Thursday, March 31, 2016

Coloring Book Bliss

When I reviewed the Barcelona Adult Coloring Book for Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program back in February I was at first skeptical about the reported calming, serene effects of this new trend. It didn't take more than five minutes to experience the meditative qualities firsthand, and so I became a coloring book convert. I don't know why it works, but everything they say about adult coloring books really happened to me as I worked on my pages.

My first experience was so positive that when Alexandru Ciobanu, the photographer and author of the book, offered me a paper review copy of another of his works, I said yes. I was curious if working from an actual book would make any difference, and I wanted to try some other types of markers and pencils to test how well they worked as coloring media.

Yoga and Meditation Coloring Book for Adults arrived a short time later. It's a slim, large book with fifty different illustrations to color, which range from large, easy-to-do mandalas to very intricate, highly-embellished body forms in mind-bending yoga positions. The illustrations definitely have an east Asian feel to them, but they also celebrate the female form without being crass or vulgar. I smiled when I saw some illustrations depicting a pregnant woman; that was a nice surprise.

Since there were no guide pages in this book to inform my color choices I drew on the cover art as inspiration. I liked the rainbow effect of the multi-colored body embellishments, and it freed me to do pretty much whatever I wanted. As with the Barcelona book I began by using watercolor pencils, which are the easiest for me to handle.

The only difference this time was that I used a bit less water on my brush while dampening the penciling, mainly to keep from saturating the page. I also placed a paper towel under the page to keep the watercolor from soaking through to the next page. I was surprised at how little bleed-through there was to the back side of the page when I was finished. The pages of the book are pretty lightweight, but they hold up well.

Here's how my first page came out:

For my second page I tried my artist-quality colored pencils. Because I can't use a lot of pressure due to the arthritis in my hands, I was expecting the same, poor results I had with the Barcelona book. I soon discovered that my penciling looked much brighter this time, which I have to attribute to the quality of the paper in the book.

Here's how that page came out:

I tested my fine-line Sharpie markers on the pages (and if you want to test any media in a coloring book, the best place is the title page or the back/end page), but they did bleed through quite a bit. As an alternative I bought some washable markers and erasable colored pencils, both made by Crayola, and used them to do two pages for a side-by-side comparison. The markers came out very vivid, and the tips allowed me to use both broad and fine strokes when I needed to. The colored pencils produced a lighter, more artsy result, but I liked the convenience of being able to erase any mistakes I made.

Here are those two pages:

I liked all the results this time around; I think the washable markers performed best, and with 50 colors more shades to choose from you can get a lot of shading and contrast. The watercolor penciling turned out almost as well, and gave me the opportunity to do a bit more in the way of shading and blending. The colored penciling might not have been as strong, but the paper used in the book seemed to help me get more color onto the page with them. Working from a book also didn't make a lot of difference, as this one is very flexible and lays pretty flat while you're using it.

With every page I worked on in the Yoga and Meditation coloring book I felt almost instantly calm, focused, and clear-headed. I can't explain that any more than I could with the Barcelona book. It was a very relaxing experience, and now that I have an entire book to work on I will be revisiting it every time I need to wind down and find some serenity. Since I'm a high-strung person whose thoughts are perpetually crowded, this is simply wonderful for me. I highly recommend Alexandru Ciobanu's Yoga and Meditation Coloring Book for Adults.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Font Me

Sorry I'm late posting today; my guy hurt his foot and naturally I'm the family nurse. While I'm off pampering my poor love and running him to the doctor, here's an online typography quiz you can take to find out which typeface best suits your personality.

My results:

Interesting. I would have picked something old-fashioned, like Courier New, so maybe it even fits. I just checked the blog template and I'm using Verdana for PBW's text, but I picked that because from my POV it was the easiest to read.

What typeface did you get? Let us know in comments.

