Saturday, December 17, 2011

XMas Programs/Recitals/Etc.

(I apologize in advance for the spacing on this post, depending what your screen resolution, and window size, this could look pretty ugly)

I find myself at the end of a busy week of children's Christmas programs, wherein parents, grandparents and resentful siblings were able to see the culmination of hours, days, and weeks (and sometimes entire minutes) of preparation on the parts of many, only to watch those who we get to see and hear too much of at home.

We started the week with Samwise and a group of guitar classmates performing during a veritable (and interminable) cavalcade of acoustic performances from the secondary students at his school. Samwise was, for reasons beyond my ken, enrolled in the beginning guitar class and so was playing with people who've been playing for 3 months. They had a lot of fun doing a "funny" little song they wrote. Results varied beyond them. 14 hours after that, the audience members that hadn't fled were released, relatively unharmed.

The next night, Arnold and the Princess got to strut their stuff in the elementary classes program. As you can see from this picture of the Princess I took right before showtime, we had seats in the a good distance away from the stage, and more clearly, I need a better camera. It was a very ambitious program of singing, dancing and recorder playing. I won't say that very few of the kids had talents commensurate with the ambition of the music teacher, but, um... it was cute.

And hey, did I mention, there were recorders? Yup, 90 4th and 5th graders played "Frosty the Snowman" on recorders. Several of which had the same key. (if you use your imagination, you can see a pink recorder in her hands there...see above paragraph).

I thought they did a really good job integrating all the grades into the program, and shuffled it up enough that even the shortest of attention spans weren't pushed too far past the breaking point. Someday, I would like someone to explain exactly how this position
represents a partridge in a pear tree, though.

Today, Arnold's music academy put on a recital--we had a flautist, a guitar player, a clarinet wrangler and several pianists perform a song each for us. I was quite impressed with the range of ages and abilities shown, and despite the nerves, they all did a great job. I was, naturally, very impressed with Arnold's playing, this was better than any time I've heard him practice. Thankfully, it was a small crowd, so I was able to shoot a video.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Veritable Webster's Definition of "Awwwwww...."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Samwise! (or...Man, I Need to Tweak my Camera Settings)

In Commemoration of Samwise's 12th Birthday, I took a stab at a Popcorn Cake.

I think he liked the looks of it:

TLoML described the cake as a popcorn ball mixed with trail mix. Frodo said it was like a movie theater's concession's stand after an earthquake. Both I think were compliments. :) Pretty tasty, actually, and fairly easy. "Sticky", "gooey" and "a giant mess" begin to describe the process of making it.

After that, we gave him his new Nook (yes, my boys are e-book readers now...*sigh*). This is mostly him being excited, and a little bit of him being a giant ham.

yeah, yeah, yeah, the pictures are lousy. I know, I know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 13

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
Mark Twain

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 12

Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.

Characters should not, conversely, serve as pawns for some plot you've dreamed up. Any plot you impose on your characters will be onomatopoetic: PLOT. I say don't worry about plot. Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, Now what happens? The development of relationship creates plot. Flannery O'Connor, in Mystery and Manners, tells how she gave bunch of her early stories to the old lady who lived down the street, and the woman returned them saying, "Them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do."

That's what plot is: what people will up and do in spite of everything that tells them they shouldn't, everything that tells them they shouldn't, everything that tells them that they should sit quietly on the couch and practice their Lamaze, or call their therapist, or eat until the urge to do that thing passes.

So focus on character.
Anne Lamott

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 11

here are a few rules ... for writing:
  1. The best way to write better is to write more.
  2. The best way to write better is to write more.
  3. The best way to write better is to write more.
  4. The best way to write more is to write whenever you have five minutes and wherever you find a chair and a pen and paper or your computer.
  5. Read! Most likely you don't need this rule. If you enjoy writing, you probably enjoy reading. The payoff for this pleasure is that reading books shows you how to write them.
  6. Reread! There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become part of you, n a way that words in a book you've read only once can't.
  7. Save everything you write, even if you don't like it, even if you hate it. Save it for a minimum of fifteen years. I'm serious. At that time, if you want to, you can throw it out, but even then don't discard your writing lightly.

