RIP V Reading Challenge 9/1/10 – 10/31/10

Hard to believe it’s that time of year again (really, it’s 90+ degrees outside. It’s really hard to believe it’s that time of year again), but it’s time for the RIP V Reading Challenge.

I will be doing Peril the First, which is to read at least four books that could in some way be seen as scary. I’ve been doing a bit of stock-piling for the challenge (easy to do with the TBR tote of shame), and in the house alone, I have the following waiting to be read:

Storm Front – Jim Butcher
The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
The Book of Air and Shadows – Michael Gruber
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

I also have several other books I’d like to read waiting at the head of my Booksfree queue, so it’s all open, and we’ll see what I end up reading in the next two months. Yay Fall! (A sentiment I’m not sure I can fully get behind unless the temperatures drop at least 20 degrees in the near future…)


Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

Read for the 2010 YA Reading Challenge.

Tally is an Ugly, just shy of her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll have an operation to make her Pretty. Once you’re Pretty, it’s your job to party all day, with no cares in the world.

Tally’s one of the youngest in her class, so most of her friends have already had the operation, and she’s starting to feel lonely in the Ugly dorms. That’s when she meets Shay, who shares her birthday, and so also hasn’t had the operation yet. They have three months to wait, and while blowing off steam, sneak out to the Rusty Ruins of a city near their own City, from the time before everyone could become Pretty. While they’re there, Shay reveals a secret – she knows Uglies that have snuck away from the City, and are living in the wilderness, still Ugly.

Tally just wants to be Pretty, and when Shay asks her to run away with her, declines to go. Unfortunately, some of the senior Pretties have found what’s going on, and give Tally one option: go after Shay and discover the runaways, or never be able to be Pretty. Tally finds the runaways, and also finds out far more about the history of the City, and being Pretty, than she ever imagined.

This is definitely the most modern post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read – there are references to biology run amok, with invasive species, and the idea that our inability to live in harmony with nature somehow lead to our downfall. The Cities are built on the principal that humans must live in harmony with the environment, or die. I also like the premise of being Pretty – that taking away variation allows people to live to their fullest potential, without fear of being less valued for the way they look. It’s a thoroughly chilling idea – but one you can see a society going with after a great calamity.

This is a great young adult take on post-apocalyptic fiction, and I’m looking forward to the other books in the series.

What We Eat When We Eat Alone – Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin

This book grew out of a question that the author and illustrator (a wife and husband pair) would often ask people in their travels: what do you eat when you’re by yourself? The variety of answers is endless.

This is an interesting look at how we view food. For some people, the answer is something simple, because they don’t feel themselves worthy of the effort of a fully cooked meal if they’re the only ones eating it. Other people pull out all the stops, and eat a more elaborate meal than I would consider preparing for a holiday dinner.

There are also differences between what men and women will eat when on their own. The one that struck me most is that, at least in the experience of the author, men were far more likely to resort to pasta when cooking for themselves. I find this idea fairly preposterous, as if I had my druthers (and the metabolism I had when I was six), I’d eat pasta morning, noon, and night. Though, I will say, some of my favorite winter roasted vegetable solo concoctions are remarkably similar to a number of other womens’ contributions in the book.

There are a hundred recipes included in the book, ranging from simple breakfast burritos to complicated roasts with side of polenta and braised vegetables. It’s an interesting collection to thumb through, with many being so personal that I find myself not being inspired to cook many of them. It seems sacrilegious somehow, as if I would be intruding on someone’s private domain. Still, this is a fun book to wander through – a rare cookbook that you can truly read all the way through.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I hadn’t realized, but I actually completed the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge with the last book I’d read, as I’d included an extra book, just in case. So, I’ve managed to top the Fascinated Level by one. I’ve decided not to go up to the next level (and read 12 books), as the TBR tub of shame is beckoning me with many non-historical fiction books.

For the challenge, I’ve read:

It has been fun looking out for historical fiction, and I’ll definitely keep this in mind for a good challenge for next year.