(Online quiz link swiped from Gerard over at the Presurfer)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sub Op

Spec Fic publisher Otter Libris has an open call for a circus-themed antho: "The Concept: Let’s go to the circus. Circuses are supposed to be places of joy and wonder, but they are also full of clowns and many people find clowns distinctly creepy. Circuses come into town and disappear after a brief stay, leaving behind nothing but a memory of the magic. They are homes for misfits, bearded ladies and contortionists who might be shunned in the outside world. What better environment than a circus for a story of magic and wonder that leaves you wondering if it ever happened. Give us your best wonderful, dark, or fantastic story about the circus.

What we don’t want to see: Gratuitous anything – violence, sex, profanity, doesn’t matter. If it is not integral to the story and it’s not advancing the plot or character development, we don’t want to see blood, gore, or sex just for shock value’s sake (this goes for language too). We are not opposed to violence, sex, or profanity – as long as it belongs in the story and it’s not just there to shock and titillate. Some things would be a very hard sell for us, like rape or torture of any sort, and torture of children or animals will get an immediate rejection. Think of how far we’re willing to go based on the well known movie rating system – if it would qualify for a PG, PG-13, or R rating, we’ll look at it. If it would be NC-17 or up, we’ll have to pass, thank you.

Word Count: We’re looking for stories that fall in the 3,000 to 10,000 word range. We will consider looking at stories outside this range, but they need to be just too good for us to pass up. You have a much better chance if you keep the word count within our range. Please query us before sending a story outside of the word count guidelines.

Reprints: We prefer unpublished, original fiction. You may query about reprints, but to be perfectly honest, unless 1) it’s an absolutely perfect fit for the book and so well-written that we can’t bear not to print it, or 2) you’re an author with a lot of name recognition and a significant publication history who can help drive book sales simply by being in the book, we’re not likely to accept it. Better to just send us something original.

Rights: We wish to purchase exclusive print, e-book, and audio rights for one year, and non-exclusive print, e-book, and audio rights for a period of five years after that, with the option to re-negotiate additional years of rights after that.

Payment: Onetime fee of $25 plus one contributor’s copy for the original terms of the contract. Payment is on publication.

Sending your submission: We will be accepting electronic submissions only. Make sure you put “Circus” in your email subject line. No simultaneous or multiple submissions please. Send your story as a .doc or .rtf file to submissions at otterlibris dot com. Please include your name and contact information in the document.

Submission Window: We will be open for submissions for the anthology beginning on March 1, 2016 and close to submissions on May 31, 2016. Any submissions received outside of this window will be deleted unread. We expect to respond to submissions throughout the window with a “no, thanks” or “we’d like to hold this for further consideration,” with final decisions going out approximately four to six weeks after the closing date."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Love Bill

I hope everyone who celebrates Easter had a nice holiday. Our dinner was a lovely success, and it was nice to have a big crowd around the table for a change. We're still trying to reinvent the holidays now that the kids are grown; I think just having a meal together with family and friends is a decent alternative.

I'm trying to be a bit more adventurous with my cooking, too. Last night I pulled out a big Chinese cookbook I bought from the last friends of the library sale, and skimmed through it to look for some new recipes. Near the back I found a Christmas card tucked in the pages:

Since the only person in my family with that name is not in love with me, I'm sure it's not mine. The card is in pristine condition, and probably a little older as it's made of nice, double-folded paper, not single-sheet card stock.

Bill was obviously a romantic. One of the reasons I love paper books is because they can serve as little time machines, and transport bits of ephemera like this from the past into your hands. Or you can tuck things inside them for your kids or future generations to find. I wonder if we'll ever find a way to do that with the electronic versions -- maybe someday we'll be able to add our own notes to e-books, and leave them for whoever inherits our e-readers or cloud accounts.