Gail Carson Levine

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 10

Rules such as "Write what you know," and "Show, don't tell," while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. There is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: Whatever works, works.

Ah, but how can you know if it's working? The truth is, you can't always know (I nearly burned my first novel a dozen times, and it's still in print after 35 years), you just have to sense it, feel it, trust it. It's intuitive, and that peculiar brand of intuition is a gift from the gods. Obviously, most people have received a different package altogether, but until you undo the ribbons you can never be sure.
Tom Robbins

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 9

It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes. When I brood over these marvelous pleasures I have enjoyed, I would be tempted to offer God a prayer of thanks if I knew he could hear me. Praised may he be for not creating me a cotton merchant, a vaudevillian, or a wit.
Gustave Flaubert

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 8

Why Authors write I do not know. As well ask why a hen lays an egg or a cow stands patiently while a farmer burglarizes her.
H. L. Mencken

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.
Thomas Beger

Monday, November 07, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 7

Writing, in its most essential sense, is an artificial means for getting thoughts and images which reside in YOUR brain over to the guy holding your book in the most effective and accurate fashion possible, so that the reader will successfully translate your thoughts into HIS brain. The written word uses symbols to describe sights, sounds, and situations, in order to let the reader create the story inside his own imagination as he reads.

Writing is the original virtual reality.

If all goes well, the imaginary world you help the reader create in his head becomes as believable, exciting, and interesting as the real world.

But that means you need to make everything go well.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 6

Nothing corrupts a man so deeply as writing a book; the myriad temptations are overwhelming.
Nero Wolfe

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 5

When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "One word at a time," and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that [expletive deleted] from space without a telescope.
Stephen King

Friday, November 04, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 4

Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, "It's not like you don't have a choice, because you do--you can either type or kill yourself." We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not coming pouring out like ticker tape most of the time. Now, Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning--sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really sh*tty first drafts.

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, "Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?," you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you're supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you you might go--but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.
Anne Lamott

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 3

I certainly don't sit down and plan a book out before I write it. There's a phrase I use called "The Valley Full of Clouds." Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree. At this stage in the book, I know a little about how I want to start. I know some of the things that I want to do on the way. I think I know how I want it to end. This is enough. The thing now is to get as much down as possible. If necessary, I will write the ending fairly early on in the process. Now that ending may not turn out to be the real ending by the time that I have finished. But I will write down now what I think the conclusion of the book is going to be. It's all a technique, not to get over writer's block, but to get 15,000 or 20,000 words of text under my belt. When you've got that text down, then you can work on it. Then you start giving yourself ideas.
Terry Pratchett

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 2

Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds.
Douglas Adams

(one of my all-time favorite lines)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Writing Quote of the Day - Nov 1

Writing a novel--actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs--is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV's so good and the Internet is an endless forest of distraction, it's damn near impossible. That should be taken into account when ranking the all-time greats. Somebody like Charles Dickens, for example, who had nothing better to do except eat mutton and attend public hangings, should get very little credit.
Steve Hely
How I Became a Famous Novelist

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks

Something MissingSomething Missing by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Martin's a thief--a very peculiar kind of thief. He keeps going back to the same places time and again, mostly stealing staples--food, household supplies, etc.--enough to get by on, but never enough to get noticed. This book takes effort to get through--the quirky, even funny, premise will carry you through the first chapter or two, but then the excruciating detail that the Narrator gives about every little thing threatens to drag the story to a halt. I wanted to stop more than once, but there's something about Martin that made me want to stick with it.

I'm so glad I did, it was so worth it. After all the painstaking detail about how Martin gets into people's homes, learns their habits, decides how much to take, and then inventories it and so on...a new side of Martin starts to break through. One that cares about people. He starts taking risks--and everything, every dull, obsessive detail that you trudged through pays off.

The book becomes thrilling, endearing, the end, I couldn't believe how much I liked Martin and was pulling for him.

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce, #2)The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plucky young chemist with a nascent obsession with death is back in action. The case is a little less personal for Flavia de Luce this time, but that doesn't stop her from jumping in whole hog to get to the bottom of it.

