Thursday, August 31, 2006

Turning Angel by Greg Isles

Title: Turning Angel

Author: Greg Isles

Genre: Fiction

Summary: A murder brings out the worst in a small Mississippi town.

The Take-Away: If a fraction of truth exists about the town's teenagers, most parents would take away the car keys, cell phones and install bars over the windows.

While most parents might expect drugs, few would expect the level of sexual experience and activity of the 16-18 year olds. When Penn Cage hears the confession of his best friend, Drew Elliot, Penn knows that more exists to the story then a 17 year old playing with sexual power she doesn't understand. Drew believes that his love was returned.

As Penn digs through the layers of Natchez, he learns about the unraveling of society at what should be the most promising level.

Recommendation: Read it and keep your kids under lock and key.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Footprints of God by Greg Isles

Title: The Footprints of God

Author: Greg Isles

Genre: Fiction

Summary: The NSA's latest secret project has implications that the President decided require an ethical advisor. When the project approaches complition, the head of the project decides to kill anyone who would oppose it.

The Take-Away: The explanation of artifical intelligence is well done, but mostly through inform dumps. The narrator doubles as the ethical advisor David, also a Nobel winner. He knows quite a bit about the subject and takes the time between scenes to explain what the reader needs to know.

While it sounds like it would be really annoying, it isn't. The public perspective of AI is off and not just by a little. The whole novel has a conversational tone that makes the information dumps seamless. David reviews either what he knows or he discusses it with Rachel, his pyschiatrist that has been caught up in the dangers that surround David.

Recommendation: Carve out a chunk of time and read it over a weekend.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Title: Don't Look Down

Author: Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: The set of a major motion picture is prime for romance, intrigue and death.

The Take-Away: Crusie and Mayer collaborated on the novel and produced a work that sucessfully combines the voice of each.

Recommendation: Read it for the action; read it for the romance.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Attn: Nick Jr.

Now Steve / Joe will need to change the words to "The Planet Song."

Pluto Loses Status as a Planet

Pluto's status has been contested for many years as it is further away and considerably smaller than the eight other planets in our Solar System.

Its orbit around the Sun is also highly inclined to the plane of the big planets in the Solar System.

In addition, since the early 1990s, astronomers have found several objects of comparable size to Pluto in an outer region of the Solar System called the Kuiper Belt.

Some astronomers have long argued that Pluto belongs with this population of small, icy "dwarf planets", not with the objects we call planets.

The whole article is cool.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eldest

Author: Christopher Paolini

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Eragon's village is hunted by the Ra'zac who know that the new Rider came from there. While Ronan, Eragon's brother, fight them, Eragon begins his training with a new teacher.

The Take-Away: The major conventions of fantasy are carried through to this title. What Paolini does differently, however, is subject his hero to doubts.

Eragon must decide how and why he fights, because his teacher demands a better answer than that it is the right thing to do. Under different circumstances, the right thing might have been what King Galbatorix is doing.

Recommendation: If you don't start with Eragon, reading Eldest first will ruin some of the storyline.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Upcoming

My husband's birthday was yesterday. He doesn't read this blog, so I can do things like suggest you email him and wish him a happy unbirthday. We aren't doing much for his birthday because, well, he is buying a business. Quite frankly, that is enough of a gift.

I got him a small present too, don't worry. He'll love it, but I can't say what it is. Just in case, you know, he decides to check in today for some reason, like emails from strangers wishing him happy birthday (hint hint).

But it did get me thinking. Next year, I'll be the one with the big birthday -- 30. It doesn't really scare me, given some of my other accomplishments in a single year. I'll just be the age I've felt like for a long time, is all.

Birthdays aren't that significant. I sort of stopped celebrating them when I was 14. Weird story, but the gist of it is a new school combined with a holiday weekend and the desire to not bring attention to myself by telling everyone that it was my birthday. It doesn't seem as special when you have to remind or tell people "Today's my birthday."

Even turning 21, the most important birthday of all (because after you actually have your license at 16, you find out that it's not that big of a deal to drive and you end up spending all of your time running errands) fell flat.

I was a freshman at college, surrounded by other freshman of the 18 to 19 year old variety, during Early Field Experience (EFE). My of age upperclassmen friends got to spend their EFE off campus, helping out teachers and figuring out what teaching was really like. Not me. Not only did I not know anyone, I was back to no one knowing it was my birthday. I didn't get too drink to much, act inappropriately and pass out.