Have you found anything interesting lately in a used book? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wishing You

Image credit: Subbotina

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde

Like most American children of my generation I was taught in school to regard the Roosevelt name as mythic-heroic. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was largely regarded as the George Washington of my birth century, and his wife Eleanor a model of quiet, intelligent feminism minus the misandry that later tarnished the cause. Of Theodore Roosevelt I can recall only admiration for a man described as a fearless, rough-and-tumble outdoorsman made by an anarchist's bullet into the youngest President in history. "Teddy" Roosevelt advised speaking softly while carrying a big stick.

Darrin Lunde's portrait of Theodore Roosevelt in The Naturalist is that of the same man, but with very different insight into the making of America's first great naturalist President. For example, they never taught us that asthma crippled Theodore as a child. I found it rather heart-breaking that his father's desire for a strapping, healthy son drove Teddy to attempt to overcome his weakness by developing his physical condition. Nor had I any idea that our 26th President was from childhood an ardent bird lover, or a devoted, prolific writer who among other things published 45 books, mostly about animals. Almost everything I learned about Theodore Roosevelt in this book was news to me, which by itself makes it a must-read for anyone who wants to know the subject better.

The pickle for the modern reader is dealing with the dichotomy of Roosevelt's naturalist/conservationist views with his love of hunting, particularly big-game hunting. I think the author makes a great case for accepting that a statesman can want to protect nature at the same time he's heading out and killing animals -- often rare, borderline extinct animals at that -- every chance he has. This alternative portrait of Roosevelt is very detailed and unflinching, and although it's presented with obvious fondness for the subject it does inform, in some ways with brutal exactness.

The author provides a very readable narrative of Roosevelt's life as a naturalist, and offers a wealth of information about the many people who influenced his attitudes along the way. At times I felt as if I walked beside Roosevelt as he traveled the American West and the African plains, hunting and shooting (often badly.) I couldn't rejoice in the amount of animals Teddy killed -- almost 11,500 in Africa during one expedition -- and I kept wishing he'd taken cameras instead of guns with him. Yet while we may find his passion for naturalism via hunting reprehensible and offensive today, he was a product of his time. This founded the practices that built all those really cool animal exhibits you see in natural history museums all around the country; men like Roosevelt, who went out and shot the very first specimens.

Obviously if you're an animal lover this might be a difficult read; at times some of the more graphic descriptions made my own cast-iron stomach churn. Also, if you want to keep intact any unwavering hero-worship for Theodore Roosevelt, this is probably going to kick some holes in it, so you should pass. But if you want to get a better handle on the president who created five of our most important national parks, advanced our understanding of innumerable animal species, and used federal law to create and protect hundreds of wildlife habitats, this is definitely the book for you.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Here's an interesting (and for us ladies, painful) look at the history of women's underwear from the Victoria and Albert Museum (narrated, background music):

Underwear: From corsets to bullet-bras and back from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 71.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hodge Podge

While I was down for the count my review copy of Yoga and Meditation Adult Coloring Book by Alexandru Ciobanu arrived. Since I'm a bit frazzled trying to catch up and get ready for Easter no doubt it will come in handy. I'm also planning to use the pages I complete for another project, so stay tuned to see how I do.

I also joined BookBub, a free service for readers that e-mails me every day with an alert list of free or low-cost e-books being sold on Amazon. I was a bit skeptical at first, as I couldn't imagine getting free books every day, but they really do deliver at least one or two free titles in every e-mail. On the downside, most of the freebies are badly-written, or smut, or both. Mainly both. There's been only one history book in the bunch since I started the subscription. Still, I have snagged a couple of romances by authors who knew what they were doing -- Courtney Milan and Carrie Ann Ryan, to be exact -- so it wasn't a total waste of my time. I'll keep my account for a few more weeks to see what other pearls I can glean from the swine.

Finally, since Easter is Sunday I am going to move Just Write to tomorrow, so I don't leave poor Nex in the arms of that enormous squid thing for another week. But will Navara wake up long enough to keep her from being squid kibble? Stop by if you have a chance and find out.

Thanks also for your patience as I get back up to speed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sub Op

Sorry I'm so late posting today; I have a lot of catching up to do this week.

