Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Goodreads: Level 26: Dark Origins

Level 26: Dark Origins Level 26: Dark Origins by Anthony E. Zuiker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you’re looking for a great work of literature with phenomenal writing, this isn’t the book to read. But the concept of a digi-novel is interesting and the experience is okay if you like books and crime drama TV.

The premise is pretty basic. Sqweegel is classified as a Level 26 killer. He’s a twisted serial killer who has been uncatchable for years. Now he’s targeted the wife of former agent Steve Dark, who is basically forced out of retirement to try to find Sqweegel.

That’s the story in a nutshell. The concept was good, but there were a lot of things wrong with the book. There were several continuity and spelling errors, and the overall writing wasn’t great. It read like a made-for-TV CSI like movie with some added gore and swearing for effect. The characters were bland, and some of the acting in the cyber bridges was worthy of a Razzy.

Having said that, I don’t think the book tried to be anything great. I think the authors took a concept and went with it, drawing from their background in the crime drama tv genre. Sure, there could have been improvements, but for what it was, I actually enjoyed it. There were some disturbing scenes and Sqweegel made for a nifty bad guy. Not sure if I thought he was worthy of a Level 26 rating, but it was probably good for the book. I even enjoyed the cyber-bridges, though a few of them were a little long and tedious.

This isn’t anything I’ll read again, but I’ll likely read the second one that comes out next year.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Goodreads: The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed: A Novel The Hour I First Believed: A Novel by Wally Lamb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This will go on my All Consuming list as "Worth Consuming," because the first part of the book really was worth it. In fact, if the whole book had maintained what it had through the first part, it would have been a five star rating for sure.

Caelum Quirk is at his aunt's deathbed when he hears news of a shooting at the high school where he teaches and where his wife, Maureen, is a part time school nurse. Lamb pulls the non-fiction of Columbine (using the factual events, names, and evidence) for his story, and the effect was amazing. It was hard to put this book down and it drew alot of emotions as I read it. Maureen hides herself in a cabinet and survives, only to suffer debilitating post-traumatic stress. The Quirks move back to the farm where Caelum grew up in an effort to help Maureen get her life together and to work on their marriage.

After the great beginning, the book began to lose stars with me. It veers into several different storylines, and while Caelum and Maureen's marriage is always at the core, the off shoots get tedious. A troubled girl from Columbine comes back into their life. Maureen ends up in jail for vehicular manslaughter, an effect of her prescription drug habit. Caelum drinks heavily, mimicking aspects of his father's life, an alcoholic killed in a train accident. He ends up renting his house to a couple who survived Hurricane Katrina, and the wife of the couple starts research into Caelum's family history, much of which Lamb gives with excruciating detail that bored me. My mind frequently wandered during these sections and while I couldn't put the book down at the beginning, I couldn't wait to finish it by the end.

Still, there's alot to be said for Lamb's writing. I remember enjoying his first two books and plan on re-reading them since it's been several years since the first visit. Besides being a talented writer, he doesn't shadow things in happily ever after. His stories are reality checks: major issues that aren't solved in the course of a couple chapters and sometimes not even in the course of the novel. None of his main characters are truly likeable. Caelum is unfeeling, selfish, and judgemental. Maureen is unfaithful coming into the story, weak, and annoying. But somehow, these traits are justified, not to the point where we can like them, but to the point where we can at least understand them.

Readers who enjoy a touch of history may like this book as a whole better than I did. Still, the beginning of it was one of the most powerful things I read and it still maintained a three star rating, even if I did have to slog through the last few hundred pages.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Goodreads: No Choice But Seduction

No Choice But Seduction: A Mallory Novel #9 No Choice But Seduction: A Mallory Novel #9 by Johanna Lindsey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Mallory series ranks up there as one of my faves, but I have to admit that this one didn't really do it for me (furthermore, I barely remember the last one, which is a sure sign I need to go back and read the whole series again).

Boyd Anderson first meets Katey Tyler on his ship as he takes her to England where she's hoping to see more of the world and reconnect with the family who disowned her mother many years ago. Katey has a talent for telling tales, and so she tells him she's married to stave off any attentions. But the two meet later when Boyd assists in rescuing the daughter of Tony and Roslynn who's been kidnapped by Roslynn's cousin's wife for ransom. Katey, however, is the one who rescues the little girl, only to be repaid with suspicion from Boyd.

Eventually, Katey finds her way to the Mallory family where they welcome her with open arms but, upon seeing Boyd (and still being pissy with him) she takes off. When her "real" family turns her away at the door, she allows Boyd to make it up to her by letting her rent his ship to take her to see other parts of the world, and while he obliges her, he seems to have that problem that so many historical heroes have: he can barely keep control of the lust she incites in him.

Normally, I'm totally cool with all the historical cliches, and they weren't too bothersome in this book either. Lindsey always adds a nice helping of fun and humor to her writing. But this one seemed to be majorly lacking in relationship development between Boyd and Katey, focusing instead on Katey's past and her connection to the Mallorys. It read more like a coming of age book than a romance novel.

The scenes with James and Anthony were great, though, especially when they're trying to teach Boyd to be seductive. Definitely good stuff there. And while I didn't like this one as much as some of her other books, it still wasn't a bad way to get through a couple of lazy days.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Goodreads: Hot Pursuit

Hot Pursuit (Troubleshooters, #15) Hot Pursuit by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Finishing this book was kind of a milestone because it signifies the fact that I've caught up with the Troubleshooters series. The exception to this is I haven't yet read “Into the Night,” because the local library doesn't carry it and I don't normally buy books when I'm just going to read and pass on (though I should probably suck it up and buy this one since I could definitely read this series again). I'm currently waiting to receive the book on interlibrary loan, but it'll be more like a nostalgia trip.

“Hot Pursuit” brings us back to Sam and Alyssa and continues the story told in one of Brockmann' short stories. “The Dentist” is a psychopath whose target is Alyssa Locke. When Alyssa, Sam, and some of Seal Team 16 go to New York, they think it's going to be nothing more than a fluff job to help a political hopeful stay safe during her campaign. But The Dentist is lurking, setting up a chain of events to get Alyssa where he wants her, including murder and his own special MO of collecting the teeth of his victims.

Sam and Alyssa are a fun couple to re-visit, but I probably wouldn't have been as interested if I hadn't had faith that Brockmann would have introduced another new love story, this time between Danny Gillman and the political hopeful's friend and assistant, Jenn. I may have mentioned before that I didn't like Danny, but as expected, he sort of kind of redeems himself in this one, at least to reveal a human side (though Brockmann keeps true to many of his less savory tendencies to keep continuity). Other relationships are touched on, including the Izzy and Eden story from Izzy's point of view, and of course we get a little bit of Robin and Jules. A lot of “cameos” from other books, and not only is the Eden/Izzy line still open, but so too now is the Jenn/Danny one.

This next part may be kind of spoilerish, so stop know if you don't want to know about Brockmann's future plans gleaned from this book's author notes (mostly).

According to the AN, Brockmann is working on the next book in the series. I checked the website, and this will indeed be “Izzy's Story” (and more on Danny and Jenn but her note), but the website says it won't be out until February of 2011. That alone is tough, but she also said that after that one she'd be taking a break from the TS series. What??? No!!! Suzanne Brockmann, why??? This bums me out, though she said she wasn't done, just that she was taking time off. And I guess I can understand it, but ouch. This series is the first one I think I ever got THIS into, and I don't really want it to end. Even right now I'm looking at the next book on my shelf, a historical romance in part of another series I really like, but it feels a little strange to shift so dramatically.

Either way, I still have “Into the Night” to tide me over and several other series' that should get me through until the next TS book. Then I'll just play the waiting game.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Goodreads: Into the Fire

Into the Fire (Troubleshooters #13) Into the Fire by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is getting placed on the disturbing shelf this time around, not because anything changed in the style or the set up, but because the Freedom Network, Brockmann's white supremacist group, creeps me out.

After putting himself into an alcoholic induced fugue state for several months following the murder of his wife by the Freedom Network, Vinh Murphy returns to his best friend Hannah for comfort. But when the leader of the FN is murdered, Vinh is the main suspect and even he doesn't know if he did it or not.

The romance between Vinh and Hannah isn't as "torrid" as many of the other ones, but they've been friends for years, so there's more of a comfort aspect to it, which I liked. Nash and Tess have a small part with a storyline leading them to the next book in the series.

The other main subplot is between Izzy and Eden Gillman, Dan Gillman's sister who is abandoned by her boyfriend and impregnated by a "business associate" of his who drugged her. I hated Dan Gillman in this book, for the record, but I expect that maybe someday Brockmann will give us some insight into why he's such a jerk.

