Monday, December 3, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I've Already Peaked: Harry Potter Fan Fiction

Want to know something embarrassing?

I used to write Harry Potter fan fiction.

I had a sweet pen name (GodricsHollow).

I had fans, even. I was beloved and famous, dammit!
I even made it onto SugarQuill. SUGARQUILL.

My stories can be found on and DiagonAlley, and other sites devoted to fan stories based on the canon. It was a community of creative young fans who used their talents to lengthen the Harry Potter glow, between book releases. Wholesome fun on the internet (nevermind the slash).

Those long-ago days were the peak of my professional writing career, thus far.

I figure I should preserve my past literary endeavors before they disappear into the internet abyss.

 Here's the glorious, original version of one of my favorite fics, Home Where It Used to Be.

Yes, I seriously did a cross-fic about the Weasleys, set to the sweet, whiny tunes of John Mayer.

 Mock me if you must, but I suggest you save your sanity by skipping over this stuff.

- - - - - - - -

Published on on September 5, 2005.

Disclaimer: John Mayer and George Weasley. You know what they've got in common? They're both copy written, worth millions, and I believe that I'm engaged to both of them. Obviously, it's not true. I'd never be engaged to them both at the same time, of course! So, while their hearts may belong to me, their bodies, possessions, and everything associated with them do NOT belong to me… yet. '1983' is a wonderful song sung by John Mayer on either his Room for Squares cd or his Any Given Thursday live cd. BUY THEM BOTH!

A/N:  I did the math. Fred and George were 6 years old in 1983. It was a perfect opportunity that I could NOT pass up. If you're interested in my idea of a 6 year old Fred and George, check out my fanfic Oak Leaves! Enjoy the fic!

Home Where It Used to Be
1983: A George Weasley Songfic
Lyrics by John Mayer

            George Weasley was now a grown man. It had been over a decade since he had left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and begun Weasley Wizard Wheezes with his brother, Fred. Everything had changed slowly over the years, some for the better and some for the worse.  The wizarding world had undergone immense changes. The Dark Lord, Voldemort, had been defeated midway through the previous November, only 7 months ago. Every time it appeared as if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had been vanquished, he had sprung back with an even greater force. Finally, the fear was gone. Wizarding families were coming out of hiding, mourning losses and celebrating survival. Perhaps the greatest loss to the wizarding world was the death of the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore. Every wizard had suffered a personal loss, though. The more active in the 'Light Side' one had been, the more they lost. The Weasleys had not come out of the nearly two-decade war unscathed. Arthur and Molly Weasley had ended their lives side-by-side in one of the Final Battles. Other fatalities that had dumfounded the Weasley siblings were those of Angelina Johnson, Parvati Patil, Remus Lupin, Sybil Trelawney, and dozens of others. Many had been gravely wounded, including Ginny, Ron, Harry, and Hermione. The two latter had become an adopted part of the Weasley family, taking refuge in the Burrow when they had to stop going home to protect their own families.

            Now, it was May, more than half a year after Arthur and Molly's deaths. Heartbroken, their children did not know what to do with the Burrow, Grimmuald Place, or even with their own lives. Fred and George had held onto Weasley Wizard Wheezes throughout the war and now that the apprehension was gone, wizards were gobbling up the popular pranks like a box of Bertie Bott's. Everyone was eager to put the rough times behind them and move on with their lives, rebuilding all that had been destroyed. Some things, though, could not be ignored.

            The war's effects swiftly ran through George Weasley's mind as he trudged up the muddy dirt road to the south of the little town of Ottery St. Catchpole. The sun was weakly shining on him and flowers were blooming along either side of the road. Ahead of him was a span of oak trees. Beyond that, George knew what he would come upon. Beyond the trees was the Burrow.

I've these dreams
I'm walking home
Home where it used to be 

As George rounded the bend, his breath caught in his chest. The Burrow, although nearly abandoned for the past few months, looked desolate. The only sign of inhabitance were the few scrawny chickens that were still pecking around the front yard. None of the Weasley children had had the nerve to journey to the Burrow since the end of the war. Bill was working for the Ministry of Magic in Germany, trying to straighten out a few curses that were still lingering around an abandoned Death Eater hide out. Charlie was at Hogwarts, helping Headmistress McGonagall rebuild the spells that had broken around the castle at the demise of Dumbledore. Percy was buried in work at the Ministry or Magic, trying to help the new Minister, who had only been appointed a month ago, with getting situated. Ginny and Ron were still in St. Mungo's, although recovering very quickly now. Fred and George had been swamped with orders, and also Fred was still grieving the loss of his fiancée, Angelina.

            The only reason George had ventured to Ottery St. Catchpole was because he had been sent an urgent owl the day before about the Burrow. It was being auctioned, off and a "rightful owner must claim all property immediately". Shocked and unsure of what to do, George had come to the Burrow to see what could be done. Upon his arrival, the half-dozen loyal hens in the yard rushed up to George, clucking happily. Grinning, he crouched down and took a muffin out of the pocket of his indigo robes to feed to the chickens.

And everything is
As it was
Frozen in front of me.

            Crossing the threshold into the entrance hall gave George a strange feeling. The thought that the Burrow was to be sold to another wizard was unimaginable. How could anyone but a Weasley live in this house? As he walked down the hall, he peeked into the living room with its immense stone fireplace. Molly had already begun decorating for Christmas with garlands and strings of cranberries and popcorn that she had draped around the room. Even in the middle of May, the decorations did not seem out of place at all. Childhood memories came flooding back to George, and he could practically hear the laughter of days gone by reverberating in the house.
Here I stand
6 feet small
Romanticizing years ago
He made his way towards the back of the house, not quite sure as to what he was going to do. He stepped into the bright kitchen and walked a lap around the worn, wooden table that had weathered so many meals, experiments, and even food fights. George flicked on the wireless to give him a bit of distraction. It would not do to be blubbering like a baby at a time like this.

It's a bittersweet feeling hearing
"Wrapped Around Your Finger"
On the radio

            An advertisement for Mrs. Skower's All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover   ended and the soft strains of an old song floated into the room. George recognized it in a moment and a huge smile spread across his freckled face.  The song, Celestina Warbeck's 'This Magical Mood', had been Molly Weasley's favorite song, and for a good reason. It was the best song to waltz to.  George sank into a chair and leaned his elbows onto the tabletop.

          He could almost see his brothers taking turns learning to waltz with their mother, laughing loud with bright eyes and faces red with excitement.  She had insisted that all of her children knew how the dance properly by the age of eight. Every winter, the children would finish their lunch and then go twirling around the cozy kitchen as if it were a grand ballroom. Whenever someone ran out of breath and needed a break, the next Weasley would jump in, forming a never-ending dance routine. Each year, the steps got more complicated and the tempos grew faster. Needless to say, knowing how to dance had absolutely been a benefit for Fred and George at Hogwarts. The Yule Ball in their sixth year had been the prime opportunity to show off their dancing skills. Fred had made quite a scene spinning around the dance floor with Angelina.

And these days
I wish I was 6 again

            All happy thoughts instantly vanished with the memory of the Angelina and the night of the Yule Ball. They had been so innocent back then. No one could have guessed at the events that were to occur during the next few years. George's head made a soft 'plunk' as it landed on the table before him, causing a little cloud of dust to fly up around him and settle in his Weasley-red hair.

A day didn't pass without George going through a series of "what-ifs". What if his parents hadn't been right in the line of fire that night? What if Fred had been killed? What if Voldemort hadn't been finished off that night? What if one of his brothers, or even Ginny, had fallen victim to the Death Eaters? These thoughts weighed heavily on George. There was always the feeling that he could have done something a little differently; that changing his actions would have led to a life that did not have to be lost.

Oh make me a red cape
I wanna be Superman

            The waltz on the WWN ended and George spiraled out of his thoughts. He rose and switched off the loud rock music that was now playing.  Wandering out of the kitchen, George headed up the stairs to explore the house. First, he came to Percy's door. It stood open and George smiled with approval. Percy, being ever resourceful, must have cast a dusting spell or something of the sort. Even though his room had not been cleaned for at least seven months, it was still spotless and everything had a clean gleam to it. Chuckling, George continued up the stairs.