Here's an open call from Tanstaafl Press for a trio of Armageddon-themed anthologies: "Stories must be less than 8000 words. Stories considered for Enter the Apocalypse must be stories about the start and / or middle of any type apocalypse. Apocalypse can include (but isn’t limited to) nuclear, epidemic, supernatural, bioweapon, cosmic, aliens, etc. Stories considered for Enter the Aftermath must be stories about the burnout or shortly after any type apocalypse. Stories considered for Enter the Rebirth must be stories about the world coming back to a new stability after any type of apocalypse.

We will accept submissions up until June 15, 2016 for Enter the Apocalypse, Sept 15, 2016 for Enter the Aftermath, and Dec 15, 2016 for Enter the Rebirth.

The Enter… series will pay for each story used in the range of $0.01-0.08 per word (averaging close to $0.03 per word). People who have stories for each of the works accepted with the same world will receive a boost on each consecutive story. An example: Say TANSTAAFL thinks your work is worth 3c per word on your story in …Apocalypse. Then you submit a story from the same world to …Aftermath. Assuming it is accepted you would get 3.5c per word on that story."

For more details, see the submission guidelines here.

Monday, March 21, 2016


I'm finally back on my feet, thanks to my very smart doctor and some hefty drugs. The real challenge now is taking it easy this week as I finish up my antibiotics; I'm never very good at that first part. But since I've been almost continuously sick for more than a month now I think I'll make an effort.

After getting over a sickness you want to feel stronger, better and ready to jump right back into your life, don't you? I always envision myself bouncing back like this:

Even when I'm so weak and wrung out I actually feel more like this:

I also have Easter coming at me in less than a week, when I'll have a whole houseful of friends and family visiting. I have a huge dinner to plan, gift baskets to prepare, the house to tidy, etc. So I also feel a bit like this:

Rather than race around like a mad thing trying to catch up on everything I believe I'll prioritize what has to be done and let what doesn't wait. Then it's simply a matter of taking on one thing at a time, get it done at a reasonable pace, and then move on to the next. And ask for help, too.

What's up with you all? Let me know in comments.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Off Again

I'm bailing on you all again today. The upper respiratory infection I thought I had beat came back with a vengeance, and decided to migrate into my ears and throat. I went to see the doc, and he prescribed the horse pill antibiotics and sinus spray, and told me to stay in bed and chug sports drinks. As miserable as I feel, I think this time I will, although tea and lemon and honey is more my sick room beverage.

I'll try to do Just Write tomorrow, but if I'm not feeling well enough you'll see this post instead. Send good thoughts my way if you have a chance; this bug is being very stubborn. See you when I can be vertical again.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ebéniste mécanicien

I love antique roll top desks, especially ones with hidden compartments, so this video of one at the Met really wowed me. If James Bond had been a cabinet maker, I think he would have wanted David Roentgen to be his Q:

Rolltop Desk by David Roentgen Demonstration from Metropolitan Museum of Art on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wishing You

I'm taking off today to wrap up some work for a client. Celebrate safely!

Image credit: coramueller

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sub Op

Here's an open call for an upcoming SF antho over at "Tayen Lane is currently reading submissions for our first annual Procyon Science Fiction Anthology. This collection will feature the works of writers from across the world and will span multiple sub-genres within the science fiction genre. Send us your best and most memorable stories. We want work that fascinates, provokes, intrigues.

Writer guidelines:

Submissions are open to writers from all countries; however, the submissions must be in English. The maximum word length of a submission is 7,000 words. Submissions must be unpublished. Please submit short stories as a Microsoft Word document (or PDF), double-spaced and in 12-pt font to

Submissions will remain open until 11:59pm PST, Thursday, March 31, 2016. The anthology is edited by Jeanne Thornton and will be published in hardcover in FALL 2016 with subsequent softcover and eBook editions to follow. All chosen contributors will receive $100, two hardcovers, two softcovers, and an eBook. Writers will maintain ownership of all copyrighted material.

