30 June 2009

Book Review: Cousin Phillis and other stories by Elizabeth Gaskell

Victorian Challenge #5

Cousin Phillis and other stories In “Lizzie Leigh” a new widow finally has the chance to go to the city in search of her lost daughter. “The Old Nurse's Story” is a woman’s recollection of the strange events in the first house she worked in. Years of regret and repression come to a head in “Half a Life-time Ago.” The historical story “Lois the Witch” shows how even bad ideas can take hold of a community, fuelled by fear and self-interest as much as by belief. A family struggle to deal with a good-for-nothing relative in “The Crooked Branch.” “Curious, If True” is a fairy-tale maybe-dream of a gentleman lost in the countryside. And “Cousin Phillis” is the story of a young railway worker's friendship with his newly-discovered cousin and the simple mistake that changes both their lives.

This was the only collection of short stories on my Victorian Challenge list, and I enjoyed all of them. Gaskell tends not to do what you might expect; if you think you know what will happen you’ll have to think again. What can be expected, if you’ve been around this blog for a while, is that the second story was my favourite. I love my ghost stories, and this one was nicely eerie and strange. I’ve made a mental note now to get hold of whatever other spooky tales she's written.

Another favourite was “Lois the Witch.” The spread of the witch-hunting fervour through Salem made me think of the modern climate doomsday hysteria - it’s a similar pattern of a notion taking on a life of its own as it spreads, and being adopted and believed for a variety of reasons, not all of them well-intentioned. I liked Lois and the persistent common sense she showed in the strange new world in which she found herself, and the chaos which soon surrounded her. Also I was impressed by the clarity with which Gaskell showed how the witch craze started and was accepted by otherwise rational people.

If you want to get started on the classics but feel daunted by the size of some of them, these tales would be an excellent place to start. Short as they are, they’re divided into chapters, so you can take your nineteenth-century wordiness in small doses (and Gaskell is nowhere near, say, James or Dickens in the wordiness stakes). Gothic, historical, fantasy, quiet lives in the English countryside - there’s something here for everyone.

Rating: B+

Weekly Geeks: Trivia Time

Weekly Geeks

Though I'm really not very good at it, I love trivia. Put books and trivia together and you've got a perfect match. So I thought it would be a fun Weekly Geek activity for us to come up with some book trivia questions to ask each other.

So take a moment, don't stress about it all, and write down five to ten questions that pop into your mind. You could center all your questions around a particular theme or genre, maybe something in which you specialize. Or ask questions about one certain book. Or teach us about your favorite author through your questions.

You could do really easy ones that you know we'll all get or really hard ones that will challenge even the best of us.

Once you post your questions and add your link here, be sure to go around and answer the questions posted by everyone else. Remember, no fair Googling! At the end of the week, don't forget to do another post with the answers to your questions.

And most importantly, have fun!

Since I’ve just started reading a history of piracy, I had to theme this quiz around villains! There’s a mix of easy and trickier, and the answers will be up on Saturday. Until then, feel free to leave your answers in the comments. (But no cheating by reading the comments before answering the questions!)

1. In the Outlander series, what is Jonathan Randall’s middle name?

2. Where in Gormenghast does Steerpike begin his career?

3. Who is Stephanie Plum’s husband-stealing nemesis?

4. In Possession, Mortimer Cropper is fixated on acquiring Ash memorabilia for the collection he maintains in which American state?

5. What deformity did Shakespeare bestow upon Richard III?

6. How many strange women does Jonathan Harker encounter in the home of Dracula?

7. Which respectable Roman did Robert Graves depict as a serial murderess in his novels about Claudius?

8. Before he ran off with Lydia Bennet, with whom did Wickham attempt to elope?

9. How does Thursday Next’s battle with Acheron Hades alter a classic novel?

10. Which real-life bad guy appears in A Conspiracy of Paper?

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

To further complicate things, as the sultan was their feudal overlord the Barbary corsairs also had to abide by the terms of the treaties arranged between the Ottoman sultan and the rulers of Christian states. For instance, Venice was at peace with the Ottoman Turks for much of the 16th century, and therefore attacks on Venetian ships were forbidden - which was not to say that they did not happen; only that the Barbary beys had to make sure that reports of such attacks did not reach the ears of the sultan in Constantinople.

From Piracy: The Complete History by Angus Konstam, p. 77.