            The next landing was home to Ginny's room. Actually, it had originally been Bill's room. When Ginny was born, Bill and Charlie moved into the fourth floor bedroom, relinquishing his room to little Ron and Ginny. It had undergone a continuous change of decoration as Ginny's obsessions changed. One day, George had been in the room and it had been a pale pink with dolls and teddy bears on every surface. Not a week later, George had been shocked to find the pink walls covered with Weird Sisters posters, makeup and accessories on her dresser, and all of the dolls and bears stuffed into the closet.

Since then, the walls had been stripped and they had faded to almost white. On Ginny's bed was one solitary doll. On her nightstand were framed pictures of her friends from Hogwarts that winked and waved at George as he took a closer look. There was one astonishingly 'friendly' looking picture of Ginny and Harry from what must have been her sixth year, right before the first big attack on Hogwarts.

            George continued up the stairs to the third floor. The one he had anticipated since he first decided to come back home to the Burrow. This was the floor with his and Fred's bedroom. George swung the creaking door open to find the room practically untouched. It still looked like the bedroom of two teenage boys, if not marginally neater. Beaming, he crouched next to his bed and rooted around under it for the worn shoebox that had always been there. The twins had kept the first production of each Weasly Wizard Wheeze in the box, as a kind of miniature museum of Wheezes. Shocked, George pulled his arm out from under the bed without the box. He laid flat on his stomach and peered into the dim shadows. There was nothing.

            A bit annoyed, he got up and glared around his room. That box had contained everything from the first Ton Tongue Toffee and beyond. Suddenly, he spotted the infamous shoebox. It was sitting innocently on top of the boys' now-empty dresser. George rushed over to it, gave the charm to unlock it, and pulled off the lid. On top of the pile of first-edition Wheezes was a bit of folded parchment. He unfolded it and gasped at what he found.

Fred and George,

       As disappointed as I am with the fact that you hid these from me, I won't do away with them. I'm proud of you two and proud of how well you've done since you left Hogwarts. Weasley Wizard Wheezes has done very well. You've grown into two of the finest young men I've ever known. Keep up the good work, and never forget your meager beginnings.


            George smiled and wiped a tear from his cheek. He folded the note, put it back into the box, and left the box on the dresser. Not wanting to stay in the room for any longer, George continued up to the fourth floor of the house.

            The door in front of George had a little sign hanging crooked that had "Ronald's Room" burned into the wood.  George opened the door and peeked in. He had never ceased to be surprised by his brother's choice of decoration. Orange was not a color that suited a Weasley very well. Even though, Ron had remained a faithful Chudley Canons fan. Even now at St. Mungo's, Ron had a new Canons bedspread and pillows to keep him company. Looking around, George spotted the second bed that Mr. Weasley had added to Ron's room, as a way to tell Harry that he was always welcome at the Burrow. Both Ron and Harry's trunks were sitting in the room as well, a Gryffindor scarf trailing from one.

            George stepped back out onto the landing, closing Ron's door behind him. All of the bedrooms had emitted a sense of innocence. George knew that none of the Weasleys would ever feel that particular feeling again. They had been through far too much to ever return to their naive happiness that they'd been living in before the Dark Lord had wreaked havoc on not just wizards, but the whole world.

Oh if only my life were more like 1983
All these things would be more like they were at the start of me

            A loud clatter game from above George and his hand jumped to his wand, which was withdrawn and pointing wildly about him before he even realized that he had moved. Calming down, he put his wand back into his robe pocket and chuckled at his jumpiness. The ghoul in the attic above him gave a moan and banged on a pipe or two before settling back down. Fifteen years ago, George never would have been so on-edge and paranoid.

Had it made it 83

            George pulled down the trap door into the attic and slid down the ladder. He lit the tip of his wand and climbed up into the attic. Expecting to have odds and ends chucked at him immediately by the foul-tempered ghoul, George shielded his face. Instead, all that he felt was a whoosh of cold air and sudden silence. Curious, he looked about and found himself face to face with the ghoul that he and his brothers had despised all throughout their adolescence. The ghoul had an expression of pure shock on its opaque face. Instead of moaning obnoxiously or banging around valuables, the ghoul merely nodded in approval, gave George what could only be considered a friendly grin, and floated over to a corner. It stayed in the corner and watched George with interest.

            Unsure of himself, George decided to just act as if the ghoul wasn't there. The change of ways was quite unexpected and George couldn't make head or tails of it. Casually, George riffled through a few boxes of old muggle junk that his dad had stowed away years before. He stubbed his foot on an old school trunk, which he looked at with interest. Pulling it into the light coming from a window, George pulled open the lid. Inside were piles of pictures, old letters from school, and even old Prefect and Head Boy badges. Intrigued, George closed and levitated the trunk down the attic steps, waving a quick farewell to the now docile ghoul.  George closed up the attic and continued to levitate the trunk down four flights of stairs and into the kitchen. He emptied the contents of the trunk onto the wooden table and began sifting through the contents, coming across forgotten treasures like pictures he and his brothers and sister had drawn, and even a crown of oak leaves that Molly had lovingly packed away years ago.

Thinking 'bout my brother Ben
I miss him every day
He looks just like his brother John
But an 18 month delay

            Besides for seeing Fred every day, George had not seen any much of his siblings for the past few months. They had all kept in touch via owl, but none of them had time in their busy schedules to go visiting.  He promised himself that he would owl everyone, including Hermione, Harry, and even Neville and Oliver, when he returned to Diagon Alley.

Here I stand
6 feet small
And smiling cause I'm scared as hell

            George had never truly felt 'grown up'. Part of this could have been explained by his choice of career, but still, all of the responsibilities that his friends complained about continuously didn't seem to bother him. Sure, bills had to be paid and things had to be done, but to George it felt like a big game. The pressures of adulthood hadn't set in, he had decided the week before when he talked about this very subject in an owl to Charlie. George had had a tough time, no doubt. Watching friends and family members die around you is not a light-hearted subject. He had his share of problems, but he still kept a cheery outlook on life and woke up each day with a smile. Or, at least he used to, before the end of the war had taken such a toll on him. Realizing how depressed he had become in the past few months, George grimaced. To take his mind off of things, he sorted through more of the pictures from the trunk.

Kind of like my life is like a sequel to a movie
Where the actors' names have changed
Oh well

            There had been so many happy times in George's life. Smiling, he pulled out a little pile of pictures from Ginny's third birthday. Fred and George had been six, almost seven at the time. Her hair was curled and framed her chubby little face. Her brown eyes shined as she hugged what was obviously her new doll very tightly. With her other hand, she waggled her fingers at George. The next picture was one of Fred and George, wearing identical outfits and grins. Fred had bits of leaves in his hair and was holding a frog towards the camera. George was watching something on the outside of the picture at the moment, looking thoughtful.

Well these days 
I wish I was 6 again
Oh make me a red cape
I wanna be superman

            In the pile of pictures were snaps of each of the Weasley children on their first day of school at the Ottery St. Catchpole public school. Also were photos of each Weasley climbing aboard the scarlet Hogwarts Express for the first time.

            The farther into the trunk George dug, the older the pictures became. As he thumbed through them, he watched his parents grow younger and younger, holding a baby Percy, a toddling Charlie, and even a little naked Bill taking a bath and giggling madly. Vowing to tell Bill all about the picture in his next letter, George continued to sift through the trunk.

Oh, if only my life was more like 1983
All these things would be more like they were at the start of me
If my life was more like 1983
I'd plot a course to the source of the purest little part of me

            As George came across snapshots of his older brothers swimming in the pond in the back garden and pictures from the many pick-up Quidditich games that had taken place over the years, George became more and more nostalgic.  With every memory that he was reminded of, he dreaded leaving the Burrow a little more. It was already noon and he hadn't even begun to pack up the family's belongings. Sighing, he started stacking the photos and trinkets back into the trunk.

