios). That's because my husband is a writer and is probably going on strike tomorrow. He's got his red WGA (that's Writers Guild of America) t-shirt ready to wear, and he's thinking of printing up blank signs for himself and his co-writers to carry on the picket lines. Get the joke? Writers not working=blank signs.

Needless to say, we've been on an emotional roller coaster at our house for the last couple of weeks. The strike looms, officially starting at 12:01 Monday morning. But there's word that there is some negotiating going on at this very moment, and tentative hopefulness that there is headway being made in the back rooms to avoid the picketing tomorrow. So the nail-biting continues until morning.

Maybe if the negotiations are fruitful at the last minute, I won't have to figure out how to feed my children on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese for the next six months, after all...but I'm not holding my breath.

If anyone's interested in a more detailed (and writer-friendly) take on the whole WGA strike, visit Deadline Hollywood Daily or United Hollywood.

I also took a detour around my other reading and read two books about Scottish childhoods, in honor of my dad visiting this weekend. One, called A Childhood in Scotland, by Christian Miller, (and mentioned by Tara at Books and Cooks recently) had absolutely nothing to do with how my father grew up, but was a fascinating read anyway. It told the story of poor-little-rich-girl Miller, who grew up in a castle (that clearly cost a fortune to keep), but who was deprived of warmth and attention. Just the descriptions of the details of running the estate are worth reading, and the eccentricities of the landed gentry were by turns amusing and horrifying.

I also read The Heart is Highland: Memories of a Childhood in a Scottish Glen, by Maisie Steven. It's a charming little memoir about life in a glen near Loch Ness in the 1930s and through WWII. The prose isn't scintillating, but I found the book sweetly funny, and it took my dad, who read it through in a few hours, on a nice trip down memory lane. And fortunately for me, the memories it brought up for my dad about his childhood sparked some great conversations on our visit this weekend.

Does anyone else have a particular book that brings up (hopefully pleasant) childhood memories? I'd love to hear about it...