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I have been, as they say, away for a bit.

I can definitively report that sunny Florida is still, even as the country freezes, sunny Florida. The beach was fab, the oysters tasty and much fun was had by all. As always, I am amazed that I could have grown up someplace so very different from where I live now. Life does take us all in the most interesting unplanned directions, doesn't it?

The best thing about going home and eating your mother's cooking is the time you end up spending thinking about your life. It happens, even when you don't plan it. Just driving all those roads that still hold the ghosts of your childhood (and yes, we visited the cemetery), makes you think about who you were and might have been.

It makes you think about who you are trying to be and if you are doing a good job at that. Or not.

What am I planning now? First, as soon as I got home I cleaned out my closet. (It needed to be done.) And now I am working on some long overdue aviation articles, (the news in Alaska has, not surprisingly, been terribly overwhelmed by politics the last couple of months).

I have learned some more amazing things about my family in recent weeks--an unexpected marriage, names from a past generation, (I can confirm we had a Bridget! My great great great grandmother!), the nationality of a great uncle that does not match what I thought I knew about him and more. I have found a 35 year old aunt (great great great aunt) celebrating her marriage in 1910. How unexpected to see a woman waiting so long back then to marry.

I have so many more questions to ask, and so many questions I still don't know to ask.

There are books beside me to be reviewed and submitted to several different venues. (I might be turning up in unexpected places in the coming months.) There is a site redesign that is desperately overdue here. And there is so much writing to do; so much writing that should have been done by now.

I don't know who these two ladies are or where the picture was taken or when, (the 1930s I think from their outfits), but it was in one of my great grandmother's photo albums and I couldn't resist it. This one I love even though it will likely forever remain a mystery. I defy you not to love it too.

Appreciating small things like this is something I am resolved to do more of in the future. Going back home will do that to you; it reminds you of all you didn't take time to appreciate when you should have.

I am a light reading fan of Kelley Armstrong's werewolf books, which started with Bitten (which spawned a tv series) (which I have not watched). In all honestly, I didn't love Bitten--the world building was pretty cool but there was some killing that seemed to be gratuitous and all the dramarama was a tad bit soap opera-ish at points to me. But I did read it and I didn't hate it and it certainly was not anything like Laurell K. Hamilton's succubus insanity so I've been open to reading Armstrong's other books in the series, especially the novellas released by Subterranean Press.

Forsaken is due out in late January but open for preorder now and one of the better books in the series I've read. It manages to combine a lot of tension with a look at the politics of a woman in power. Armstrong has been out in front of the woman-as-leader issue from the beginning--werewolf Elena's position in the werewolf pack has always been a big deal--but now that she is the Alpha of the North American pack and involved in some situations away from her territory, things take an international turn and that brings Forsaken into remarkably timely territory.

Elena's story has always been about a woman having to make big choices which I think is one of the strengths of the series. Who to be, where to live, who to love--all of these are things that readers can identify with even without the paranormal bits. But Armstrong took the books in a surprising direction when she her two main characters not just marry but have children. In Forsaken, it is the assertion that as a mother Elena can not be strong leader which takes center stage. (Can anyone hear echoes of this in the campaign of every single female political leader ever?)

So, our heroine is juggling a big scary issue with her kids in Forsaken and trying to negotiate with the British werewolf pack who is led by a serious sexist jerk and then bad guys try to kill her and her family and it all goes to hell in a hand basket. That final part is pretty standard stuff for the series but it actually takes backseat to the rest and female readers in particular will likely identify a lot with how Elena tries to balance her demands as mother and leader while still considering her very significant relationship with big sexy husband Clay.

Yeah, you knew that was going to be part of it too, right?

Armstrong is still not a 100% guarantee for me, but Forsaken is a fun read that hit all the bells and whistles. I blew through it overnight and enjoyed the ride a lot. I recommend it and suggest you keep an eye out for her other titles that appear at Sub Press.


One of the best books I read this year and a truly important reading experience is The Public Library, a photographic essay by Robert Dawson. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, this is a gorgeously designed book of photos and essays on American public libraries, which I could not stop paging through.

Right now, you are probably thinking you know what the book is and agree with me that it's important and yet you likely have no interest in paging through it. A book like this is a good thing, but you already value libraries, right? You think you don't need this one.

Allow me to convince you otherwise.

I know public libraries matter on many levels. My hometown library had a huge influence on my life and I know that sentiment is the same for a lot of other people. So I approached The Public Library expecting an appreciation and I certainly was not disappointed on that score. But there is a lot more going on in this book, in the essays (by Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver and more) and the photos.

Dawson shows libraries in a variety of situations: urban and rural, small communities and large, in remote locations and city centers. The design differences are amazing and the closed facilities are heartbreaking but what really got to me was seeing how really useful the libraries are in unexpected ways. Also, the issue of homeless patrons came up several times and the essayists were pretty blunt on that subject.

While I was reading The Public Library and pouring over the photos, what struck me time and again was that open, free libraries are not a gift for a community, but a necessity. They are an equalizing force between the rich and poor and as significant as schools and the right to vote. They can make the difference for so much that might be missing in your life and be a game-changer in so many ways.

The best case scenario would find all of our elected officials sitting down and reading this book. It's the type of title that makes you think and inspires action. (I feel like I'm getting almost silly about libraries right now but I can't help it; just looking at these pictures touched my heart.)

The Public Library--obvious choice for book lovers but an even more important one for folks who just don't get it yet and need to be persuaded.

Listen to an interview with Robert Dawson at NPR.

[Post pics from the book.]