Friday, May 26, 2006

Garish Gardens Outlandish Lawns

Garish Gardens Outlandish Lawns: celebration of eccentric american landscaping by Ronald C. Modra

Not too much text is this tiny quirky tome but it sure is chalk full of hilarious photos! This cute little book glorifies all the over the top trailer trash rural fancified yards throughout the U.S. Plastic flowers tucked in tires, flowers planted in beds, peeing water statues, I could go on and on. Go ahead and grab it off the shelf if you see it at the library or bookstore and thumb through it for a minute. It’ll only take you five minutes to run through it and I guarantee you’ll get a giggle or two. -Flourish

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Front Yard Gardens

Front Yard Gardens: growing more than grass by Liz Primeau

I initially read this book about a year ago and picked it up again at the library last month. I loved this book. Liz talks about the ethics of growing just grass in the front yard as apposed to a full fledged garden including an ‘impoverished ecosystem’ and ‘chemical invasion’.

Although the majority of the focus is on northern gardens this book truly has something for everyone. Highlighting gardens and gardeners from North America we catch glimpses of some breathtaking front yard gardens in all sorts of different styles. There are design ideas galore all to inspire us to develop our own front yard gardens to encourage living creatures and socialization with our neighbors. Think about it ya’ll. When you’re walking your dog by a house with an array of plants displaying a ginormas amount of textures and colors don’t you slow down, maybe even stop, drop your jaw and ooh and ah at the bounty? When was the last time you did that at a stretch of grass? The old argument that grass takes less time to deal with in our already action packed 26 hour days falls a bit flat for author Liz and for me too. Having a variety of plants rather than the standard lawn can sometimes be lower maintenance than grass. She makes some convincing arguments to rip out that grass and install a nature loving oasis to bring joy and contentment to all. This book is a keeper. -Flourish

P.S. I guess you guys have figured out that I’ve been on a, hum, vacation for the past month or so. Actually I caught the fever. Spring fever, that is. I wish you could see how lovely my yard is on a quiet morning before the world wakes up.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Catch Me When I Fall

Catch Me When I Fall by Nicci French

Utterly depressing. I simply could not get through this book. It’s obvious from page two that the main character is a manic depressive. She gets herself into some horrible scraps that seem to go on and on. After a third of the book I skipped to the last couple of chapters to see how it turned out. I usually don’t do this. I usually just move on to the next book without needing to know the ending. But for some reason I forged on and discovered the voice changes to that of the friend and her views of the manic depressive’s behavior. Sadder still is the fact that the main character has learned nothing and is still unable to control her self destructive behavior as she accidentally sets her friend’s in-laws’ house ablaze with fireworks to celebrate her friend’s wedding. Skip it ya’ll, that’s about all I’ve got to say. –Flourish

Monday, April 17, 2006

Night Swimming

Night Swimming by Robin Schwartz

I had high hopes for this book but I should have had a clue to its ending by the cover. Two hundred and fifty three pound Charlotte Clapp goes to the doctor for her annual checkup only to discover that she has less than a year to live. Having grown up in a small town where nothing much happens she doesn’t want to lie on her deathbed with life regrets. In a fugue state she proceeds to rob the bank that she has worked at for fifteen years and makes off in the dead of night to Hollywood with two million dollars. She meets some interesting characters along the way in the Mississippi Delta and the Big Easy. When she gets to California she buys an apartment with cash and begins her new life, sort of. This is where the plot loses me. I keep hoping that she would continue her trend of doing interesting things and meeting interesting people like she did on the trip out west but this just doesn’t happen. Instead this book turns into one of those fat girls loses a bunch of weight and then gets the guy books. I was disappointed by the predictability of the plot and I found the change to her assumed name halfway through the book and then back again at the end simply annoying. She spends most of her days lolling by the pool covertly staring at the pool guy all the while falling in love with him. She doesn’t even know him and, by the way, he is married. She starts swimming at night and loses 128 pounds. That’s when she gets a makeover including going blonde and then gets her pool guy. Yuck.