Flavia runs into a couple of traveling performers with some car trouble and before you know it, she's got them some help--and a gig. While she hangs around the TV star and his assistant, she finds herself surrounded by some of her town's darker history and then face to face with a murder. And Flavia being Flavia, she can't resist sticking her nose in and making sure all the knots are untangled--particularly the ones adults are ignoring, despite them being painfully obvious to her.

We get less of Flavia's sisters (and the rest of the household, come to think of it) in this installment--but when they're around, their impact is greater. Clearly, as this series continues, there's going to be some serious drama on the homefront with some major implications for the de Luce family, I hope Bradley tackles that quickly, the foreshadowing's getting old quickly.

Unlike with so many other amateur sleuths (particularly juveniles), it's nice to see that her reputation and track record are acknowledged by some in the community -- which is both a help and a hindrance, I hope to see more of that in the future.

My only major quibble with this installment is that it takes far too long to set the main action of the novel up--in a 348 page mystery novel, you'd better get to the central crime before page 150 or so. Unless you've got a heroine like Flavia to focus on, I can't imagine being patient enough to wait that long to get the ball rolling.

Another fun (occasionally hilarious) read, with a mystery satisfyingly twisty, with just enough red herrings to get you through it. Highly recommended if you've read the first in the series.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Exactly How They Work

Of all the "motivational" style posters I've seen, this is probably closer to the truth than any of them (can't imagine getting much closer, honestly). I've seen this link posted a handful of times over the last few weeks, and each time I've left the tab open, returning to look at it several times throughout the day. Figured it's about time I put it up here...

Can't imagine it's going to work well on this here template, so you'd be better off clicking the link above or the image below and seeing it in a better way.

Books - That is exactly how they work

Monday, May 30, 2011

DVD: I Am Number Four

So the family and I sat down and watched the DVD for I Am Number Four this weekend--the oldest three of us enjoyed the novel to varying degrees, and probably at least one other kid would have, too, if it weren't for having to take it back to the library before he got to it. It's been awhile since I had such a visceral reaction to a movie, so I figured I'd write about it a bit. But I'm not in the mood to do more than provide two lists about the flick--a pro and a con, if you would.

    Reasons to Watch It (largely for novelty):
  • Timothy Olyphant gets more dialogue per second of screen time in this role than in any other I've seen him in (haven't seen him on The Office, so...I dunno about that). So as weird as it was to see him without a hat (thank you, Sheriff Bullock and Marshall Givens), it was weirder yet to see him as such a chatterbox. He was funny, too, I should add. Then he got to pick up a gun and blast a few bad guys, and everything was right with the world.
  • Speaking of jarring, Dianna Agron spent a whole lotta time walking around a high school and no one, not one person, broke into song, even for a moment.
  • Reasons Why Not to Watch It:
  • Everything else about the movie. The acting. The script. The characters. The plot. How do you take a novel that's basically a very thorough movie treatment to start with and ruin it? I dunno, but somehow the normally reliable Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and typically wonderful Marti Noxon did just that.

Hope you find this helpful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson

I Thought You Were DeadI Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Start with a young-ish divorced man, struggling to get his career going, in love with a woman dating someone else. Throw in a parent with a major health issue, a supportive sister, and a much more successful older brother who's a lifelong rival and idle who he must come to terms with. On the whole, there's not much here you can't find in many other books on the General Fiction shelves. But Nelson executes his story so well, the lack of novelty isn't that important. Nothing seems forced, even if several plot developments can be seen coming a hundred pages or more away, they still unfold naturally. And you're left with a tale well told, and well worth your while.

And that would be enough, but there is one element to this book you won't find anywhere else--Stella, "a mixed breed, half German Shepherd and half yellow Labrador, but favoring the latter in appearance. Fortunately, she’d also gotten her personality from the Labrador side of the family, taking from the Germans only a certain congenital neatness and a strong sense of protectiveness, though as the Omega dog in her litter, it only meant she frequently felt put upon." As with any good book with a dog as a main character, Stella is the heart and soul of this book--at least until her master gets his act together, and then he shares that billing. Stella's also the source of the humor in the book--humor frequently needed to keep the story from being bogged down in the muck of her master's life.

