BOOK & BLOG
February 28, 2011
Books of the Week:
I found a very interesting biography of L. Frank Baum, Finding Oz. I’ve been rereading the Oz books and wondered what kind of man he was. As I discovered, Baum was in some ways as fantastical as any of his creations. His mother-in-law was a famous feminist at a time when feminists were despised, his wife a strong-willed woman who was not as idealistically focused as her mother but who nonetheless had her own way of ruling what she considered her territory. After trying a number of ways of making a living (selling lubricant, selling knick-knacks, running a baseball team, producing a newspaper), and failing miserably at all of them, Baum moved his growing family (four sons) to Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair. Schwartz gives the reader a clear blueprint of how previous events in Baum’s life came together to inspire “The Wizard of Oz,” and it’s amazing to follow his particularly yellow brick road.
When writers lament that allowing the couple to finally come together kills the tension in a book series, I always mention Jeaniene Frost. In her Grave books, Cat and Bones are still the hot duo they’ve always been, married or unmarried. This Side of the Grave is a continuation of the ongoing story of this vampire couple as they struggle to establish a safe position in the vampire world. Cat’s unusual eating habits and lineage make her a propaganda tool in the war of the ghouls vs. vampires, and she and Bones must visit Marie Laveau to enlist her aid in the war effort. Cat’s mom has a small part in this book; she’s in training at Cat’s old stronghold, to do the sort of job Cat did before she met Bones. (Justine is a character I’ll never trust or like, and she’ll go on my little list of Fictional Characters To Throw Under a Bus.) I really enjoy Frost’s style, and I’m always happy to read a new book of hers.
I’ve been reading Robert Crais for a long time, and I’ve never been disappointed in a book he’s written. His early Elvis Cole novels are classics in the private eye genre. The Sentry is a Joe Pike book, though Elvis is in it. Joe is one of the great characters, the toughest guy around, the guy who never backs down, never fails in loyalty, and yet is a loner and despised by many. Crais has a few surprises up his sleeve in The Sentry. Joe Pike instinctively likes a woman he meets when he interrupts a crime at her uncle’s store, and he makes a date with her. But she vanishes. Of course, Pike being Pike, he determines to find her no matter what, and Elvis drops everything to help him. I won’t spoil the surprises in this book by telling you more, but Pike stays true to himself and soldiers forward, no matter what his discoveries may be.
Looking back on this week, it seems like a wasteland. My husband was gone all week, a rare occurrence, and I seemed to spend all my time coping with that gap.
I worked, of course, and I had several internet interviews to complete. Paula and I went through the mail, and I signed some contracts. I had some business to complete relating to my mom’s estate, and I got that done. I had lunch with some friends, and dinner with some more.
Figuring now that it had hit the 75 degree mark we were not going to need our fireplace again, I cleaned it out. Our jonquils have opened and our crabapple tree is covered with white blossoms.
Scrunch (the sort-of terrier) has decided that we will plant tomatoes this year, and she is thoughtfully preparing the ground for us by digging numerous holes. Colt, the mini-pitbull, is reminding intruders that they should stay away by maintaining a barking post. Oscar, the dachshund, is getting visibly aged, but he still enjoys his food and his perambulations around the yard. Rocky has a tumor that has to be removed, and though we think of Rocky as a permanent seven years old, we were shocked to find from his vet records that we’ve had Rocky (half boxer, half cocker spaniel) for eleven years. While my husband was out of town, I gave them lots of dialogues. It’s really fortunate no one was there to hear me!
The season of Lent is fast approaching, so it’s time to figure out something you’ll abstain from during Lent. Though this is a Christian season and one I always observe, I have a hard time figuring out what to “give up.” Should it be something tangible, like chocolate or beef or newspapers? Or should it be something spiritual, like unkind thoughts (that’s pretty hard!)? Or should I choose something in between, like reminding myself to never fail to say hello to people you encounter, or to abstain from littering (I have to say right here, I never do that, but it makes a good example)? I’m still worrying about how to observe Lent this year. Do other religions have a comparable period of self-denial?
I hope all of you are feeling optimistic with the approach of Spring, and that you find some reason to be glad. Fall is my personal favorite (because the colors are good for me, a shallow reason), but Spring really is a time of hopefulness and renewal. And if you need a garden dug, I have a little dog who’s just the best at it.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris