Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Dilly of a Nightmare with an Extra Scoop of Scary

I dream. A lot. Most often, my dreams are long and involved and continuous. Usually, I wake up able to remember a considerable amount of the dream. Almost always, there is some correlation between aspects of the dream and what is happening to me, or has happened, in my waking life.

Unfortunately, nightmares stick with me even more so than dreams.

Mr. B and I are on a cruise ship. There are initially scenes of us waiting in line to go on-board and then moments of us in our stateroom. The majority of it, though, is me walking around one deck of the ship; the deck that has the buffet at one end of it. I wander around and always end up entering the dining room/buffet area at the same place; where two women are sitting at a counter, each eating strange looking meat and cheese filled pasties. Each time I pop up, they glance up at me with some degree of irritation. The final time, I move on through the dining room and continue my circuit around the deck.

It is twilight, the glooming. I am now inside but can easily see the ocean from the many windows that line the part of the ship I am walking through. There are a lot of people crowded around the railing, leaning down and looking at something in the water. There are excited voices and pointing, "See that! See that! It's fins! There must be a dolphin down there!" I stop and watch the people at the railing. As I'm standing there, I, too, am able to see the fins; they appear to be rising up out of the water, as if whatever it is is attempting to reach up and say "Howdy, folks!"

Suddenly, the mood turns ominous. The fins are extremely large; much larger than what you'd see on a dolphin or porpoise. A sense of dread fills me as I watch a huge lump of something come up out of the water, totally level with the railing. It has a huge head and a snarling mouth with a ton of wicked looking teeth. As it propels itself alongside the railing, it takes out several of the people standing there. Most of them fall shrieking into the water below but a few end up flailing about in the creature's mouth.
All around me now is pandemonium. I turn and walk briskly back the way I'd come, going against what is now a large crowd of people coming my way; I am pushing, pushing to get away. I pull out my cell phone to call Mr. B, hoping he's somewhere very far away from this disaster.

I find an alcove where I can stop and punch in Mr. B's number. Initially, I am so scared I cannot control my fingers and I keep dialing the wrong number. Or, I get the number in and then inadvertently disconnect. This goes on for some time, with me getting more and more frustrated and panicked. I try to calm myself down, knowing that if I don't, I won't be able to make the call.

I continue to walk against the tide of people, looking down at the cell phone and trying to get the number in correctly. As I'm walking, I am startled by the fact that so many people don't seem to have any idea of the danger we are in. Bells sound that signal the Captain is about to make an announcement. Everyone around me keeps talking at a loud pitch, even when he starts to speak. I cannot understand what he is saying, but know it has to do with the monster that has attacked the ship. I shout at the people around me, "Shut up! Shut up! Be quiet! We need to hear what the Captain is SAYING!" but they look past me as if I'm not there.

I end up back in the dining room/buffet area but this time, since I've entered from the opposite direction, I do not disrupt the two ladies sitting at the counter. A server wanders by me with a tray. She stops and holds it out in front of me, inquiring if I'd like some shrimp; indeed, there is a small bowl of shrimp on her tray, along with a dish of cocktail sauce, toothpicks for spearing the shrimp, and a few napkins. Incredulous that she is offering me food given what I just saw, I stand there gaping at her. A man pushes up behind me and says, "Sure, I'll take some!" He reaches over with his fingers and grabs some shrimp. The server slaps his hand and says, "You're not supposed to use your bare fingers! Drop that and go wash your hands right now!" He slinks off, I head off in the other direction, still fumbling with my cell phone; trying to make that call to Mr. B.

After what seems like ages, I am finally successful in doing so. I hear the phone ringing, ringing, ringing, on the other end. I am praying it won't go into voice mail because I am not sure that I could punch the numbers in correctly again. Thankfully, he picks up, and I say, "Where are you? Where ARE you? I am on Deck Four, aft!"

The voice, when it answers, is not Mr. B, rather, it is my ex husband Mr. H. He replies, "Well, hey there, Aims, I'm on Deck Six so there's just one deck between us, isn't there?"

I shriek and hang up the phone. I try again and again to call and every time, my ex answers. This goes on for some time before I finally wake up.

I can do arm chair shrink like the next person; I can figure out what some of this means, certainly. However, this is not the first time my ex has made appearances in my dreams, continuing to masquerade as my husband, and I really don't understand why.

That's it. No moral or point to this entry today; just needed to get it out there because it is still so very vivid at almost 9:30 am. Perhaps sharing will help to disperse its creepy, bad-vibe vapors.

Mrs. B

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: August

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: Totally Awesome/5 Stars
I almost did not read this book because I just have this "thing" about animals dying. Ever since I read "Sounder" as a child, I can't barely get through anything where an animal, in however way, dies. Not that this is the focus of this book by any stretch, but, you got to know it's coming at some point.

