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!!