Thirty being the next significant number, I'm trying to figure out what to do. A co-worker offered to take me out on the town, visit her old stomping grounds and get thoroughly inebriated. I'm more of in bed by 10 pm girl. It doesn't appeal to me. Nor do I like bar, dancing or getting wasted in public.

So that's out.

But I'd like to do something fun. My birthday is six months, to the day, from yesterday. That's how long I have to plan. Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Writing Update

It's been awhile, but I've had a ton of things going on (and I'm much better this week than I was last week.)

Word Count on 6-24-06

Word Count on 8-18-06

Yep, that's it, the first draft. I have my paper copy printed and I'm tempted to weigh it at work on the UPS scale, but I won't. Instead, I'm going to take a two week break, write some poetry, a short or two and think about what I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo.org this year.

Starting September 1, I'm going to tackle revisions using Holly Lisle's One Pass Method for editing.

This is the fourth novel I've finished, but the first time I've done any serious editing. I confess I'm a little nervous, but excited. I really think I have a good story. My new goal is to have editing done by the end of October, and start submitting by the first of the year.

I owe thanks to the people who have been encouraging me along the way and setting goals with me. You know who you are.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Bible

Title: The Bible

Author: Various

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A collection of stories about God's creation and how mankind will be saved.

The Take-Away: I didn't read it in one month. I read it over the course of a year.

But I read it as a troubled Christian. Logical and reasoning only get you so far when it comes to faith. As I read, I try to figure out what I believe, how the stories interact and support each other.

One of the biggest problems with the Bible is that most people have to rely on someone else to tell them what it means, even if they read it for themselves. Between translation issues, historical knowledge, and religious association, belief is formed through the influence of thousands.

By reading it for myself and asking questions, I challenge the dogma I was raised in. Some times I agree. Other times I don't. Some day, I'll take my questions to a church. For now, I read.

Recommendation: If you consider yourself a Christian, but haven't ever read for yourself, I must wonder why.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon

Author: Christopher Paolini

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The appearance of a mysterious blue stone changes the life of a farm boy when it hatches.

The Take-Away: Even though Paolini uses many conventions of fantasy, he tells a good story. The first chapters belie his age and experience, but he redeems himself with interesting characters and good battle scenes.

The epic adventure sprawls across Alagaesia, with Eragon running for his life. His teacher, Brom, knows more than he reveals, much to Eragon's frustration. The lessons Eragon needs to learn are not just the lessons of warfare and fighting, but logic, reason and understanding. Learning them in the midst of battle leaves holes and gaps in his education that may prove fatal during the last battle of the novel.

Recommendation: I didn't read fantasy books as a child, so I haven't burned out on the genre. I liked this title, but would hesitate in recommending it to someone with an extensive background.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Seriously, if you need a summary, you've been living under a rock or waiting for all seven to come out before starting.

The Take-Away: Rowling catches a lot of flack about her writing skills. She's been called a hack, talentless, and a bad writer (those are different, in case you didn't realize).

But she's managed to do something that no one else has -- kids read her books. They read other books because they've discovered the joy of reading.

Is her writing good? I like it. She twists some of the universal story lines that have run through books since CS Lewis and Tolkien were writing in coffee shops.

Are other writers better? Sure, but that's quite subjective. Or don't you recall some of the lessons that Robin Williams taught in Dead Poets' Society True worth of the English language can't be measured like a mathematical equasion.

What about Dumbledore and Snape? As much as I want to believe in the greater good and the best of human nature, I can't. Dumbledore is dead, otherwise Harry would still be frozen in the hallway, waiting for someone to release him. Snape had Dumbledore fooled.

What's different about Rowling is the media and publicity. Who doesn't want to hear that a mom on welfare (or the English equivalent) pulled herself out of the trenches and did something better for herself? If other writers had as good of a story, an angle, a pitch, to throw to the marketing department, it too would be exploited.

But they don't. Instead they work against a decaying system of print runs and sales numbers. Rowling has created a generation of readers. She's brought publicity and life to a previously dying genre. She's turned off some televisions.

Recommendation: Start at the beginning.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Daily Battle

Life is always difficult for me. Not, because I'm a drama queen and exaggerate the smallest annoyance into a major uphill (both directions) battle, but rather because I am an extreme Type A Personality.

Unless something is worth doing 110% right, I won't do it all. I'll overlook dirty dishes for weeks, but if my books are out of order, forget it. I'll spend the whole afternoon re-ordering the bookshelf. Dishes will merely pile up after the next meal. Unless we're out of something essential, they can wait.