However, I'm really glad I read it and would encourage anyone who has ever had a dog (or a cat, for that matter) that has been with them for ages and ages and through thick and thin and who you have wondered what in the heck they must be thinking about you, to read it as well.

It can be as light or as deep as you like it to be. It's definitely a quick read/page turner. The narrative (from Enzo the dog's perspective) manages to be both amusing and sage at the same time; just what you might imagine an old dog who has seen a lot would have to say if he had a tongue that allowed him to form words and sentences.

Finally, for those of us who I have lost pets and contemplated where they've "gone"; you'll likely love the ending.

If you a) hate animals b) have no sense of sentimentality c) and are in general a Scrooge, then, don't read this book :-)

It'll break your heart, but, in a good way.

Maybe I can now muster up the guts to read "Marley and Me"!

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan: Solid/Good/3 Stars
I continue to enjoy this series. I think my book club friend is right; this is the best one so far with the introduction of a few more Gods, more challenges for our intrepid hero and his pals, and a bit more darkness.

I have to say, though; the format is seriously reminding me of the Harry Potter books (each book = a different year; each book a bit more complex/dark).

No matter. They are definitely fun reads! And, judging by the tattered conditions of the books (borrowed from the library), much read!

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (CD): Solid/Good/3 Stars
I first visited Salem MA as a small girl with my step-mom. I clearly remember going to the Salem Witch Museum (and buying a pack of "fortune teller's" cards!)

Over the course of my life, I've read quite a bit about the trials and subsequent hanging of "witches"; obviously, the real evil was how completely sane and adult persons allowed themselves to be swept up into a witch hunt by a slew of hysterical (and conniving) teenage girls. Surely, someone should have stopped and thought to themselves, "Wait a second here..." Well, of course some did, and they ended up dead.

So, I was drawn to this particular book; a somewhat fictionalized accounting of a family living on the outskirts of Salem yet still finding themselves drawn into this ugly drama.

The story is narrated by Sarah Carrier, the daughter of one Martha Carrier, who was, indeed, accused of being a witch. At the end of her own life, Sarah is relaying the sorry tale to a much-loved granddaughter so that the truth won't be lost.

95% of the book takes place in 1691-1692 and centers around Sarah's family dynamics, her love-hate relationship with her mother, and her dawning realization that it isn't her mother who is the "bad guy" (How many of us have been there? Luckily, not many of us had our mother's hanged as a witch).

A Google search shows that Martha Carrier was indeed a real person who was accused, tried, sentenced and hanged as a witch on August 19th 1692. Apparently, Kent is a descendant of Martha Carrier, which is why she chose to write the book. Kent does well enough weaving in the other characters of the day into the story and describing the mouth gaping events that took place in Salem and surrounding towns. I think I would have preferred, however, a bit more about Martha herself and a little less about Sarah; especially as one Google return said something like "Martha Carrier: A Puritan Feminist?" and Cotton Mather referred to her as "The Queen of Hell" (sounds like a good title of a book to me!)

Still, entertaining and interesting enough; especially as a "listen to". And now, I'm curious enough about Martha Carrier to go dig up more on her and maybe, too, re-read Miller's classic "The Crucible".

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Book Club Selection): Totally Awesome/5 Stars
Absolutely loved this book. Don't really care what all the "nay sayers" out there have to report on it. It's fantastic. And, considering it's Stockett's first novel, even more so.

Three wonderfully written main characters, a bevy of well rounded secondary characters, and an age old tale of doing what is right, regardless of the potential cost to oneself, means one quick paced read.

That's all!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (CD): Solid/Good/3 Stars
I'm not really a short story type of person but this one was ok, probably because all of the stories were connected by the title character.

Olive is a seventy-something crotchety dame living in Maine with her usually low key husband Henry. She's one of those "characters"; she'd be a lot of fun to chat with but boy, would she be draining if you had to deal with her all of the time.

Each story either is about Olive or her husband or her somewhat estranged son or is about someone else living in their town of Crosby and Olive and/or Henry makes a cameo appearance in their story.

As with any collection of stories, some of them are definitely better than others, but, frankly, there were a few (and overall, there were A LOT of stories) that were sorta lame.

I listened to this whilst driving around town, working out or futzing in the kitchen. The narrator was quite good; even managed to do an excellent rendition of what a person sounds like on speaker phone.

I may be tempted to read something else by Strout now, which is sometimes what picking up something completely out of your interest zone is all about.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: Solid/Good/3 Stars
I had a love-hate relationship with this book which, in the end, turned into a resounding "Like".

