Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cars, Cars, More Cars and a List

Sunrise was at 5:41, sunset will be at 8:50 pm.  It's cool this morning, and the day should only get to 78 degrees.  We'll see about that.  Sometimes the weather here is notoriously difficult to chase down.  It is clear, though, with big blue skies and a nice little breeze. 

I've not usually been a HUGE  fan of cars; I like the ones I drive, I loved my little blue Chevy Nova, but I am a fan of design and there's something about a car you can live in, like a spare, movable sitting room, that makes me swoon.  Dennis' family and I went to the LeMay Auto Museum in Tacoma on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and spent a wonderful three hours walking along the most ab-fab automobiles ever made.
There were so many exquisite little details on all these cars, cars that ran the gamut from a motor on 4 wheels, a seat and a steering wheel, to limousines that fit entire families, outfitted with radios, talking tubes, clocks, and ASHTRAYS!  Remember ashtrays?  Look how very forward thinking this headpiece is on the front of this car.  It's a little rocket.
There was so much Bakelite, in so many gorgeous colors, clear, opaque, bound by chrome, on the ends of gear shifts, radio faces, ashtrays, exquisite jewels in all that metal.

This is the trunk end of the above car.  I love the echo of above's rocket in the rear lights. There is a metal step near the spare tire in the same rocket shape (and don't you wish the spare tires we carry in our cars now were just as stylish?) to help get into the rumble seat.  The leather seat is the color of pumpkin soup.  Don't you just love the curved, bow shape of the bumper?
The whole shape of this car is gorgeous.  The running board wooden and the front lights are attached to the forward wheel areas.

The hood has a handle on the side next to the lamp, and the door hinges are massive!

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to change the tires?  That whole bottom edge has to be removed.  There is a moon roof and I absolutely love the shape of the windows.  There are no straight lines anywhere!

There's not much I can tell you about the turquoise one except that it's a Ford.  Look at that grill!  I don't know if it did, but wouldn't it be something if it glowed a fiery red as it roared down the road towards you?  The engine was huge and I love the shape of the hood, It would be pretty open as well as closed.  Two seats only, this is a rocket of a car.

It was a real event to spend this time at the museum.  The first car I ever remembered was my mom's Kaiser. No one I know has heard of the Kaiser but there was one on exhibit, right near the front of the first floor. A monster of a car that had a back window big enough for my little brother to sleep in.  And, yes, he did.  The glove compartment transported my fishbowl, with fish and water, to our new home on the Oregon coast when we moved from Eugene.  It was a big enough car to carry three kids, a dog, all our stuff, and our mom.  All my Monkees records made it intact.

Anyway.  If you have an open afternoon, take a drive to Tacoma and spend some time at the LeMay Museum.  There is a wonderful deck that looks out over Tacoma's downtown and waterways and that lovely suspension bridge, and a little cafe if you need a snack.  There are a couple of driving games and a racetrack, too, for those who have the need for speed.

This museum trip would be well accompanied by a box of books with a "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" theme.  All cars need a book box and this would be a fairly easy one to compile.  The following list is in alphabetical order because all the books are good ones and I wouldn't want any of them to think I liked one over the other (and hey, Moms, look at how many of these are written by women!):

Adventures of Taxi Dog, by Debra and Sam Barracca (LOTS of things to look for in the pictures.)
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry
Frank and Ernest on the Road, by Alexandra Day (this is out of print, try your library for it.  F&E take a temporary job driving a truck and must learn Trucker's Language.  A large glossary is included.)
Freight Train, by Donald Crews (I especially like the board book format with the slide apart pages.)
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherry Duskey Rinker
I Stink!, by Kate and Jim McMullan
If I Built a Car, by Chris Van Deusen
Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle
Little Fire Engine, by Lois Lenski
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
Night Driving, by John Coy
Otis, by Loren Long
Road Builders, by B G Hennessy
School Bus, by Donald Crews
Truck Book, by Henry McNaught
Trucks, Trucks, Trucks, by Peter Sis
Wheels on the Bus, by Paul Zelinsky
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?, by Brianna Caplan Sayles

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer, Science Fiction, and a Wide Open Day Off

Sunrise was at 5:31(5:40) and sunset will be at 9 (8:51) pm.  (As usual, I get started on a post and get interrupted for a week.  Look at the difference in time in just a week! 18 minutes less daylight in one week.)