We look forward to your submissions for our 2016 Science Fiction Anthology. Thank you for considering Tayen Lane Publishing."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Day Away

While I was off on my one-day vacation over the weekend I took some pics of the lovely animals we saw, as many of them were willing to pose:

I've never taken such a neat shot of a tiger as this.

Okay, not every animal was willing to be photographed.

As swans can be very aggressive I tend to avoid them, but this dark fellow seemed calm and not at all interested in coming after me.

Still working on identifying this guy.

Also got this and several other wonderful shots of my writing animal. It's good to recharge the batteries and refill the well by taking a day away. Now, back to work.

Monday, March 14, 2016

True (or Untrue) Self

Gerard over at The Presurfer linked to an online quiz here that is supposed to reveal your true self. At my age that isn't much of a mystery, but I went ahead and took it anyway. Here are my results:

I had to chuckle over the very exciting life bit. Are writing and quilting and cooking exciting? I must have missed that memo. I'm not especially social, so it is hard for me to connect with people in real life. With my guy, our kids, the dogs and PBW in my life, I'm rarely lonely. As for my heart being broken lots of times, sure, but the alternative is never to love anyone or anything, and that I can't do.

Did you take the quiz? Share your results in comments.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Off to be Mom

I'm taking the day off for a family event. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Just Write Saturday

I have family plans for tomorrow, so I'm going to move Just Write to today, and write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 67.

For more details on Just Write, click here to go to the original post.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Steampunk Symphony

A one-man band takes on a whole new meaning with Martin Molin and his Marble Machine. I could see something like this existing in Toriana (music):

Wintergatan - Marble Machine from Wintergatan on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I was a bit puzzled to read about The Museum of Broken Relationships, which evidently will be moving its permanent incarnation from Croatia to Los Angeles in the near future. Why do people keep things to remind them of a heartbreaker, and why would other people want to look at them on display? After being dumped without warning, I packed up every single thing my heartbreaker had ever given me and sent them UPS back to him (which was also intensely satisfying as a symbolic last word on the break-up.)

While I was congratulating myself on my superior tactics, I thought of the boxes of rejection letters I've kept since I began submitting to publishers back in 1974. I still take some of those letters out and read them on occasion, and remembering that bucked me off my high horse. That also made me wonder what it would be like to visit a museum of rejected publisher submissions:

The Museum of Writer Rejectopia Announces new Exhibits!

Come join us as we begin our spring season with a whimper, not a bang, and all-new exhibits for other-writer rejection lovers.

The Hall of Terse Commentary

See the finest of examples of quick, insensitive rejections such as "No Thx" scribbled on notepaper, "Not for Us" scrawled on the submission title page, and examples of now-rare checkbox postcards.

Back Gallery of the Battered

Prepare to be horrified as you view the once-pristine manuscript returned trashed by indifferent editors. Speculate on why pages were crumpled (used for trash can basketball, perhaps?); see evidence of editor addiction via countless coffee cup ring stains and a shockingly large wine splash.

Special Exhibit -- Outrageous Revision Requests

Did you know Melville was asked to change the whale from Moby Dick into a man-eating shark? Neither did we, but we can assume Stephen Spielberg got wind of it. Come and find out what other classic writers refused to fiddle with their stories to cater to meddling editor egos . . .

I'd probably have to donate the e-mail from an editor who loved and stayed up all night reading my submission of Night of the Chameleon, and told me that, right before she said there was no way in hell they could publish it. That one really hurt.

What do you think should be in the Museum of Writer Rejectopia? Offer your donations in comments.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Possible Hair Perfection

I just got a heads up from Library Thing that I've won a review copy of 100 Perfect Hair Days by Jenny Strebe, which was one of my more adventurous requests from LT's February Early Reviewers list. I think it could also help me improve what I do with my mop, as I never have perfect hair days and usually just braid it back or wear it in a ponytail. My daughter then wants the book so she can perfect her hair, which she's growing out from a pixie cut (for which I am silently rejoicing, as she has beautiful hair.)