I think the majority of my issue with the book, a historical fiction accounting of (most of) Thomas Cromwell's life, was simply the style in which it was written. It took me 3/4 of the book to finally "get" Mantel's voice. As she is a renowned author in her native England, I figured she had to be worth plugging on with, and, she was.

That aside, I thought it brilliant how, in Mantel's hands, all of the characters from this period of Henry VIII's reign who are usually portrayed as sympathetic to the reader were now the villains; and, vice versa. Case in point Cromwell himself, who, if you believe everything you've probably read (or seen) where he makes an appearance, he was a truly evil, greedy, person who hated Thomas More (to some a saint) with a passion and did whatever he could to save his own grubby neck (which ultimately ended up parted with his head, anyway, but, that was several of Henry's wives past Anne Boleyn!) Even the ever creepy Duke of Norfolk (Anne's uncle) is viewed somewhat sympathetically.

Of course, Henry VIII comes across the same because only a dumb-dumb doesn't get that Henry VIII was, although at times a brilliant monarch, mostly an incredibly insecure man, a temperamental leader, self-centered, ego-centric and, as many of his loved ones found out at their expense, a fair-weathered friend.

I loved the fact that this tale centers smack on Cromwell; I'm not sure how much may have been true (other than what is in the record) and how much was made up, but, Cromwell was certainly a fascinating figure who played a fairly significant role in English history/the Tudor reign.

"Wolf Hall" (BTW, loved how the title finally made its way into the story at the very end) terminates while Anne still has a year or so more to live and Cromwell has several. Obviously, Mantel could continue her tale of Cromwell, and, yes, (my husband will be surprised to read this since he heard me griping abut Mantel's style for the month plus it took me to get through the book) but, I do believe I may actually read it!

A final note. I saw somewhere that another reader of this book said Cromwell's story would make a great miniseries. I agree; just, pray God, don't use that smarmy actor who played him in "The Tudors"!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mrs. B at Nineteen!

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. Thought I'd share with those of you who do not frequent Facebook.

This is me (left) and a childhood friend at another friend's high school graduation party.

Ah, to have those chubby little cheeks again!

Mrs. B

Friday, February 11, 2011

Radiant Cruise on Radiance: One

We left Weeki Wachee the morning of Sail Away Day in a torrent of rain. The drive to the pier in Tampa was nothing short of harrowing and I'm not being dramatic here! We took one of the toll roads which meant it wasn't as crowded as the interstate would have been but there were still plenty of idiots going way too fast given the poor visibility and very slick roads. Not to mention, I had to use the facilities 1/2 hour into the trip. Why does this ALWAYS happen? Mr. B finally pulled off a few exits before we got to the pier; I didn't want to get dropped off at the terminal building and stand there with my legs pressed tightly together lugging our bags, waiting for a porter, etc.

Ok, so, when we did get to the pier (very easy to find), we were relieved to see the ship towering over the terminal building. As some of you know, there had been an outbreak of "something" on the ship several cruises before ours. Over 100 people were reported ill, they completely bleached and disinfected the ship before allowing it to sail again (which meant the people on the following cruise didn't get to board until 6:00 pm and the ship didn't sail until after 10:00 pm). There were reports from that cruise of no one being able to serve themselves (e.g., at buffets) or even hold their own menus in the dining rooms. Also, no salt and pepper shakers, no dishes of butter. Even though there had been zero reports about issues on the following cruise (the one just before ours), we were still a bit anxious about another outbreak. I had come prepared; tons and tons of antibacterial wipes and several bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer.

Anyway, the ship was there. Mr. B pulled up to the curb and a porter immediately materialized to whisk away our bags. Mr. B went to park the car across the street while I stood there watching a large crowd of seniors get off a bus and the chaotic process of them finding porters for their luggage.

Mr. B came back within 10 minutes and we went inside the terminal building. We were so pleased with the process at Tampa! So much more organized than in Norfolk. We breezed through security, filled out our health forms, and were immediately checked in by a friendly Royal Caribbean employee. A few minutes after, we were on the ship (after stopping to take the obligatory "Welcome Aboard" picture (which we didn't buy because I didn't like the way I looked)).

We come onto the ship on Deck 5. My general impression of Radiance was that she was a bit larger than Enchantment (several decks taller) and there seemed to be a lot more glass and chrome. Over the course of the cruise, we learned she had several more restaurants/bars than Enchantment and some really cool elevators that were designed to appear as if they were out over the ocean. I'd read quite a bit on the message boards prior to sailing about there being some issues with plumbing and that she was going into dry dock in May; after which, she'd come out an entirely different ship (different restaurants, updated carpet, new furnishings in the staterooms, flat screened TVs, some rooms made over to single traveler rooms (an interesting concept), etc.)) We'd been lucky enough to go on Enchantment a few weeks AFTER she'd come out of dry dock so I was a bit worried that Radiance would be on her last legs or something. Not true; we never saw anything that was not perfectly elegant.

So, we wandered around a bit, getting our bearings, but, it wasn't long before we were in The Schooner Bar ordering our first drink of the cruise; Mr. B was pleased that Radiance had draft beer (Enchantment did not) and I, of course, was overjoyed to be reunited with Royal Caribbeans famous frozen mojitos!

After checking out a few more public places, we headed to the main dining room, Cascades (yes, there was a cascading waterfall near the entrance) to find our table.

I'll say this upfront and get it out of the way. The dining room situation was the fly in the ointment on this cruise. Everything else, for the most part, was fine; but, this really irritated me. From the get-go, when I made the RSVP, I was clear that we needed a quiet table because Mr. B is hard of hearing in one ear. Seriously, if there is too much clatter and din, he really cannot hear. I noticed on our invoice/ticket it said "Request quiet table near window; one passenger deaf in one ear". Ok, not exactly true, but close enough.

We found our table; yes, it was a window table sure enough but it also was a table for 10. Seriously, what's the likelihood we'd be able to snag the two chairs by the window every night? And, frankly, neither one of us were thrilled with the prospect of sharing our meals with eight other people we didn't know. So, off to find the Maitre d' to see about getting the table changed. We'd had to do this on Enchantment, too, so were not overly surprised. However, we lucked out then and were moved to a lovely, quiet table for two by the window. Not so this time; we got the run-around about there being a waiting list for tables for two. Mr. B mentioned the deafness; after some shuffling, we did get a table for two except it was right by the entrance to the dining room and behind a waiter's station. On top of it, the table behind Mr. B was full of loud people who seemed to like to shout at one another and the tables next to us had several small children who didn't stay in their seats. Not quiet at all. We tried several more times to get a better table and our head waiter said he kept trying for us, but, suffice it to say, we were stuck there.

I found it extremely interesting that Royal Caribbean took the deafness seriously enough to put this weird vibrating/flashing light device in our stateroom (for emergencies, I guess) but yet we couldn't get a decent table. Of course, I'm thinking had Mr. B slipped the Maitre d' a $20, we may have had our table! This is something I'll have to figure out before we cruise again; how to get the table we want so we don't have to mess around with it/be dissatisfied. I know one way; get a few other people to go on a cruise with us and then we'd have our own table. Any takers?

We had lunch our first day in the Windjammer up on Deck 11; this is the buffet for those of you not familiar with Royal Caribbean. This was the first and only time we ate there for the entire cruise. Nothing was wrong with it, but, I was just sorta paranoid about another outbreak and by the time we cruised, they'd stopped serving everyone. I saw enough that afternoon of people pawing at the food that grossed me out sufficiently to steer clear. I know there are a lot of people who cruise in order to stuff themselves silly at the buffets and all the other free food stations, but, the B's are not included in that crowd.

Around 1:00 pm, we were able to get into our stateroom and start the unpacking process. As others had mentioned, it was quite a haul to our stateroom at the very back of the ship from the nearest bank of elevators/stairs. Heck, at least we'd be ensured some exercise (this and climbing up and down the stairs; something we did almost all the time unless I was wearing high heels). In general, we were pleased with #1104 on Deck 10 (do not ask me why it wasn't #1004!) especially the huge balcony. The room itself was somewhat smaller than the one we had on Enchantment and the bathroom, well, it was downright dinky and I don't think a large person would be very comfy in the tiny little stall shower (with the butt-crack attacking shower curtain) but since it was a five night cruise, we had figured we could make do with the smaller quarters. Plus, we wanted to try an aft balcony. Having said all of this, we've decided we'll always go for a junior suite or larger, mostly because the bathroom is fairly sizable and the attention from the stateroom attendant is much more personal. Our stateroom attendant this cruise was just okay. He kept the room clean; that's about it.
The bed was very comfy and right by the door leading out to the balcony. Nice to wake up every morning to a lovely view of the ocean.

Our luggage hadn't arrived yet but our Champagne had! Despite it being rainy and icky outside, we ventured out to enjoy a flute of Champagne out on the balcony, toast, and wish ourselves a Merry (belated) Christmas (the cruise was our Christmas present to each other). After the bags arrived, Mr. B unpacked (he's much better at finding the perfect spot for everything than I am) while I took pictures and shot the video of the stateroom. This I do to post on-line; you'd be amazed how many people are looking for pictures/videos of "the" stateroom they'll be staying in.
Mr. B checking out the view.
The large balcony.
Final picture with the cell phone before turning it off!
Relaxing after unpacking. Note the weird vibrating/flashing device on the night stand underneath the phone.