This morning is cool and the air feels wet.  The lilacs have a few red leaves already! NOOOOO!  I'm not ready!  Summer just got started!  The air at the downside of the day is hot and a gorgeous shade of yellowy orange, it just feels like summer.  Everyone is in shorts and sandals, walking slowly with bags slung over shoulders.  There are lots of hats.  Getting off the ferry and walking through Pioneer Square in the heat of the day, the scent of summer is redolent of urine, popcorn and beer. Coming through in the morning:  wet, oceany salt air.  Lots of homeless people, local artists, and tourists share the benches and the cobblestones under shading trees in the the park.  It's a beautiful square with a totem pole and a pergola.  Lots of seating and people and a food truck. 

I love reading science fiction in the summer.  I love reading science fiction anytime but especially in the summer- there's something about the heat, the laziness of the day, that makes it easy to imagine the world as it could be, the universe seems so much closer to hand when the twilights are long and the days are hot.  I especially like re-reading my favorites when there isn't anything new to take on:  Dune, by Frank Herbert, Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard, Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury, Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.  But, this summer?  There's some good stuff out there:

Red Rising, by Pierce Brown, is the story of a young man, Darrow, who is made the savior of his people, a group of Helium-3 miners living deep under the red dust and rock of Mars. When Darrow's wife, Eo, is executed for showing him a forbidden garden filled with grass and a view of stars, he is recruited to stand for his people against the extraordinarily wealthy elites who rule the planet. 

Lots of action, lots of gore, lots of twists, turns and secrets,  lots of very effective female characters with some pretty amazing skills, Red Rising is a great read for a hot summer day.  I was pages from the end in the eye doctor's office, double dilation, and had to keep reading in the quiet light while my pupils kept enlarging.  I just couldn't not know how the first in this series of three ended before I could see clearly again!  Oh, it was good!

As much as I loved reading this during the summer days of Seattle, it won't be out until FEBRUARY!  2014!  But I had to talk about it now or I will forget how much I enjoyed it.  If you like this kind of thing, put your name down on your local bookstore's list and you'll have such a nice surprise when those horribly slow, dark, gray days of February arrive.

Red Rising would be good for teens, too, maybe 14 and up as there is a good deal of blood and sex (not such graphic sex, but very graphic violence).  If you need comparisons:  Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins,  and The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau, and a little of the movie Total Recall (based on the story "We can Remember It for You Wholesale", by Philip K. Dick). Ballantine Books.  Available February 2014. $25.00.

Speaking of The Testing, by Joanne Charbonneau:  For those who love a dystopian novel, this is a good one for you.  Long after the Seven Stages War leaves the planet mostly wasteland, there are signs of recovery.  The people who survived had to find ways to make the world a place for their children.  Over the many years between the war and now, those who were able collected grass seeds, found water, discovered how to make machines and then how to keep them working, and gradually built small holdings that became towns and then cities filled with crops and barterable goods.  Each little holding may specialize in something particular, like especially adaptable grass seed that could be used for grain. 

Once a year, the best and brightest of the holdings' children are tested, these few will go onto college, onto careers.  Those who are chosen will become the heads of their own places or will be sent out to other townships to help with whatever their particular skills include.  First, though, they have to survive the Testing.

Just before Cai Vale leaves to participate in the choosing, her father tells her to trust no one.  Not even friends from her own town.  The best of the Test may not be the brightest, they may just be the one who survives the Test by any means possible.

The Testing was a good read, I loved the environmental issues that were brought up, I thought the way we get to this position in our future history was well thought out - I kind of wish there were other books than Hunger Games to compare it to, though.   Ages 12 and up.  Houghton Mifflin.  Available now.  $17.99. The sequel, Independent Study, will be available January 7, 2014.

My good friends at Orbit Books (part of the Hachette Books Group) just sent me a small stack of brand new science fiction books- I've dabbled in a couple of them and one in particular seems especially good, although it requires serious attention to details.  I'm looking forward to settling in on the chaise out on the patio with a tall glass of something cool and pale with these:

Ancillary Justice, by  Ann Leckie, science fiction about a woman who was once an intelligent starship, now a frail human bent on revenge.  There are aliens in this one;

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach, science fiction about an ambitious mercenary who signs on to a ship and a mission that could kill her;

Dance of Cloaks, by David Dalglish, a fantasy about "an underworld reaching for ultimate power";

Parasite, by Mira Grant, a thriller about parasites.

I'll let you know about these as I go along!

(No remuneration was received for these reviews.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More Summer Books for Summer Reading

This is the view from the ferry on the first day of summer.
Sunrise was at 5:15, sunset will be at 9:11. Sunset is 40 seconds earlier than it was a week or so ago.  It is so very  beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year.  We have exquisitely long twilights which make me long for walks on the waterfront and for a glass of wine outside.  The skies often look like paintings by Maxfield Parrish.

It's been a little rainy, muggy, and we had our first real summer weather yesterday.  The temperature rose into the 80's and we had to have a glass of beer out in the atrium at the Twilight Exit before going home and grilling up our supper of shucked corn and sausages.