          At the bottom of the pile of things that George had first dumped out, he came across a leather-covered book. He opened it and recognized his mother's handwriting from the note he had found with the Wheezes earlier. The date on the first page read 1970. Guessing that Bill was born around that time, George thumbed through the pages and watched as the dates ranged and jumped, eventually ending in 1999, the year that Ginny, the last Weasley, graduated from Hogwarts.

         He was surprised that his mother had kept a type of diary, especially after the whole Dear-Little-Ginny-Being-Possessed-By-The-Most-Evil-Wizard-Ever-To-Roam-The-Earth episode. He skimmed through a few dozen pages, surprised by how many important things he had forgotten.

And most my memories
Have escaped me
Or confused themselves with dreams
If heaven's all we want it to be
Send your prayers to me
    Care of 1983

            George sighed and got out of the chair, putting the diary into the trunk as well. He walked back down the hall and towards the living room, taking a moment to glance at the family clock on the way. Besides for the 9 hands of the Weasleys, Arthur had added two more little golden hands for Hermione and Harry. The hands were pointing all which ways, many pointing to either 'work' or the also newly added 'St. Mungo's'. George's hand, however, was pointing to the simple, four letter word, 'home'.

You can paint that house a rainbow of colors
Rip out the floorboards
Replace the shutters but
That's my plastic in the dirt
A door squeaked behind George, who spun around to see what happened, reaching for his wand. He was startled to see a professional-looking man standing in the entrance hall and obviously just as surprised to see George.

            "Mr. Weasley, I presume?"

            "Er, yes. Call me George." George walked toward the portly and well-dressed man and shook his hand. "Can I help you?"

            "I'm Willard McDinglebloop, from the Personal Properties Department," he said in a nasally voice.

            "Right." After an uncomfortable pause, George continued, "Mr. McDinkleboot – "


            "Right, sorry," George said, trying hard to keep a straight face. "About this whole 'auction' thing. I'd rather not do it. We, my brothers and my sister and I, decided not to sell the Burrow."

            "I see…" the man said, scrunching up his face and looking remarkably like Harry's cousin Dudley had when they were younger.

            "So. You can just give me the deed and I'll pay you whatever the money was that's owed on the house," George finished lamely.

            "Oh. You'll pay the difference, will you?" Mr. Dinkleblubber said with a smirk, "Do you know how much is owned on this, er, home?"

            "Well, it can't be that much," George faltered.

            "If I'm not mistaken, the bills owed on this house have reached approximately 18,342 gallions, 17 knuts."

            For a second, George thought he was going to pass out.

Whatever happened to my
Whatever happened to my
Whatever happened to my lunchbox
When came the day that it got
Thrown away and don't you think I should have had some say
In that decision

            "Mr. McBlabberboot – " George began.


            "Right, er, well. That's an awful lot of money and I haven't got it."

            "Mr. Weasley," Mr. McBlabberboob began in a stern voice, "If we are finished here, I will bid you good day. Your possessions will need to be removed in the next twenty-four hours. If you are interested, you may owl the Personal Possessions Department for the results of the house auction."

            "WAIT!" George reached out and grabbed the arm of the retreating McBlubberoofus. "I – I think that I could come up with the money. If you'll just stop by this address in about an hour, I believe that I'll be able to pay you in full." George handed him a small white card from the pocket of his robes, giving him a reassuring smile.

* * * * *

            "You WHAT?!?" Fred shouted in disbelief when his brother broke the news to him.

            "I – er – mortgaged Weasley Wizard Wheezes to Gringotts and withdrew our savings," George said sheepishly from behind the counter of their joke shop.

            "WHY?!" Fred shouted even louder, banging a crate of Canary Creams down onto the counter that was a violent shade of green.

            "To – to er – buy the Burrow."

            "Buy the Burrow? From who?!"

            George told the whole story to Fred while flailing his arms around and wildly gesturing at nothing in particular, all in a matter of minutes and looked at him expectantly. "And now, Mr. McDinklefisher is going to be here any moment! I couldn't let someone take the Burrow! Do you have any idea how awful that – "



            "It's all right," Fred said. "I wouldn't have let them take the Burrow either."
            "Oh. Right then."

            And just like that, the drama that George had felt pressing down on him had vanished. Just because he was a grown man, he wouldn't have to give up his memories and childhood. Every good thing comes with sacrifices, and the Burrow was definitely worth the sacrifice.

A/N: That was REALLY fun to write. I wrote it all in one night and now it's much past midnight and I've got to get up early tomorrow morning. Gah! Oh well. It will be worth the lack of sleep, I'm sure. I hope that you all liked this. I realize that the bold of some lyrics and the spacing of some things are off. They're fine on my computer but they got changed when they were uploaded to Sorry.Tell me what you thought and EVERYONE should hear the song '1983' by John Mayer. And while you're at it, listen to '3x5' and 'Love Song for No One'. And finally, check out Oak Leaves, which is my series of vignettes about F&G when they were 6 years old (in 1983… how ironic!). Thanks for reading!

((I hope that everyone realizes I'm kidding... :P))

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues of Christmas

I'm feeling the Christmas spirit a bit early this year, after finishing the latest Royal Spyness mystery novel by award-winning writer Rhys Bowen.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the of Bowen's mysteries I've read. It's a light-hearted, Christmas-themed girlie mystery that takes place in 1930s Devon, and is full of strange characters and mysterious murders.

This Christmas caper contains over a dozen murder attempts (some successful, some not), which must be a new personal record! Fear not, those faint of heart. Bowen strikes the right mix of intrigue and innocence in this this, her sixth Royal Spyness installment.

The lovely  and impoverished Lady Georgiana Rannoch, sick of her bossy sister-in-law, leaps at the chance to escape dreary old Scotland for the holidays. She responds to an advertisement in The Lady and is soon instated as the fashionable young hostess at Lady Hawse-Gorzley's  house party -- for better, or for worse.

A string of apparently accidental deaths plagues the quiet town of Tiddleton-under-Lovey. The clever Lady Georgie cannot help but try to solve the mystery, with help from a comical cast of characters.

Escaped convicts, handsome young lords, a flighty mother and a manor full of strange and suspicious guests made for a quick and easy read with more than enough intrigue to keep the reader guessing. Each character had their own little (or large) secret to protect. Bowen threw in a wild woman, inept inspectors, a village idiot and a classic English hunt, for good measure. 

A cheery old-fashioned English Christmas served as a charming backdrop in this novel, and helped to keep things light and humorous amidst multiple gruesome murders. Dangers abound in this town cloaked in mist and surrounded by bogs. Oh, and one must not forget the Lovey Curse -- a centuries-old tale of horror that sends townsfolk into a tizzy!

Georgie the girl sleuth (and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria) really irked me, at first. She seemed spoiled and whiny, and a bit too dramatic. It was not until the rest of other peculiar house guests arrived that I settled into this book. Georgiana grew on me as I continued to read, and her shenanigans and difficulties made for an entertaining read.

Bowen's latest mystery provides the reader with a vast collection of personalities, which kept me guessing until the last pages of the novel. I was happily befuddled until the end of the book, which was a nice surprise.

Lucky for me, this book features a bonus at the end:
 Bowen leaves her reader with a collection of recipes from merry ol' England, and directions for some of the classic holiday games Georgie and the house guests play.

Now, I'm eager to make my own mince pies and sausage rolls... and to convince friends to play a rousing game of sardines!

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
On Sale November 6, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber

The Anatomist's Wife (Berkley Prime Crime, $15.00) is a love story masquerading as a historical crime novel - and it's a good one!

Lady Kiera Darby came to the Gairloch estate in an attempt to hide from London's nobility. Her sister, the countess of Gairloch, welcomed her with open arms following the death -- and resulting mess -- of Kiera's husband, a respected anatomist living in the shadow of the great Burke and Hare scandal.

A painter by trade, Kiera takes refuge in Scotland and removes herself from the swirling world of manners and hateful gossip that plagues her.

An ancient castle beside a turbulent Scotch loch is ideal for a creepy murder mystery. The late Georgian period comes alive on the pages of this fast-paced thriller, as the reader is introduced to a party of selfish socialites visiting Gairloch. Each is hell-bent on getting their own way and climbing into the upper echelons of the ton, acquaintances be damned.