Around 3:30 pm, we headed down to Deck 5 for the mandatory muster. Nothing exciting to report about that.

Finally, sail away at 4:30 pm. Another drink in hand, we stood on top of Deck 12 and watched Tampa slip away. Well, not really; the way it's situated in amongst all the channels, it took over three hours to actually get out of there onto the open sea. By that time, we'd of course gone inside to find some place warmer to watch the lovely sunset. We choose the Viking Crown Lounge up on Deck 13, just about the highest vantage point on the ship.

Sailing away with a frozen mojito and hoping the weather improves (it did).
The terminal building in Tampa.

Dinner that evening was fine (although we were both still a bit miffed about the table situation). One very nice thing about the food in the main dinning room is that the portions are just right and there is plenty of variety. As on Enchantment, we'd prepaid for the wine package and there was a fairly decent selection.

The evening ended relatively early for us; by the time we'd finished dinner it was after 10:00 pm and we were both exhausted and ready for sweet dreams on the high seas!

Mrs. B

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Spot of Blather

Now that I've been off Facebook several days (although I do admit to a few minutes on occasion of clandestine lurking), the idea was that I'd have more time to blog. I've lots of ideas for posts/series floating around in my brain, not the least being finishing up my 2010 book reviews (I'm supposing someone out there enjoys reading them) and writing about our recent cruise (although soon to be not so recent). I've also been (on the side) writing a short story about my first trip to England with my Father and step-mom and the adventures we (mostly Margot and me as Father was on business a lot of the time) had.

But, for now, I think I will just ramble on about miscellany.

I woke up this morning to find a light dusting of snow on the ground. This explains why my head feels as though it's about to explode; going from sunny and clear to sunny and snowy then, later in the week, sunny and sixty, well, my brain cannot compute and my allergies start acting up.

And thus I've laid another excuse for not writing about anything which requires any degree of significant thought.

Mr. B had an HOA Board Meeting the other night to which a posse of angry neighbors, pissed off about the no parking on the street rule, showed up; hoping, he believes, to throw him off and trip him up. Of course, our Mr. B is cool as a cuke and it sounded as though he handled it well, aided in the knowledge that after next month's meeting, he's so out of there (resigning from the Board; the neighborhood is gonna go to pot). Seriously, I'm so TIRED of these idiots going on and on about not being able to park in the street. One guy, the gang leader so to speak, has threatened on numerous occasion to sue the HOA and the Board. He says, "My lawyer says this, my lawyer says that", to which Mr. B replies "Our lawyer co-authored the North Carolina Planned Community Act and SHE says the rule is enforceable". I say, "Dude, if you're gonna sue, go ahead and sue and shut up about it. No one is scared of you!"

On the neighborhood message board, there has been plenty of debate over this parking issue, with the majority of the people who post totally in support of enforcing the rule. I've stopped posting on this message board because I've been accused of "protecting the President because she is his wife" (as if he needs my protection) so I don't weigh in on this; probably a good thing as I'd likely tell this ass cavity (a neat term my step-mom came up with) what I thought of him and his whining on and on about his "right" to park his ugly junky cars on the street. But, thankfully, others have jumped in and said things such as, "Wait, aren't you the one who parks two or three cars on the street, making it very difficult to get through?" When people challenge him, he shuts right up, but, he did manage to find several other people to join his stupid gang, others who have been fined for parking on the street and think their rights have been violated, to go with him to the meeting. Including, unfortunately, our next door neighbor (the father of the budding drummer, who, incidentally, can still be heard at times banging away when he should be in bed). Our neighbor, who is also a cop, said to Mr. B, "This isn't personal, man, but you can't enforce a no parking rule on city streets". Mr. B sighed and said, "Yes, we can".

Ok, enough about this except to add that I have been known to drive by the offending vehicles and throw my chewed up wads of bubble gum at them. Call me childish, but, hey, if their cars weren't sitting out on the streets, they wouldn't get bubble gum stuck all over them, now would they?

As an aside, when we were in Florida checking out neighborhoods and houses in Sarasota and Ocala, that was one question I asked the agents; "Is street parking allowed?" and, if the answer was "No, it's not", then, "Is it ENFORCED?" I can't wait to get out of this neighborhood we're in, and will only continue to care if we aren't able to sell our house and have to rent it out. Let's pray the market turns around! It sure seems to be doing so in Florida since the majority of the houses we saw and liked are now under contract.