It's supposed to be into the 80's again today, it rained this morning.  I got up EARLY for a Saturday, five am, and drank my coffee standing in the breeze as it came in through the screen doors.  I opened all the windows and the doors and the memory of the cool will be lovely in the warm.

The weeds are thigh high and we've got two tomato plants.  Our hop vine is in distress and I think we can't do hops again.  Heartbreaking to see them grow and then not survive.  The weeds and the strawberry ground cover, however, are healthy and overwhelming everything.  I really want to get out and make the pathway see-able again.  It's kind of just there, a gravel way covered in weeds and volunteers from the yard.

The Crocosmia Lucifer is finally blooming.  I love these plants!  They are so bright and happy and they look like little dragon heads.  My sister gave me buckets of bulbs that she tore out of her yard and they are finally blooming in mine.

Now that it's summer, here are a few great books from the grown-up mystery/suspense shelves:

Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews:  A classic modern spy novel very much in the tradition of John Le Carre'. American CIA agent Nathaniel Nash and Russian spy Domenika Egorova are set on each other to bring each to the other side.  Gritty, fast paced, exciting, the tension between Nash and Egorova is explosive.  She is a graduate of the Sparrow School, a school which trains women to become seductresses, and he handles the CIA's most important Russian mole. Mr. Matthews is an ex-CIA agent and Red Sparrow is chock-full of information only someone in the CIA would know.  I spent a lot of time on the porch reading this- it's a book that you'll want to finish in one long sit.  It also has recipes at the end of each chapter for the food eaten in that chapter.  So GOOD!  Available now. (Simon and Schuster.  $26.99.)

Bad Monkey, by Carl Hiaasen:  It wouldn't be summer without a new Carl Hiaasen mystery, now, would it?  Many of the themes in Bad Monkey are the same as in his other books:  quirky side characters, out-of-sorts on-the-skids main characters, and Floridian weirdness, but that's why we love them!  Andrew Yancy is our hero and he is not having a good year.  He's been dropped through the ranks of the police department and is soon to be let go from the County Sheriff's office.  He is now the current Health Inspector for Miami and there is a human arm in his freezer.  Andrew is certain that if he can just prove the arm is in the freezer due to murder rather than shark ravage, he will be allowed to move out of roach and feces infested restaurant checking and back up into the good life that is Florida police work.  The ick-factor in Bad Monkey is pretty thick, but, again, isn't that why we love Carl?  Available now.  (Knopf.  $26.95.)

Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith:  You've all heard the brouhaha about this book, I'm sure.  It turns out that it was actually written by J. K. Rowling under a pseudonym!  A week before the release of this news, I was in the spare bedroom culling books.  I read the backs, see what kind of book they are (I don't often read religious or business books- I think I will, broaden my views, you know, and then they just sit there in an uneven stack) and then sort into give away and REALLY WILL READ, I PROMISE piles.  I found this one in one of those stacks and thought, "Hmm.  I like mysteries, Fred (my brother-in-law) likes mysteries.  If I like it, I'll send it to him."  Not now, Fred!  Sorry. 

Cuckoo's Calling is GREAT!  Funny, well-written, great characters, great landscape writing...It's all there and makes up one of the best books I've read this last few months (booksellers read a lot so please forgive how many books are on the best books list).  Our hero, Cormoran Strike, is a private investigator who gets chosen to re-open the investigation into the suicide of super-model Lula Landry.  Broke, lacking a leg, an ex-soldier, Cormoran is one of those characters you want more of.  He's smart, thoughtful, besieged by demons and a horrible ex-fiancee but not inclined to feel sorry for himself.  When Lula's brother asks him to look into her death, he is quietly thrilled since it means he can pay his rent and his temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott.

The relationship between Robin, who has always wanted to be a private eye, and Cormoran is well-developed and realistic and I hope there will be more books written about these two.  I would love to know how Ms Rowling did her research for this book as there are so many details about sleuthing, soldiering in Afghanistan, high fashion, back streets of London...she must have done a lot of studying and walking. I want more, dammit!   

I truly loved this book, took a few extra minutes on both sides of lunch to read, got to the ferry early, wished I'd started it on a weekend so I could have read it straight through.  I can't wait for someone else to read it so we can talk about it!  Available now.  (Mulholland Books.  $25.99.)

Okay, that's it for now.  More to come.

(I realize that this post was started weeks ago.  I lost all the content of the original reviews and had to redo them.  I just couldn't work up the energy to do that until now.  It's still summer and it's overcast and cold so, it feels as if no time at all has passed.  Hope you've been reading a lot!)