When the beautiful Lady Godwin's mutilated body is discovered in the gardens after dinner, it is clear that a cold-hearted murder walks among them - but who?

The isolated estate is set to lock-down for days, awaiting the arrival of the proper authorities. In the interim, the charming (and stubborn) Sebastian Gage, son of a well-respected investigator, attempts to unravel the mystery on his own terms.

A misunderstood artist with a dark past, the innocent Kiera is immediately suspected as Lady Godwin's vicious murderer. With all signs pointing to her guilt, the young Lady Darby must find a way to convince her family and their anxious guests that she is not the murderer. Independent to a fault, she must learn to work alongside Mr. Gage... and somehow convince him that she has been framed.With all bets against her, Kiera must solve the mystery before the murder can silence her forever.

Many tales of love and loss are woven into the plot of this quick read. Each character strives to find their own sort of happiness, whether that be realized through true love or the beds of their friends' wives and husbands. Unrequited love, unfulfilled dreams and a hunger for something more are what drive Huber's characters to their blessed and bitter ends.

No historical thriller is complete without a bit of romance. Huber's well-crafted characters are at times exasperating, but endearing. As this novel came to an end I slowed my reading, hoping to stretch and savor the last few pages. I didn't want to say goodbye to clever Kiera and the handsome Mr. Gage.

Anna Lee Huber must be awfully proud of her first novel. It is saturated with well-researched historical tidbits, providing a feeling of authenticity often difficult to achieve in this genre.  A stellar debut, and I look forward to the next installment of her promising "Lady Darby" mystery series.

Get this novel  from your local, independent bookseller!  

The Anatomist's Wife: A Lady Darby Mystery 
will be released on November 6, 2012.

Audrey Barton has been regularly reviewing fiction and non fiction since 2009.

Please post review copies to:
Audrey Barton
c/o Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan 48823

"Girlie" historical mysteries recently reviewed, by yours truly:
When Maidens Mourn by C.S. Harris
The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ultimate Apocalypse Reading List : Dystopian Books of the 20th Century - With Reviews

This list of dystopian fiction and non fiction is a work in progress.
If you have suggestions, please suggest them!

Compiling this list is a labor of love. It is based upon our private collection of dystopian and self-sufficiency books. Many of these books are widely available, but not at your local big-box bookstore or library. If you'd like to borrow my copy or want to know how to find these books locally, please ask.

I am an independent book seller by day and a small-scale homesteader by night. Though I don't hold a degree in dystopian literature, I think this list has more than enough gravitas to be taken seriously. These are not just books about zombies and plagues, and ecological disasters. These books take a close look at how people suffer, fail, survive and thrive in the face of disaster.

My goal is to share this list with others.
I don't profit from this blog, but I would appreciate credit to this blog if you share this list with friends.

These books are sorted by genre, and are listed in alphabetic order by the author's surname.

(( Last Updated 1.3.2014))

Adult Fiction

The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams
  Making good use of the zombie craze, this zombie anthology features stories by Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Joe Hill (King's son), George R. R. Martin and Poppy Z. Brite. It was a big-box bookstore bestseller. and clocks in at just under 500 pages.

Fallout by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
  A "hard science fiction" novel about a future America, in which militia groups have gained control and are hell-bent on destroying us all. Published by Ace in 1997.

But What of Earth? by Piers Anthony and Robert Coulson
  "The Earth of the not-too-distant future is a dying world - overcrowded, polluted; its resources are almost exhausted; its people grow sickly. Then, at the eleventh hour, an amazing scientific breakthrough makes possible the impossible - escape to the stars! The stampede to leave - to open up new worlds and found new civilizations creates a heady delirium for most. But What of Earth? Those left behind must build a life for themselves out of the shambles of their world... or die." A 1976 Laser Books publication (#44), with strange cover art by Kelly Freas.

Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov
  A collection of 20 stories by Asimov, focusing on the civilization of Earth in various scenarios which threaten our culture and safety. Published by Fawcett in 1969.

What If You Were the Last Man on Earth edited by Isaac Asimov, Greenberg and Waugh
  A collection of stories by various science fiction authors, about various solitary Earthlings and their time on a ravaged planet far beyond the control of the human race.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Maddadam by Margaret Atwood

The Crystal World by J. G. Ballard

Through Darkest America by Neal Barrett, Jr.
An oft-overlooked coming-of-age tale that morphs into a dystopian nightmare. America, post-WWIII. Not for the squeamish!

Shiva Descending by Gregory Benford and William Rotsler
  Published by Avon in 1980.

The Inevitable Hour by Martyn Boggon
  "Chicago destroyed... radiation spreads... vast Russian areas devastated... California death toll millions... Washington hit... peace is dead!" Award Books, 1968.

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne
  Published by Permuted Press in 2007, at the beginning of the zombie craze. This novel is one man's story of day-to-day survival as zombies spread across America and the world. 

After the Rain by John Bowen
  Published in 1959.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
  A beautifully written, award-winning historical novel of the Black Plague, and those who suffered.

World War Z by Max Brooks
  The ultimate zombie thriller.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
GREAT BOOK. Published in 1993. The compelling story of a unique heroine struggling to survive in California as society crumbles around her and her tight-knit community. I'll read the sequel, Parable of the Talents, as soon as I get my hands on a copy!

Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  A novel of future America - a personal favorite. 

Psychedelic-40 by Louis Charbonneau
A "frighteningly prophetic novel" about the world in 1993 - one ruled by super-powered men with the ability to read the minds of ordinary people. A true piece of alarmist fiction that "shows you the U.S.A. as it could become under the rule of irresponsible, power-mad politicos" published in 1965.

No Blade of Grass by John Christoper
  You'll never look at a plant the same way, ever again. This tale of ecological horrors was published in 1959. They made this into a movie in the 1960s, but I haven't been able to track down a copy. This is not a book you will easily forget.

The Long Winter by John Christopher

The Heirs of Babylon by Glen Cook

Dark December by Alfred Coppel

  Millions are killed in an atomic World War III. Major Kenneth Gavin - one of few survivors - must now live with his choices in this new and suffering world. Published by Fawcett in 1960.

Thirty-four East by Alfred Coppel
  This 1974 international bestseller offers a chilling vision of a world in chaos, terrified of global atomic warfare.

A Journal of the Plauge Year by Daniel Defoe
  First published in 1927, this is the tale of London during the Black Plauge in the 1660s.
The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick
  "The time is 1982, the story is a unique blend of genius and madness - of men and machines gone berserk in a world they created." Most people have moved underground - literally - after the fallout from World War III. Though the war ended 10 years ago, most are not aware of it's closure. A few men live upon the surface, where they help to continue the fake "reality" created by the men in power. Published by Belmont in 1964.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  "The day after the bomb dropped the thousands of years of 'progress' that had covered the treacheries and weaknesses of ordinary man with a thin veneer of civilization were dissolved and melted like snow on the desert's dusty face. Then - the law of the jungle reigned but in the wrekage a few courageous survivors, men and women with the guts to have hope, were determined to build a new and better world on the ruins of the old. This is their story." Published in 1959, this is one of the best dystopian novels in existance, and a favorite in our collection.

Apocalypse Wow!: A Memoir for the End of Time by James Finn Garner
  A a charming, tongue-in-cheek parody of zombies and conspiracy theories by one of the funniest writers alive.

The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California by Curt Gentry
  Published in 1968.

Down to a Sunless Sea by David Graham
  "1985: The dollar has plummeted so low it can't be given away, and full-scale rationing is in effect. Meanwhile, airports are being raided by mobs of civillians desperate to leave the country - and the military has orders to shoot to kill. Then suddenly a bigger disaster strikes, spinning the entire globe into cataclysm. Now only 600 survivors remain - and it's up to them to keep the human race alive..." Published by Fawcett Crest in 1981.

Extinction by Ray Hammond
  Destruction by nature is the name of the game in this ecological disaster novel of the near future, published in 2005. 

Eden by W.A. Harbinson
  Published by Dell in 1987.