29 June 2009

Book Review: The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell

The Water’s Lovely Thirteen years ago Ismay Sealand’s stepfather drowned in the bath. The rest of the family still lives in the same house, now divided into two flats. Ismay’s schizophrenic mother Beatrice upstairs with her desperate and dateless sister Pamela, and Ismay and her sister Heather downstairs. The arrangement works until Ismay meets Andrew and Heather meets Edmund. The little flat is getting crowded, and Andrew for one doesn’t intend to put up with it. The best solution Ismay can see is for Heather and Edmund to find a place of their own - but how good a plan is it to let him settle down with a probable murderess? Unable to decide what to do, or to come up with another explanation for Guy’s death, Ismay seeks a temporary answer which soon goes awry.

Heather is in a dilemma of her own - whether to tell Ismay that her beloved Andrew has been out on the town with socialite Eva Simber. She also has to put up with the hostility of Edmund’s mother Irene and her friend Marion. A professional predator, Marion collects lonely old people of independent means and never misses an opportunity to make a profit - legal or not. Her passion for nosing out secrets threatens to make Ismay’s life more uncomfortable; and it’s already bad enough, because Ismay has come to wonder if Heather might have killed more than once.

It’s a sign of how much I enjoyed this book that it wasn’t until after I’d finished it that I began to think, Hold on a minute... If I hadn’t been so absorbed in the story, a number of things would have seemed like far too much of a coincidence to be plausible. At the time, though, I happily accepted the events put before me. The only thing I questioned was the need for quite so many odious characters, but I suppose you can’t have a psychological crime novel without them. And having people like Irene and Marion around made a good contrast to Ismay. Keenly anticipating the downfall of the antagonists meant, by extension, hoping that the protagonists came out on top, and gave me a sympathy for Ismay I may not otherwise have had.

You see, Ismay was an example of one of my pet fictional peeves: dumb women. She went to pieces when Andrew left and was willing to do anything to get him back, even though he was a cheat and an insufferable snob to boot, a man who wanted her to estrange herself from her family because they didn’t meet his standards. Where, I wondered, were Ismay’s standards? Her aunt wasn’t much better, ignoring common sense to pursue a relationship with a man who might as well have had "Very Bad News" stamped on his forehead. And Eva never rose above the stereotype of the impossibly airheaded blonde socialite, one who’d make Paris Hilton look like a rocket scientist. I’m not entirely sure whether the fault lies with the author, for creating characters lacking in backbone, or with me for failing to understand the desperation to which some people can be driven in the dating game, and for getting frustrated with characters who don’t match my own level of cold-bloodedness. (But surely being in love, or wanting to be, needn’t mean tossing dignity out the window and thirty IQ points after it?) I suspect that someone with more sympathy for women in Ismay’s or Pam’s situation would like the book more than I did. But I would challenge anyone to like the ending. Why did she have to do that?

Rating: B-

27 June 2009

Blog Improvement Project: Task 12

It’s mid-year review time in the Blog Improvement Project. I have to confess that I couldn’t entirely remember what my original goals were! As it turns out, they were:

Firstly and most obviously, I will keep blogging! No more letting myself get swamped by real life.

Leave more comments on other people’s blogs. This has always been my weak spot; I’m very prone to not being able to think of anything to say, or not thinking any contribution of mine worthwhile (online and off) and I’d like to see whether practice can make a difference.

Also in the networking vein, I want to expand my blogroll and participate more in things like Booking Through Thursday, Saturday Review of Books, Teaser Tuesdays, etc.

Complete and post all reviews in a timely manner. (Well, all further reviews . . . and we’ll just forget the nine days it took me to post on Sepulchre.)

Post about something other than books once in a while!

Hmm ... I’ve just about managed the first, except for a lapse of a few weeks. My blogroll has been expanded, though not so much as I’d like, and I’m a fairly regular participant at all of the listed memes.

As for the rest - I am more behind with reviews than I have ever been. I’m no better at commenting. And those not-about-books posts are still just an idea.

For the second half of the year, I’m going to keep these goals, with the exception of the meme participation, which I have already accomplished.

And now a review of the project itself, as requested by Kim:

1. What BIP task have you liked most? Least (including ones you have skipped)?
I loved Blog Post Bingo! It was great being prodded to think outside the box my writing usually occupies and try some new styles. I really hope there’s going to be another round later in the year. Least - the social media month. Blogging is about as social as I get online, outside the NaNoWriMo forums.

2. Which tasks have been the most helpful? Least helpful?
The Blog Basics task finally got me to produce and upload the self-portrait I'd been considering for, oh, a year. It also resulted in my About Me post, one of the things on my blog I’m most pleased with. Least ... probably the Social Media again. Or the Anchor Text, which seemed like a trivial matter.

3. What are the top three things you still would like to work on this year?
Commenting!! I am a disaster at commenting - I have a hard time prising myself out of my habitual silence to participate in anything resembling a conversation.

