31 May 2008
I got an Early Review copy from LibraryThing. Well, I won a copy and should receive it shortly. I am super excited and intend to read it as soon as I get it. The book is On a Day Like This by Peter Stamm.
28 May 2008
As The Subtle Knife ended darkly, this one starts out grim. Lyra, our heroine, is lying in a drugged sleep. Her mother, Mrs. Coulter, has kidnapped her and they are hiding in a cave. Will is searching for Lyra with the help of angels and the Iorek, king of the ice bears. When they find each other, they must journey to the land of the dead. Everyone is trying to get the pair, the Authority in Lyra's world, Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter. We get battles, ghosts, angels both good an evil, more Dust, love. Evil characters redeem themselves and characters die fighting for their beliefs.
Now I am going to say something I hadn't expected to say so soon. I like these better than Harry Potter. Please don't hurt me. I love Harry, and his world, and the last books were so mature. But I feel like the His Dark Materials series is stronger and deeper. You could pluck any of Pullman's side characters and I want to know about them. With the exception of The Marauders, I don't feel the same about Rowling's secondary characters. Lyra and Will are more grown up at 12 or 13 than Harry and Ron and Hermione are until close to the end of book 7, when they are 17 and 18.
I definitely want to read these books again in a few months.
27 May 2008
I really liked her previous two, Stiff and Spook, and I think this one is as good. They are all relatively short books and informative. It sounds stupid to say "it really makes you think" but Roach's books do make you think. She's made us think about what happens to your body when you die, about the scientific basis for the afterlife, about our hangups and prejudices about sex. I can't wait to find out what she wants us to think about next.
25 May 2008
I went with R to the Renaissance Festival Saturday. It was a good day all around. No sunburn, yummy turkey leg, beer, kettle corn and lots of entertainment. R posted pics on his flickr page so I am showing them off! Click on any to see!
The joust referee.
Friday night we went to see Indiana Jones. We both liked it and I can see why it was number one this weekend since at least 3 showings on Friday were sold out. I liked it ok but it really could have been SO MUCH BETTER. Even with the same story, just adjusting what the characters said and did would have really improved it. I loved Marion for the first 10 minutes or so she was on screen but then she didn't have anything to do but make googley eyes at Indy. Just giving her a little more to do and say would have helped. I liked Mutt well enough though the whole swinging vine scene with the monkeys was way too much of a play for the kids.
I really liked the whole opening sequence. The secret warehouse in Area 51 and nuclear test were great. But why have the CIA guys hassle Indy if the movie isn't going to do anything with that? If they just wanted to fill us in on what he did in WWII and after it could have been handled better. I really thought Indy was going to be fighting against the US government and the Russians based on that scene. After that beginning though they really did tone down the violence. In Raiders we get melting faces and the suggestion of torture, in Temple of Doom we get hearts pulled from chests and child slavery. Even in Last Crusade the we get multi-generational sex and book burning. In Skull we get Russians who turn into dust as they get sucked into an inter-dimensional portal. woo hoo.
Lastly, if they wanted to set a movie in Meso-America, why not have Indy facing the Nazis hiding out in South America? Weren't there some dictators down there at that time? We could have had a movie more like Temple of Doom with Indy involved in some local problem and saves Bolivia or Nicaragua.
So Ren Fest gets a 7 and Indy a 4.
22 May 2008
But yesterday, due to getting an extra 3 hours off work, I read Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. It is outstanding. I can pretty much guarantee any 440 page book I power through in one day i enjoy. The premise is that in 1953 a serial killer targets children. Normal, right? But this one takes place in the USSR, where there is no crime but state crime. So the murders are explained away as accidents, as one crazy person, as homosexual mania in their individual cases and there is no nationwide system to even discover the connections. Leo, our hero, starts as a MGB agent who investigates (if you can even call it that) people accused of being traitors. He falls from grace and then attempts to redeem himself by solving these crimes. While there are several poignant scenes where the murderer lures the children to their deaths, this book destroys the formula. It isn't so much about the murders but about life in Stalinist Russia. The paranoia, the oppression, the want and lack of personal control are far more scary than the crimes. I can imagine an America where liberals are arrested for speaking out against something (because my mind can't always run in the optimistic mode) but I can't imagine one in which my parents or brothers would be arrested or punished for my doings. I give this one a 6 and hope the author continues to write about this culture.
