Definitely Dead – Charlaine Harris

This is the sixth book of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and because I’m also watching the True Blood series on television, I’m to the point where the two story lines have diverged enough that it’s strange reading ahead in the novels, and seeing things that would never be able to happen in the world of the show.

Definitely Dead takes place mostly in New Orleans, where Sookie has gone to clean out the apartment of her cousin Hadley, who was the vampire consort of the Queen of Louisiana, until she was murdered.

The other main part of the story is Sookie’s relationship with Quinn, the weretiger she met in the last book. There are also some revelations about her relationship with Bill Compton, as well as why she’s apparently so irresistible to vampires.

There’s a lot of story going on in this book. It’s fun to see Queen Sophie-Anne portrayed in a different light than on tv – I’ll say I like both versions, for different reasons. There’s also some interesting insight into vampire politics, as well as the introduction of demons into the world of the series.

I finished this book in only a little over a day. It’s great reading candy.


The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth, ME

I finished up my vacation with a clam boat from The Lobster Shack. I arrived at about 11:45, which was apparently the perfect time, as I had ample parking to chose from, and one party ahead of me ordering. By the time I left the building to wait for my food, the line was at least 20 people out the door. I finished lunch with some of the Needham ice cream at Kettle Cove Creamery. It’s coconut ice cream with chocolate chips. Really, really good.

So I’m now basically left to errands and preparing for visitors arriving on Sunday. It’s been a good vacation, but far too quick.

The Harp of the Grey Rose – Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint does high fantasy. There’s not a hint of Newford or any other urban influence in sight!

Cerin was a fairly ordinary seventeen-year-old boy, raised by a village witch in the High Downs. His entire life is changed when he meets the maid of the Grey Rose, the most beautiful maid he has ever seen. She is the promised bride of a being of pure evil, and Cerin vows to free her from this terrible bond. He leaves home with only a tinker blade and a homemade harp, never dreaming that the harper magic of his mother, and the wildland magic of his father, will awaken within him, and help the Grey Rose in ways he could never imagine.

This is one of de Lint’s early books, and is an expansion of a novella. The expansion shows. There’s a climax in the action fairly early in the story, and then events flow forward in a separate, but somewhat related, tale. I won’t say it’s sloppy exactly, but I could tell almost immediately (having not read the publishing date or book notes previously) that this must be an earlier work.

Still, this is an enjoyable story. The world of the story is expansive, even without visiting many of the places mentioned in the story. It’s got all the little details that a good high fantasy world requires to feel like a fully realized place. This is a beginning story, and I would actually enjoy reading more about the exploits of Cerin, once he grows into his full powers as a harper. That, in my mind, indicates a successfully drawn tale.

Eagle Island, Casco Bay, Maine

For something a little different today, I found a cruise that goes out to Eagle Island, a state park that was the summer home of Admiral Robert Peary (the first American to reach the North Pole), and his family.

The island is on the ocean side of Casco Bay (sadly, I was not able to find any good links to maps that demonstrate this), which is much farther out then I’ve gone in my previous island excursions. It was easily ten degrees cooler out there than on the mainland, which was absolutely lovely. I actually had a couple of moments on the boat ride back where I nearly pulled out my sweatshirt, something I haven’t even thought about doing in over a month.

It was a really neat trip. It’s a bit of a haul to get out there (a little over an hour in the tour boat, and we went with a pretty direct route), which means the island isn’t over run with people. There are are plenty of nice views of the island as you travel, and the captain of the boat had a surprising amount of trivia to share about the places we passed.

The island itself has one full time ranger, and a few other volunteers, who were all extremely welcoming. The house, which is built to look like a ship (I have a side view to demonstrate below), has been turned into a museum, and has many original furnishing from when the family lived there.

I have to share my favorite story from the audio tour guide: Peary kept his sled dogs down here when he wasn’t in the Arctic, but didn’t want them to be domesticated, so they were housed on nearby Flag Island, which he also owned. Apparently, on clear nights with a full moon, they would howl in unison, which could be heard quite clearly by the family on Eagle Island. So on the front porch, there’s a huge megaphone, painted with Eskimo motifs. Apparently, when the dogs got up to full voice, Peary would storm down to the front porch in his nightshirt and swear at the dogs in Eskimo through the megaphone until they shut up. That was a great image to imagine while standing on that front porch.

The pictures below are in chronological order, from leaving Portland, arriving on Eagle Island, and traveling back to Portland.

Bug Light


Pumpkin Knob


Van Propelled Lobster Boat, Long Island
(Apparently, this was the big winner at the last lobster boat races.)


View from Eagle Island, over the Navigational Monument to the Atlantic.


Peary’s Library
(There’s a full Polar bear pelt inside. Those are some big freaking animals.)


The tour boat (The Islander) moored at Eagle Island.


Peary’s House. You can see the front of the “ship” at left.


The “romantic ruin”, the twin of the library, once a storage place for Peary’s Arctic memorabilia, and later an angora rabbit hutch.


View from the front porch. One of the islands in the distance is where Peary’s dogs lived.

A lobster boat and the summer sky, from the way back.


Harbor seals on Halfway Rock.

Fort Gorges.


The Portland Skyline.

CSA 2010 Week 9

This week’s haul included: cucumbers, turnips, green beans, red peppers, pattypan squash, tomato, frisee and some adorable baby fennel.