If you can buy Paul talking to Stella and Stella talking back (and there's no reason you shouldn't), this is a sweet, heart-filled book that's a great way to wile away a few hours.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Semi-Random Spring-Timeish Picture

this is probably the fourth or fifth actual Spring-like day we've had this month, in honor of which, I snapped this photo on my way in the house from work today. The robin caught my eye and made me actually look around a bit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Top This, Guys

Skywriting? Antiquated (and probably will get Al Gore after you)
Using the JumboTron during a pro sporting event? Cliche.
That Boise Junior College Guy celebrating the Fiesta Bowl win by proposing to that cheerleader? Bush League.

This is the new (fleeting) gold standard:


Friday, May 06, 2011

Father of PFC Bowe Bergdahl Breaks his (public) Silence

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Misc. Things about Books

  • We're all more than familiar with the stereotype of the socially awkward bookworm (heck, it's practically my whole identity for huge chunks of my life), but some recent research suggests that just might not be so. In fact, those who read a lot of fiction might be more empathetic than others (gotta say, that's long been my theory, glad to see that I was probably right). (h/t:Lifehacker)
  • This has been linked like crazy all over, but author extraordinaire Michael Chabon has a great essay out about The Phantom Tollbooth (taken from his introduction to the forthcoming 50th anniversary edition). Loved, loved, loved that book (and re-re-re-re-re-reread it as a kid). A couple years ago I read it with my kids and fell in love again--thanks to Mr. Chabon, I have to go read it again.
  • I'm torn about this. I'm a huge, huge fan of Robert B. Parker, and the thought of not getting new Spenser and Stone volumes each year depresses me, but the news that the Parker estate and his publisher have hired new authors to continue his two main series (thankfully there's no talk about more Cole/Hitch books). If Joan's comfortable with it, it seems wrong for us fans to be naysayers. But, my initial reaction's more like what Andrew Wheeler tweeted, "V.C. Andrews, move over: sharecropping to begin over Robert Parker's barely-cold corpse." (h/t:Harry Connolly's feed). But, hey, it's not like Parker treated his stuff as much more than a commodity anyway lately (and honestly, I liked some of the choices that the new Stone writer made with the movies more than Parker made). I do know I'll be grabbing them up from the library as soon as humanly possible--and hopefully I'll like 'em enough to head to a bookstore after that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield/After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime NovelA Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime Novel by Sophie Littlefield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew that crime fiction would come up with someone to dethrone Lisbeth Salander as reigning Queen Bad*ss, but I never woulda figured it'd be someone like Stella Hardesty. Sure, Lisbeth could take Stella in a steel cage match--but in an extended campaign, that little girl wouldn't stand a chance, Stella'd kick her Asperger's all the way back to Sweden.

After years of spousal abuse, Stella finally had enough and killed him. Some years later, Stella augments her income from her sewing supply store by helping women in similar situations by making their spouses, boyfriends, etc. To say that her methods are unorthodox would be an understatement of the highest order.

The case at the center of this book seems pretty straightforward--the jerk in question seems to need (and respond to) some encouragement to stick to the behavior plan that Stella's lined out for him--like she expected, but lo and behold, he ends up kidnapping his ex's kid.

Things go out of control from there.

Given the subject matter, this book obviously goes to some pretty dark places. Yet this story is told with a lot of wit and charm--a few laughs, too (particularly as a mutual attraction grows between Stella and the new Sheriff). It doesn't take long at all to really like Stella and get invested in her crusade, as well as this case.

Just can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.

After the Golden AgeAfter the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(really 4.5 stars, if that were possible)

This should make up for my less than glowing review of Vaughn's last book (the fun Steel). This is the best novel Carrie Vaughn has published--and that's saying something.

Beyond paraphrasing the book description, or spoiling the whole thing, I can't think of anything else to say.

Just read it.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Words of Encouragement

Last few days, these thoughts have really helped me:

Perfectionism is not an attribute in my opinion so don't beat yourself up when you miss a few workouts or eat some Easter candy. The goal is to have far more good days than bad. Exercise for the joy of feeling good and getting better. Eat right with the intention of fueling your body with the things it needs to perform
- Tony Horton
That was just general encouragement, this one means that things like general encouragement (or anything at all) meaningful:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,
"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great."

Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"

And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."

Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."

And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them "And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

And He said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it."

He said, "O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?"

So He said to him, "Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon."

Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.

The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.

God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.

"But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

"As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.

"Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."

It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,
"To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:

the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite
and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim
and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite."
- Genesis 15

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (P.S.)The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meticulously crafted, wonderfully written, intricately , fantastic characters, a world you'd love to live in, imaginative, creative, a concept so great, so well executed...aaaaaand I had to force myself to read it. I took 3 breaks from this novel, and had to drag myself back to it each time.

I feel like I owe this book 5 stars because it deserves them, but I really want to give it 1.75 or so. There is no reason at all that I shouldn't like it--people should love this work, actually. But I just didn't.

Sorry Mr. Wroblewski.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nothin's More Excitin' Than

New Glasses Day!

(especially if it gives Dad a chance to try to get better with his new camera)

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight Riot (Peter Grant, #1)Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a very real sense, there's practically nothing new in this book--neophyte wizard just discovering a world of magic; super-secret police division tasked with investigating (and covering up) supernatural crimes; a whole world of ghosts, vamps, trolls, dryads, nymphs, demigods living unseen amongst mortals; clever (and funny) pop culture references littered throughout the text; and so on...Urban Fantasy 101.

BUT, there's something about the way that Aaronovitch writes that makes Midnight Riot so fresh, so entertaining, so fun, it feels like I'm reading a brand new genre. He's basically the British Anton Strout (but a tad bit funnier).

I had a blast reading this--every second of it--laughed out loud, sat on the edge of my seat, and tore through this book.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Master of None by Sonya Bateman

Master of None (Gavyn Donatti, #1)Master of None by Sonya Bateman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm way late on this, but really wanted to write something about it, and yet I'm really lazy. So, this isn't going to be as good as it should be...let me start by quoting from the back of the book (or the amazon/goodreads description anyway, think it's what the book had on it):

ONE UNLUCKY THIEF. ONE UNLIKELY GENIE. ONE VERY ODD COUPLE. Gavyn Donatti is the world's unluckiest thief. Just ask all the partners he's lost over the years. And when he misplaces an irreplaceable item he was hired to steal for his ruthless employer, Trevor—-well, his latest bungle just might be his last. But then his luck finally turns: right when Trevor's thugs have him cornered, a djinn, otherwise known as a genie, appears to save him.Unfortunately, this genie—-who goes by the very non-magical name of "Ian"—-is more Hellboy than dream girl. An overgrown and extremely surly man who seems to hate Donatti on the spot, he may call Donatti master, but he isn't interested in granting three wishes. He informs Donatti that he is bound to help the thief fulfill his life's purpose, and then he will be free. The problem is that neither Donatti nor Ian has any idea what exactly that purpose is.
If that description doesn't pique your interest, you'd better skip this novel. If it does, on the other hand, grab the book--it delivers on the promise in spades. I mean, come on! A grumpy djinn "serving" a barely competent thief.

It's a good read, with a heckuva cast of characters, gritty but not grim--ensured by an overly generous supply of wisecracks, and a magic system/overall mythology that's intriguing and rich enough to mine for a long time.

Master of None is enjoyable enough on its own, but now that the initial bout of setup and world-building is done, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Bateman has in store for this series.

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Weekend Posts?

"Hey, you know those 'What Happened This Weekend' Posts you were doing? You decide to quit those?"

Nope, thought they were fun. Just have had a couple of uneventful/nonphotogenic weekends.

That is all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

Dark Jenny (Eddie LaCrosse, #3)Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest with you, I have only the vaguest of memory of what actually happened in the first Eddie LaCrosse novel (The Sword-Edged Blonde), and only somewhat better recall about the second (Burn Me Deadly). That's a reflection on the amount of stuff I've read in that time, and is in no way a reflection on Bledsoe. I do have a very clear recollection about what both books told me about Alex Bledsoe's talent and that I enjoyed them a lot. I'm equally certain that Dark Jenny won't suffer from that same fading from memory/excuse to reread them. This one is gonna stay with me for awhile.