The Deadly Messiah by David Campbell Hill and Albert Fay Hill
  A doomsday plague is unleashed on the world. Will the President's team of extraordinary thinkers reverse the plague and save 40 million lives? (Probably.) Published by Avon in 1977.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Stand by Stephen King

Berserk by Tim Lebbon

Shelter by Dan Ljoka

The Chameleon Variant by Carol K. Mack and David Ehrenfeld
  In this 1980 novel a fast-moving epidemic spirals out of control, turning innocent people into violent and unpredictable monsters.

The Bridge by D. Keith Mano
  "The time is the near future. Humanity has lost its will to live. Everywhere primeval nature is reclaiming the earth from the species that has for so long dominated it. The government itself has abandoned the struggle and has even decreed the suicied of civilization." Published by Signet in 1974.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
A post-apocalypse epic published in 1987.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

Eden: A Zombie Novel by Tony Monchinski

Hater by David Moody
  "It occurs without warning - sudden, vicious, and lethal attacks. Why are people attacking their friends, their family, even complete strangers? Is it a virus, is it a terrorist attack, or is it something more primal? An overwhelming terror has gripped the country and there's no one to trust - not even yourself. In the tradition of H.G. Wells, Anthony Burgess, and Richard Matheson, Hater is one man's story of his place in a world gone mad - a world infected with fear, violence and HATE."

The Time of the Hawklords by Michael Moorcock and Michael Butterworth

The 40 Minute War by Janet and Chris Morris
  Washington, D.C. is wiped off the face of the map by a nuclear blast in this 1984 novel.

The Wine of Violence by James Morrow

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
This book rocks. Find a copy and don't let go! 
Dystopian California, long enough after the fall that society is beginning to reform. Interesting dichotomy: artists vs warriors. It's all quite brilliant.

1984 by George Orwell

Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead by Kim Paffenroth

City Wars by Dennis Palumbo
  A novel of doom and destruction in Chicago and its battle with New York, published by Bantam Books in 1979.

Meteorite Track 291 by Gary Paulsen
  Published by Dell in 1979.

The Executioner: Plague Wind (Mack Bolan - Power Trilogy Book II) by Don Pendleton
 Many of the Executioner and Mack Bolan adventures deal with saving the world from certain destruction. This novel focuses on the threat of Ebola, and the consipracy to use it as a weapon against the people.1998, Gold Eagle Adventure.

The 11th Plague by L.T. Peters
  The US suffers from a mysterious, malicious bacteria in this 1973 novel - similar to The Andromeda Strain.

Jem by Frederik Pohl
"In a time when there are no nations on Earth, only mutually hostile power blocs, suddenly a new inhabited planet is discovered: Jem." First published in 1979.

Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  "A few years after tomorrow, above a ruined Los Angeles where crime, violence, pollution and poverty still rule the streets, a Utopia rises. Todos Santos. A thousand-foot-high single-structured city. The perfect blend of technology and humanism, offering its privileged dwellers everything they could want in exchange for their oath of allegiance and their constant surveillance. But there are those who would see Utopia destroyed. Those who would tear down the hope of tomorrow in violent act after violent act. And they have just entered Todos Santos..." One of Sean's favorites, published in 1981.

Patriots, Survivors and Founders by James Wesley, Rawles
  These three companion novels take place in modern-day America, after a severe socio-economic meltdown called "The Crunch". After local economies and communities crumble, millions succumb to illness and unpreparedness. These three Christian novels tell the tale of those who remain, and what becomes of America after the end. They're chock-full of good (and bad) ideas for the fledgling or experienced prepper. The overt focus on weaponry and military survival tactics was off-putting, at first. I thought they weren't my style, but after reading these books I consider myself a fan of Rawles, and eagerly await the next installment!

Plague of the Dead: The Morningstar Strain by Z.A. Recht
  "When a massive military operation fails to contain the plague of the living dead it escalates into a global pandemic. In one fell swoop, the necessities of life become much more basic. Gone are petty everyday concerns. Gone are the amenities of civilized life. Yet a single law of nature remains: Live, or die. Kill, or be killed." This 2006 publication has a military focus, and was one of the first titles in Sean's zombie collection.

Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald
  "A horrifying, prophetic document of the future - the diary of a man living 4000 feet underground in a society hell-bent on atomic self-destruction." Published in 1959.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 by Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop
  "Rebellious Texans have kidnapped the president of the U.S.A. His future - and indeed the future of the country - depends on a band of fearless Israelis whose courage has been tested in other wars!" Published by Ballantine Books in 1974.

The Book of Dave by Will Self
  A dystopian fantasy set in post-apocalyptic London, full of relegious allegories and mystery, which pays homage to pop culture greats from Monty Python to Jonathan Swift.

The Last Breath by Eugene Carl Shaffer
  This novel of a troubled planet Earth was published by Papillon Books in 1974, and is a well-researched warning from the author.

The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel
  One of the great early apocalyptic novels, first published in 1930. Shiel's novel received fabulous reviews from H.G. Wells and other esteemed writers, and continues to be a favorite within the genre.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Epidemic! by Frank G. Slaughter
  "A chilling account of germ warfare when America's enemies unleashed a plague of Black Death in New York City." Published in 1961. 

Doomsday Wing by George H. Smith
  This American tale of military destruction was published by Monarch Books  in 1963.

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  A classic! First published in 1949, this novel has withstood the test of time and is widely considered to be the best dystopian science fiction novel of the 20th century. Though older than most books on this list, Stewart's masterpiece is the first book I recommend to customers looking for a good read. Check out some of my favorite quotes and an image of the first paperback edition.

Out There by Adrien Stoutenburg
  A tale of ecological destruction in 21st century America, published in 1972.

Warday by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka
  An alternate history of America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after the world as we know it has been destroyed. Another of Sean's favorites.

The Apocalypse Reader edited by Justin Taylor
  An apocalyptic anthology of thirty-four doomsday scenarios. This collection features stories by Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Allan Poe, Joyce Carol Oates and others..

Red Planet by Peter Telep
  A novel based on teh story by Chuck Pfarrer and the Warner Brothers movie of the same title, this movie tie-in tells the tale of a ruined Earth in 2050 and the hope for a new beginning on Mars.

The Colony by Mary Vigilante
  "The nuclear war was over in an afternoon. Both sides lost. Now a young woman alone faced teh brutal society of the survivors..." Published by Manor Books, 1979.

Only Lovers Left Alive by Dave Wallis

Death on a Warm Wind by Douglas Warner
  "No one listened to Colston when the physicist predicted a warm wind would carry death and to the large resort and the happy vacationers there, making love, swimming, watching their children play. A tough politician has silenced Colston for his own reasons. Now, he was again trying to shut the old man up, although Colston's awful prediction had come true. A warm wind is blowing toward London, the same mysterious wind, Colston raved, that had maimed and killed at the resort. It took a young newspaperman to uncover the politician's motive. But he couldn't stop the wind..." Published by Belmont Books in 1968.

Children of the Light by Susan B. Weston
  "Accidentally marooned in a ravaged future, nineteen-year-old Jeremy Towers is almost literally the last man on earth. He is one of the very last sexually fertile men in a world populated by women subsistence farmers, wandering mutants and a few sterile males. A cast-away from the Time of the Light - pre-holocaust America - Jeremy becomes not merely the key to the survival of the species bu tthe principal pawn in the political battle to create a new - and perhaps different - world." Published by St. Martin's Press in 1985.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilehelm

Quick Fall of Light by Sherrida Woodley
This recently published (2010) award-winner chronicles a world-wide flu epidemic and one woman's struggle. It's an environmental thriller unlike the other books on this list, and is often overlooked though it has fabulous reviews from respected writers and environmentalists.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  This Russian tale of the downfall of the human race, similar to Brave New World and 1984, was translated into English by Mirra Ginsburg and published  in 1972.