Here is how I would have written it: In Hollywood she would meet a funny, down to earth drag queen who would introduce her around to his/her friends and she would be inducted into the club night world where she would become a popular torch singer. After singing to her adoring fans she would go home to unwind by night swimming. Sounds better, don’t you think? The dialogue becomes tedious by the end and the situations after she is caught are simply ridiculous. And that book cover that I mentioned? Her legs are awfully skinny, too skinny, in fact, for a 253-pound person. Overall I would say forget this one. It could have been great but it ends up falling flat. -Flourish

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dead to the World

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Sookie hasn’t ever been in this position before. She’s got an ex-boyfriend to deal with and a naked man is running down the road on New Year’s Eve. It turns out that a Witch’s spell has caused vampire Eric to lose all memory about who he is. Naturally he turns up right in Sookie’s path so she’s forced to deal with him. It seems that these are some truly bad Witches that are hell bent on moving into and taking over the vampire’s money making businesses. One of the Weres goes missing then a vampire too. These two very different supernatural beings are forced to unite together against the mutual Witch threat. Oh boy, this is gonna be a challenge! Vampire Bill’s off to Peru to work on his major project for the Queen and Sookie’s brother Jason disappears rather quickly from the story too. Rather too quickly if you know what I mean. Did the Witches take him? The father of one of the many girls he’s been out with? Where is he? Sookie is starting to wonder if she can keep her New Year’s resolution to not get beat up. And Eric just isn’t Eric anymore. He’s a lot sweeter and a lot kinder which is what Sookie really needs right now. But in her heart of hearts she knows that this isn’t the real Eric and sooner rather than later there will be a big ol’ show down between these supernatural beings with the resulting return of Eric’s memory. Alcide is still on the scene along with his supposed ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt, that bitch who tried to kill Sookie in the last book. We’re introduced to another set of interesting locals living at the crossroads Hotspot. We’ve also got another fun filled cameo from that famous vampire face Bubba.

The complexity of the world Charlaine’s created is thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking. You never know what she is going to come up with such as odd moments of Sookie’s thoughtful clarity. Sookie stands at the beginning of the battle between the Vampires and Weres against the Witches and she marvels at the fact that she is there at all. She thinks to herself that if she had met the Witches first she could very well have been on the other side of this battle. -Flourish

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Officer Buckle and Gloria

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Safety officer Buckle has a tough time getting his school aged audience to listen to his safety speeches. Then one day doggie Gloria is assigned to him and together they give the presentation. Unbeknown to him Gloria is acting out the horrible things that can happen to you when you don’t follow safety rules. The audience loves the show and it very impressed. Then one day he sees his speech on the news and realizes that everyone has been applauding for Gloria not him. He is dejected and sends her out alone to the next school. No one is impressed. Officer Buckle realizes that working as a team gets their safety message across. What a cute little book. Lovely drawings and how can you not love a dog story? Perfect for young, single digit children. -Flourish

Friday, April 07, 2006

Round-Heeled Woman

A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska

Whoa, now here is a woman who tells it like it is. This is the story of a woman who at the age of sixty-six decides she wants to have sex with men that she actually likes. She puts an personal ad in the New York Times Review of Books and away she goes. This book is not for the faint of heart. This memoir retraces her life and work in a sexual context. She leaves not a whole lot to the imagination so be prepared to get hot under the collar during several steamy passages. She addresses people’s need to be loved and touched even when they get old. This book shares the author’s intimate thoughts and makes the reader truly look at these issues from a different perspective. Human beings who enjoy love and sex will find this book engaging. Mom, I think you would really get a kick out of this book. -Flourish

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Decorating on a Dime

Decorating on a Dime by Christy Ferer

This little decorating book is excellent for tucking into your bag for when you’re stuck in the doctor’s waiting room and you need some creative inspiration. While small enough to fit into your everyday bag it is also stuffed with a lot of groovy ideas. This is not just a book of inspirational pictures as is typical of decorating books. Christy actually gives detailed instructions and a list of supplies for the crafty decorating projects including variations on the original ideas. This tiny tome includes a plethora of ideas so next time you’re in the library keep your eye out for it. -Flourish

Monday, April 03, 2006

Club Dead

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

It seems that vampire Bill (VB) has been working on something secret that requires him to go on a little trip. Turns out that he gets himself involved with his ex who also just happens to be a vampire which is fairly unheard of in that world. Bill is captured and tortured by a Mississippi group of vampires and guess who has to save the day? You got it, our favorite heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, cocktail waitress extraordinaire from rural northern Louisiana with a bit of a telepathic disability. Thankfully her mind reading works best with humans and not at all with vampires (yet, that is). Sookie goes to rescue VB even though she is hurt and pissed at his betrayal of her. Naturally, she saves the day, but not without a lot of pain and a lot of help. The help comes in the form of Alcide, who happens to be a Were, as in werewolf except that not all Weres are wolves, do you follow? Anyhow, Alcide is a real man’s man or maybe that should be he’s a realy lady’s man. Regardless, he is tough, kind, strong, sweet, and has manners. Sookie could really enjoy that except for her boyfriend, vampire Bill, and Alcide’s ex something, Debbie. That would be Debbie Pelt, shape shifter and all around bitch. I sense a cat (wolf?) fight coming on but not until much, much later.