Essentially, this book is a variation of an Arthurian story--ideal king, queen rumored to be less than ideal, noble knight corps with a few rotten apples thrown in, a wizard figure, wicked half-sister, and a whole lotta intrigue--with a few unique twists of Bledsoe's own thrown in for good measure. Not a sour note to be found here--some notes that were hard to listen to, sure, but...okay, there's a metaphor that went awry. I was trying to say that yes, there were things that were less pleasant than others--this book goes to some dark, nasty places--but it all worked well.

We get this Arthurian tale via an extended flashback--in the middle of a nasty winter storm, with nothing else to occupy the attention of his neighbors, Eddie receives an interesting package. One so interesting, there has to be a great tale that goes along with it--which he ends up telling to the crowd at his favorite tavern (with only the tiniest of breaks to remind us that this is all in Eddie's past). By making this all an extended flashback, Bledsoe is able to give us a slightly different version of Eddie--one on the way to being the guy we've seen in the last two books. It also gives him the excuse to have a great femme fatale to grab Eddie's attention without having to write around his lovely lady.

A great, riveting fantasy noir. Can't wait for the next one already. A decent jumping on point for those new to the series, and a great third installment for those who've been around for awhile.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Their Best Idea Since They Hired That Silly Dog...

According to food blogs like SlashFood, Taco Bell is test marketing taco shells made out of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Let me repeat that: Nacho Cheese Dorito taco shells. I've put on 10 pounds just typing this post. Talk about stuff that dreams are made of (dreams and sessions in Eric Foreman's That 70's Basement).

I just may have to take a trip to Toledo where some of this testing is taking place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the StarsAgent to the Stars by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short Version: A good, good story told in a fun--often funny--way.

Long Version: In the Author's Note, while Scalzi is describing the long, strange journey this novel took to get to this particular edition, he calls it the "book that won't quit." It took me maybe 50 pages to see why. This is one froody book.

The tone is great, the style is spot on, good satire/commentary on Hollywood's place in the world, everything about the alien race--their language, appearance, spaceship, ways to interact with humans/other creatures...just wonderfully imaginative.

In case you haven't read the blurb--an up and coming Hollywood agent is hired by a (by human standards) ugly, nauseatingly smelly alien race to help their "image" so they can make first contact with humanity. Why an agent, why not a President or something? 'Cuz the aliens know where real power and influence are centered. So, our hero has to balance his Hollywood weirdo clients, the aliens and a nosy journalist who won't leave him alone; while he comes up with a way to sell this species to humanity.

Funny, funny stuff on many levels and in different ways. But the book has a lot of heart, too. Just a pleasure to read.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I'm a big, big fan of Carrie Vaughn. Read every book--and can't imagine stopping. I've recommended this book to my sons and am going to loan this to my niece. But, (and you knew one was coming given that opening) man, this could've been--should've been--a much better book.

Jill, a championship level fencer and potential Olympian, suffers a tough loss, sending her into a losing battle with self-doubt. Soon after, her parents drag her along on a family vacation in the Bahamas (poor girl, right?). Walking along the beach, she stumbles on to a piece of a broken sword--an old, broken sword. First time she's held anything but a blunt, sport blade. Enchanted with the notion, she tucks it away.

Turns out, not only is her imagination bespelled, she is--before she knows it, Jill finds herself on an actual pirate ship a couple of hundred years in the past. After she figures out what happened to her, she finds herself part of the crew, growing close to a handful of them (a hunky age-appropriate pirate in particular) and learning about the sword's magic.

While she tries to find a way home, she learns a little about herself and a little about life. (wow, that sounds like a cheesy after school special...which not exactly inaccurate, but Vaughn pulls it off).

Vaughn touches upon some pretty dark stuff here, enough to make it authentic (or authentic-ish, anyway)--but makes sure that it stays a pretty tame PG-13.

And that's the crux of my problem with the book--she pulls her punches, just about all of them. She did it with Voices of Dragons, too--less so, here, though. Yes, it's a YA book, and yes, I think she's right to do it. I just think she shouldn't pull back as much. Everything here--from character, plot, setting, narrative, action--it's all perfectly fine, it's all age appropriate, but she certainly could've fleshed it all out more without going over the line.