The Decker-Dave-Sophia triangle appears again. I'm rooting for Dave because I like Dave's character as being "less than" the rough and tough and built SEALS. I like that he's a little softer, a little more nerdy, and alot more insecure. Decker annoys me to no end. To be fair though, there are times when I really want Dave to get some nerve and just step up to the plate.

This was another great installment. Three books left (since I still need to read book 5) and I'll have read the entire series to date. Then I'll just have play the waiting game until the next one comes out.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Goodreads: Into the Storm

Into the Storm (Troubleshooters #10) Into the Storm by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another 5 star book in the Troubleshooters series, though this one varied in several different ways from the previous books (which is all I have to base my comparison on right now since I haven’t yet read the later ones).

The main players are Lindsey Fontaine, an ex LAPD cop working for TS, Inc. and Mark “Jenk” Jenkins who’s still with SEAL Team Sixteen. Mark is mooning over a Tracy Shapiro, a girl he knew from his younger days who is now working as a receptionist for TS, and Lindsay is crushing on Mark. Towards the end of a spontaneous evening together, Mark ends up running to Tracy’s rescue. Lindsay pulls away, trying to leave their relationship at friend status to help her deal with her own hurt and jealousy, not mention that, like all of the characters in this series, she has her own past baggage to deal with. Then the team is called to New Hampshire where the cold weather is to be used as part of a war game exercise between the teams. During the exercise, Tracy, acting the part of the hostage, goes missing, and the TS team, with the help of Jenk and Izzy, set out to find her.

Like always, Brockmann pulls the story into several different subplots. There’s the steamy interaction between Izzy and Tracy. There’s also the relationship between Sophia, Larry Decker, and Dave Malkoff. What makes that one so interesting is that for once, I’m not entirely sure where SB is going with these characters and where the actual romantic relationship is going to fall.

Unlike most of the books, the antagonist is not an international terrorist but a local psycho kidnapper who collects body parts. I found this turn to be extremely creepy, but I like the way it sets the book away from the other books while still trying it in through the use of familiar characters and themes.

This may be one of the snarkier books in the series, which gives it another point of favor. There’s a lot of interaction among the Seals, especially from Izzy Zanella, who tends to push the obnoxious envelope but still cracks me up. Lindsey is a fun character who carries a lot of baggage but hides it behind her own sarcastic and self deprecating sense of humor. Tracy Shapiro is bound to show up in this book (I hope). She develops to a great deal in this book and there still seems to be some unfinished business between her and Izzy.

I thought that this was definitely one of the best books in the series.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Movie Review: “Ink”

I’ve wanted to see the movie “Ink,” I first saw the trailer last year. At that time I was riding the coattails of my “Repo: The Genetic Opera” high and was all about finding new movies that didn’t fit the standard fare at the theater. “Ink” fit the bill. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be widely released due to its independent and lower budget nature. I kept watch to see if it would at least come to Kansas City, but it never did. It was (finally) released on DVD at the end of October and it hit Netflix on November 10th. We watched it on Instant View.

“Ink” is a fantasy/sci-fi independent film about a little girl who’s kidnapped by Ink, a deformed man/creature who wants to use her as a sacrifice to become and Incubus. Incubi have television screens for faces and are the ones responsible for nightmares (and possibly temptation during day hours, though I’d have to watch it again to see if that’s really the case).

It is the Storytellers that come to the girl’s rescue. These are the people who bring dreams. One becomes another captive of Ink as he visits the Drifters to get the codes needed for his transformation. The others, with the help of a Pathfinder (one who finds the beat of the world), work to help her by pulling her father from the emotional wall he’d built around him prior to and in the course of his wife’s death.

I really liked this movie. The effects aren’t at the same standard as, say, Transformers or anything by Dreamworks, but they weren’t bad either. A few of the images were a little creepy, which just adds to its appeal in my opinion. I suppose the originality of the film could be debated, but I thought it was creative, especially right now when it seems like everything coming out is a sequel or a remake. The movie is plot driven, but the characters are interesting in their own right, especially the blind pathfinder. One of the best scenes in the movie is what I refer to as the Chain Reaction scene in which he finds the beat of the world and works with it to set off a series of events to accomplish part of the mission.

The movie, especially the aforementioned scene, was visual eye candy for me, and now that I’ve seen it once, I want to watch it again to find what I missed the first time. Like any movie, it’s not for everyone. The cinematography jumps in a motion sickness inducing way at times, certain parts seemed to move a bit slow. It was also confusing at first, and it took awhile to find the thread of comprehension to figure out what was going on. By the end though, it all comes together.

Check it out here at If you watch it, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goodreads: Stalking the Unicorn

Stalking The Unicorn Stalking The Unicorn by Mike Resnick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My fiancé got a kick out of this book, and even though it meant tearing myself away from the series I’m in the middle of, I decided to give it a try. It was a nice change of pace and a quick read.

On New Year’s Eve, John Justin Mallory, a Manhattan detective, is approached by a distressed elf looking to hire his services. Because his attention was drawn to an amorous tryst, the elf has lost a valuable unicorn entrusted to his watch, and he needs Mallory to help him find it before his guild finds out and kills him for his irresponsibility.

In the “other” Manhattan, where Mallory goes for this case, Mallory meets a fun blend of characters, including a cat girl, a lame magician, an ex-unicorn hunter, a bar full if Irishmen, two men who have been playing the same game of chess for a year, and the demon of the other world, The Grundy, who holds a big stake in finding the same unicorn.

This was a really fun book written in a detective noir style. The characters are funny and Mallory is perfect has the stoic detective who has rare but effective bursts of emotion. As far as fantasy goes, it wasn’t anything heavy, all the fantastical characters are ones found commonly in literature. Dialogue played a key role in the story and I love dialogue, especially when the story can set the tone just through what the characters are saying.

Even though I wasn’t riveted the way I’ve been to some of the books I’ve read recently, I still enjoyed it. Be warned, it does read like a young adult novel but does have some adult themes and language.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Goodreads: Flashpoint

Flashpoint (Troubleshooters #7) Flashpoint by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Flashpoint" kicks off the beginning of what I consider the "next stage" in the Troubleshooters books, the stage in which Paoletti begins his own business with Troubleshooters, Inc. So it was kind of jarring to suddenly have a bunch of new characters to get used to.

The main players here are Tess Bailey and Jimmy Nash. Tess is an intelligent comspesh who can't get into the field, and Jimmy is a former top secret government operative who's life up until this point is one big secret. They come together several months after a one night stand to be sent on a mission to Kazbekistan to retrive a laptop which is thought to contain valuable information on terrorist plans. On the mission with them is Lawrence Decker, an ex Seal who stands alone as Jimmy's closest friend and colleague. Deck has been given a secondary assignment to find a prospect for Troubleshooters, Inc. who was last seen in the area. Diguised as relief workers, the group, along with a few other players (Vinh Murphy to name one) set about finding the all important lap top.

The story adds another element with Sophia, the wife of the prospect who was taken by Padsha Bashir after he had her husband decapitated. During the aftermath of an earthquake, she attempts to kill him and runs from the palace. Unfortunately, she didn't kill him, and now has a bounty on her head. To her rescue comes Decker and the rest of the team, and though they don't trust her fully, they bring her in as part of the team to help them on their mission.

This book was much heavier on the action than on the romance. The interplay between Tess and Jimmy is okay when it happens, but overall, Jimmy's just kind of a jerk. He's actually a difficult character to like. The same can be said for most of these new characters, though I'm not sure if that's because I'm fighting against change or if they're just not developed at their own early stages.

There is some hints of a possible "to be continued" thread/love story between Decker and Sophia, and I hope it gets picked up later, because I wouldn't mind seeing what happens between them. Not my favorite, but not a bad read by any means.

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Goodreads: Over the Edge

Over the Edge (Troubleshooters #3) Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was by far my favorite of the early Troubleshooters books (though thanks to my library I haven't yet read #5). It was physically painful for me to put this town to do things like make dinner, go to work, and go to sleep.

The main story in this one is between Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok and pilot Teri Howe who find themselves in K-stan for a situation involving a hijacked plan and a young girl who terrorists believe to be a US Senator's daughter. It was this pairing that got me...I loved these characters. Even though most of Brockmann's heroes have the "soft and sensitive" side, I found Stan to be especially endearing in his "I'm not that good looking" mentality. Teri was also endearing in a "deer in the headlights" kind of way (for Glee fans, she sort of reminded me of Emma). I thought they were great characters and I was completely hooked into their story. Besides the romance factor, there was a good dose of humor. All of these books have a touch to them, which makes them enjoyable to read, but I found myself laughing out loud during this one.