This morning I finished up Takeover by Charlie Savage. A completely different sort of book, it frames the Bush presidency and the decisions made over the last 7 years as based on a consistent policy of expanding presidential power. This policy is based on the Unitary Executive Theory. It basically says the president should have total control over everything in the executive branch and that is was unconstitutional for Congress to pass anything that would influence executive control. This theory, if applied, would mean that nothing in the executive branch could be apolitical or independent. If the president wants a lawyer to prosecute someone for something and he doesn't, the lawyer can be fired. If the president doesn't agree with the findings of a scientific report, he can ignore them.
When viewing Bush's term in this manner, so much makes sense. The signing statements, the purges of departments, the hiring of cronies all align with this theory. For giving me a coherent way to view Bush's bullshit, I give it a 6.
20 May 2008
There is so much information in this book. He lists several websites for more resources; I'll list a few here to spread the word!
Find Good Food--great general resource about eating local, recipes, even tells you what's in season when!
Eat Wild--finding grass fed meat and wild veggies.
Local Harvest--find farmer's markets, local farms, CSAs, even strange stuff like alpaca yarn!
PS I get up at 4:30 on workdays though, so i am always going to snag cereal, or a muffin, or a bagel for breakfast.
18 May 2008
I need to get this post up! when I first read the blurb at Weekly Geeks I thought "I'll do the dumbing down of America" but now 2 people have done that. Then I thought "I could write about local food or going green" but now there are two of those posts as well!
"Put down Catholic," I said, wanting to preempt the lecture and figuring if I did die in surgery my mother would feel better knowing I had the last rites.
I really have to thank Dewey for framing this theme this way. It made me figure out how to add picture in particular places! So since I now know how to do this, here's a bit of Tennessee for everyone!
15 May 2008
Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….
Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals?
Anything at all?
Big complicated gadget that I don't know about: heavy skim. I won't read cover to cover but I will keep it around to make sure I know what I'm doing. If i get something i already know how to use like a camera I wouldn't read it at all probably. I do read furniture instructions usually.
How to books: really only cooking books on any kind of regular basis. I know I've read a few dog training books, books on scrapbooking and photography but i don't really practice my other hobbies much so i don't read those a lot.
Self-help: hmm. I am trying to read books on depression. The problem is I really can't get to into them because reading about the symptoms, the automatic thoughts, etc, makes me start thinking my own bad thoughts and I have to put it down. Same for the couple of relationship types books I have attempted. I read the little example stories of people/patients and I think about how bad off these people are and how I have no right to feel bad. Which makes me feel bad. It is rough.
14 May 2008
So here's a random list of things I do remember loving very much and reading multiple times. Yes, I was a strange kid. I know I am forgetting a ton of books that i probably loved.
The Westing Game by Ellen Rankin, The Shining and The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg, some greek mythology book with intricate illustrations and was half non-fiction history and half the stories of the various gods, the Scary Stories Series, the Lone Wolf series (a game book like the choose your own adventure books but with hit points), the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Reading some of the other Geek posts, i have decided i need to use more pictures on my blog. Expect more color as soon as i figure out how to put a picture in, not just at the top of the post.
13 May 2008
01-10-skipping, I've read The Plot Against America
11-20-Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd
21-30-The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
31-40-Youth by JM Coetzee
41-50-Don't Move by Margaret Mazzantini
51-60-Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace
61-70-skipping, read House of Leaves
71-80- Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson, also on my TBR challenge.
81-90-Amsterdam by Ian Mcewan
91-100- skipping, read Memoirs of a Geisha
Speaking of the 1001 list, I finished Foundation by Isaac Asimov yesterday. Also a book on my TBR challenge. This makes the fourth I've read by the author. Caves of Steel and Naked Sun were both murder mysteries and I, Robot and Foundation are more a series of short stories that are linked. I really liked Foundation. In a weird way it reminded my of heist/con movies, like the Ocean's series or Confidence. We see certain events but aren't given enough to figure out exactly what is happening until we get the "gotcha" moment when the plan comes together. The characters know much more than the reader and we don't really see into their heads. It works well though. The Foundation starts out as a way for a brilliant scientist to get a large group of people out to the far reaches of space in order to begin an Encyclopedia (woohoo Hitchhiker's guide) of human knowledge. His name is Hari Seldon and he is a psychohistorian. There's math involved too as he is able to predict out various crises that his group will face and sets up things that allow the group to solve them. My synopsis isn't making too much sense; the book explains it much better over a chapter or two. This is a 5 and I'll definitely pick up the next one in the series sometime!
