Title Varies Slightly

24 Aug

My Secret Dewey Identity

OK, it’s been more than six months since I’ve blogged. So I entreat your forgiveness (all two of you who read this), and I offer you a little diversion.

More soon. Pinky swear.

Title Varies Slightly’s Dewey Decimal Section:

234 Salvation & grace

Title Varies Slightly = 0902521895992978025 = 090+252+189+599+297+802+5 = 2234

200 Religion

The Bible and other religious texts, books about the general philosophy and theory of religion.

What it says about you:
You don’t mind thinking about the unknown or other very big ideas. You will never feel like your work is finished. The 200-series is dominated by Christian topics, so you may feel like you’re constantly surrounded by Christians.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

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18 Feb

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum, #18)Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can read a Janet Evanovich novel in one sitting and enjoy it. But then, I can eat a bag of Bugles in one sitting and enjoy it. Not a great decision, though. The third star in this review is for that can’t-put-it-down effect.

And Evanovich is trying to break out of some well-worn grooves. I don’t recall any exploding cars (it’s still not safe to be Stephanie’s car, though.) And there are signs of hope Stephanie will stop being quite so stupid about her love life.

Still, the “whodunit” part of the plot is sketchy, with huge holes. The most important part of the overall story arc takes place in jerky flashbacks. I can’t really recommend anyone start this series, and certainly not with this volume, but if you’re already hooked, you’ll enjoy reading this one. Even if after you are done, you feel a little queasy and don’t know why you did. Just like the Bugles.

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01 Jan

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Wicked Appetite (The Unmentionables, #1)Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the publisher data on the verso of the title page, and the general character of genre fiction these days, this is intended to be the beginning of a new series. And, given that it’s based on a set of mystic stones related to the seven deadly sins, we have a potential of seven books here. I’m not really excited about it.

This is pretty much standard Evanovich. Plucky, vaguely unlucky, attractive-but-not-lovely heroine? Check. Wacky sidekick who complicates life further at all the wrong moments? Check. Hunky but unavailable hero? Check. Heroine becomes a stinky mess at least once? Check. Car destroyed before the story ends? Check.

The hunk in these books is Diesel, whom Evanovich readers have met in the between-the-numbers books featuring Stephanie Plum. Diesel is an “Unmentionable,” a human with certain enhanced abilities. He recruits our heroine, Lizzy, who doesn’t know she has enhanced abilities of her own. They need to find the stones I referred to above before the bad guys.

Really, I was ready to give this book a chance, but then Evanovich actually brought in the most obnoxious minor character from the Plum novels: a bird-flipping, mooning monkey named Carl. The other minor characters — a wanna-be witch, a one-eyed cat, a long-suffering boss — are pleasant enough, but I fail to understand why Carl keeps showing up.

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10 Dec

V is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton

V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Millhone, #22)V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an enjoyable, solid addition to the series. It would, IMHO, make a good introduction to the series, because it doesn’t significantly advance the background story arc or the characters much (although it will interesting to see if some of the situations and characters introduced will impact the next novels). As is usual for Grafton, there are situations and details in the first few pages that don’t clearly weave into the rest of the story until much later. A good curl-up-and-read book for a winter day.

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23 Oct

How a Ramp Made Me Catholic

Well, ok, the Holy Spirit, bestowing grace, made me Catholic — but He used a ramp. Really. Let me tell you about it. (I thought I had before, but I’m not finding it in a blog search, so…)

All my life, my choice of place of worship was largely governed by wheelchair accessibility, particularly the availability of a restroom I could use. If this seems shallow to you, I encourage you to spend a week using only your home bathroom, and maybe one single stall at work, nowhere else.

When I was 10, my mother started looked for a church for me to attend. Now this was almost 40 years ago, and attitudes have changed, but I’m going to tell you straight up: no one wanted me there. Well that’s not quite true; a couple of churches were happy to tell my mom about their great programs for mentally handicapped kids.* But a bright kid in a wheelchair? THAT they didn’t have a plan for.

It was the next-to-last church she called that said, “Well, we have stairs to the Sunday school rooms for her grade — ” and as my mother was about to hang up in tears “–so we will have someone meet you there to carry her down. What kind of car do you have?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the testimony of the church I grew up in. So for many years, I was an Evangelical of very conservative stripe. But, for reasons I promise I will tell you in other posts, I started examining the Catholic Church. I managed to put off making a decision about that until a change of employment moved me away from my warm, welcoming, accessible, social-gospel-y church. (And how I got there from Evangelicalism? Another story!) A new town was a good reason to look at a new start.