Mollie Peer – Van Reid

Read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Mollie Peer is the second in a series of books set in late 19th century Maine, about the Moosepath League, five men who somehow manage to stumble into grand adventures.

Mollie Peer is a reporter for the Portland Argus, relegated to the society column because she’s a woman. She’s constantly on the lookout for a great story that will prove her worth to her editor. One day at the docks, she sees a small boy being knocked around by an older man, and determines to investigate. Around at the same time is Wyckford O’Hearn, star hitter for the Portland Bantams baseball team, and Mollie more or less tricks Wyck (trust me, this makes more sense when you read it) into kidnapping the little boy, named Bird. It turns out Bird’s current guardians are into some rather shady things, and want Bird back, to make sure he doesn’t share what he’s seen.

Into this story comes the members of the Moosepath League, made up of three bumbling gentlemen, and their leader, Mr. Walton, who fortunately has a great deal more sense than the rest of the group. Mr. Walton has gone on a trip to Hallowell, with adventures along the way, and while he’s gone, the other members of the League get themselves embroiled in Bird’s future.

If this sounds overly complicated, it’s because there are numerous storylines floating around in this book, which amazingly manage to meld into one by the end. It’s a bit hard at times to keep track of all that’s going on, but it’s satisfactorily resolved by the end, except for the one piece of the story that’s left for the next book.

The main source of fun in this story for me, as a Mainer, is the slice of life in my state. A good deal of the action takes place in Portland, and it’s funny how different, and yet similar the feeling of the town is. The other thing that struck me is the effort involved for travel in those days. A trip up to Bath, which I’ve done as a quick part of a day trip, involved a day’s train ride from Portland. I pass through Hallowell on the turnpike when heading north on the three hour trip to see my father in Ellsworth, and Hallowell is merely a blip in the early part of my trip. It is interesting to be reminded of how much I take for granted in this day and age.

The pace of these books is a bit frantic, and I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy them so much if I wasn’t able to enjoy the Maine references in the midst of it all. I’d be curious to see what someone without the Maine point of reference thinks about this book.

Knitting Notes

Work is progressing on the Maude Louise sweater. It’s an easy knit, and I’m nearly to the end of the back. The only slightly bad point is the lattice pattern. To get gauge, I actually had to go up two needle sizes (apparently all that lace knitting was making me tighten worse than usual). Even at a size 5, the knitting was tight enough I actually split the pad of my left index finger from pushing through all the smaller stitches.

CSA 2010 Week 13

Today’s haul was: garlic, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, and romano beans.

Last week, I used the string beans to make Thai Green Beans from Simply in Season. I made it without the tofu, and it was a great side. The cabbage became cole slaw that we had with Simply Recipes’ Sloppy Joes (the cole slaw recipes is linked there. The sloppy joes were definitely the highlight of that meal, but the mustard version of the cole slaw was a nice compliment.

Solstice Wood – Patricia A. McKillip

Solstice Wood is a sequel to Winter Rose, and it’s also an interesting study of the variability of the author’s writing style.

In the present day, Sylvia Lynn, the great-great-great granddaughter of Rois in Winter Rose, is called back to Lynn Hall when her grandfather Liam dies. Sylvia left Lynn Hall as soon as she was old enough, haunted by the question of who her father was, and knowing that the answer to that question puts her at odds with her home.

This is a different world than that of Winter Rose: generations of women in the village have worked to close off the doors to the realm of faery, believing that the fey are deadly and dangerous. Sylvia’s arrival as the new heir of Lynn Hall brings this ancient struggle to a head.

What I really loved about this book was the contrasts with Winter Rose. Winter Rose is my favorite example of McKillip’s way with words, and Solstice Wood stands in contrast to that. Her modern stories tend towards more modern language, and this book trends a careful path, bringing richness to the fore the more the fey characters as able to travel back to the modern world that they’ve been kept away from. I still liked Winter Rose the barest bit better, but this is a worthy sequel.