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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Friday, March 11, 2011

Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein

Legacy (Anna Strong Chronicles, #4)Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was almost disappointed by this one, on second thought, maybe I was disappointed by this installment in the Anna Strong series.

Stein introduces us to her version of werewolves (different, a la Meyer, than the shapechangers we've already met). Her take on the species isn't my favorite, but I dig what she's doing with them and the backstory for vamps/werewolves/demons she worked up.

I wasn't crazy about how Anna "solved" the real world job (which she really didn't do), but I thought she handled the supernatural "case" okay. On the whole, though, this book showed Anna at her most clueless, which may be what Stein intended--as long as she's denying one side of her nature, she can't be what she needs to be, etc.--but I doubt it.

For a page or so I thought we were done with the Max subplot after book #3, but no. I thought we were done with the Gloria thing, but no. I thought the David stuff had turned a page and onto something new there, but no. And so on.

Basically, this book served to shuffle the characters around a bit to (potentially, hopefully) do something with next time around.

Don't get me wrong, I'm back for (at least) #5 and #6. Just hoping I don't regret it.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

God's War by Kameron Hurley

God's WarGod's War by Kameron Hurley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

On a planet colonized by Muslims using insect-based technology in the far-flung future ravaged a multi-sect religious war, in the midst of which a scrappy band of pansexual assassins try to scrap out a living (selling the occasional organ to pay bills). Ho-hum. Nothing we all haven't read a thousand times before, right?

Well, maybe not. Fantastic concept, well-written, heckuva world built by Hurley here.

But here's the problem -- I couldn't force myself to care about any of these characters, particularly the protagonist Nyx. Unpleasant people, no real moral core, no reason to root for/against them, to care about their lives, their missions, their wars. I kept trying and trying and trying to find a reason to get invested in this beyond trying to figure out exactly how the insect-tech worked and utterly failed at every turn.

You can have the coolest, most inventive setup imaginable, but if you don't fill it with people readers can give a rip about, it's just not worth the effort.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sure, it's Cold, but the Dude's Got a Point

catchy tune, too

Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn

Ex-Boyfriend's HandbookEx-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book begins with our hero, Edward, receiving one of the (if not the) worst Dear John letters imaginable. What's worse is that Edward soon realizes that every nasty thing enumerated in the letter is true. In her letter, Jane essentially has given Edward three months to fix himself, which will at least open the door for a discussion of their future.

So, with the guidance and help of his best friend/ladies' man/cad, the lady bartender from their pub, his lecherous/man-chasing boss, and his new personal trainer, Edward starts a process of self-improvement to become the kind of guy he imagines Jane wants him to be.

This was very funny book, a quick, light read that makes no pretensions of being anything but. It's a Nick Hornby/Jonathan Tropper book without the depth (which isn't a knock, Dunn doesn't seem to be going for depth--just enjoyment), it's more along the lines of a Mike Gayle or Jennifer Weiner book. Apparently the first of a series, I'm intrigued to see where they take things from here.

A lot of heart, a lot of laughs. All you can ask from it.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary: A NovelThe Lover's Dictionary: A Novel by David Levithan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to reading this one, I mean, what a concept -- tell a love story through a series of personal dictionary entries. Amazon gives a sample or two (I'd provide my own, but I don't have the book on me): "breathtaking (adj.)," the unnamed narrator explains, "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word." For "exacerbate (v.)," he notes, "I believe your exact words were: 'You’re getting too emotional.'"

Some of the entries are short, not even a sentence long; some go on for a page or two. Some are funny, some are bitter, some are lovey-dovey and sweet. The entries are listed alphabetically, rather than chronologically, so the reader has to piece together the story from beginning to end.

Great, great concept.

And that's pretty much all it is.

Sure, it was skillfully accomplished. Can't complain about the execution. But beyond that, there's little to be said about it. It comes across as little more than a clever exercise for a Creative Writing course.

I was pretty disappointed in case you can't tell.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dead Waters by Anton Strout

Dead Waters (Simon Canderous, #4)Dead Waters by Anton Strout

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dead Waters displays the growth of Anton Strout as a novelist as much as it shows Simon Canderous' growth as a person. This fourth installment in the Simon Canderous series is (like each installment before) better than its predecessors -- which works out great for me, because I've enjoyed all four of them.

The best part of this series (next to the characters) is the way Strout mixes magic into the real world. The adversary in this go 'round brings the challenge in the best mix of magic, myth and technology I can remember. Worth the read just for this.

The humor sprinkled (sometimes heavily) throughout the tale isn't forced, like I think it was earlier in the series. It flows from the characters and the situations naturally.

Simon's partner, Connor, still doesn't get as much screen time as he should, but the partnership does seem stronger this go around -- and Connor's character feels more like a person. Maybe its because Connor's family situation is a bit more settled, or maybe it's just the nature of the case. Doesn't matter, it's a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, Jane, Simon's girlfriend really gets to strut her stuff magically here, frankly, I'd love to read a solo adventure or two featuring her. More pressing for our hero, however, is the fact that she's putting pressure on him to deepen their relationship -- which causes Simon to go through a good amount of maturing (or at least to consider it).

The ending of Dead Waters is one I should've seen coming, it was telegraphed like crazy. BUT, I'd spent most of the book convinced Strout was telegraphing something else, so what do I know? Frankly, I'm not crazy about the major character development that happened at the end, I'm afraid it will lead to this series losing some of what sets it apart from the rest of the genre and become a little more like typical Urban Fantasies. But I figure Strout's gonna pull this off right and show me I'm worrying for nothing.

I should add here, that almost immediately after finishing this, I sent a tweet Strout's way bemoaning the ending, and in only a few minutes got a reply that made me laugh. Gotta love an author who'll take a moment for a fan and this Internet thingy that makes that interaction possible.

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