So I came to Flagstaff, AZ, a town that is not especially wheelchair-friendly, and I located a Catholic Church within walking** distance. Just about a block further on was a combination Methodist/Presbyterian church. So I decided to “set a fleece before God.” This is a baptized way to ask for a sign.

“OK, God,” I said, “If I can get into Nativity, that’s where I’ll go, but if not, I’ll go on to the other church.” What, you say? You weren’t making this momentous decision on the basis of truth, but of ramps? Yes, actually. I had some data, but I also had my ambivalence. And I was kind of throwing the game here. I knew that the other church was accessible, because I had been there before. I had been told that Nativity was a historic building, and in my experience, that’s not good news for accessibility. Because of recent snows, I was barely making it along the street, so I figured even if there were a ramp, it wouldn’t be usable.

And then I arrived at Nativity of Our Lady, and there, although most of the sidewalks in town were still at least partly clogged with snow, was the beautiful, broad ramp along the side of the building — completely clear of the tiniest bit of snow.

I’m sure the person charged with clearing the ramp had no idea he was an evangelist. But he was.

I mention this because we have a snowy ramp problem in the Catholic Church. Although I could enter Nativity, and worship there, I had to go to the public library to use the restrooms. In 13 years, I’ve only worshiped at one parish where I was able to enter the confessional. I’ve never seen large-print bulletins at any parish I’ve attended. Signers are rare. We will often make services available if people are assertive and ask for them. But what about the seeker who just peeks in, and doesn’t see what she needs to become a part of the community?

Now, we’re not doing a lot better in Catholic New Media. I cannot think of a video podcast that provides closed captioning, or an audio podcast that has transcripts. I understand the ad-lib nature of many podcasts makes that difficult to do, but surely there is some way to improve what we offer?

Let’s do what we can to make sure that our real and virtual events have fewer barriers to the participation of all.

*that actually wasn’t the term that was used, but it’s the term that would be less offensive today.
**walking=going somewhere alone. Almost always means using the scooter wheelchair

30 Sep

Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do MoreGet-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More by Stever Robbins

Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do MoreGet-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More by Stever Robbins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me say up front that I have this book in all three editions: paper, Kindle, and audio. Does that give you some idea how well Stever resonates with me?

There really are only so many basic ideas in a time management or personal efficiency book. We even know what they are. Our grandmothers told us. What we don’t do is connect the ideas to what we do day-to-day.

Therefore, Stever’s 9 steps: Live on purpose; stop procrastinating; conquer technology; beat distractions to cultivate focus; stay organized; stop wasting time; optimize; build stronger relationships; leverage; seem ultimately commonsensical. What Stever does that makes this book worth your time is to use humor and imagery that acts as a mental sticky note to bring the ideas forward to the front of your mind. Zombies, robots, and a cast of demented secondary characters liven the book up and make it fun.

Some of the other reviews ding this book for duplicating material in Stever’s blog and podcast. Apparently these people have perfect recall and don’t need to use multi-sensory input to reinforce important ideas. But I do!

Added bonus: If you like tables, charts, and worksheets to immediately apply the ideas discussed, the book is full of them. Yes, this is even true of the audiobook — there’s an attached PDF with several documents.

DISCLAIMER: Stever also offers a fee-based program for practicing these ideas intensely. I am a client of that service, but I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this review.

Stever Robbins website

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10 Sep

Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again

Grammar Girl's 101 Misused Words You'll Never Confuse AgainGrammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again by Mignon Fogarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer first: I was moved to pre-order the book because Mignon was offering an incentive — a personalized video — for those who did so. I received that gift, but I paid the regular Amazon price for the book, and I made no agreement to review the book. It’s a good thing I didn’t because I’ve taken so long to finish that a review is now probably so late it’s not very useful. But go out and get this book, for yourself or for that friend whose not-quite-right word choices are driving you around the bend.

The structure is simple; each entry features a pair or triple set of commonly confused words. For each, Fogarty gives the correct usage, a memorable quotation (often from popular movies and TV), and usually a mnemonic device to keep you using the right word in the future. Some of these are a stretch, but they will indeed work. The pages are decorated with the whimsical figures of Squiggly (a snail) and Aardvark (an aardvark, yes!). These sketches occasionally illustrate a point, but more often are like medieval illuminations, just adding a little delight to the page.