So I will close off this post with a quote. I never put in quotes from books in their own review at least but this one stood out by its repetition as well as being very applicable to current events.
"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"
11 May 2008
Speaking of V for Vendetta, R and I were headed to Noshville for breakfast (though as we slept late it was about 11 and we both felt like lunch when we got there. I had the best roast beef sandwich and they have incredible coffee too.) and saw a few teenagers walking downtown, one of whom had on a Guy Fawkes mask! R of course had to cheer at them and the kids waved back. Had a really good weekend with R in general, which makes me feel good. :)
Finished up Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis yesterday evening. It is a short little sci-fi book published in 1938. I liked it well enough. It is a solid first book in what i think is a trilogy. Two Englishmen, Weston and Devine, build a spaceship and kidnap a third, Ransom, to present to the natives of Mars. Ransom runs off, meets the locals and learns their language and customs. There are three different sentient beings on Mars: Seroni, who are tall and slender, the Hrossa, who seem to be a sort of bear-seal, and the Pfifltriggi, which are frog-ish gnomes. Ransom is told by an eldil, a sort of angel/spirit, that he must meet with the Oyarsa, who is sort of the god of the planet. So he does, we get more bad impressions of Weston and Devine, and then Earth trio get sent home. The theme that runs through the book is how Earth, and men, are bent or fallen. The Oyarsa of Earth became evil and that is why men are what they are. These are spiritual aspects which i am beginning to believe must carry over through all of Lewis' work. Do I see it because I am aware of it? If I didn't know about CS Lewis' religion I do think I would have seen it in the Narnia books. This one is a 5 i think.
07 May 2008
By heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare
Any guesses what it's from?
Soooo, speaking of progressive non-fiction, i finished George Lakoff's Whose Freedom this morning at work. It is a 7. It discusses the differences between what liberals and conservatives are saying when we speak of freedom. At only 266 pages, not counting the suggested reading and endnotes, it manages to perfectly articulate the progressive mindset. It shows what we think and outlines the base framework as to WHY we think what we do. In short: progressives/liberals believe in a nurturant parent model for the family, the basis of which is empathy, and apply this model to their political decisions. We also have a more innate grasp of big pictures, systemic causation and complex systems. The book also breaks down conservative thought, which is based on the strict father model. In this model the father is the boss, must be obeyed and must protect the family himself. This model is an "every family/person for themselves" type, which gives credence only to direct causation and discounts complex causes.
The second section of the book describes how Republicans specifically and evangelical conservatives have applied their models to the country. It gives a wonderful breakdown of the Bush presidency's decisions and how they work with the model. It really gives great explanations as to why conservatives are threatened by homosexuality, evolution, science in general, and non-Christian religion (or no religion).
I cannot recommend this one more highly. If you are liberal it is a great way to be able to explain your own mind to others. If you are conservative but concerned about the way the country is going this book walks you through why you may be more supportive of progressive policies if you view them in a "big picture" way.
I've also read Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant by this author. Moral Politics is more scholarly and longer but still good, while Elephant is more about changing the debate and setting up progressive frames to replace conservative ones.
On another note, signed up for another challenge. This is the 1% Well-Read Challenge. The idea is to get through 10 of the 1001 Books list by end of February, 2009. No list for this one either, i am just going to wing it. I am working, though not too diligently, on the list and am at 81. WooHoo!
05 May 2008
Going to catch Speed Racer on IMAX Friday night.
03 May 2008
01 May 2008
On the surface this could be just a fun, cool movie about kids making music. It is truly so much deeper. It is one thing to read the statistics about girls' self image and another to see a girl, maybe 10 years old, who is literally afraid to scream, to be loud. To hear the 15-yr old talk about how much she hates herself. To hear the 7-yr old's really dark lyrics or how sad the 8-yr old is because she's shunned at school. We get to see them change, open up and become free to be themselves. By the end the 8 yr old makes friends, the 15 yr old is ecstatic "I'm interesting! I'm amazing!" and I just cried. I hope these girls hang onto the experience when they go back home, that they use those memories to boost themselves up going forward.
So this is a 7. I recommend it to everyone but especially to anyone who has a daughter, no matter the age. My niece is just 3 and i am going to get this one for her parents at Christmas. As the group has a camp in Murfreesboro, just 20-odd miles south of Nashville, I also sent all the camp info to my mom and little sister, who's 13. It really looks like an incredible experience.