Month: May 2009

Reading: Many mysteries and more

Photo taken 5/20/2009.

Dead of Night, Immortal in Death, and Promises in Death by J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts – I think this might be the last of my “in Death” reading binge, as I’ve checked out everything available in our library system. (“Dead of Night” was a collection of four short stories by various authors, one of which was an “in Death” story by J.D. Robb.)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – I liked the cover and thought the title had potential but was disappointed by this young adult book, with protagonist Gemma, sent to a London boarding school after her mother commits suicide in strange circumstances. A mix of boarding school drama, magical realms, evil people and creatures, and the mystery of how her mother was involved all of this plays out in the rest of the book. I thought the characters were shallow and not very compelling — or likable — and while I finished the book, overall found it a bit boring.

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear – Another “Maisie Dobbs” mystery novel; this time, Maisie is hired by Scotland Yard to investigate some serious terrorist-type threats. Her investigations will bring her to the plight of the ignored remnant of soldiers suffering from post-war mental trauma; meanwhile, she tries to figure out how to help her assistant’s wife who has been slipping deeper into depression after the death of one of her children. This book continues the series with grace and sensitivity.

Predator, Postmortem, and All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell – Postmortem and All That Remains are the first two books in the Kay Scarpetta series, but I had picked up Predator first and found it much harder to jump into than the “In Death” books, so checked out the earlier books to get some background. Oddly to me, the earlier books were written in first-person from the viewpoint of Kay Scarpetta, the Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia, but the much later book was written in third-person. As an avid watcher of CSI, I liked reading these novels for the heavy involvement of forensics in the plots.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee – That’s not a typo; the author’s middle name really is the number “8,” a lucky number for Chinese. A journalist for the N.Y. Times, her “adventures in Chinese food” started when she was intrigued by the multiple lottery winners who used fortune cookie numbers to win the jackpot. Jennifer uses her journalistic acumen to find out things like how authentic General Tso’s chicken really is (it’s not), who first came up with fortune cookies (the Japanese), and other things that I didn’t even know I wanted to know but felt hungrier after knowing them. Must read this book with plenty of Chinese take-out on hand.

Garden 2009 update

Oh boy, I’ve been dropping the ball on updates. Here are a few highlights from the past few months.

April

The seedlings grew nicely in my makeshift greenhouse.

We finally finished weeding out the planter boxes, tilled the soil, and mixed in compost from our compost bin. I picked up three organic tomato seedlings from the Farmer’s Market. The Sweet 100 went in the corner box and the other two went in the rectangular box.

  • Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes – $2.50
  • Golden Jubilee – $2.50
  • Viva Italia Roma – $2.50

In mid-April, I added potting soil around the seedlings and put them outside to start to try to acclimatize them. Unfortunately I forgot about them… and by the time I remembered and brought them back in, a third of our seedlings had wilted and died. Quite sad, I started up more seedlings in another plastic tray. I think this one used to be an Oreo cookie tray.

May

Fast-forward a month. The seedlings are still inside, although I just started putting them back outside to get them used to the growing summer heat before I put them in the ground.

The two tomato plants in the rectangular box are doing great. We even have some mini roma tomatoes starting to develop.

To our surprise, some things have started sprouting from our compost that was mixed into the corner box. We think we have some rogue butternut squash coming up and have left a few to develop to see what happens. We also got some tomato seedlings that came from from last year’s Sweet 100’s, and I dug up some of them to give to our neighbors.

The Sweet 100 is flourishing – no surprise – and the start of cherry tomatoes can be seen on the bottom branches:

There is also a mystery plant behind the Sweet 100. Anyone have any ideas?

The only other expenditures this month was for the three “Ultomato staking systems,” at $19.36 for all three. We have two wire cages from last year that were too small for the massive Sweet 100, and I liked the customizable stakes and supports of the Ultomato. I’ve already snapped off the side rungs and replaced them a few times to give some of the branches more support as the tomato grows.

Reading: J authors

Completely unintentionally, I read books by authors whose first names all start with the letter “J”.

Photo taken 5/1/09

Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier (The Sevenwaters Trilogy) – Juliet Marillier’s debut trilogy is fantastic. Each book is told from the point of view of a different character, starting with Sorcha in Daughter of the Forest, which is a retelling of the wild swans fairy tale. The other two books follow Sorcha’s daughter and granddaughter. Highly recommended.

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty – I’m often surprised by the dark themes in young adult books these days (I guess “young adult” books from my time are now considered “junior” books). This intriguing and slightly confusing books makes sense at the end and would be a good “discussion” book about infidelity, as that theme pops up often. Listen Taylor lives with her dad and his girlfriend, Marbie Zing. The Zings are an intriguing family with a “Family Secret” that causes them to meet every Friday night in their garden shed. Listen starts high school and inexplicably finds herself ditched by her friends. How her loneliness intersects with the life of an elementary school teacher, and what the teacher has to do with the Zing family secret, are things that will be revealed by the end of the book. I wouldn’t say that I “enjoyed” reading this book, although I finished it to find out what happened. The female characters used too many exclamation points for me to relate with them.

Salvation in Death and Origin in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) – Still going through the “in Death” series.

The Abyssinian Proof by Jenny White – A sequel to The Sultan’s Seal, which I’d come across in the new books area as well, this one has a more “resolved” ending (in that Kamil Pasha actually finds out “who done it”) and a Da Vinci Code flavor with a small minority sect and religious artifacts that could “change the world.” Beautifully written again, but I’m not enjoying this series enough to continue to seek out new ones as they come, although I’ll probably pick them out if they appear in my line of vision on the new book shelf.