Also in this book is the continuing story of Alyssa and Sam, and this one sets the stage for the Gina and Max storyline.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goodreads: The Defiant Hero

The Defiant Hero (Troubleshooters #2) The Defiant Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

This series is amazing, so much in fact that I’m actually reading the books consecutively, though I’m skipping around the timeline they were written in. The series is fun, intriguing, romantic, and easy to lose yourself in. Having said that, I have to admit that so far, “The Defiant Hero” is my least favorite so far

Brockmann follows a basic formula: main storyline, side storyline, side storyline that takes place around the time of WWII. In “The Defiant Hero,” the main storyline is between John Nilsson, a linguistics specialist and member of Team 16 and Meg Moore, whose daughter and grandmother are kidnapped by terrorists. They’ve demanded that she bring them the leader of another terrorist group in exchange for the life of the other two. Desperate to save her family, she attempts to do as she’s directed, but John follows her, determined to help her and keep her safe from the very real possibility of death, especially because he’s been in love with her for several years.

This storyline took a backseat to the side one that actually winds through several novels, the story between Alyssa Lock and Sam Starrett. I’d already read their book, which take places two or three books later, but this back story was still great to read. Even though I like Alyssa’s character, she’s a complete witch in this one, so it was a relief to know what happens later so I didn’t completely hate her.

The WWII storyline was told by Meg’s grandmother Eve to the little girl and one of the terrorists. It was the story of her fifteen year old self having fallen in love with a British tutor several years her senior. This brings me to another point of Brockmann’s writing…she’s not afraid to “go there.” Besides this “underage” storyline, she has another one that also winds through a few of books, as well as an interracial storyline, a gay storyline, and a few other things I don’t often see in the fiction I read. Just a warning…she’s also not afraid to kill characters.

Because I didn’t connect with the characters as much as in the other books, I’m dragging the rating of this one down to a three star, but this in no way takes from the series as a whole.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

Halloween marked the beginning of the holiday season and now here we are, first day of November, with one down and three to go (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). Though I'm planning to celebrate the others, I sort of wimped out on Halloween. Then again, I wimp out every Halloween. I'm not much for wearing costumes, nor am I one for parties. So for me, this year was really quiet.

The day before Halloween was windy and cold, but the day of was nice. I took pics the day before on my long weekend just for the heck of it and because I'd wanted some autumn pictures before the snow got here.

Jon got dressed up and went out on his own. I felt like a bum for not going, but he was okay with it. I helped him get ready, then I settled down and finished another book, which made it four that I finished on this long weekend. Not too shabby, and if I were to really try I could probably finish a fifth one. I stayed up late to work on NaNoWriMo which kicked off at midnight.

Today I finished up a scarf I've been working on. A co-worker gave me a coffee pot in exchange for it. She bought the yarn, I did the actual work. It was my first time using wool, so I'm in the process of blocking it right now, but I think I'm okay with how it came out and I think she will be too. Hopefully.

I'm ending my last weekend day with some mellowing out around the house. I've been working on my story periodically and am already up to over 4,000 words. I watched “Les Miserables.” It was good, but depressing. Going to write some more, read later, and get ready for the work week. After four days off, I'm strangely ready to go back and instead of dreading the pile of work I know I'll have waiting for me, I'm going to welcome it and hope it keeps me busy enough to make Monday go by fast.

Hope everyone had a good holiday!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Cleaning and Murphy's Law

Since I've already had two days to loaf off and NaNoWriMo starts tonight ( I'm not going to want to much of anything tomorrow), I decided to be productive and clean the apartment. Besides the basic stuff, I'm also cleaning the carpet, dusting, spraying stuff down with vinegar, and getting organized in areas that weren't previously organized.

I think a cleaning gremlin is trying to thwart my attempts. First, the stopper in the sink broke and stuck in the drain. This is karma biting me because it always happens to Jon and I always give him a hard time about it. But he can usually get it out, and I can't. The water is draining slowly, and I was able to get some dishes done, but I need his help and he's at work, so dishes aren't going to get done.

Then, the filter on the vacuum cleaner is clogged and no matter what I do I can't seem to get it unclogged. I know, it only cost me 15 bucks and it was used and off Craigslist, so I shouldn't expect much, but it was working fine a few days ago. Now that I'm wanting to go the extra mile, it doesn't want to work. Grrrr. I only get in these crazy cleaning moods once in awhile. You'd think my household “equipment” would cooperate with me.

I'm trying to get what I can done besides vacuuming and the sink with little breaks here and there to sit down and read. This was going to be a movie day, but I wasn't feeling it. My house is currently a crazy mix of smells: coffee, carpet cleaner, vinegar, and pumpkin spice candle. I have my main door open to air out the place and it's a nice day. Sunshiny and cool but not freezing and windy like it was yesterday. I have a small dish of candy for anyone who happens to stop by, though I don't anticipate many trick-or-treaters since I live in a basement down a creepy stairwell.

Hope everyone is having a fun Halloween! Be safe!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goodreads: One for the Money

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1) One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The first time I read Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series I was living in the UP, working at the grocery store, and meeting friend's at the Merch, including the friend/coworker who introduced me to the series and let me borrow all her books. I loved them then, but it's been a few years, and with the fifteenth one coming out recently, I decided it was time to go back for a revisit. Plus, I've got my fiance reading them this time around with me.

In this first book, Stephanie starts her career as a bounty hunter assigned bring in Joe Morelli, a cop who's been charged with a murder and is hiding out while he tries to clear his name. Not only does Stephanie have a “past” with Morelli, if she catches him she'll earn $10,000, a nice chunk of change for someone who's had to hock most of her things to pay bills. But Morelli isn't easy to catch, and Stephanie, in her efforts to find him, becomes the target of a rapist boxer with a nasty masochistic streak.

There are a lot of reasons to love this book (and the series in general). First, it's funny. Stephanie Plum alone is a great character, but the secondary players are just as entertaining. Second, I can actually relate to Stephanie, not in the “I'm a bounty hunter” way, but in the “I'm depressed because I'm down to my last dollar” way. Third, it's got a great blend of action, mystery, and romance. Admittedly, this first book is not heavy on the romance, but it gets there later in the series.

I'm glad to be reading this again and can't wait to dive into the second one as soon as I can get it from the library.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Library Fail

Today was a good day to go to the library. I had the day off, Jon needed some new reading material, and I had to pick up a book on reserve. I love libraries, always have, and I generally rely on them to have a pretty good selection. I know that a lot of times they have to work within the confines of a budget and they can't always buy every single book known to man.

Yesterday, I checked the online database to see if they had the second book in the Stephanie Plum series. According to the site, they had three copies, two of which were available, and one large print edition currently checked out. I didn't think we'd have a problem getting one of the available copies.

The paperback section where they would have been was gone. Figuring the library had done a book integration, I checked regular shelves. They weren't there either. Finally, I just asked. Come to find out, they got rid of them. I'm not sure exactly what that means, whether they stripped them for credit and or boxed them up for a sale, but it kind of irritated me. Their excuse was that the books weren't in good enough shape to keep.

Here's my thoughts on this, and if anyone out there works in a library and would like to set me straight, please do.

If a library already have limited resources, why would they throw away readable books ? They said they weren't in “good enough” shape to keep, but we saw them last time we were there (too bad we didn't have the foresight to actually pick one of the copies up then) and they weren't brand new but they weren't ready for the shredder. If a book is not falling out of its spine, it should be kept so that the public can enjoy it, especially if the library in question don't have any other copies! Okay, so maybe they have the LP what? Not everyone needs LP! Did someone maybe complain because a book was not so aesthetically pleasing? I doubt it...most book lovers I know understand that a book for public consumption is bound to have a few quirks. It's a sign that it's been used for it's purpose...literary entertainment.

If space were an issue, I could understand that too. If a library is limited and has o get rid of the older books to bring in some of the newer more popular ones, okay. But walking through our library is kind of sad. There are shelves that are completely empty.

It looks like we'll have to find the book another way, probably at Hastings, and while it's not the end of the world, the whole situation is irritating. I was spoiled by the OKC Metro Library, so maybe I just expect more, but it really was a let down to be excited about reading the book to find out it wasn't available.

Does anyone else feel my pain?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thinking About Christmas

I mentioned Christmas in an earlier blog and it’s been on my mind lately since Sunday marks the beginning of November. It’s been a few years since I’ve celebrated. When I lived in Michigan, the tradition was to get together at my grandparent’s house with the aunts and uncles and cousins. In the more recent years, everyone was starting family’s of their own and getting everyone in one place was difficult.