Secondly, keeping organised as a blogger - getting reviews up promptly, finishing challenges with time to spare (miracles happen), keeping my sidebars up-to-date, staying on top of my blog reading, etc.

And on a personal note, I want to expand my blog beyond the usual book reviews and book-related memes, and start posting about my various creative hobbies. I’d like to start by launching a “Fractal Friday” feature to provide a weekly dose of digital art, but it’s left me in a design quandary. Fractals need a white or black background for the colours to show true, but I love my current colour scheme!

4. Are there any blogging-related topics you feel like you know a lot about and would be willing to write a BIP guest task on?
At first glance this made me laugh - it’s strictly amateur hour round here. But on reflection, I decided I’d be willing to volunteer for a design-related task.

5. Any other comments about the BIP?
This has been a wonderfully fun, challenging, and education experience, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s coming up in the next six months.

26 June 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Unique Sorting

Browsing through my blog, I found a link to this post about the “Sorted Book Project.” Go read it. I’ll wait. The idea is to take a few books and physically sort them in such a way that the titles make some kind of sense … something that I’ve never quite gotten around to doing and photographing, but which fascinates me. What title/combinations can you come up with? (Bonus points if you actually assemble the books and photograph them, like in the original post.)

Yes, I know, it’s Friday, but I don’t have a camera and decided eleven at night was too late to be bothered getting out my laptop and fiddling around with its webcam. The image quality’s not great, but I wanted to put it in a picture. I thought it would take me ages to come up with anything, but in ten minutes I had this:

I can see a lot of potential in this!

24 June 2009

Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

The Birth of Venus Sister Lucrezia had specified that her body not be touched after her death, except to be buried. But with the pestilence around, one can’t be too careful.... So it is that two of her fellow nuns discover a faked illness and a decidedly risque tattoo, neither of which they can explain, for neither of them know her story.

When her father brings a painter home with him to decorate the family chapel, Alessandra Cecchi sees her opportunity to learn more of the thing she loves most - art. Nearly fifteen and from a wealthy family, she doesn’t have long before such moments of freedom as she can snatch will be consumed by marriage. Even without a husband, her occasional strayings are likely to be curtailed. A new order has arrived in Florence, headed by the rabidly pious Girolamo Savonarola. Defying the Pope in order to rail against the opulence that flourished under the Medici, he establishes a network of soldiers and spies throughout the city. The most advantageous of marriages might not be enough protection when both parties have so much to hide.

At first glance, this looked fantastic. A female protagonist, history, and art. Better still: Italian history and Renaissance art, and the perpetrator of the Bonfire of the Vanities, the greatest crime against both. More intriguingly, early on the heroine showed signs of synesthesia (the cross-wiring of two of the senses, in this case hearing colours in sounds). Yet while it was a pleasant read, it was also easy to put down. I still can’t entirely identify why, and have concluded that it was a case of everything and nothing. There’s no one thing I can point to as marring the book; rather there were multiple things which alone might not be much but added up to an underwhelming read.

I couldn’t quite see the point of the prologue, and felt it gave away too much. A girl who’s attracted to an artist ends up with art on her body - it’s pretty obvious how that’s going to happen. It was certainly an effective means of grabbing my attention, but I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that needing an attention-grabbing prologue means Chapter 1 isn’t good enough. I liked Alessandra well enough - naturally I’d enjoy a heroine with a strong artistic bent - but she was a little too willful at times and I never felt really connected with her. Or anyone else, for that matter. It felt like the narration of someone who was merely describing events rather than living them; someone erecting a wall of fine words between herself and her past. And what was with the series of murders which were only mentioned in passing?

I kept going with it because of my interest in the period, and did learn a few things about Savonarola. But while the history might stick in my mind, the fictional aspects will, I suspect, be swiftly forgotten.

Rating: C+

Book Review: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Chunkster Challenge #1
Classics Challenge #1
What’s in a Name? 2 Challenge #4

Bleak House In the halls of Chancery the suit of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce drags on, no nearer a conclusion than when it was begun. Caught in its paper-choked snares are Chancery wards Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, who are brought to Bleak House by their new guardian, John Jarndyce. Together with Ada’s new companion Esther Summerson, they settle into country life, and Mr Jarndyce begins to entertain rosy hopes for all their futures.

In the Lincolnshire countryside, Sir Leicester Dedlock sits in ignorance of his wife’s connection to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. My Lady is too occupied with thoughts of her protegée to worry, until a chance visitor to the neighbourhood shows her how precarious her situation might become. The name of Dedlock is an old and venerable one, and there are some stains it cannot bear.