Speaking of this house, we're still fighting with KB over getting our carpet stretched (or re-stretched or properly stretched; whatever). In typical KB fashion, they continue to ignore us. Unlike the dumb-dumb down the street that keeps crying wolf about suing, however, we will be suing KB; we're just following the appropriate procedure of notification, wait a period of time, bump it up to the next level of authority (assuming we can figure out who the you know what that is), etc. I did find it somewhat amusing the other day when I sent a copy of an email, pictures, and inspector's report that we never got a reply on certified mail/receipt requested to them from a post office that was literally two suites down from where the letter was going! This only because we need the proof that it was received and signed for.

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, which means another excuse to prepare a special dinner. We've finally settled on the menu, Mr. B's going to stop and pick up the wine tonight, and I'll shop for ingredients tomorrow. Saturday's the big night! Other than this, we won't do much; we stopped exchanging gifts as it seems somewhat pointless at this juncture.

Mr. B is heading into busy season. Yuck upon yuck, but at least there is an end in sight. Because of this, he's already done our various returns and discovered we will in fact get a substantial refund. We both sort of scratch our heads at this since we thought we'd altered the deductions such that we would approach zero sum gain. Well, hey, at least it's not the other way around. I told him I've already got that money bookmarked for our next cruise :-)

Speaking of travel, I'm mulling over what mine and Lucy's annual trip to Florida will shape up to be this year. When will we leave? How long will we be gone? I'm thinking I'll leave after St. Pat's day so that I won't miss seeing The Blue Man Group with my SIL, which will be entertaining or, what promises to be even more entertaining, the annual HOA meeting with the homeowners. One thing we do know and that is we'll be going down to Florida sometime after April 15th to continue our research. And, then, of course, we have the Indy 500 to look forward to at the end of May, which will include a fun road trip with our dear friends from California.

Of the ten movies nominated for best picture, we've seen two. Inception and True Grit. Both were good but I've heard The King's Speech is gonna whomp all over everything else; which means I really want to see THAT. I might even go by myself one afternoon, why not? True Grit was the first movie we've seen in the theater in probably two years. We couldn't even remember what the last one was. It's just so much easier to wait and get them on NetFlix or rent them from the library. I just finished watching the third installment in the Twilight series (some movies I watch by myself while working out; this one I'm fairly certain Mr. B wouldn't care to have seen as I doubt he'd be on either Team Edward or Team Jacob!) I have The Kids Are All Right to watch next; he might like this one well enough but his hours are slowly but surely starting to expand, leaving me with plenty of time alone.

What I've been doing with some of that time is start the process of going through all of our stuff and decide if a) we keep it/take it b) we attempt to sell it in a mega yard sale we'll be having c) we donate it d) we junk it. So far, we've made it through the garage (this was definitely a two person job) where I junked an entire box of writing I've been hauling around for decades plus a ton of pictures and other memorabilia while Mr. B junked old nails, screws, a package of pipe cleaners he has for 30 years, and other various stuff I have no idea what it was. I went through the shelves in the utility room where there must have been 4,000 plastic bags (for scooping out the cat boxes) and 1,200 half-empty containers of Lucy's various prescriptions. Today I think I may tackle the pie safe. So totally unlike me, but, I just have this urge all of a sudden to travel light, perhaps in preparation for my ultimate wish to retire on a cruise ship. Hey, we may be able to figure out how to take whatever pets we still have with us; we did see a woman on our last cruise with a dog.

It is now 10:10 am and it's probably time for me to stop this blather and sign off. Before I do, though, I will say that I haven't really missed Facebook. The few times I did a quick check to see if there was anything out there that I should know, there wasn't. I figure the people who want to keep in touch with me will do so, somehow.


Mrs. B

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: July

Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton: Solid/Good/3 Stars
Mind candy, plain and simple. This is #7 out of, I don't know, 20? Whenever I want to read something but don't really want to think overly much, I return to Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, and her bevy of monstrous friends and lovers.

Is it my imagination, or, are these books getting steamier as time goes by? Pure silliness but perfect for pool-side reading.

A few new characters introduced in this one that will, apparently, be hanging around.

As I've said before in my reviews of this series, this is Twilight for adults. And, Hamilton had the market before what's-her-name came around. Anita's got it all over Bella, folks.

As for vamps vs.'ll just have to decide for yourselves :-)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan: Solid/Good/3 Stars
Although not as captivating as the first book in the series (and I also noticed several errors; Riordan should ask his editor to do a better job!), this was a perfectly enjoyable follow up to "Lightening Thief".

It closed up with a cliff hanger, so, I immediately made my RSVP for the next book at the local library!

As an important aside, I'm pleased that there is such an interesting series out there for young readers, especially one that is both entertaining and instructive about the Greeks. Maybe these books will lead said readers to the source (Greek Mythology).