After I moved to Oklahoma, holidays weren’t as big a deal for me. I spent some time with my grandmother and some aunts and uncles, but there was a huge difference in the social dynamic. I was used to the loud and sometimes dramatic Christmases I’d grown up with, so it was a little strange experiencing a quiet one where conversation was limited and everyone did their own thing (read, watched TV, solved Sudoku puzzles).
Last year, I didn’t celebrate Christmas. Jon and I didn’t buy presents for each other and he went to Illinois while I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day by myself. I have to admit though, that part of me really enjoyed that. There was no stress. It was quiet. I could do whatever I wanted. I made myself a nice meal, did some baking, and watched True Blood. It wasn’t a celebration per se, but it did me a world of good to experience what used to be my favorite holiday on my own for once.

This year, a lot has changed and I think I’m going to enjoy the season. With November only a few days away, I’m looking for decorations, and I’ve already bought two gifts for Jon. I want to get stockings, a cheap Xmas tree, and some decorations. I want to go crazy with baking, and I want to have a nice meal, and I want to listen to Christmas CDs, at least for a day or two before they become really annoying. I’m going to try to find some Christmas cards and send those out, even if I don’t get around to knitting everyone a scarf or other sort of gift. We might even spend it with some friends who have no plans to leave town for the holidays, and that would be fine with me.

There’s a Christmas craft show in a couple weeks I’m going to attend and I’ll be keeping my eye out for a tree. A friend sent me a bunch of Christmas cookie recipes and I’m going to start looking for candy recipes. I figure while I’ve been in a major baking mode, I might as well start making and freezing in preparation.

If anyone has any recipes or brilliant ideas for the holidays, please share them with me. I don’t want stress, but I do want to stay busy and have a season I can remember.

Goodreads: Dead to the World

Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4) Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Last year I started reading the Southern Vampire series on eBook, but I only finished three and a half of them before stopping. I thought they were good, but I have this weird reader’s ADD which keeps me from reading two books in the same series in a row. I’d actually tried to get through this series all at once, and by book 4, I needed something new.

Revisiting these, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. I remembered liking them, but at the time I’d just finished watching Season 1 of True Blood and was having a hard time making the series mesh with the books. I know you’re probably thinking “duh,” since rarely is a book series like its television counterpart, but there were things I really wanted to jive that just weren’t jiving.

Then I watched season 2 of True Blood and decided to give the books another try, because after the annoying Maenad storyline, I needed something different. Even though I really liked the books the first time I started reading them, this go round was even better.

In “Dead to the World,” Sookie has broken up with Bill Compton who spends most of the story in Peru on business of the Queen (of Louisiana). Things seem to be settling down for Sookie when she comes across Eric Northman running down the road near her house. Eric has lost his memory, and the other vampires of Fangtasia recruit Sookie to keep him hidden from a coven of dangerous witches, who also happen to be weres and vampire blood drinkers. Meanwhile, Sookie’s brother Jason goes missing after being seen with a shifter at the New Year’s party.

There was definitely a contrast between this book and the Anita Blake book I’d read prior. Though still violent, Sookie’s world is lighter and quicker to read. It helps to have visuals from the show for the characters, though they’re not all spot on with the descriptions in the book. Harris doesn’t skimp on the eroticism when the time comes, but she doesn’t make it the focus of the story.

Sookie as the main character in the book is preferable to Sookie on TV (as are most of the characters) and at this point, not only am I planning on finishing the series, but if I was told I had to choose between the two, I’d definitely take the books.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

One Week Until NaNoWriMo – Thoughts and Plans

Less than a week to go until National Novel Writing Month kicks off and I’m still excited for it. What makes this any different from just writing a story? I don’t know. I think it’s a mix of the hype surrounding it and the fact that so many other people are taking part in it. It’s also the chance to create something. Let’s face it…this story could be totally awesome, or totally horrible, and you really don’t know until you get to the end. Of course, even if it’s totally horrible, there could be potential, and potential is a huge aspect when it comes to writing.

Last year’s project was a fluffy romance. This year I’m going to attempt a mystery of sorts. I’ve admitted to my writer’s group that I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of writing a mystery, so for me to attempt it is going to be interesting. It’s going to be a mystery/supernatural/romance about a security firm owned and ran by vampires in a world where vampires are just another part of society. The main story involves the head of V-Sec Industries acting as bodyguard to a local heiress who’s been leading a double life to escape her family’s expectations. She starts receiving threatening letters, so her father hires V-Sec to keep her safe.

That’s the general outline, anyway. I have a few aspects figured out in my head but the story will most likely take its own shape as I write it. I was inspired not only by basic vampire lore, but by aspects of the Southern Vampire/True Blood world. My biggest inspiration as far as the mystery/action part of the plot comes from Suzanne Brockman’s Troubleshooter series. I’ve only read two of them, but they are fabulous. I’m not even trying to reach her level of talent, I just want to see if I can do something fun with my muses.

This past weekend, I came close to changing my concept. I was watching a documentary about “Deep Throat” (the film) and had a spark of an idea for a new story. However, I’ve decided to let that one simmer for a little while and revisit it if it keeps nagging at me.

If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo, you can add me as a friend if you’d like. I’m “mystressmanda.” If you’re not sure but want to check it out, you can go  here and poke around or sign up. The point is to write 50,000 words in a month. Think of it as a month long free writing exercise with the potential to turn into something fantastic.

I may be posting my story on this blog, but I’ll be sure to title it with “NaNoWriMo” or something of the like so you can skip if you want. Constructive criticism on what will essentially be a rough draft is always welcome.

Updates & Nostalgia

I’ve been pretty lazy as far as updating goes lately. I’ve been doing things, just haven’t felt like blogging. My good intentions for blogging about The Biggest Loser and Survivor have fallen to the wayside because to be honest, there’s nothing really to blog about. Survivor was pretty epic last week with Good Russell passing out, but overall, it’s been sort of a boring season for me. In fact, I’ll even go as far to stay that Evil Russell is the reason I’m still watching.

As for The Biggest Loser, I can’t stand Tracey and wish she’d get voted off. It’s the same thing every week, product placements, a lot of tears, and a good amount of drama which I’m pretty sure is producer induced. I heard that Jillian Michaels is getting her own show on NBC, and I’m kind of interested in that because she’s one of the few reasons that I’m still watching TBL.

As for the nostalgia reference in the title, I recently, I noticed how absolutely gorgeous this time of year is. Awhile ago (and maybe not in this blog) I noted that I missed the colors of Michigan because the colors here were so dull. That may have been true at the time, but over the past week the feel of autumn has definitely hit Manhattan, KS. It’s gorgeous to look at. Spring and summer have always been my favorite times of year, but I have a newfound love of the fall, despite the fact that it precedes my least favorite season.

I think part of fall’s appeal is in the nostalgia it brings. I have a lot of good memories from high school and college, and while I don’t consider myself one to “live in the past,” I do tend to remember the good times over the bad ones. High school was marching band and football games. College was fraternity parties, Halloween, and sorority rush and pledge. I even get sad remembering my year in Oklahoma City, because along with the change in weather, it signifies a really important transition in my life. I moved there right before fall and so got to experience two fall seasons before moving to Kansas. I still miss Oklahoma.

This year I’ve decided to look forward to the holidays again and autumn has become synonymous with the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. You would think it would be the other way around. With losing my grandmother this past year, I shouldn’t want to have anything to do with the holidays. At the same time, I almost feel like this signifies that I need to start my own traditions now, even if they’re small and don’t involve kids (since I don’t have any). Because of work, Jon will most likely not be traveling with the rest of his family this year, so it’ll be the two of us (plus a puppy and two snakes, but since none of them will be helping bake or decorate, they’re just minor players). I’m determined to make the most out of the season, and for me, this includes just taking a few seconds to appreciate the beauty of the season.

Goodreads: Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #1) Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It took me forever to finally start the Anita Blake series, partially because it was just lower on my to-do list and partially because a lot of people had some issues with it, the main one being that it starts out strong and then suddenly enters the land of NC-17. Of course, if I was to take my mother’s recommendation, it’s the best thing since sliced bread because you can never have too much vampire porn.

After having finished “Guilty Pleasures,” I’m a little torn. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read. It was dark, and a little hard to follow in some places. If I were to base my opinion of Hamilton’s writing on this one book, I wouldn’t be able to say she’s a great writer, even though, once again, the consensus among my circle of book lovers is that this is one of her better works in this series. The character of Anita Blake is fun. She’s snarky, skeptical, and an overall “bad ass” when it comes to the vampire hunting. I was a little confused about her main work as an “Animator,” but it all came together by the end of the book.