Youth Fiction

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The City of Ember and The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson
  This was the first dystopian novel I recall reading. It was part of the curriculum at my  public middle school in Michigan, until parents cottoned on. Some angry mommies made a stink, and the books were taken away. I was sick during this scuffle, and was lucky enough to finish reading this riveting novel before I gave it back to the teacher. This story of urban American children much like ourselves, left to fend for themselves after all adults succumb to a mysterious illness, has stuck with me ever since. Finding a copy of this novel can be challenging, but it's well worth it.
Please read my Kiddie-Lit'er Review for more about this great YA novel!

The Big Empty by J.B. Stephens
  A handful of teenage survivors in a world ravaged by a mysterious plague, eking out their existence in an America controlled by military dictators and barbaric survivors.

Prepper Books

The Formula Book by Norman Stark
  This handy underground bestseller was published by Avon Books in 1975. It won't help you defeat the zombies, but it is a handy reference for making every-day products at a fraction of the price, like mouth wash, furniture polish, suntan lotion and soap.

Non Fiction

Chemical and Biological Warfare: America's Hidden Arsenal by Seymour M. Hersh
  This Doubleday publication was marketed as a political science book upon publication in 1969. It is a comprehensive, documented look at America's role in the development of weapons of destruction during the Cold War and in Vietnam.

No High Ground by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
  First published in 1960, this is the "true" story of the first atomic bomb and the men who made it. "It is the whole, never-before-told account of experiments in heavily-guarded laboratories, of bitter arguments in top-secret White House conferences, of frantic, doomed peace negotiations. It is the story of men - big and little, famous and anonymous, conqueror and conquered - all caught up in the single, cataclysmic event that profoundly changed the direction of history and the shape of our world!"

Killer Germs by Pete Moore, BSc, PhD
  A book about new and emergent diseases and their threat to Americans in the 21st century.

The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath edited by Kenzaburo Oe    
  A Japanese collection of short stories about the tragedy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston

Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West by John Ralston Saul

The Doubter's Compainon: A Dictionary of Agressive Common Sense by John Ralston Saul

Rising Plauge by Brad Spellberg, MD
"The global threat from deadly bacteria and our dwindling arsenal to fight them." Published by Prometheus Books in 2009.

Miscellaneous (Fictional Non Fiction, Graphic Novels and Other Stuff)

Blackgas by Warren Ellis
  Vicious zombies, in graphic novel form.

The Walking Dead by R. Kirkman, C. Adlard and C. Rathburn
  A long and frightening graphic novel series - don't skip this one!

The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead  by Roger Ma
 Published by Berkley Books in 2010, to capitalize on the popularity of zombies in pop culture.

Dead Bunnies: Good & Evil, Continued

Late Friday night, in the middle of a spirited game of Settlers of Catan, Sean got a disturbing phone call.

A friendly pro-garden neighbor of Poppin' Fresh called with grim news. Vandals, probably the same schmucks who tampered with our hutches last week (and stole three baby bunnies) were at it again.

Domestic rabbits like our New Zealands are very docile animals, sort of like sheep. These rabbits don't stand a chance against predators, and we had gone to great lengths to build a safe enclosure for their hutches.

The Vandals had taken all 7 rabbits from their cages, removed them from the fenced-in hutch area, and set them loose in the garden.

Neighborhood cats had found our rabbits long before a neighbor noticed them hopping around, unprotected. The cats made quick work of the baby bunnies. It was about 11:30 when the Sean got to Poppin' Fresh. By then, four of the baby rabbits were already dead.

After some desperate hunting, we recovered the doe and buck, and one baby rabbit.

The plants, water containment set-up and hoop house were untouched. There's always a silver lining.

Sketch by CamillaAnne on Deviantart

This destruction of property and animal cruelty has gone unanswered, much to our chagrin. We called the Lansing PD, but they're stretched thin and uninterested in small crimes. We fear causing further animosity, and have removed these three bunnies from the garden. They're in a "secure location."

We're not sure where to go, from here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Adversaria 6

The following quotes aren't "New" in the modern sense, but don't let their age devalue them.

"The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered." Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." Henry Ford

"Our society is so fragile, so dependent on the interworkings of things to provide us with goods and services, that you don't need nuclear warfare to fragment us anymore than the Romans needed it to cause their eventual downfall."  Gene Roddenberry

"Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the Field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it." Woodrow Wilson

"We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets, and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."
Katherine Graham

"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival." Ayn Rand

"The ruling class has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses." Albert Einstein

"The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it." John Hay, Castilian Days II, 1872

"A prudent man forseeth the evil and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished." - Provers 27:12, KJV
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen." Samuel Adams, 1776

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
Thomas Jefferson

"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." 
Albert Einstein 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good and Evil in the Garden

"Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth 
is the most important labor of man. 
When tillage begins, other arts follow. 
 The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization." 
Daniel Webster

Mother Rabbit with a snack of dandelion leaves

Yesterday, three of our baby bunnies went missing.

They were taken by neighborhood kids, who were overcome by the cuteness of our wee little rabbits. Can you blame them? I may have done the same, 20 years ago. (Gah! So old!)

Trouble is, the baby bunnies are not yet weened. Taking them from the mother rabbit is a death sentence. Of course, the kids didn't realize this. On a hunch, two friendly gardeners made a visit to the kids' grandmother and explained the situation.

By this morning two of the three baby rabbits had returned. The third, I'm sorry to say, will not have survived this long away from the hutch.

 We run a community garden, and happily share our knowledge and harvest with our neighbors. We have greens and veggies and gourds aplenty! For the most part, our neighbors have been friendly and supportive of the garden. We've canvassed the neighborhood, introduced ourselves and invited everyone to stop by and take a look (and some food) whenever they're free. There are no locks on the gates, and plenty of food and flowers to share. Good communication has helped the garden. Some neighbors are protective of the plot when we're not there, and are happy to have a robust garden on their block. After two years of toiling in the dirt where abandoned houses once stood, we've been accepted as a part of the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, not everyone has been so welcoming. When people become suspicious or feel threatened they resort to selfish, hurtful acts. The garden has had its fair share of  anonymous, destructive events. Last month, we found a long fluorescent light bulb smashed and hidden amongst our tomatoes.  This is not the first time a stranger has tampered with the rabbits, but it is the most egregious.
evil tomato by jv9ufxcy on DeviantArt
 I don't know if it's the election, or the books I'm reading, or just my own paranoia, but there seems to be an awful lot of evil in the world, these days. I'm not exactly saying that today is worse than yesterday, or last year, or the last century... but it is NOT any better. Rather than think critically and make independent choices, more and more Americans (Earthlings, really) have fallen in to the mass media / consumerism trap. You cannot easily blame these "Sheeple" when everything they've been told to think and do has lead them into this trap. We can't think and speak independently in this "modern" world. There's too much information being thrown into our faces, so quickly we find it impossible to successfully synthesize and process. It's easier to tune out, or rather to tune into something more palatable and mind-numbing.
 There are so many seemingly-important news stories that it can be hard to keep up. And why keep up, anyway? Increasingly, I feel like I can't make that much of a difference. Our most powerful tool to bring about change is our vote, but I feel as though my vote is increasingly marginalized.Some say you can vote with your dollars, which is true, but also largely ineffective. What we need to do is start TALKING to each other about things that really matter. We need to stop staring at our computers and smart phones and start looking into the eyes of people around us. Talk to your neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. Find out what's important to them, and what they think of our current state. When we're afraid and distrusting of one another, as well as our news sources and government, who else can we turn to but ourselves?

We are constantly barraged by "unbiased" news stories and the opinions of others. In this sped-up globalized world, what's important is often overshadowed and quickly buried by the latest political mumbo-jumbo and gobbly-gook. We often forget about the details of the last article that seemed so important, which is what "they" want from us. Quiet consumption and little actual action makes this oligarchy's job far easier.

Enough about "us" and "them," though. I won't go all Bilderberg on you, today.

When we stop listening and thinking critically, and stop talking to one another about where our society is headed, what will become of us?

((edited 10.15.12))

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baby New Zealand Bunnies

Exciting times at Poppin' Fresh! In the last week we've watched our seven new rabbits grow from wiggly pink creatures to tiny, white-furred "awww" inspiring rabbits.