Still, it's a good, swashbuckling read.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

When Did I Become That Guy?

This has been a weird week--far busier than normal, and therefore it's been hard to squeeze everything in. I had to cut out one workout this week, and yesterday got away from me and I wasn't able to do all the exercise I was supposed to do. Today threatened to be the same way, but I refused to buckle and forced the time--which has resulted in my schedule being pushed back by 90 minutes or so, and I'll end up sleeping tonight about half as much as usual. But I just had to get it done, and consequences be hanged. Honestly, it's not about meeting whatever (and honestly fairly nebulous) fitness goals I have--it's more of a psychological thing, sorta like a matter of esteem (not in the Robert Schuller, etc. sense, I assure you). Truth be told, there's probably some dependency on adrenaline and other hormones/whatever produced by the body during exercise. Whatever, I'm fine with that.

But the bottom line is, if I don't exercise, I'm in a foul(er?) mood, shorter tempered, and generally feel blecky about life. With the exception of one friend/co-worker and people who live with me, I can't imagine many people who know me ever expected me to say that.

I'm also jumping (a little) higher, lifting more, doing more reps, etc. Been really pushing myself the last couple of weeks, and, yeah, I feel dead like I always do at the end of the workout, but this last week and a half, I've felt human a whole lot faster afterwards. If it wasn't for this gut, I'd say I was dangerously close to almost being in shape.

Great Ceasar's Ghost! What's happening?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Odds 'n Ends

  • The pre-Thanksgiving TSA-induced uproar has died down, but the injustices that caused it continue. You can see Wil Wheaton's entirely justified reaction to his pat down on his twitter feed on Tuesday. Being a bit more composed, but still outraged, yesterday he The very definition of a must read.

  • I, like many of you, suffered through Rebecca Black's "Friday" (see how nice I am to not link to it?). But there are great ways to cope with it--like Conan's video "Thursday", or Stephen Colbert's great cover of it on Fallon's show. But this essay, just might take the cake, where Jeffrey Tucker reads way too much into the song and tries to turn it into a Libertarian allegory (I agree with the politics/philosophy, just think it's a bad read of the lyrics/video).

  • I'm sure you've seen this as it's showing up everywhere I look (or maybe I just spend too much time in the wrong places on the Net), but in case you haven't, hit play here. Last night, I almost broke my laptop watching this--it was on my lap (is that maybe where they got the name for them?) and I laughed so hard I almost launched it across the room.

  • I put up a video from Lovett a few weeks back, and his album came out recently--one of the most eclectic collections of music I have--and pretty much all good. Grab a free track here:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dear Showtime

I have a humble suggestion to help out a very good show that seems to be slipping in quality. It wouldn't take much, you could keep the current cast, make a minor title tweak, and shift the limelight from one character to another. Here's my idea: Nurse Zoey.


  1. Merritt Weaver is a gem.
  2. Jackie's becoming more and more unlikable (not a good ting in a title character, particularly in a comedy)
  3. Zoey is just about the only character on the show who's demonstrated growth.
  4. If you do this, not only will the show be more enjoyable, but it will actually deserve the label comedy, which should involve something evoking laughter--and the only character that can be counted on to bring the laughs--as well as heart, pathos, whatever--is Zoey (and usually Thor, true, but, Zoe's more reliable).
  5. Did I mention that Jackie's harder and harder to like?

Just sayin',

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

First Weekend of April

Not as eventful as last weekend, but I liked doing it, and's not a book review, right?

So, this weekend, I

enjoyed this old friend

who has sadly, decided to go away again
(not my pic, btw)
over-indulged here

toured the Old Idaho Penitentiary with the family

enough implied gore for the eldest two Offspring, different enough for the others
didn'tover-indulge here

(for a change)
watched this again,

was afraid it wouldn't be as funny the 2nd time around, but it was
introduced my children to this classic

glad to report, they reacted as they should--laughing hysterically, quoting and requoting ad infinitum

was better than it was my sophomore year in high school, don't know why it took me so long to reread it (won't make that mistake again)

such a fun read

not bad, not bad at all
was blown away by the premier of

mystery fans, quality TV this

2,000th Post?!?!?!