The side characters are hit and miss. None of them were developed enough to make me care much about them one way or another. Even Jean-Claude, who comes across as a strange sort of romantic adversary for Anita, wasn’t all that likable, reminding me of a dark haired Lestat more than anything.

I spent most of the book wondering what was going on. It was a mystery, but it read like an independent film mystery, with just enough bits and pieces to keep you going in a confused state of limbo. I liked the graphic way that Hamilton tells the story and isn’t afraid to kill of the characters you might actually have taken a liking to. The “villain” in GP is Nikolaos, the thousand year old vampire in the body of a young girl. She is a great character for what she is…brilliantly psychotic.

Having been a little underwhelmed with “Guilty Pleasures,” I’m still determined to read more in the series. I want to see if the books improve and I want to see what everyone else is talking about when they discuss the change in Anita’s character. And of course, I want to see what the big fuss over the vampire porn is and if it really is porn or just a way to fill 300 pages of writer’s block.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goodreads: And Eternity

And Eternity (Incarnations of Immortality, #7) And Eternity by Piers Anthony

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m now almost done with the whole Incarnations of Immortality series. Had I read this several years ago, I would have been done, but Anthony snuck in one last book about the Incarnation of Night and so I still have that one to read.

I had been looking forward to “And Eternity,” but I was slightly disappointed in most of it. For me, it was kind of boring and the character of Vita was annoying. I understood her to be young and naïve and she was that, I just didn’t think she was good at being that. Mostly, I just found her irritating.

The process of reading the book wasn’t great, but the story itself tied the rest of them together nicely and I liked how it ended. I get a kick out of books that wrap together and whose characters connect so neatly, the author did a good job. There was a lot of foreshadowing, and though he seemed to try to throw the reader off at points, I had the ending figured out. Really, if you pay attention it’s not that difficult.

So while not my favorite, “And Eternity” definitely had its place in the series.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Goodreads: Out of Control by Suzanne Brockman

Out of Control (Troubleshooters #4) Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If there was any question after I read one of the later books in this series, this one clinched the fact that I really need to read all of the Troubleshooter books. I like the way Brockmann writes, I like the characters, and I love the mental movies these books give me.

In "Out of Control," Savannah van Hopf goes to San Diego to find Ken "WildCard" Karmody. Having known him in college (and having more than a passing crush on him), she believes the Navy SEAL to be the perfect escort to Indonesia, where she must go to free her uncle from ransom demanding terrorists. Her plans take a different turn when she sleeps with Ken before telling him her intentions, and when he finds out, the start to a beautiful relationship turns sour...temporarily.

Despite his anger and hurt, Ken accompanies Savannah to Indonesia, but they're barely off the plane when things get crazy. They find themselves in the jungle, surviving and staying out of sight of the bad guys until they can get to safety. Of course, being alone in the jungle together sets the perfect stage for "getting to know you" dialogue and alot of sexual tension.

The book follows three other main romantic plot lines as well. One is told as different characters read the autobiography of Rose van Hopf, Savannah's grandmother and a double agent for America during WWII. Another is the interaction between Molly, a missionary, and Jones, a man who has to hide his past because he betrayed a big name drug lord. And then there's details about the relationship between Alyssa Lock and Sam Starrett, which has the feel of a continuing story line and which I know continues because it's alluded to in "Hot Target," the other Troubleshooters book I've read.

"Action" heavy books tend to lose me in the details, but this one was hard to put down. I do believe I need to go hunt up the first book and make my valiant attempt at the whole series before the year is over.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodreads: Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie

Charlie All Night Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book shouldn’t have taken me a week to read, but it did, mostly because I’ve been doing other things like playing video games, watching TV, and knitting. But I have been making it to the gym, so that’s good right?

This book though was just what was needed for a light pre-sleep read, especially after the last dark book I read.

Allie is a producer at a local radio station who’s just been dumped both personally and professionally by one of the DJs. Charlie is the new nighttime DJ who’s only there to investigate a letter concerning drugs at the station. When Allie is given the job of producing his show, she’s determined to make him a star. She’s also determined to seduce him to get over her ex. In the tradition of great romances, she succeeds, and turns a one night stand into a month long affair during which Charlie stirs up controversy with the town. Aside from the controversy though, the two become close, dealing with studio sabotage, a sickly puppy, and the mysterious drug dealings.

As I’ve mentioned before, Crusie gives me warm fuzzies with her books. This one seems to be an earlier work but it’s still great. There’s not as much hate for the evil side characters and it’s missing the mother figure. But it was racy enough, romantic enough, and funny enough to be exactly what I needed between the heavier dramatic novels.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Survivor 19 - Ep. 4 Recap with Spoilers

This week's episode started out with a heavy dose of positivity from Jaison who admitted that this was the worst thing he'd ever done (referencing the game). Shambo reiterated that she missed Foa Foa (yuck) and then the tribes had to send a couple people on a special "mission" where Jeff was conspicuously absent. The challenge was for a reward of chickens and the tribes...on their own, had to play a beach game of bocce ball.

Did Jeff have a late night? A touch of the flu? Oh wait...this is probably another twist in the dynamic of the game. Evil Russell was closest to the pole with one ball from Galu left and somehow, Dave won with their last ball. They won some chickens and Shambo spoke chicken so that worked out pretty well. At camp, Erik found Galu's hidden immunity idol. Later, he admitted his tribed sucked when Shambo lost a chicken and no one was looking for it. It also seems that Yasmin the Hooker isn't well liked by her own tribe either.

At the immunity challenge, Galu kept a lead but Foa Foa made up alot of time on the rope bridges. ER trucked it across that rope bridge. Maybe he has more phyical talent than I gave him credit for? And holy cow it's a miracle! Foa Foa won their first immunity challenge. As much as I don't like them, I was kind of relieved. There wasn't much competition. Monica was targeted as the slow link during discussion, but I was holding out that they'd get rid of Yasmin. She did crack me up though with her little "I'm stepping up and if you're going to vote me out do it 'cause I need a rest" speech. And a tribe they should vote out the weakest person for challenges.

At tribal council, Yasmin wore heels and Monica deluded herself into thinking she was actually useful at the challenge. I never thought I'd admit this, but by this time, I'd switched my own decision and was hoping Monica would go home. But I got my first wish and Yasmin went home. Still okay. I'm sure Monica will be useless again at some point. I think it was a bad move on the tribe's part, but whatever. I can't think that the merge is too far off since we're already 4 episodes in.

It was a pretty mellow show this week. Some more ER action would have mnade it a little more exciting, but c'est la vie. I still haven't decided who I think is a true contender to win and I don't have any favorites...maybe Mick and Dave. Good Russell is okay. Give me a few weeks to make an educated opinion on this one.

The Biggest Loser 8 Episode 4 (w/ Spoilers)

I watched this on a Saturday afternoon when I should have been cleaning or doing any number of other useful things. But hey, catching up on TV is important, right?? Ironically, before watching this week's episode, I watched Penn & Teller's B.S on obesity and I'm not going to made me look at the show a little bit differently.

The show started with flashbacks of what a psycho Tracey is and how she managed to lie and alienate alot of her team members. For the new episode, Shay called her on it. Tracey is still a psycho and has no idea what she's saying and doing. But Bob and Jillian reminded everyone that they were here for themselves, blah blah and that it was a new week, blah blah. Yeah...a new week to stomp on Tracey!

The doctor was the one who stomped on her when he told her she couldn't workout, not even in the pool. Sucks to be her. I wish I could feel sorry for her. If it was anyone else I probably would, but not her. It sounded to me like she was saying the doctor didn't want her to lose weight, which isn't quite what's going on, but she's a weirdo and you can tell she's only in it to compete.

Allison went crazy and decided to deny the contestants food. Or so it would seem. In actuality, she gave them the challenge that they had to order out every night. This is actually a really good idea and a good change for TBL to give the contestants. It mimics reality alot more than giving them everything they need to eat healthy. This announcement came with a pop challenge for people to pick the healthiest of three meals. The winner would receive a kitchen stocked with healthy meals for a whole year.

Before we got the answer, I voted C (fyi) just to see how smart I was. Creamed spinach looked gross. I was wrong, and it was A, and apparently I'm not that smart (but I'd rather enjoy a higher calorie one sans the creamed spinach). The teams who had the answer right had to guess how many cals were in it and the team who was the closest won. The pink team won because they didn't go over.

It was sort of depressing watching them order out because it didn't seem like I could eat anything good. Where's the moderation? And no, Jillian, I will not eat cauliflower. Gross.