An amazingly terrific cameo from the Man from Memphis aka Bubba, who is never referred to directly by name since it upsets him. Seems that something didn’t go quite right when he was brought over and this has left him a little off with a penchant for cat blood rather than human. He’s real sweet though and extremely protective of Sookie.

How does Charlaine come up with all this stuff? Just when I think that she’s used up all her surprises there are still yet more. She’s really done a great job of figuring out the nuisances of the Sookie’s supernatural world and she reveals many of them in this book. If I haven’t convinced you by now then stay tuned tomorrow and see if you’ll enjoy the next review. -Flourish

Friday, March 31, 2006

Living Dead in Dallas

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Vampire road trip! In this second installment of the Southern Vampire Mystery series our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, small time north Louisiana cocktail waitress hits the skies with vampire boyfriend, Bill, in tow, literally, since he’s traveling in his coffin. They’ve been sent by Bill’s vampire boss Eric, sheriff of Area 5, to see if they can use Sookie’s special telepathic talent to track down a missing vampire. But before that even happens one of her coworkers turns up dead in a local cop’s car outside the bar. Sookie faces a religious anti-vampire group who has captured the missing vampire and winds up locked in a cell herself. You’ve got to tune in to find out how she escapes and how this adventure affects her relationship with vampire Bill. Meanwhile, back home in Bon Temps things are really heating up as well. It seems that her recently murdered gay coworker’s less than discrete gossip about his and other’s involvement in local sex parties may have gotten him killed. Sookie teams up with vampire Eric to see if she can ferret out the killer.

Charlaine’s writing is brilliant. Her writing reminds me a bit of Janet Evanovich’s. They both have plucky, tough female leading characters that are easy to relate to that you find yourself rooting for. They’re also both quick witted and use “creative sexual innuendo” to the hilt! -Flourish

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Night Journal

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook

From the first sentence of this book I was enthralled, hardly able to put the book down. This was the book that led me to discover that you can indeed read and power walk on the treadmill at the same time. The gym even has these handy dandy little holders that prop the book open for you while you swing your arms and sweat.

This story moves back and forth through time and place in a captivating way. We open with the death of Hannah Bass in Las Vegas*, New Mexico just after the start of the twentieth century. We quickly move forward in time to the early nineties in Houston, Texas where our heroine, Meg, is in her late thirties and is unmarried. Well, she’s not married to a man anyway, but rather to her job. She is an engineer with lots of clients that require pure water for their patients’ dialysis. This is a tough job especially when it rains too much and threatens the breakdown of the purification system. She was brought up by her overbearing grandmother Bassie since her mother’s addictive behavior made mothering impossible. Half the time I just wanted to knock Bassie over the head with how mean she is to people. She is the quintessential grouchy old lady who tells it like it is sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with others. Bassie has spent her life devoted to researching and publishing her mother Hannah’s journals. Hannah captured the heart of the west at the turn of the century and her journals have quite a following, except for Meg that is. Meg avoids reading the journals in a subconscious attempt to thwart Bassie’s controlling nature. But don’t fret because Meg does finally launch into a reading of the journals on a road trip back to New Mexico. At the behest of elderly Bassie they journey there to put a stop to construction on Dog Hill where lies one of the few memories Bassie has of her mother and also the bones of the family dogs.

What makes this book so interesting is the realistic relationships between the related women. This isn’t a feel good book where everything comes out peachy keen at the end, far from it. Yet the strength of the story lies in the way these women relate to one another and how that relationship pervades every part of their lives. They are inexplicably intertwined no matter how hard they strive to deny it. Oh yeah, and there is a bit of romance thrown in the mix too.