Unless I can give it my best, including the desire to achieve that 110%, I don't see it as worth doing.

I'm also a touch independent. If I pass something off to someone else, I drop it completely. I'm not good at handholding and I don't want mine held either. Don't do it for me; I'll do it myself.

The last few weeks, since mid-July, I've been slapped in the face several times. I've been forced to admit that my best, my 110% isn't good enough.

And I can't control it.

I'm not the only one baring my soul on the Internet this month. Anne Frasier post quite candidly about being broken. Heather Armstrong shares her struggle with depression. Another friend, knowing that I'm struggling, shared that she has recently as well, along with a few others she knows.

What is it about August that brings all of this out?

Recently at one of my writer meetings, one member posed the question, why is American society so focused on the positive? Given our generally European background, most of us are religious or at least familiar with a religion. Why then don't we spend more time examining ourselves? Self examination should be a given, since we are sinful and that's what the Bible encourages.

No one had any answers. Everyone had a few theories. Mine went something like this:

Self examination would mean acknowledging that something is wrong. If something is wrong, we've been trained by marketing campaigns to shop until we find what fixes us. That works until the credit card bills show up and the decision becomes food or creditors.

Self examination would mean acknowledging that I have no control over certain events in my life. My husband and I are buying a business. We are a fraction of an inch away from having a closing date. We should have closed mid-to-end-of-June. Every delay was caused by something I couldn't touch. I had to accept that the delay meant depleting resources and overextending ourselves in more ways than I care to admit. My husband took a pay cut that was about 1/3 of his original salary. The road to recovery will be arduous

Self examination would mean acknowledging that my best just wasn't good enough when I took my GRE placement test as required by UWO for enrollment in their MBA program. (See, this is why the business should have closed at least a month ago. Worry about both at the same is detrimental to my mental and emotional strength.) I don't have my official score yet, but I was short by 40 points on the math portion. Even though I've been studying for the last 30 days.

Naval gazing is the sort of thing that I generally leave to my journal writing. Except I haven't done that lately either. I don't want to admit, even to myself, that right now I feel like a failure.

Logically, I know that I've been doing everything that I can to juggle all of the above, while raising two wonderful boys, working 40 hours a week and keeping up with my house. A tiny portion of my brain refuses to acknowledge that my best isn't what I wanted.

Actually, the house work has been easy. I'm great at organizing things.

In another 30 days, I'll have some of the issues solved by default. Either we close on the business or we won't. Either UWO will admit me or they won't. When I have those answers, I'll have another set of problems to worry about. To plot my way out of.

What I really need to do is not the naval gazing that I've been indulging in. I need to remember that Life isn't a race to the finish line. That more exists than crossing another day off the calendar or turning the page to a new month. Really, I need to slow down that Life is more than finishing every project that comes my way.

Sometimes, the best isn't 110%. It's 3% because it isn't work to enjoy what matters.

For a long time it seemed to me that life was ab out to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

souza

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I think I'd like to...

...send a video of my six year old begging for more toys to the marketing personnel at Hasbro to let them know that their scheme is working and that they can move onto marketing sexual dysfunction drugs instead.

...ship all of my Christmas gifts, boxed and wrapped only in their decorative packaing, and blame the carrier when the bows are ripped and the paper is torn.

...work as a customer service representative people can yell at me for things that aren't my fault. Then I could smile nicely and say "Have a crappy day."

...figure out how to make a living doing something that I love. I love to read. Anyone want to hire me?

...make apostrophe abuse a crime punishable by law. Take that, Two Week[']s Notice.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Turning Thirty by Mike Gayle

Title: Turning Thirty

Author: Mike Gayle

Genre: Chick Lit, er, sort of

Summary: Approaching thirty, single and inbetween assignments, isn't any easier for a man than it would be for a woman.

The Take-Away: Most of the novel is about catching up with childhood friends and why they didn't continue into adult friendships. Most of what is revealed is something that anyone who has moved more than fifty miles from home can relate to.

One of the best parts is what happens when big secrets are revealed. Affairs and death are only two of the findings. Dealing with parental expectations is the other theme in the novel.

I liked it. It didn't have a big fashy event that kept me wondering what's next, but a build up of is this guy going to be man enough to turn 30 gracefully? And life keeps throwing him loops, just like real life does.