I think it's funny that Jillian and Bob are seemingly never given a heads up on what the producers have planned. In their alleged surprise over the locked kitchen, they offered to take the contestants out to dinner. I at first thought it was going to be dinner at Subway, but they took them to an actual Mexican restaurant. They gave them some good ideas, but none of them would be easy for someone who loves food (ahem). I'm feeling very cynical this week, but alot of the tips were good, so credit is due to the trainers.

For immunity, the contestants had to hold onto a handlebar on a platform above water. Poor Shay, she had a point. This was going to be a hard challenge for her. It's impossible for me and she's got a few on me. But she hung on and oulasted several other people. I was bummed that she didn't win, but she was still awesome. Liz from the brown team was first down and her partner followed within seconds broadcast time.

It came down to Dan and Allen (orange and green), both of which I really like. Dan ended up winning which meant that he beat his time at the ranch from last season when he went home in week 4. During last chance workout, Jillian "picked" on Rudy. I think Rudy would have about a three pound advantage if he'd shave his beard.

At the weigh in, it was inferred that Daniel is playing the game because he didn't lose any weight but had immunity. His game playing doesn't bother me though. He's worked hard to get where he is, and he's a nice kid. Somehow, crackhead Tracey lost four pounds which kept her team on the ranch another week.

Julio fell below the yellow line against Liz and Danny of the brown team. The purple team was split on who to vote for and big shocker, Tracey got her way, so Julio went home. At home, he lost over a hundred pounds, so yay Julio!

This week seemed kind of boring to me, but halfway through the show I had the urge to break out my DDR game for some exercise. There's a product placement..tadah!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Television Watching

Besides “Survivor” and the “The Biggest Loser” which I recap on this blog, I’ve also started watching a few other things. I’ve already talked about “Wire in the Blood” probably more times than people appreciate, so I won’t re-hash anything there. One of my all-time favorites in “The Amazing Race,” which I’ve been watching but I decided not to blog the episode recaps since it usually takes me a week to watch the previous episode.

I’ve also started watching “Glee” and “Flash Forward.”

“Glee” is a cute show. For anyone who hasn’t watched it, it’s about a high school glee club composed of a politically correct and slightly nerdy group of students led by the Spanish teacher who’s trying to bring back the glory days of the club. While the teacher, Will, is a neat character, he’s also flawed. He makes mistakes with his students and he seems to ignore the fact that he’d be better off without his wife. Of course I’m rooting for the germaphobe teacher who is cute and quirky. As far as the students go, you have the athlete who is tricked into joining the club but actually realizes that singing is his thing, the overachieving really annoying girl who gets a little bit better by episode 2 (which is as far as I’ve gotten at press time) and the few as-of-yet-not-important but diverse group of the club.

You also have the “bad guys,” which include the cheerleader girlfriend of the singer athlete, the cheerleader coach (I love the actress who plays her), Will’s materialistic dingbat wife, and the stereotypical jocks who pick on the “nerdy” kids.

“Glee” is light and fluffy with good music. Sure, I get a little angry about the bad guys, but I suppose that’s the point. I’m guessing too that the whole “Celibacy Club” is supposed to be ironic.

The premise of “Flash Forward” is that almost everyone in the world loses consciousness for 2 minutes and 17 seconds and has a memory of the future, specifically April 29, 2010. Some people have really good flash forwards and others have bad ones. Some see nothing, leading them to believe that they’ll be dead by that date. This has caused kind of an uproar, and the agency in charge sets up a Mosaic program for everyone to log what they saw while tracking down those they found who didn’t go out in those two minutes.

This weekend will be all about catching up on these shows and maybe some other ones that look interesting. If anyone has any TV show suggestions, throw them at me and I’ll check them out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Goodreads: The Mermaids Singing

The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #1) The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“The Mermaids Singing” is the first book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series and the basis for the first episode of the British crime drama “Wire in the Blood.” After watching four seasons of the television series, I was compelled to read the books if for no other reason than I wanted more of Tony Hill, as I find him to be one of the intriguing characters I’ve ever watched (“Wire in the Blood” beats CSI by a few miles in my opinion).

When the police finally admit that the bodies that keep turning up in the city’s gay district may be the work of a serial killer, they bring in Tony Hill to profile for the department. Carol Jordan is the police liaison working with him to solve them crime. As a clinical psychologist who works with murderers, Tony’s mind is geared to this direction, making him valuable in the search. It probably also helps that his background has shaped his own psyche to be more empathetic to the thoughts of the off-balanced.

As the story progresses, the reader is also given first person glimpses into the world of the serial killer, who builds torture devices for his victims and records their murders for his own pleasure. The story also follows the strange relationship Tony builds with a prank caller and Carol’s attraction to Tony that he fights to not reciprocate.

I was impressed with how closely the book matched with the show, and I enjoyed the extra insight about Tony in the print version. I will say that the book gives Carol Jordan a little more intelligence. She’s a good character in the show, and I like her, but she comes across as the hardcore cop who has to ride Tony’s coattails of intelligence (in my opinion). Of course this is only book 1 which may only correspond to episode 1, so a better assessment may come after reading a few more books in the series.

I think I may have also been thrown off by the British slang a little bit too if I hadn’t already watched the show and had some background context. Not that this should deter anyone. It’s still a good book and I enjoy the characters a lot. I’m excited to read more from this author, though I'll need to read something light before diving back into something this dark.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fear of Rejection

In a conversation today with a co-worker (somewhere between money problems and V.C. Andrews novels), there came a short discourse on the fact that I have a fear of rejection.

The rejection isn’t about people or social settings. I do have social anxiety, but this was more about the fear of putting pieces of myself out there, things I love to do, with the chance that they’ll be rejected. The two main examples are knitting and writing.

I haven’t been knitting long, a few years for standard knitting and a few months for purling and some “extras.” I’ve made some neat stuff, including the Alien Illusion Scarf for Jon and a couple of multi-colored hats. They’re not the best made things, but I ‘m sure they’re better than the potential product of a baboon with knitting needles and some yarn. I have a couple scarves which are actually pretty and at one time, I’d really wanted to put them on etsy. I even set up a store.

Guess what hasn’t made it on etsy? I keep thinking it’s because I’m too lazy to do it. I’m too lazy to find the right angle and lighting to take a picture and oh goodness, even though I’m already on the computer for hours at a time, those extra clicks would just take too much out of me. But seriously? I’m pretty sure I’m just worried they won’t sell and that I’ll have wasted the time doing it and I’ll feel slapped in the face because no one will want my stuff.

I know that sounds ridiculous. People list things on there all the time that doesn’t sell. I follow some people on Twitter who relist regularly, and Craftastrophe has proven that people sell things for a lot of money that look like a can of paint and some cement threw up after a wild night at the bar. I know I’m not the only one who’s ever had something that no one else wanted.

Maybe it’s because I have no confidence in what I make.

Then there’s my writing. On any day, I’ll tell you that I love to write. On a good day, I’ll say that my writing isn’t too bad. On a bad day, or any day that I’m on the verge of writing a query letter or sending in a manuscript, I’ll say that my writing is horrible, there’s no way anyone would publish it, and there’s no point in even trying. Granted, there are a few more steps to sending in a potential novel than listing a handmade item on etsy, but I think my mind processes it the same and says “I don’t want to be rejected.”

My co-worker made a good point. “Either you never try and nothing happens. Or you try and something might happen.” It makes sense in that context, so how come I can’t get my head and emotions around it?

Conclusion drawn: At some point, I have to suck it up and just go for it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Recipe on the Cheap: Homemade Chocolate Pudding

In one of the communities I’m part of on another site, someone posted the recipe for homemade pudding. The community is dedicated to living cheap and there’s been some really useful things I’ve picked up from it.

Because I’m always late to the party, I have a feeling that most of the free world knows how to make this stuff, but it was a revelation to me. Jon and I don’t buy junk food to “keep” in the house because it wouldn’t keep for long, so we generally buy things here and there when we’re feeling the sweet tooth. Sometimes though, and especially now with money being what it is, we can’t just run out and grab something.

I’ve been kind of experimenting with “ingredients on hand” recipes. Friday, Jon made cocoa cookies that were actually pretty good. This pudding recipe though is awesome. Jon made it last night and chilled it overnight so I could have some with lunch today. The recipe is extremely easy and uses ingredients that we tend to have on hand for baking and cooking purposes.

1/2 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa powder
3 tbsp cornstarch*
2 c milk
2 tsp vanilla

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the milk. Stirring constantly, cook on med heat until it comes to a light boil. Add vanilla.