Elizabeth does an excellent job of story telling and even manages to throw in a plot twist or two at the end. This is the first of her books that I’ve read but I’ve got a feeling it won’t be the last. If you only read a few books this year, Night Journal should be on that list. -Flourish

* The Las Vegas in New Mexico is pronounced with an “e” sound rather than with the “a” sound. I’ve been there ya’ll and it is quite a pretty little town indeed. Love brought me out there in the early 90s for a higher education scouting trip and I almost ended up attending New Mexico Highlands University. But alas, the love ended and I found myself back home in Florida for the next decade. I’ve gotta admit it was kind of strange seeing snow on the ground in April. That historic Plaza Hotel is there just as it’s described in the book. New Mexico was quite an adventure overall and I highly recommend a road trip or flight there. I sure enjoyed this walk down memory lane. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I’d taken that route…

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Ya’ll, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is a cocktail waitress from rural north Louisiana who leads a pretty boring life until one night when a vampire walks into her bar. It seems that in Sookie’s world vampires have been out of the closet for a couple of years. They’ve come forward, admitted they exist, and want to be accepted by the world. Yikes. Sookie is really fascinated by this vampire because she can’t read his mind. You see, Sookie has this little problem, actually she would call it a disability. It seems that she can read people’s minds. Yep, it’s a little strange and she finds it very refreshing that she can’t read Bill’s mind. That would be Bill the vampire. Bill. Right. Anyway, it turns out that the vampires find Sookie’s talent an extremely useful one and under duress she is pressed into service for the vamps. I won’t tell you the rest cause I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of action, a bit of romance, and wisecracking fun.

Sookie is a delightful character who’s got a heart of gold. The entire book is written from Sookie’s perspective with her dry humor as funny as H-E-double hockey sticks. I think it’s fabulous that a white trash rural girl is the star of the show. Speaking of show it seems that HBO has decided to create a show of the book.

Hey and guess what? This book is a Southern Vampire Mystery series! So you’ve got several of Charlaine’s books to enjoy. I liked this book so much that I immediately went to the library, checked out every single one and proceeded to read them all in a week so you may see a review of the other books right here at The Restricted Section real soon. They’re quick, funny, and a world you can immerse yourself in to forget your troubles. -Flourish

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Business of Bliss

The Business of Bliss: How to Profit from Doing What You Love by Janet Allon & the Editors of Victoria Magazine

The strength of this book lies in the inspirational stories of women who succeeded in creating their own business. There is something that will appeal to everyone with all sorts of businesses represented from food to clothes to books. It feels a bit misleading though because the reader only gets a glimpse of the thriving businesses these women have created with only a passing sentence or two about the difficulties that were endured to get to that point. What’s missing from these pages seems to be a description of the women’s hard work and dedication and what inspired them to strive so hard to make their businesses a success. I’m sure that most of us women have dreamed about what it would be like with we had our own business doing exactly what we love. This book is a print manifestation of those day dreams but it’s just that, dreams, without much substance to back it up. There are a few random hints about how to select a business name and how to select staff but I wonder how helpful is their brevity. Overall, it was fun to read about how these women had made it and created a life that included work that was fulfilling and creative. However, this feel good book really isn’t the one to teach you all the necessary details of running a business. -Flourish

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Perfect Manhatten

The Perfect Manhatten by Leanne Shear and Tracey Toomey

So you think you wanna join the ranks of the fun and privileged by summering at the Hamptons this year? You might think twice about this idea after you read this book. Our heroine has just graduated on a full scholarship from Columbia with no idea what to do with her future. She doesn’t have the lucrative financial backing (mega trust fund) to keep her afloat while she looks for a job nor does she have the career connections (daddy) to settle her in a job somewhere. She stumbles upon a newspaper ad for bartending school promising astronomical pay at bartending jobs after completing the course. She falls for it hook, line, and sinker and finds out much too late that the ad was a little inflated. Yet somehow she does manage to end up bartending at the hottest club in the Hamptons over the summer. What she finds out is that bartending is full of moral pitfalls surrounded by drinking, stealing, and drugging. Although she rationalizes her coworker’s and friend’s behavior early on, it takes her until the end of the summer to realize that she is starting to rationalize her own behavior. Thankfully, the close of the summer season sees the end of her self destructive behavior and a return to the sensible person she is. Ah, I forgot to mention that of course there is a summer romance with a richie rich kid thrown in there. Overall this was an enjoyable book. -Flourish