Captain Alatriste (Adventures of Captain Alatriste #1) by Arturo Perez-Reverte: Solid/Good/3 Stars
My Father-In-Law recommended this to me last Spring. It's a fun read with not too much lost in the translation from Spanish to English (although I suppose I wouldn't know if anything was lost, would I?)

It sort of reminded me of a more hip Dumas tale. The year is 1622. Captain Alatriste is a down on his luck ex soldier now turned Sword for Hire in Madrid. Along with a mysterious and sinister Italian, Alatriste is contracted by two masked men to ambush two English men on a dark back road. Complications ensue when one of the masked men directs that the men not be killed, yet, when he leaves the room, the other, along with a creepy clergy man, tell the Italian and Alatriste to kill the English men.

The Italian and Alatriste ambush the Englishmen, but disagree on which instructions to follow.

And, the Englishmen are not your ordinary tourists tramping around Spain...

and so on...

The story is told mainly from the perspective of Captain Alatriste's young page/charge/servant; the son of one of Alatriste's soldier friends who was killed in battle.

Alatriste has a band of friends and followers; ex soldiers, Constables, poets, as well as the love of an ex whore. There is a lot of both sword and word play going on between them and around them, and yet, Alatriste remains somewhat detached from everything but his honor and the young boy; another enigmatic hero.

This is the first in several in a series "starring" Alatriste. And, the hunky actor Viggo Mortensen recently played Alatriste in a movie (that must have gone directly to DVD since I never saw it in the paper).

Definitely worth a look-see if you're wanting something quick paced and quick witted.

Proud Shoes by Pauli Murray (Book Club Selection): Really Good/4 Stars
Many of us in book club pondered why this book is not on the "must read" list for junior high-high school-college. It should be, especially here in the South and in particular in Durham.

Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray crafted a phenomenal balance between telling the story of her maternal grandparents (and their parents) and her own upbringing in rural Durham NC against the backdrop of history of those times (pre Civil War, Civil War, etc.); doing so in a very matter of fact, undramatic (but entirely riveting) fashion.

There is a lot of powerful punch packed into this relatively short book and definitely one where you'll glean more and more each time you read it.

Dr. Murry herself was a fascinating woman; an activist for race well before the first well known sit ins but also a founding member of NOW. She once was quoted as saying (paraphrasing here) that, in her opinion, being a woman was far more difficult than being African American.

Well worth reading.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (CD): Didn't Much Care For/2 Stars
Whereas Niffenegger's debut novel, "The Time Traveler's Wife" is one of my very favorite books of all time, unfortunately, her much anticipated follow up is going into the 2 star pile. I may even have given it 1 star except it kept me somewhat occupied whilst driving about town or chopping up vegetables for dinner.

Although the scenarios in both books are utterly implausible, the author managed to pull it off with "Wife; not so with this one.

I don't really even care enough to review the book/talk about what it was about, especially as so much of it was boringly predictable and trite. I didn't gel with any of the characters. The ones I found the most interesting were the minor/on the fringe ones.

REALLY disappointed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An Experiment

I'll admit it, lately, I've been spending way too much time on Facebook, both in checking out what my 107 friends are doing (although only roughly 1/2 of them ever post anything, which makes me wonder why the heck the other 1/2 even have an account) and in posting my own pictures and other various items. I've been pondering what one Facebook friend does every year; giving Facebook up for Lent. Although I'm no longer religious and it would therefore be hypocritical of me to say I'm giving Facebook up for Lent, I thought I might give it up for awhile and see what happens.

So, yes, I've decided to stay off Facebook for some undefined period of time. I'm not shutting down my account or anything as I have way too much vested in it (pictures, mostly) and it's nice to know they're stored somewhere other than my lap top (as we all know my propensity to have computer issues). But, I'm going to attempt to completely stay off it, and that includes lurking on my friends's pages, during this experiment.

I have to also admit that I've become a bit peevish about the fact that I post stuff and no one (for the most part) ever comments on what I post (even when it's been requested that I post something, like pictures) and/or, in general, no one really communicates with me. In my opinion, Facebook can be an excellent mechanism for keeping in touch but most people don't seem to view it this way. Frankly, this is beginning to irritate me, especially now, when I could use a bit more interaction. I wonder if anyone will even notice I'm not there? Yes, I'm holding a pity party with a guest list of one.

But, really, the main reason is to see how much other stuff I get done if I'm not blathering away on Facebook or reading what everyone else is going on and on about (and getting annoyed because so much of it is really quite stupid).