In London, Sir Leicester’s suspicious solicitor Mr Tulkinghorn has enlisted the aid of Inspector Bucket to make sure that nothing is going to threaten his employer’s reputation. Making enquiries of a homeless waif, a disgruntled maidservant, the landlord of a dead law-writer, and a henpecked stationer among others, the truth is bound to emerge; but whether they will be aided or frustrated by the interference of a lovelorn clerk is another matter. And they are far from being the only people who will be affected by events associated with Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.


I did what I had previously thought impossible and made it to the end of a novel by Dickens. (And it only took me, what, two months?) Though definitely long-winded it was far more readable than I had expected, even entertaining, and I think it helped that since my last attempt I’ve read a good bit of Henry James. If you can read his two-page paragraphs, you can read just about anything. And I don’t think high school is a great time to be introduced to Dickens - I’m sure the extra nine years helped as well.

So I was very agreeably surprised by how much I enjoyed the prolix writing and the vast, labyrinthine plot; in fact I was hooked from the start, where I could almost feel the “London particular” swirling around me. There was a Dramatis Personae at the beginning and I needed it to keep track of just who everyone was. The synopsis in the first few paragraphs really is only the beginning. Over the course of the eight hundred-odd pages all the characters and events fitted together beautifully, and I can’t imagine how Dickens kept his ideas organised while he wrote. Another surprise was liking Esther in spite of her excess of perfections. She embodies all the Victorian female virtues with not a single fault, and if in the course of the novel the meek had inherited the earth she should have found herself queen of a vast empire. (A spot of wish-fulfillment of the author’s part perhaps - the ideal woman he didn’t have at home?) She might have become tiresome if she’d narrated the whole thing, but there was enough time spent with other characters to stop that happening. This being Dickens, there's an abundance of eccentrics with names to match who are themselves sufficient motivation to read more of his books; I couldn’t even try to name a favourite. This has been one of the hardest-to-review books I’ve ever read - there’s no clear place to start, and no way of doing so without having to produce a flood of words in order to cover just the most important characters and events. All I can say is that it made me an instant convert to the delights of an author I never thought I’d be able to read.

As much as I enjoyed Dickens’s ways with words (particularly Mrs Pardiggle’s “rapacious benevolence” and John Jarndyce’s coinage of “wiglomeration” to describe the accretion of lawyers around the Chancery suit) it did bog down in places. These were where the subject shifted to Sir Leicester Dedlock’s field - politics. I’m not really fascinated by politics at the best of times, so I had a hard time ploughing through passages about those of half a world away and a century and a half ago. A small fault when weighed against the delights of a novel that covers such a broad cross-section of society, and which has opened up a whole new range of books to me.

And if you’re wary of Dickens and this recommendation isn’t enough to prompt you to pick up Bleak House, I have just three words for you:

Spontaneous. Human. Combustion.

Rating: A-

23 June 2009

Weekly Geeks: Reading Challenges

Weekly Geeks

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"
A look at my left sidebar should answer that question! I do love reading challenges, but I’m careful not to over-commit. (At least, not too much). In the interests of keeping my TBR pile under some semblance of control I look for challenges that I can complete using books already to hand, which likely also helps keep the reading challenges under control. Sort of.

Reading challenges are a great incentive for me to organise my reading - I keep a computerised list of all current challenges in order of finishing date, with both the number and titles of remaining books and URLs of posted reviews (for the wrap-up post). If I’m not sure what to read next, I just check the list to see which challenge needs work. Not that that always works ... I do still sometimes end up with a bit of a mad rush in the final days (*cough* VictorianChallenge *cough*).

Since I fill challenges mostly with books I already own, I rarely discover new author as a result. The exception is the R.I.P. II Challenge from 2007, where I needed a trip to the library to make up the numbers and found The Shape-Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn, which I adored.

And my favourite reading challenge has to be anything involving classics!

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Between the rooms, narrow passages facilitated the inconspicuous movement of slaves, who could thus cause minimal distraction while providing refreshments to those gazing out. The suite of dining rooms evokes days spent in languid leisure; one can almost imagine a visitor being offered a similar artifice to the home-buyer in Roman Sicily who thrilled at the prospect of owning a property that overlooked scenes of fishermen with their nets, only to discover, on completing the purchase, that their endeavours had been staged for his benefit.

From Pompeii: The Living City by Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence, p. 48.