Now, you might not think you need this book. You might be one of those people who goes around correcting other people concerning their word choices. First of all, I’m willing to bet you WILL discover a word you’ve been misusing without realizing it. Once you get over the shock, you’ll notice that you can help your friends by using Fogarty’s little tips and tricks to correct THEIR common errors.

This book would make a good gift, because the tone is friendly and direct, not at all insulting to the reader.

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08 Sep

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The audio format of this book was a LARGE part of my enjoyment. I know there has been a certain amount of controversy about the use of dialect in this book, but hearing it spoken rather than seeing it printed on the page makes it much more natural. Here in Florida, I hear people speaking just as the maids in the book do. Not an insult, just a fact. Now that I have that out of the way…

Skeeter is a young, privileged white woman in Mississippi who wants to be a writer. When she is hired to write the housekeeping hints column for the local paper, she has no idea of how to do any housekeeping, so she asks her best friend’s maid for answers to run in the column. This leads to a further collaboration which will have far-reaching consequences. And that’s about as much as I can say without having to check that spoiler box.

In some of my previous reviews, I’ve complained about characters who were artificially inserted into the key events of the Baby Boomers’ lives. This would have been very tempting for Stockett to fall into in this book — but she doesn’t. There are references to the March on Washington, the murder of Medgar Evers, the Freedom Riders, and the Kennedy assassination — but these take place away from the main action, and the viewpoint characters are affected, though not actually present. Historical novelists, take note: this is how it should be done.

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08 Sep

Chocolate and Vicodin : My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away

(And may I just say, if this post doesn’t generate a ton of drug spam faux comments, I don’t know what will.)

Chocolate and Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go AwayChocolate and Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away by Jennette Fulda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book about chronic pain that will make you burst out laughing. That is no mean feat, I’m sure you will agree. Fulda chronicles a year of living with a headache, or perhaps I should say learning to live with one.

Anyone who has dealt with a chronic condition will be able to relate to Fulda’s descriptions of waiting rooms, questionnaires, and bizarre insurance restrictions. She runs a gamut of traditional and alternative treatments, takes supplements and narcotics (prescribed and otherwise), and tries to assess the impact her condition is having on her work and life generally.

Among the most touching and funny features of the book are the email messages that open each chapter — unsolicited advice from readers of her blog. They diagnose everything from rare diseases to spiritual possession, and recommend treatments even stranger than those Fulda feels driven to try.

I was surprised but satisfied by the ending, and the book has left me with much to think about regarding my own relationship with pain.

And my husband and I had a long, cheery, discussion about how to recreate the cupcake on the cover for a Valley of the Dolls theme party.

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14 Aug

fathermothergod: My Journey out of Christian Science

The First Church of Christ, Scientist

Image via Wikipedia

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Sciencefathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I said in my update, I am drawn to stories about conversion, struggles in faith, loss of faith, coming to faith. This book gripped me from the start, and I read it in a single sitting (OK, I did get up to use the bathroom, but that’s all).

Lucia Ewing Greenhouse was raised in Christian Science; her parents are converts to the faith. From the beginning of the book, we see her struggles to reconcile the real human problems she sees with her parents’ calm assertion that since reality is the perfect creation of God, everything that seems like illness is just an illusion.

Yet, even for her father (a Christian Science “practitioner,” or healer), or her mother (a Christian Science nurse), there are cracks in this perfect picture. Daddy recommends burying the dead kitten she brings him for healing, rather than praying for it. Children with the appearance of chicken pox are nonetheless kept out of school as if it were something real. Even in Christian Science, people “pass on” to a new plane of existence.

Lucia begins to fall away from the church in high school, but still respects her parents’ beliefs. Then one day, she comes home for a visit, and discovers that her mother seems to be very ill. The family turmoil that results has serious ramifications for everyone. I’ll say no more, but do prepare for an emotionally wrenching experience.

The author is as fair, I think, as anyone could hope to be concerning a faith they have left behind, especially given the events she recounts here. She has a good sense for the unfolding thought processes of a child, and for the small details that evoke an era. (We are almost exactly the same age, and I think that affected my becoming immersed in the book.)

I recommend both this book and the older memoir Blue Windows Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood for people interested in a view into this American-made religion.

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