For instance, perhaps I'll go back to blogging more. And writing; I've several ideas, after all. Not to mention, I really do have quite a bit of things to get done around the house and I should kick up my exercise routine, plow through more books, watch a few movies (my poor NetFlix account has been somewhat neglected) and try to kick Microsoft Heart's ass.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes as I enter Facebook withdrawal.

One day at a time.

Mrs. B

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: June

Man, I'm WAY behind here! We've just selected the books we'll read in book club for this year and I'm not done reviewing LAST year's.
Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss (Book Club Selection): Didn't Much Care For/2 Stars
Since I was the one who suggested this book for my book club, I REALLY wanted to like it. Also, ever since I was a child, I have had an odd fascination with "freaks". Yes, I was drawn to the freak shows at state fairs (never did see anything overly freaky, or legitimately freaky, anyway). Finally, my step mom's book club read this and, according to her, it generated a goodly degree of interest, debate and discussion.

I must say, I was disappointed in how Strauss tackled this fictionalized account of the twins. It fell flat. No one in the book was likable in the least, including Eng, the twin whom Strauss picked to narrate the story because he felt Eng "might offer a more interesting perspective of their twinship". Well, he didn't. Frankly, Strauss would have been better off letting Chang take the helm. He was at least slightly more likable than Eng (even if it was only because I felt sorry for him).

In our discussion, we decided that, instead of (needlessly) going back and forth between the twins earlier life and the "current day" in North Carolina, Strauss should have alternated the telling of the story between Chang and Eng.

Still, with Strauss's fairly piss poor writing, choice of direction and skimpy character development, it probably wouldn't have mattered overly much WHO narrated the story.

I give the book a 2, mostly because of Strauss. Ok, all because of Strauss. I still would give Chang and Eng themselves a much higher rating. I'm going to continue to give them the benefit of the doubt for having been decent people!

In researching a bit about the book for the meeting, I discovered that Gary Oldman is working with Strauss to make a film based on the book. This could either be really interesting good/or a complete flop. Also, Mark Twain wrote a small, extremely amusing tongue in cheek piece on the twins back in the late 1800s. And, someone in Durham made a documentary about Chang and Eng (we watched parts of it in book club); some of it was informative, a lot of it was just plain weird.

In any event, the book DID fulfill one of my wishes. It generated quite a bit of discussion, including speculation on who they'll get to portray the twins in Oldman's movie!

Embers by Sandor Marai: Solid/Good/3 Stars
Beautifully written (and, I surmise, translated). But, oh so boring. I know, that is likely an oxy moron.

Two old friends, who haven't seen one another for 41 years, sit in an old house in the forest one evening eating dinner and talking.

Yep, that's the whole story.

Seriously, the book delves into topics of friendship, love, betrayal, and the incessant need for seeking out the truth.

Perhaps I would have found it more intriguing had it not been so bloody hot when I was reading. My mind wants fluff.

I'm holding on to the book and will read it again (it is a short 213 pages) when it is cold and snowy out; I think I will appreciate it more under those circumstances.

So, in due fairness, I am giving it a 3 for now; said rating my go up (or down) after I re-read it!

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (CD): Totally Awesome/5 Stars
US Marshal Teddy Daniels and his (recently assigned) partner Chuck Aule are sent to Shutter Island (near Boston) which houses a prison/hospital for the more than criminally insane. The purpose of their visit is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of the more seriously deranged female patients; a disappearance that seems entirely implausible given how closely she was supposedly guarded.

As Teddy and Chuck delve into the case, a hurricane hits the island causing them to be, in essence, shut off from the mainland. As the days pass, it becomes quite apparent to Teddy that things are not as they seem, and, perhaps, there is something very sinister being conducted on the patients on Shutter Island. As he tries to piece together the missing prisoner case, he is hampered by uncooperative staff and doctors, a barrage of migraines, bad dreams, and relentless memories of his beloved dead wife. Yet Teddy also harbors an ulterior motive for being assigned to the case; he suspects that the man who set the fire that killed his wife in their apartment is now a patient/prisoner on the island.

Then, the missing patient shows up, his partner goes missing, and the story becomes totally enthralling; complete with several mind-blowing plot twists and turns.

I listened to this on CD and found myself driving around longer than I needed to so I could keep listening! I know some of the psychological aspects of the book are likely implausible, but, still, I found this so interesting, entertaining and surprising that I might even go back and read it again, especially since now I know the ending (think "Sixth Sense") and will have fun looking for the clues throughout the book that can only be appreciated in retrospect.

This is the first Lehane novel I've read. I have seen the movie adaptations of both "Mystic River" and "Gone, Baby, Gone" and now am pumped to see "Shutter Island". I'll also likely read all of Lehane's novels!

We rented "Shutter Island" and, although not quite as good as the book, it was certainly good enough.