A flower by the Rabbitry, which bloomed the same day the rabbits were born.

The Hoppin' Fresh sign, part of a drawer from Sean's retrofitted desk hutches.
Mother Rabbit
Seven tiny baby rabbits. You could fit two or three in one hand.
Rabbit Close-up
 The rabbits are about a week old, and are growing fast! In the next few days their eyes will open. They'll continue to live in the next box for now, but soon they'll learn to escape their baby rabbit crib. They'll stay in an extra-large hutch with their mother for quite some time, and will eventually move into their own cages.

Sean's latest construction project is this massive hutch! Soon, I'll share a the finished hutch, complete with shingles. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Adversaria 5: Voltaire's Bastards and Earth Abides.

This week I finally finished reading
Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart.

Reading this novel was a journey, to say the least. I see why it continues to rank amongst the greatest science fiction novels of all time. Published in 1949, this dystopian American tale is a must-read for everyone! Sean and I have a few "loaner" copies, but recommend that you find your own copy and hang on tight.

"The irony of all things impressed him more and more. What you were preparing against - that never happened! All the best-laid plans could not prevent the disaster against which no plans had been laid." (Earth Abides, 280)

"If the Tribe needed a symbol of strength and unity, if they were happier with the hammer as a rallying point - who was he to enforce rationalism? Perhaps rationalism - like so much else - had only been one of the luxuries which men could afford under civilization." (Earth Abides, 284)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

For months, I've been plucking my way through John Ralston Saul's Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.

Published in 1992, this academic approach to the history of reason is a fascinating piece of cultural criticism. I'm taking my time with this enlightening (haha!) book. If I sped through it, my brain would melt into mush and drip out through my ears.

     "The invention of the secret is perhaps the most damaging outgrowth of the power produced when control over knowledge was combined with the protective armour of specialization. Until recently very little was considered improper to know. Today the restricted lists are endless. And yet there can't be more than two or three real secrets in the entire world. Even the construction of an atomic bomb is now part of available knowledge. Nevertheless the imprisoning of information continues, undeterred by endless access-to-information legislation.

     These restrictions have been counterbalanced over the last thirty years by an apparent explosion in individual freedoms. This breakdown of social order - rules of dress, sexual controls, speech patterns, family structures - has been seen as a great victory for the individual. On the other hand, it may simply be a reflection of the individual's frustration at being locked up inside a specialization. These acts of personal freedom are irrelevant to the exercise of power. So in lieu of taking a real party in the evolution of society, the individual struggles to appear as if no one has power over his personal evolution. Thus victories won for these individual liberties may actually be an acceptance of defeat by the individual."
(Voltaire's Bastards, John Ralston Saul, 29)

     "We are constantly declaring new ages. The conversion of the original Age of Reason into the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century was only a first step. Had humanity turned a great corner in the process? Not according to most definitions of the Enlightenment; for example, as a 'conviction that reason could achieve all knowledge, supplant organized religion and ensure progress towards happiness and perfection.'

     The rational machine continued from there, being redefined ad infinitum, notably by Kant, until at last Nietzsche theoretically rejected the concept itself. But Nietzsche's discovery that reason was subject to passion and to supermen came a full half century after the real superman had actually galloped onto the public stage and given a demonstration. Napoleon had ridden in on the back of reason, reorganized Europe in the name of reason and governed beneath the same principle. The subsequent effect was to bolster the rational approach, not to discourage it.

     This tells us a great deal about our other obscuring obsession. We have great difficulty dealing with philosophy in the context of real events. These two categories seem to live on separate planets. For example, we are still convinced that violence is the product of fear and fear is the product of ignorance. And yet, since the beginning of the Age of Reason, there has been a parallel growth in both knowledge and violence, culminating in the slaughters of the twentieth century.

     Does this mean that knowledge creates greater fear than does ignorance? Or that the rational system has distorted the value of knowledge? Or something else? One thing it does demonstrate is that the separation of philosophy from real events has encouraged the invention of mythological obscurantism. The constant launching of new philosophical ages is part of that invention."
(Voltaire's Bastards, John Ralston Saul, 40-1)

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Coming Collapse: Book Review of FOUNDERS by James Wesley, Rawles

Post-apocalyptic, dystopian books are commonplace in my household. It comes with the territory, when you marry a zombie enthusiast, epidemiologist prepper. So, when I cracked open Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse I was already feeling a bit jaded.

After all, there are only so many ways that society can fall to pieces, right?

This action-packed, terrifying fictional account of life after the collapse of present-day American is full of good examples of what to do - and what NOT to do - in the event of an economic and societal melt-down.

When Founders arrived in the mail, I was half-way through reading the classic dystopian America novel by George Stewart, Earth Abides. This classic apocalypse novel is GOOD, and extraordinarily relevant for a book published in 1949. Billed as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Earth Abides chronicled the life of one man in California, following the implosion of American civilization and its socioeconomic crash.

So, when Founders arrived it was a struggle to set aside Earth Abides. I found motivation to do so when Sean swiped Founders when I wasn't looking, and started reading.

James Wesley, Rawles is a name that demands respect in the prepper community. Rawles is the founder of He's an avid survivalist prepper with a strong military background, a Christian, a rancher and (apparently) a Ron Paul supporter. He's also the author of two other novels about the economic and societal collapse of America: Patriots and Survivors.

Suffice it to say that Rawles knows his stuff.

Set in the very near future, Founders tells the story of what happens to America after "The Crunch". Debt is the culprit of our country's swift decline, and when the economy collapses it triggers myriad of catastrophies. The aftermath of the Crunch is where the real problems arise. A shortage of medical personnel and supplies, and information, is the perfect storm on the East Coast. A vicious flu wipes out most of the population along the Atlantic coast, and quickly travels across the country. The American government all but disappears, along with all of their safety nets. Millions of Americans die from illness, lack of food and medicine, and at the hands of their neighbors.

It's chaos, and it ain't pretty.

Those who do survive the initial Crunch are left to deal with the looter gangs and vigilantes who thrive in this vacuum, as well as the countless unprepared Americans who are left to fend for themselves in an new and dangerous world.

Rawles takes the reader across the new Midwest, offering a view of what it means to be an American in the years directly following the collapse. Founders has a distinctly military perspective. My eyes glazed over as I read paragraph after paragraph about various guns and other weapons, and how to best protect family and property in an unsafe world.

At first, I was turned off by all of the gun talk. The more I read, though, the more I began to understand the importance of having the right tools for the task at hand. I began this book as a novice, with little knowledge of or interest in firearms. Now, I'm eager to learn more about the differences between a rifle and an AR, and how to actually hit a target.

More importantly, Rawles repeatedly stresses the importance of community in times of great struggle. You have a much better chance of surviving "The Crunch" if you surround yourself with trustworthy people with useful skills and ideas. THIS IS SO TRUE. It's not enough to have good friends, though. You must also better yourself by learning skills that make you more valuable and adept in a crisis situation. We live in an increasingly "soft" society focused on money and the media. If this 21st century lifestyle disappears, will your "modern" skill set help you survive?

Spirituality is also key to survival in this new and unpredictable America. Rawles is a devout Christian, and he finds creative ways to express his beliefs in this novel. However, he gives ample attention to other religions as well. Rawles knows that the ability to believe in a greater power is more important than belonging to a specific religious sect. Belief helps buoy hope, and the characters in Founders need all of the hope and help they can get.

Sean and I raced through Founders in a matter of days, and discussed it at great length. I thought that there was too much gun talk. Sean did not appreciate the continued religious references. We both understood the significance of these facets, and how they helped the various characters survive (or not). The repeated references and quotes from George Stewart's Earth Abides were sprinkles on this horrifying cupcake of doom.

The necessity of community, the importance of working together, was what I most appreciated while reading Founders. I'm a strong believer in the value of a good group of friends. A pack fares better than the lone wolf in this dystopian world. People with strong morals and the motivation to help themselves and their loved ones fared far better than the lost masses, who searched for someone to solve their problems.