I also received a note from Alexandru Ciobanu, the author of the Barcelona Adult Coloring Book, who was kind enough to read my post. He offered to send me a paperback copy of another of his works to review for Library Thing, and I accepted. So I'll be able to test the trend with an actual book this time. I'm interested to see how it goes while working from a book and how the pages stand up to different media. I also have some ideas on how to use the pages once they're colored in, and will try those out as well.

I'm finding that the more books I review for LT, the more I'm winning. Last year it was a book every couple of months; this year I'm getting something every month. I don't know if this is just dumb luck, or the fact that I review everything I receive factors in. Either way, I think I do need to limit how many books I request so that I don't end up overloaded and unable to keep up.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Path Not Taken . . . Yet

Last night I opened an e-mail from a quilting sister who (again) tried to talk me into joining the local guild. They're a lovely, friendly group of ladies, many of whom have issued similar invitations over the years. I had two more requests while I was at the show. Then, when I got home, my guy suggested I join, which really surprised me. I didn't know he was aware that I quit my online guild when all the eye trouble happened back in 2014, but apparently he pays more attention to me than I thought.

I sometimes suspect the family is trying to find things for me to do now that my kids are grown. Which, honestly, is weird. In addition to my full-time job as a ghost writer I have two dogs and a very large house to maintain, meals to cook, laundry to wash, a daughter to get through college, books, my own quilts, art, reviews to write for LT . . . all of which leaves me very little idle time to join a new group and get into even more creative trouble.

It would be nice to belong to the local guild. Right now my pal Jill is the only quilter friend I have in my real world life, and she's just as if not more busy with her family. Our conflicting schedules make it hard to get together very often. I rarely do well in groups (and that's me, not them) but I'd probably have a great time with this particular guild. Nearly all of the ladies in it are my age or older. No one is snobby or acts superior, although a few of them are masters of the art. Most of the guild ladies use machines for everything, but they like the kind of hand work work I do. I could probably learn a lot from all of them, and I know some have been quilting for half a century (I've only been at it for twenty-five years.)

That said, family and work must come first for me right now. Today, while the guild is having their weekly meeting, I will be finishing up a series proposal for one of my clients. That one job will pay my bills for six months. Or I could be sitting and gossiping and sewing, and having fun, and earning nothing. I also know in my heart that while I love quilting, writing really owns me.

It's not a tough choice. If I ever retire from writing (doubtful) or when my youngest gets her degree I may change my mind, but for now I'll just be content with seeing them once a year at the big show.

What have you given up for now that you may take up later? Let us know in comments.

Monday, March 07, 2016

2016 Quilt Show

I'm back from the quilt show I attend every year, at which I had a marvelous time. More than marvelous, actually. I've been needing a creative kick in the backside, and this definitely did that, but it was nice just to be with my sewing sisters. Quilters are such lovely people.

So many amazing quilts were entered I practically burned up the camera snapping pics. Among the surprises, there were lots of dimensional quilts with objects couched right on, or faux 3-D appliques artfully. Think a butterfly quilt with the butterflies rising out of the quilt as if they mean to fly off, and you'll get the idea. Adult coloring books have also invaded quiltworld, as they influenced one entrant to design and make an adorable elephant wall hanging based on the bright coloring style of the books. After all the fun I had with the Barcelona coloring book I might have to do something like that.

The only downer was that I didn't have a lot of money to spend at the show this year, but the universe came to the rescue. On the second day I won a door prize bag with a quilt book, a fat quarter and a sample of cotton fiberfill. The author of the quilt book made up patterns based on her great-grandmother's journals, and I never win door prizes, so I was doubly thrilled.