18 June 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

One of my favorite sci-fi authors (Sharon Lee) has declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.
So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

Hmm ... *does a mental rummage through the TBR box*. Not sure. I don’t know that I’ve got anything in there that would qualify, except for some short stories, but I’ve read a few short story collections lately and don’t feel like another. Perhaps I’ll dedicate my free time on the 23rd to more planning on the supernatural element in this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

As you might have gathered from this, I do read fantasy, though it’s not a sizeable part of my literary diet. I’ve always loved ghost stories - in fact I think it’s fun to read them during power outages. From that I’ve progressed to novels by Neil Gaiman, J. K. Rowling, Jostein Gaarder, Susan Cooper (which I must re-read ... eventually ...), J. R. R. Tolkein, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Kim Wilkins, Laurell K. Hamilton before the series went off the rails, and doubtless more who I’ll remember as soon as I’m offline. Much as I love Tolkein, my favourites are generally those which put the strange and eerie into the real world or something like it.

My inroads into sci-fi have been negligible; for some reason the genre has never really appealled to me. Perhaps because I’ve always been a science geek, and so had enough science already? But I love Douglas Adams and Connie Willis, and if the Thursday Next books count as sci-fi you can add Jasper Fforde to the list.

The odd thing is, although I don’t read an enormous amount of fantasy, I can’t seem to generate a story or novel idea without there being a ghost or mythological being or whatever popping up somewhere. I wonder how I can explain that?

Book Review: The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night In a university archive lies a manuscript of uncertain provenance. Nineteenth century, certainly; but it could be fact or fiction or a mix of both. The author is a man who calls himself Edward Glyver, alias Glapthorne, alias several other things as well; and who opens his “confession” by telling how he killed a random passerby as practice for disposing of his enemy. That enemy is the successful, but now deservedly forgotten, poet (and possible criminal mastermind) Phoebus Rainsford Daunt. Edward has been dreaming of revenge on Daunt for years, and after the death of his mother he finds evidence to suggest that the list of grievances might be longer than he had thought.

Patience is a virtue, and Edward has it in abundance as he methodically sets out to gather the evidence he needs to crush his enemy for good. He also has time - or he does until circumstances force him to speed up his plans. Worse, he soon realises he has an enemy closer at hand than Daunt.

The amount of research which must have gone into this book is phenomenal. I’m still not sure whether half the people or publications mentioned were real or not, but I like it when a book leaves me thus confused. That was the most appealling thing about Edward: his erudition and his love of books, and his instinctive liking for anyone who’s a fellow bibliophile (to which I can thoroughly relate). He showed a good deal of intelligence in pursuing his goal, and in laying out the mystery which twisted and turned and slowly unfolded. And to maintain the illusion that it was a genuine historical document, it had footnotes by the editor, J. J. Antrobus (there are some very cool names in here). I love novels with footnotes!

If only it had been a good hundred pages shorter. Or had a likeable main character. Edward introduces himself as someone willing to kill an innocent stranger to further his own ends, and doesn’t improve on acquaintance. He’s ruthless and has a massive sense of entitlement, and I actually hoped he would fail because I didn’t feel he deserved to succeed. I even questioned whether Daunt was the villain he was painted as, or whether it was all in Edward’s mind. This is a book to read for the plot, not the characters, but the former can’t quite compensate for the latter.

Rating: C

16 June 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-night, when I had so many things to say to him! I wanted again to introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she who had made last night's hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept her wickedness a secret.

From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, p. 180.

Library Loot

Library Loot

Piracy: The Complete History
Pompeii: The Living City
The Good Thief
The Water’s Lovely
Piracy: The Complete History - Angus Konstam
Pompeii: The Living City - Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence
The Good Thief - Hannah Tinti
The Water’s Lovely - Ruth Rendell

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra.

06 June 2009

The Literary Blogger Award

Literary Blogger Award

Now this is why I should check my email more often! DeSeRt RoSe has given me a Literary Blogger Award.

The Literary Blogger Award acknowledges bloggers who energize & inspire reading by going the extra mile. These amazing bloggers make reading fun & enhance the delight of reading!

The Rules:

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award

I’ve been very slack in my blog reading lately, so I have no idea who hasn’t received this yet ... hence I'm not going to pass it on. But I’m still very pleased to have received it!

05 June 2009

Friday Fill-In #127

Friday Fill-Ins

1. I spend most of my free time at home.

2. My favorite thing for dinner lately has been anything that involves me standing in front of a nice hot stove.

3. It drives me nuts when my neighbour’s dogs bark! bark! bark!

4. A nice long walk is my favourite form of exercise, as far as I can be said to have one.

5. I hope next week my orthodontist gives me some good news. Like, some idea as to when I can stop wearing my retainers.

6. When all is said and done, there will probably have been a lot of wasted words. Especially if the talking has been done by politicians.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to sleep, tomorrow my plans include sitting in a sunny window with the paper and Sunday, I want to knit!

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776