Recommendation: Best appreciated by those recently undergoing major life altering events.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Organization to a New Level

Need help getting organized? The Fly Lady swears she can help you.

Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don't know where to start? Don't worry friend, we've been there, too.

Step through the door and follow FlyLady as she weaves her way through housecleaning and organizing tips with homespun humor, daily musings about life and love, the Sidetracked Home Executives (SHE™) system, and anything else that is on her mind.

It sounds like one of those "I really should try to do this programs" but I have enough of those. Besides, if my husband doesn't like the mess, he can pick it up himself.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Flirting with Pride & prejudice edited by Jennifer Crusie

Title: Flirting with Pride & prejudice : Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece

Editor: Jennifer Crusie

Genre: Non-fiction, with a few short stories thrown in

Summary: A collection of essays from the best of today's romance writers -- Chick Lit, Fantasy, and any other sub-genre you can think up -- bring their experiences with Jane Austen's most famous novel.

The Take-Away: This is a must read for anyone writing romance today, even if it is just a sub-genre of romance. Reading it opened my eyes to errors in my writing. And made me appreciate how no matter what your view of Chick Literature is, it can be taken to a new level with the right idea.

My favorite was really difficult to decide, but I keep thinking about two pieces. The first was by Lani Diane Rich and the appeal of Colin Firth in the BBC production. I completely agree with her obsession. The second was the combination of the setting of P&P after Elizabeth and Darcy have married with wizardry.

I need to get the book back so I can find out who that author was and read some of her novels.

Recommendation: At the very least, read a couple of the essays and one short story.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Some Like it Lethal by Nancy Martin

Title: Some Like it Lethal

Author: Nancy Martin

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Nora Blackbird's investigative work kicks into high gear when her sister Emma is found next to a very dead Rush Strawcutter, the husband of a wealth dog food heiress.

The Take-Away: Really fun to read. For those not familiar with the series, Nora works as a gossip columnist to pay the back taxes she owes on the family estate.

Her upbringing in high society opens doors (and gossip) that the head gossip columinst doesn't have access to. That access leads her to the true killer and facing a decision that keeps the reader longing for the next title.

Recommendation: Read it. Playing catch-up isn't necessary. The back story is filled-in neatly.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives by Sarah Strohmeyer

Title: The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Too much money, too much time, too many appearances to keep up. And too many husbands to sleep with.

The Take-Away: Most of us will never be privy to the problems of too much money and too much time. After reading about the antics behind one gated community in Ohio, I'm relieved that I won't be experiencing save when reading about them.

The pressure, usually self-imposed, means most of these wives strive to stay as slender as their teenage daughters, please their husbands in bed and ignore any affairs he may have.

And don't rock the boat with yours.

Recommendation: Read it, and count the blessings that live in your own home.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

Title: The Cinderella Pact

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Nola Devlin decides to create a new persona when her boss decides that she is too fat to write an advice column for their magazine.

The Take-Away: Loved it. Nola may have started the column as a means of revenge, but where it takes her is extraordinary. The financial side of being an ultra chic, slim, British writer means that Nola's apartment is a dream and her savings account is plush. Even though no one sees her alter ego in public, the tabloids are full of rumors about her life.

The Pact comes in when one of Nola's friends brings an article that Nola wrote about weight loss to lunch. Nola and her two friends decide that enough time has passed and that this time they'll really loose the weight. After all, Nola's alter ego says that all it took her was eating reasonably and walking more. How hard could it really be?

Even though Strohmeyer never says what Nola weighs or what size she is, enough clues were dropped to give me an idea. It doesn't matter where she started, but what she learned along the way.

Strohmeyer's best known character, Bubbles Yablonsky, makes an appearance as well, adding to the depth of Nola's character.

Ever sympathetic to women every where, Strohmeyer started a Yahoo Group -- The Cinderella Pact -- for women to share the struggle of weight loss.

Recommendation: Read it. This is the best Sarah Strohmeyer book yet.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bookworm Report, July 2006

It has to be the heat. I've hardly ventured outdoors unless necessary. But I do have a little guy that gets overheated quickly, so it's not just me that's keeping us indoors and somewhat cool. A cool drink is what I really need.

Make mind a martini, please.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 2,795 7
2002 2,439 6
2003 1,222 3
2004 2,006 5
2005 4,216 11
2006 4,216 11

For the year, I've read 76 books, or 28,202 pages, which averages to 11 books a month, or 4,029 pages per month, and an average book length of 371 pages.

The first round of drinks is on me.