*We didn’t have any cornstarch, so we substituted with 6 tbsps of all purpose flour.

I know there are variations to this recipe just waiting to be tried, but this basic recipe came out great and I would think that if you broke down the cost, it would be much less than even a fifty cent box of mix.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sneaky Comments

So I was going through this blog late last night and realized that I'd gotten some comments. I thought I'd receive an email when anyone commented, but apparently not. I know that it's usually polite to comment back, and I probably look snotty for not having done so before.

Rather than replying to each one right now, I'll just say thank you to everyone who's reading and commenting and you're all freakin' awesome. I recently changed my comment settings to allow for anyone to comment, including anonymous users, which means I'm probably going to get some hateful comments, but oh well. I'll delete them and if it gets bad I'll just moderate them before posting.

Plus, I'm now following my own comments in Google Reader, so I'll know to reply next time.

And if you're not commenting, that's totally cool too, but I didn't want anyone to feel ignored.

Happy Sunday to everyone and I hope you're coming week is gearing up to be a good one.

Free Coffee and the Starbuck's Taste Test

If you're a coffee drinker and/or a Starbucks fan (and I know I have friends who are either or both), then you may already know that this weekend Starbucks is having a "taste test" for their instant coffee. It goes until Monday, so get in there if you want to check it out. I'm horrible about passing information along, since I've seen that this was going on for two days and didn't really give it much of a thought.

This morning I went to Dillons for some bread and dishwashing liquid. Our main store has a Starbucks inside and I noticed the blackboard that advertised the test, so I asked about it. Starbucks is handing out samples of their instant coffee and along with that they're giving out two coupons, one for $1 off their instant coffee and one for a FREE tall brewed coffee on your next visit.

I like Starbucks, but I'm usually more about their creamier drinks, like the caramel macchatio or their frappuccinnos. I tasted one of their more "exotic" brews one time in Oklahoma City and thought it was horrible. But I realized today that I don't think I've ever given their standard coffee a chance and lately, I haven't been craving the frou frou drinks, I've been craving black coffee.

The barista let me take two sample pouches each of Columbian and Italian Roast. Instant coffee gets a bad rap but if I want to drink coffee at home than that's what I use because we don't have a coffee pot, and I know that the minute I break down and buy one, I'm not going to want coffee anymore (Murphy's Law of Amanda's Interests and Cravings).

I tried the Columbian with 8 oz of water rather than the 6 oz for the weaker brew and really liked it. It tasted like, caffeinated, ulcer inducing coffee. So now I have coffee at home for today and next weekend and a coupon to get myself a store brewed tall on next Sunday's inevitable trip to Dillons....all for the win!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recipe: Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Tonight for dinner, I made this recipe for Slow Cooker Orange Chicken. A word about the blog "A Year of Slow Cooking": it's awesome. Last year, Stephanie O'Dea made something in her slow cooker every day. That's 365 slow cooker recipes. Some things didn't turn out so well, but other things are fantastic. And while her year is over, she still posts recipes on the blog. I have a ton of her recipes starred in my Google Reader and this is about the fourth recipe we've tried and really liked.

She also has a lemon chicken recipe which I think we'll make next time. I've never had orange chicken at a restaurant to tell the truth, so this was a new experience for me. I followed the recipe, though I may have cut the chicken a little different and I used flour rather than the mix. Be warned, this is not a "throw it all in the pot and turn it on" type of meal. There was some prep in cutting, breading, and searing the chicken. But it was definitely worth it and prep time was only about 15 minutes (and I'm slow, so it would probably only take most people 5 or 10 minutes).

We ate it with instant white rice. I'm still not a fan of rice, but it was good here. Next time maybe I'll try brown rice.

As far as frugality goes, here's the breakdown:
Chicken - on sale for 1.69 a lb. This amount cost a little over 3 dollars (Dillons)
Orange juice - .99 at Aldi and I had half of the mix to make drinkable juice

We had everything else on hand this time around, and since it's mostly pantry staples, this meal comes in at leses than 3 dollars per person.

Survivor 19 - Ep. 3 Recap with Spoilers

I knew how this episode ended before I even watched it. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked a friend to give me the scoop. Didn't deter me from watching it. For the moment, I'm finding Evil Russell amusing, Foa Foa pathetic, and most of the players kind of dumb.

At the beginning, Jaison and Mick were discussing Ben's attitude and the whole "ghetto trash" thing from last week (apparently the "hooker" moniker didn't bother anyone). From the get go, Ben was bragging about how the tribe needed him and telling them as much, along with a recount of his bodily functions. Please, someone stomp him in the face.

Galu was all about the yoga. That's cool. I mean if you're tribe is running like a well-oiled machine. Shambo is the cog in the gears, unless she wasn't just blowing off steam and really was providing the tribe with everything. Then sure, that's cool. But she's forgetting to the social part of the game and that's going to hurt her. So what if you have no water. If everyone else is getting zen, join in!

ER planted some seeds in Ben's head...not hard to do since his mind is a fertile field of jack-assery. "These people are idiots." Yes, Evil Russell...yes they are. "Days of Our Tribe" is showing signs that they're taking a cue from "The Hills." ("OMG, I can't believe she said that!" "OMG, I didn't say it!" "OMG!") Even Galu has an annoying giggly girl group.

I have to wonder what the point is in mixing immunity with reward for the challenges. Are they saving time to show more of the tribe shenanigans? This week's reward was pillows and candles and what looked like yoga mats (ha, that's funny). Galu took the lead early and won again. In past seasons, I usually start getting sick of the tribe that seems to be winning all the time and start cheering for the underdog. This season, I just can't make myself like Foa Foa.  Russell was given the choice between comfort and function and took comfort, which made the girls happy (Russell is pimpin') and the guys (and most likely Shambo) not so much.

Shambo was chosen to go sit in on Foa Foa and was definitely more impressive than Yasmin. Smart move as an individual since if she makes it to the merger she'll have the allies she's not making at Galu. Not so smart to bad mouth her own tribe in my opinion, but I guess at this point she has to play a solo game. What was up with ER's look of death? Does he not like Shambo? Does he find her sexy? Are either of them married, or could we be in for Rumbo?

Russell back at Galu gave his "we gotta take care of our women" speech and even though I like the guy, he sounded a little skeezy.

Jaison threw the race card and gave the "it's me or him" ultimatum in reference to Ben. ER wasn't on board with that and wanted Ashley out. He asked Mick to promise him that he wouldn't write his name down and showed him the hidden immunity idol. Shambo showed everyone how to make Blair Witch dolls...oh wait, no that was a torch. My bad. She went looking for the immunity idol which wasn't there. Jaison gave ER his thoughts on Ben, and I don't know if it was the camera angle or if there really is a massive height difference, but I think Jaison could probably eat him alive.

Tribal Council: Jaison flat out said he liked Shambo and wanted to trade her for Ben and called him out on his negativity.Their shouting match was highly amusing. Truthfully, I'm glad Jaison called Ben out on his crap, but Yasmin deserved what she got (sans the racism, but I don't know if Ben meant it racially or not). Of course I didn't really need the history lesson from Jaison, but I'd still take him over Ben any day.

Ashley got one vote, but Ben ended up going home. Thank God. This was good because 1) he's gone and I couldn't stand the jack ass and 2) even though it looks like Russell voted with the rest of the crew, he didn't have control this time. I doubt that will take him down any, but it's reassuring..sort of.

Beefgate 2009

We got up bright and early this morning to get in on Hy-Vee's six hour sale. Now I could have took Jon to work then went by myself, but what fun would that have been? Besides, I wanted to get four rolls of their .99 ground beef special, but there was a limit of 2 per customer (or so we thought), so I figured I'd save an extra trip and get Jon to go through the line separately.

We're in line and Jon decides to go through with his beef first. I heard the cashier ask him if they were his and he said "yes," but then I heard the old lady in front of Jon say they were hers. According to Jon, he said they were his like three times, but the cashier rang them out for the old lady instead, then told Jon to go back and get two more.

There are a couple things wrong with this scenario. First of all, I have a feeling the lady knew they weren't hers but thought she'd be really slick and get two more than the limit, so she claimed them as her own. I could be wrong, and it could have been an honest mistake, but do you ever just get that feeling? I had it. The second thing wrong was that the cashier told Jon to go back and get his own meat. That's kind of a big no as far as customer service goes. She should have called a bag boy or a manager and asked them to go get Jon the two rolls that were swiped from him. To be fair, she apologized to me about 20 times, and I said it was fine, but Jon was not amused, and after he checked out in another line, he gave that poor cashier such a mean look!