Wow, seriously? I know I've been doing this awhile, and if I'd been more consistent, I could've hit this mark years ago, but still...there's something about that number. Really didn't expect to hit this mark.

Thanks for reading, everyone!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

This Past Weekend

So, this weekend I:

laughed a lot, but not as much as I hoped I would at

laughed more than I expected to and totally DID NOT cry at

but there was a lot of pollen and dust in the room while I watched

celebrated her 9th birthday

got this for TLoML

tried this yummy yummy beer

(Kona & Maui Brewing Companies make the best argument for relocating to the Aloha State)

spent far too much time with this guy

(have just started the 5th week of P90X Doubles)

finished this

good stuff

started this

remember this being good in 10th Grade

watched the latest episodes of


NPH got it done on all fronts this week (tho' Segal absolutely killed, as per usual)

tried out this very, very tasty cake recipe

mine didn't look quite that good. BTW, if you make it, double the KoolAid like I did (accidentally yesterday, on purpose from now on)

all in all, a good weekend. How was yours?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Moonheart by Charles de Lint

MoonheartMoonheart by Charles de Lint

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Man, I wanted to like this book. Really, really wanted to...and I almost did.

The plot, the characters, the world de Lint built...were all so close to being good, to being right what I was looking for, but ultimately missed it.

The elements are all there for something great: a mix of the real world, a secret government program, Celtic mythology and Native American tales--oh, yeah, and a magic house. Who could want more? Not me. Unless you count a plot that moves faster than a glacier and well-developed characters that get the chance to do something.

There are just far too many characters moving around this book -- it's honestly difficult at times to keep track of some of them. And tracking is essential, because the book is essentially 320 pages of introducing players and moving them around to set up the last 90 pages (don't have the book with me, so my page counts are estimates).

Nice try, but nowhere near as good as his straight fantasy that preceded it.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fourth Day by Zoe Sharp

Fourth DayFourth Day by Zoe Sharp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't your typical Charlie Fox novel, and in this case, that's a good thing (I can easily see where an atypical Fox novel would disturb my quiet).

Are there twists? Yup. Action? Yup. Bad guys in need of taking down? Yup. As you'd expect. A few less bullets than you'd expect.

But there was more to this. Sure, Sharp develops her characters further and further each novel--but here, they grew by leaps and bounds, a few books' worth. And it didn't seem forced or obligatory, it was wholly organic and genuine.

Honestly, I groaned when I realized we were getting "undercover op in a cult compound" for a mission. But it turned out to be so much more, and a satisfying read.

(I just hope for a little more action and a little less heart next time)

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Too Funny to Check

I'm not going to read the story, don't need to, I'm laughing out loud at the headline on the local newspapers' website:

Report: Internet usage transforming news industry
Ohhhh, thank heavens, there's a report on this, 'cuz otherwise, who ever would have known?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know why so many of the reviews/recommendations I've read for this book compare the hero, Flavia de Luce, to Lisbeth Sanders. I guess it's because they're both not your typical female mystery protagonist. The comparison doesn't seem fair -- I know which one I'd like my sons to marry (seriously, if she has a granddaughter...). On the other hand, I know which one I'd like walking home with my daughter after dark, too.

Anyway, I need to get back on task, this, by gum, was a fun read with an utterly charming hero that deserves all the accolades and awards it's getting.

Our 11-year-old hero (no, this is not a kid's book [not that there's anything inappropriate for anyone who's made it through Rowling here]) is a budding, self-taught, chemist with a curious mind and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Her family life is a mess -- but in a charming, amusing, English countryside way -- but our plucky gal has managed to get through it pretty much intact and for the better.

So when she discovers a body on her lawn, yet the police shoo her away from the crime scene and dismiss her, she starts her own investigation. She's helped early on by a fact or two the police didn't obtain from her, and some that she kept to herself out of spite. Her father's arrest for the murder just adds fuel to her fire and becomes determined not only to solve the case before the police but to make them eat a good-sized helping of crow.

Probably not much of a spoiler to say that's exactly what she does, because the book's not about that foregone conclusion, but in watching Flavia do that while making less than flattering observations about her older sisters.

Highly recommended.

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