Plenty of bad guys thrived as well, in Founders. They were quick to take advantage of the lack of government leadership and law enforcement. As supplies became scarce, gangs grew in strength and numbers. Ranches and towns were besieged by raiding looters. A replacement government also rose during the chaos, but they were not of the people, by the people or for the people.Violence begets violence in Founders, and everyone is fighting for their own cause. This could only lead to a brutal second American Revolution.

So, how did I like the book? Well, I'm headed to the local library in a few minutes, the other two books by Rawles are waiting for me. I've come away from Founders with a greater awareness of what is and isn't important in the grand scheme of things. I'm also a new fan of James Wesley, Rawles - and this book is sure to win him many more admirers. I'm nearly finished with Earth Abides, and these other two books will be my reward.

Reading this book made me more paranoid, but also more hopeful.
I feel like Sean and I are on the right track. Are you?

Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by New York Times bestselling author James Wesley, Rawles will be released on September 25, 2012. (Emily Bestler Books / Atria; $25.99)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bus Stop Reactions and a Book Review of "The End of Men" by Hanna Rosin

At first glance, The End of Men sort of seemed like a woman who is trying too hard to sell herself. The book's cover is yellow and black (much like a caution sign) with bright pink lettering. It demands your attention, insistent that this book has something to say, and WANTS YOU TO LISTEN, RIGHT NOW.

When I received this book in the mail, I was concerned.  It seemed... garish.

Reading it in public was awkward, but enjoyable.

It's normal for me to be pulled into a conversation with a stranger about the book I'm reading. It happens often, and I suspect I give off some kind of "Talk to me - I like books!" vibe.

In general I read pretty "radical" books, but this was a new experience.
People felt compelled to comment on this book, and every opinion was different.

That, or they would just stare at me.

Imagine seeing someone reading this on the bus or subway. 
Wouldn't you take a second glance?

It's not the content of this book that I appreciated so much as the conversations it inspired.

First, I showed it to a few of my male friends in their mid-twenties. "Take a look at this book," I said with a smile. "You should know what you're up against."  They were not amused, mostly disinterested and shrugged it off immediately.

I was disapointed, so I decided to conduct an experiment.
I made a point of reading this book out in public.

Two older men, probably in their 60s, were the first to comment on the book's cover. One merely shrugged and shook his head. The other jumped about, too aggravated to stand still. I tried to explain the basic premise of the book, but he wasn't interested. Instead, he began quoting the Bible, insisting that because Adam came before Eve, we would never live in a world without men.

I shrugged him off as a lost cause, but his outburst caught the attention of a few younger guys. One, a grad student, shared a knowing smile with me. He asked about the author, and I mentioned Rosin's 2010 article with the same title.

A second guy, wearing huge black framed glasses and an immaculate, "cool" outfit, asked if the book talked about women and increasing aggression towards men and other women. Short answer: Yes.

After explaining how I came by the book, and that I was an independent reviewer, they were more enthusiastic about talking with me. I held the book out to them, but neither wanted to take a closer look.

The third guy was a young father, employee of the State of Michigan and an immigrant from India who shared stories about his aggressive two-year-old daughter. He seemed quite interested in the book, and flipped through it before handing it back.

We four  talked about the book a bit more, then the young father asked me point blank : "Who do you think is smartest, Women or Men? I think Women are smarter..."

I said what I believe, which is that some people are smarter than others, no matter their sex.
I've met plenty of dumb men and women, and stupidity is not reserved for one sex or another.

The service sector is one of the largest areas of the American economy, in which women are exceedingly successful. The ability to communicate and evaluate a person's mood, for example, are traditionally thought of as womanly skills.  Two of these guys held jobs where their main task was dealing with other people.We talked a bit more about the changing expectations in our respective workplaces, and the importance of useful skills in the service sector.

So, what did I think of the book?

Eh, it was okay.

I was, admittedly, on edge when I cracked this book open for the first time. I had a preexisting aversion to the topic and the book's cover. Rosin's frank writing style makes for a comfortable read, but her simple style left no room for footnotes. The introduction did a good job of "priming the pump." I went from feeling empowered to imprisoned, horrified to hopeful, in 16 pages.

This book contains many alarming messages about the direction in which the world is headed. Women have indeed conquered realms once thought of as strictly masculine. Again and again, the book suggests that women are more adept and attuned to the requirements of succeeding in a 21st century world. Men are falling further and further behind, largely because they're not trying as hard (though Rosin didn't put it quite so bluntly). She argues that we have not merely reached equality, but have passed the "tipping point" and have entered a new phase in the Rise of Women.

 Relationships add important perspective to life. A woman's relationship with her workplace, politics, men, children and herself are all key factors in determining her success in life.  To illustrate her points, Rosin provides examples of actual women and offers up their perspectives. There are men, too, and these "real," embarrassingly inept men exemplify the all sorts of ineffective, undesirable twits. I have no doubt that these guys are real (though she gave them fake names). There were a few examples of intelligent, amiable men who had found niches in the woman-domanted world Rosin describes. The majority of them, however, were louses. Some were married, some were not. Some had children, some did not. The most celebrated women in this book lived relatively independent lives.

In each chapter, Rosin attempts to concisely discuss one of the following topics:

 - The underbelly of college hook-up culture and single girls who "play the game" and enjoy the power they feel from a successfully impersonal sexual encounter, just like their male counterparts. 
 - Marriage, and how it is increasingly a class privilege in America. Rosin describes marriage as a "gated community of human relationships" that exist only as a financial safety net. This chapter said little about companionship or love. It was mostly about money earning, money spending, the ideal family and how you'll probably be happier without it, allowing you to focus more on yourself.
 - Instances of matriarchy in the American middle class, with examples of single working mothers who are happy with their sole control over themselves and their family, and see little value in acquiring a husband who does not contribute to the household. Rosin also highlights families in which the main breadwinner is the woman, and cites (slowly) growing (low) numbers of stay-at-home fathers
 - A chapter is dedicated to the women of pharmaceuticals, a field dominated by women. "Pharm Girls" are romanticized, like 21st century airline stewardesses. People skills, the ability to multitask and an attention to detail are a few of the skills Rosin supplies as areas where women excel.
 - Returning to marriage and relationships, Rosin discusses the growing education gap
 - Violent acts committed by women are on the rise. We should be equally suspicious of women and men, especially if they're jerks.
 - Women in the upper eschelons of the international business community were a continuous topic in "The End of Men," culminating in a chapter about American businesswomen and another titled "The Gold Misses: Asian Women Take Over the World".

What I expected to be an overarching look at the Woman of Today is actually fast-paced glimpse at a variety of feminine and masculine extremes. I was frustrated by the constant use of consumerism as a measurement and means for competition, and the lust for ultimate happiness through materialism and selfishness.

Rosin's credible sources and litany of statistics are coupled with countless pop culture references. Sitcoms old and new, fashion, movies, popular books and fads are interspersed and used as examples of past and future women. They also served as feel-good reminders of some of America's beloved feminine symbols. There were far fewer references to actual women of the 19th and 20th centuries. There was little said about the traditional roles of women from various classes and the traditional role of a non-working wife and mother in American society, pre-WWII. I consider myself lucky to have studied history and women's studies.

I acquired an advance proof of this book through's Early Reviewers program. Had I not received a review copy, I doubt that I would have read this book. On numerous occasions I found myself indignant and belittled because I have not chosen to climb the corporate ladder to seek my fortune.

The media will gleefully take advantage of this book's built-in shock value. It raises important questions about how boys and girls are raised, and the shifting gender roles in America and around the world. If it leads us to a more enlightened perspective, I'll be thrilled. If it makes the bestseller list for a month, allowing Rosin to make the network rounds before falling into obscurity, I will not be surprised. It is too selective, too extreme, to be the feminist movement's new show pony and does not have the staying-power to join the likes of A Vindication of the Rights of Women or The Feminine Mystique. 

But, hey, that's just, like, my opinion, man....

The End of Men  was released on September 11, 2012. The hardcover edition is now available at your local, independent book shop or libary. $27.95. Nonfiction. Published by Riverhead Books.

Related Books:
Bitch, Please! by Megan Munroe
True Believers by Kurt Andersen