The whole thing wasn't that big of an issue. I was probably mellow about it because Jon was pissed off and I didn't want him hurting anyone (he rarely gets mad about things to tell the truth), but I see his point. It was bad service to tell a customer to go get something they'd actually already picked up. In hindsight, it was an amusing way to start a Saturday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Hair: A Love Story

Not sure why I feel the need to share this. Maybe because it’s Friday afternoon and my attention span is about the length of a nanometer. Maybe it’s because deep down I’m sort of kind of flattered and want to have a moment of being fabulous. Then again, it’s probably because I’m an attention whore and want to make something all about me.

At the beginning of this relationship, I was young and my hair was long. We’re talking really long. When I was about 5 or 6, I believe it may have reached my butt, but it was also thick and hard to wash and brush. Not for me. I was a little girl, I didn’t wash or brush my own hair. But I apparently cried a lot and made it hard for my mom and grandma to do that particular chore.

So they chopped it. My memory is hazy, but I think it was my grandma who took me to have it hacked at the beauty salon one summer when I was visiting. I remember that for the next several years it remained this weird boy cut. Seriously? Yeah…take a chubby girl with glasses and red hair and give her a boy cut. I don’t blame anyone for this, obviously my family hadn’t mean to cause me anguish. In fact, I’m sure most of them thought it was cute (maybe), but the truth is, I look at pictures now and wonder why I’m not in therapy.

Eventually it grew out. I’ve had a few run-ins with bangs, but eventually I let it all grow to one length. In high school I tried to go sans bangs and my mom said it looked weird, so I got them back. When I realized how horrible the growing out process for bangs was, I said screw it and let them grow out again. The second time around seemed much better. In college, I went very short and fairly long. I always preferred the short look myself. When I did go long, it was up in a pony tail all the time and it was so heavy, especially after a shower, that I would get a sore neck and headaches. I guess those could have been attributed to bad posture or hours in front of the computer…but it was the hair, I tell you! The hair!

Sometime in college, I finally came to terms with being a redhead. Enough people obviously mentioned that they coveted red hair, and I was finally able to say “Okay, I actually do have something cool going on here.” It didn’t change the fact that it was a frizzy, thick mess that had absolutely no styling capability. Curling iron curls wouldn’t stay when I wanted curly hair, and when I wanted straight hair, waves and curlicues would pop up all over the place.

In the past year, this relationship between me and my hair has changed for the better. First, I’ve received more compliments on it. People seem to think it looks styled when it isn’t. What prompted this blog today was a comment by a co-worker. Not that it looks good every day, and I’m in no way fending off fan mail from people wanting autographs from me or my hair, but even one compliment a month is more than I’m used to.

I wash my hair every three or four days, sometimes less if the weather is really dry. After two days, I’ll generally do a vinegar rinse or I’ll condition it. I let it air dry no matter the weather. Sometimes I brush, but most days it’s a quick finger comb through to get out the tangles. I never get trims, I only get it cut when it’s long enough to bother me, and the past two times I’ve had it cut, I’ve just given the scissors to the fiancé and said “Do your worst.”

So it’s not the best way to take care of hair, but remember that it was never the “crowning glory” most people have. Truthfully, if someone asked me to shave my head for a good cause (like charity or winning a shortcut challenge in The Amazing Race) I wouldn’t hesitate. I don’t have a lot to work with in the looks department as is, so what difference would a bald head make. Besides, there’s a little part of me that wants to know what that would feel like, though if there’s not a good reason to do it, I really can’t justify it. I’m not a crazy wild rebel…I just know I could if I had to.

Now at 30, my hair and I have come to an understanding. If I don’t stress it out by trying to actually make it look good, it’ll generally be nice and behave. Once in awhile I’ll give it a head band or a barrette for something new, and I’ve promised to stay away from perms (though we’re still debating on highlights). We get on well enough, even if I have to break out the scissors once in awhile and the hairspray for special occasions.

Let’s hope the good times are here to stay because it’s been a long journey that I am now too old to make again.

Hy-Vee 6-Hour Sale in Manhattan, KS

If you live near a Hy-Vee grocery store, check your local ad to see if it’s having a six hour sale ( Ours is having one this Saturday from 8am to 2pm and they have some really great buys like a gallon of milk for 99 cents (limit one), ground beef pound rolls for 99 cents each (limit two), bananas for 29 cents per pound, 2 liters of Coke products for 69 cents, and deli ham for 99 cents per pound. Those are just a few of the ones I want to take advantage of.

It’s deals like this that are keeping my love affair with Hy-Vee alive and well. While this won’t be a huge shopping week for us since we have a lot of meals from last week’s meal planning, it won’t hurt to stock up on a few things to get us through and to have on hand for quick dinners.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Biggest Loser 8 - Episode 3 (w/spoilers)

When I finally got around to watching this week's TBL, two days late, I was already in a really bad mood. It was a Murphy's Law kind of night. On top of that, both my mom and my friend had some pretty strong words about one of the contestants on TBL, so I was almost wondering if this was going to be a bad idea.

The first decision the contestants got to make was whether they wanted their trainers or a 2lb advantage at the weigh in. Shay made a good point when she said that 2lbs was nothing compared to what their trainers did for them. I had to agree. But good ole Tracey jumped right over, took the 2lbs, and didn't even consult her partner. Already my friend's "crazy bitch" assessment of her was right on. For someone who'd been in the hospital for a week and was already at a disadvantage, she's not really playing with a full deck. When the trainers came in and made her feel like a dumb ass, the look on her face was pretty priceless.

Oh yeah, between my mood and her stupidity, I wanted to see her cry. Big time. She did and yes, I had satisfaction. Sort of. Just a little bit. And Bob's guilt trip was priceless. I would have loved someone to just kick her in the leg (oh my God, I really shouldn't blog these things when I'm in a bad mood).

Abby was down to pool activity due to shin splints. She had a good attitude about it and is one of the few contestants I've ever seen who has any perspective on life. Of course with what she'd been through, that's not surprising. It also put her in position to be part of Bob's Product Placement for Yoplait Yogurt. It's so good to know that anytime I'm feeling a bit sore, all I have to do is eat yogurt and life will be all happy sunshine again. TBL needs to lay off the PP moments.

At the Temptation, Allison told the teams that only one of them would be weighing in for the team, and the winner of this challenge would get to control as to who's weight would count. She threw out big words like "ULTIMATE TEMPTATION" and crazy ass Tracey was starting to scare me. The winner would be the one who ate the most 100 calorie cupcakes than anyone else. The brown lady (I don't know her name) said that having control this early in the game was not a good idea since it would put a target on their back.

Antoine of the red team had one cupcake, then Tracey started chowing down. Twenty minutes into the show and I'm ready for her to be gone. If the looks from everyone else say anything, they're ready for her to be gone too. Jillian did a little screaming afterwards, which was fun. I wanted to see more Tracey tears.

Green team won immunity (yay!) and then everyone went to Tracey to find out who she was putting on the scale and once again, she got all crazy. What is it with crazy purple people? Last season and now this one. Total nutters.

At the weigh in she said she wouldn't make the same decisions because of the stress and alienation. Mo wanted to try to support her and Jillian called bull on Tracey.

Considering that everyone had a good week 2, it was to be expected that week 3 would be crummy. Rudy on the blue team lost over 10 lbs and for someone who wants to play the game, Tracey didn't play it smart when she chose his weight to count. Common sense would have told her he's a larger male, so the chances of him pulling bigger numbers are better. When the pink team came up, Tracey chose Amanda after she said she wouldn't, which was a bitch move completely. She pulled the same crap on the orange team which put them below the yellow line.

Tracey was so clueless. She said there was nothing wrong with playing the game to stay longer, but Bob said it best earlier when he said that game players don't keep the weight off.  During her weigh in, she lost 11 pounds. Bob went to clap and stopped immediately, and no one else clapped because...big clue here...she's playing a crap game and no one likes her. This pushed the red team below the gold team. Both teams were awesome and I totally saw why my mom was so pissed off.

The red team, during their plea moment, actually said that they both have strong support systems at home while Shay doesn't. It was a very cool thing of them to do, and everyone else listened and voted them off. I hope they get to individuals quickly and boot crazy ass out of the game. I want Mo to stay though. It's not his fault he got stuck with a psycho for a partner.

The after story: Sean lost 120 lbs. Antoine lost 105 lbs and the big secret of Alexandra's crush was revealed. Okay, they make a really cute couple, I have to admit it. These guys will be fun to see at the finale.

Did my mood improve? Not so much. Maybe if someone had punched Tracey...or given me a Yoplait yogurt....things would have turned out all rosie.