About the only new and different thing I did with last week’s haul was a frittata. I’ll have to claim an Epicurious recipe as my inspiration, as it contained parsley, zucchini (I subbed a pattypan squash), and Swiss chard, which I had onhand from the CSA, as well as scallions and prosciutto, which I had some leftovers of to get rid of. It was a great success, and even the BF (who doesn’t necessarily like breakfast foods for dinner) was impressed. Different variations of this dish will probably be making repeat appearances.

Astro City: Life in the Big City – Kurt Busiek

Read for the Graphic Novel Reading Challenge.

Well, I think I’ve found a new addition to my short list of graphic novels or collections I’d recommend to someone trying to sample the genre. The different books within this collection are basically short story vignettes of the lives of some of the superheroes and regular people that populate the world of Astro City. It’s an interestingly diverse bunch of stories.

The first is a day in the life of Samaritan, a Superman-like hero, but this story casts him much more as a real world bloke going up his day job, and trying to fit all the parts of his life into a single day. I immediately found him much more sympathetic than Superman, who I do enjoy as a character, but is generally much too perfect to be a real person.

A fascinating contrasting story is that of a petty criminal who is “lucky” enough to spot Jack-in-the-Box’s true identity. At first, it feels like a gift, one that he’ll be able to millions from, but as the reality of having that knowledge dawns on him, he finds that reality to far different than he first anticipated.

All of the stories are like this – fascinating takes on what it’s like to be a superhero in a more real world. It’s a great book that I would highly recommend to anyone.

The Welsh Girl – Peter Ho Davies

Read for the Complete Booker 2010 and TBR Lite 2010 Reading Challenges.

The Welsh Girl is the story of Esther, a girl from northern Wales, whose village is home to a POW camp during WWII, as well as Karsten, a German soldier who ends up in the camp after surrendering during the invasion of Normandy.

The first thing that this book made me think of was a picture I have of my grandmother reading a letter that my grandfather had sent her while he was in Europe during this war. Esther’s story is about those people left behind, and what it’s like to be on the home front while young men you love go away.

This is also a story about honor – both Esther and Karsten have lost their honor, in different, but profound ways. In Karsten’s case, it’s the fact that he surrendered, and was uninjured, in battle. Even worse, because he speaks English, he was the person forced to do the surrendering, and that has profound effects on his treatment in the POW camp. Esther’s lost of honor is different, and more integral to the story, so I’ll leave that up to the reader to discover.

Lastly, it’s a story about home, and loyalty to home. Esther is Welsh, and grew up speaking Welsh, though she has learned English in school, and has that in into the English world. The war is considered an English war in her village, and the contrasts of that view, and Karsten’s views about the Fatherland really made me think. I’m certainly familiar with the historical relationship between England and Wales, but I often see it in a historical context. Seeing it in a time nearer to my own was an interesting experience.

I’ll end by saying I suspect this book is entirely what you take away from it. It’s a war book, but it’s certainly not a traditionally packed battle drama. This is emotional drama, and far more subtle, but perhaps more rewarding in the end.

Mackworth Island, Falmouth ME

I’m on vacation this week. BF couldn’t take the time, so I’m seeing what I can do around town. (Yesterday involved laundry and errands.) Today, I headed out as early as I could to Mackworth Island. Turns out, I was the last car in the lot, so my timing was fortuitous.

It’s a lovely day out. There’s much less humidity then we’ve been subjected to for most of the rest of the month, and there was a lovely breeze (though it was actually from the land side, rather than the water side, which is not how that normally works out there). It was definitely a great way to start the morning.

I’ve now moved on to my only true ambition for the week: to read at least two books. Tomorrow’s supposed to be quite humid and generally uncomfortable, so I figured as long as there’s a fan nearby, I should be able to get some good work done on reading.

Astonishing X-Men Volume 1: Gifted – Joss Whedon

Read for the Graphic Novel Challenge.

I have to admit to being what I guess I would have to label as a casual X-Men fan – my knowledge of these characters is from tv and movies. It is a story I’ve enjoyed, but there are so many different series out there it’s hard to know where to begin. My BF suggested Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men series: first because it’s Joss Whedon, and second, because it was a story arch that he, as a long time fan that’s actually read a decent chunk of the available literature, enjoyed.

The story begins with Kitty Pryde returning to the academy as a teacher. Dr. Xavier is apparently off on sabbatical, leaving Scott Summers (Cyclops) in charge, and Cyclops has decided that if the X-Men (and really, mutants in general) are ever going to be accepted by everyone else, they need to start using their super powers for good. In short, they need to be astonishing.

So just as things are settling down at the academy, a well-known geneticist announces that she’s found a cure for the mutant strain. The book concerns the world’s reaction to this news, and how the X-Men decide to deal with it.

I definitely enjoyed this story, which did remind me somewhat of the third movie, but I think came out before that, so might have served as inspiration? I also liked the artwork, which was relatively true to life. I’ll admit to not always enjoying some of the more out there comic art, and this was easy to follow. I’ll definitely be finishing up this series. Fortunately, the BF enjoyed it enough to collect the entire run.

Art and Form at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden

On Saturday, we brought P’s parents up to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay. We spent a good deal of time in the newly opened Children’s Garden, which is the kind of place I would have gone gaga over when I was younger. There are so many cool knooks and crannies to explore, and the adults were having as much fun as the kids.

We also wandered through the woodland and the Garden of the Five Senses. As always, they’re featuring a number of really interesting art installations interspersed in the gardens.