Then, right before the show closed, I won a basket in the raffle:

I am in raptures over the framed Kokopelli cross-stitch piece, which I know someone spent many, many hours making. That goes right in my sewing room to inspire me. The titanium rotary cutter blade, Guterman thread and quilting pins are very welcome. I usually don't wear dangling earrings but I'll have to make an exception for these. I've also never tried to make a southwestern-themed quilt, but now I have lots of fabrics for one.

Here's a slideshow of all the beautiful quilts I got to see:

And that's it for this year's show.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Off to be Sew Happy

I am taking off this weekend to hang with some of my sewing sisters who are in town for the county quilt show. There will be no Just Write tomorrow, but I promise to bring back lots of pictures. See you on Monday.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Made in Nepal

We've all seen those delightfully crafted journals handmade in Nepal; in this lovely video you can watch them being made for Marina Vaptzarov (with background music):

Marina Vaptzarov :: Birth of a Journal from Marina Vaptzarov on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

Picking the book of the month for February was a very tough decision; I read so many great books over the last couple weeks that I dithered quite a lot (which is also why I'm late posting this.) I finally went with the book that made me laugh and learn and love our cousins across the pond just a little bit more: The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.

I admit, I will buy anything Bill Bryson writes -- right down to his grocery list -- but this book was a particularly special delight. About twenty years ago the author knocked about the UK while writing Notes from a Small Island, which you may not know went on to become one of the bestselling travel books of all time. This book is sort of a sequel to that, but also so much more. Mr. Bryson once more travels the length of Britain from Bognor Regis to Cap Wrath, which as the crow flies is well over 500 miles. Along the way he revisits some of the places he wrote in the 90's, but also discovers some new spots he missed back then.

For most of the book I felt as if I was walking through all these places with the author, and listening to him as he told me stories about the people and buildings and history of each spot. I have no idea how he digs up such obscure yet fascinating facts. He's often grumpy, primarily about the unhappy changes that have transformed a great many British towns and cities, but he's also hilarious when he points out some bumbling thing he did. When he described his first UK job working in a genteel mental asylum I was pretty much riveted.

I felt like arguing with him over certain opinions of his, but I've got family over there, including my cousin Juanita, who gave up her U.S. citizenship to become a Brit. My loyalties probably lean more east than west. The murderous anecdote that begins Chapter 14 isn't really meant for dog-lovers, or to be taken seriously. During his stop in Alderley Edge near Manchester, he dropped a tiny, almost obligatory David Beckham anecdote. It wasn't his to tell, but still illustrated what a neat guy Beckham is, so I didn't mind. Also, if you've never been to the UK some of the things he talks about might zoom over your head, but I think most well-read folks would enjoy this book.

I could only get the paperback in large print edition, which I usually don't do -- and know I think I will, especially with Mr. Bryson's densely-written books. The large print did make it a lot easier to read.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Call Me Kate

Gerard over at the Presurfer linked to a fun photo-comparison generator that finds the celeb you most resemble, and I had to go make sure I wasn't starting to look like the Cookie Monster.

My results say I'm a 44% match to Kate Burton of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal fame:

It's actually pretty accurate; aside from the hair color we could be sisters (I would be the younger, heavier, snow-haired sister, ha.) I did a little research and found out she's also the daughter of actor Richard Burton, which I thought was pretty neat.

If you try out the generator, tell us which celeb you resemble in comments.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

TBR Challenge Results

Last Monday I posted a challenge to read through our TBRs by today, and here are my results:

I read ten books in a week; ten and half if you count the partly-read City of Dark Magic on the unfinished pile there. Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling slowed me down toward the end. I can't seem to read Bryson speedily.

While I didn't read my entire TBW, I'm quite happy to start March with just three books leftover. On a side note, I removed Anything Considered by Peter Mayle from the TBR, which I realized I'd already read back in the late nineties when it was first published (the new cover art made me think I hadn't.)

How did you all make out? Let us know in comments.