Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Well folks it is time to wrap up another year and I have to say it has been a great one.  I have accomplished a lot, started a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot, laughed some more a lot and read a lot.  Since 13 is my favorite number and I am kind of sad that we have to change to 2014 I thought I would list my 13 favorite reads of this year.  Not necessarily ones that were published this year, just ones I have read and they stuck with me. I will link them to my ramblings just for fun.
1.   The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson-I set out to find a book that would creep me out and give me chills. This book did that in the most beautiful and haunting way possible, just wonderful.

2.   The Book Thief by Markus Zusak-This book was beautiful, brutal, lyrical, exhausting, sad, oh it was a bit of everything.  It was hard to get through, but worth every single word.

3.   And All the Stars by Andrea Host-This is probably my favorite read of this year.  I figured I would enjoy it since I am into Sci Fi, but I was so happily surprised at the sheer awesomeness of the writing so so happy!

4.   Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George- This refreshing take on Cinderella is the second in a trilogy and is just as good as the first. Anytime you can make Cinderella a brat and still cheer her on is a good thing.

5.   Seraphina by Rachel Hartman-I really enjoyed this almost political (for all it's dragons and magic) book about how humans and dragons try and coexist.  Lots of food for thought...

6.   Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire-I thoroughly enjoyed this book for so many reasons.  The combo of fantasy and science, the tropes that worked and the Aslien mice, great great read.

7.   The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey-A retelling of the classic ballet Swan Lake (how is that for cross art coolness) Good read, amazing cover, and awesome clothes, oh yeah and a good story too!

8.   Tooth and Claw by Jo Watson-Is it a fantasy about dragons or a historical fiction in the Austen vein...oh wait it's both!  Great book about propriety and eating ones young...no seriously it's awesome

9.   Unnatural Creatures selected by Neil Gaiman-This short story collection made it into my top 13 because almost every story was awesome and original and diverse and awesome (did I say that already?)!

10.  Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines-Ah I love this book so so so so so so so so much.  It has so many books, so many geek refrences, so many characters and good plots, love love love love love.

11.  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater-This is one of those books where the characters are worth everything.  The plot eh, each and every character SO AWESOME (I really like that word).

12.  The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey- It was so nice to read a book by this author that I have never read before.  This was one of her first and it did not disappoint...I miss her.

13.   The Candy Makers by Wendy Mass-This little yellow book which was bought on a whim and read on accident turned out to be one of the most intriguing and enjoyable books of the year.

So there you have it folks my top 13 reads of this year.  This is not to say that I did not enjoy others, just that these ones all had something a little extra special.  Can't wait to see what is on next years list!
What is on your top 13 for 2013?  Did you keep your New Years Reading Resolution?  How many books do you think I can read next year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Social Media Frenzy

Hello to all of my favorite readers, and know this if you are reading this you are indeed one of my favorite readers, for real, I promise.  In an effort to talk even MORE about books and everything related I have ventured into the world of social media, and by ventured I mean my wonder Hubbin set up and linked a bunch of accounts to various sites for me while I curled up with a good book (Thanks HUBBIN!).  So I am now on
So if you want more book stuff you can head to any of these sites.  Hopefully these will promote even more discussion, recommendations, revelations, and the sending me links to where I can more stuff I probably don't need but desperately want.  I will also be able to do quick little updates when I am off on one of my adventures, so hopefully I won't leave as many posting gaps.  Let me know what you all think of the new sites.  I am very open to suggestions for improvement and usability.
Is it weird to combine something as ancient as the written word with modern social media?  Do you use social media in your book explorations?  Am I nuts?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brains and Brawns

We all know I am an Anne McCaffrey freak and have yet to find a book of hers I do not like.  I had been stuck on her Pern and Talents and have reread every entry in these series several times over. Lately though I have been expanding into her other works.  I was trying to figure out which one I should read next...should I go for an oldie but goodie that I had read 1000 times but knew would give me what I wanted...or should I be brave and hunt down a new book.  Enter the new used book store by our house (heh heh new used) and lo and behold, sitting front and center for $2.14 was a paperback version (with the old school cover no less) of The Ship Who Sang.  Who was I to mess with the book gods, so into my basket and to the top of the reading pile it went.  I had read a couple short stories concerning these brain ships before, so I had a bit of an idea of what to expect, and it was awesome. As always SPOILERS AHEAD.
Helva was born with sever physical deformities, but a highly functional brain and in this future universe parents are given to options.  To euthanize the child as a kindness or allow her to become a shell person.  A shell person is one who's body will be stunted and ecapsulated in a titanium life support shell that is capable of being wired into a computer.  The child will then be raised to become the "brain" of a star ship, city, or any other number of things.  Since this conditioning takes place at birth, these shell children know no other life and are taught to enjoy and value the benefits of having a ship or city as a body.  Helva learns quickly, loving life in her shell and is eventually installed in a star ship.  The down side to all of this is that it is very very very expensive to raise a shell child to adulthood and the shell person must pay of their debts to the Federation. It is the goal of every brainship to clear their debt as quickly as possible and become their own master.  Once a brainship is deemed to be sufficiently trained and education they then pick a brawn.  A brawn is the "normal" human half of the team, sometimes called the mobile partner.  These brawn's are specially trained to work 
with brainships, to respect them as humans, and to work with them as equal partners.  Helva's first brawn Jennan is a bright, intelligent man who has no trouble treating Helva like a human. Jennan and Helva soar across the universe together, performing tasks for the Federation and racking up credit to erase Helva's debt.  Helva falls in love with Jennan in an oddly appropriate way...not really sure how to describe this relationship, but it works.  The two pass time and express emotion through song, making Helva the Ship Who Sings. This is used by Helva through out the book to deal with various situations. Sadly Helva's happiness is cut short when a mission goes bad and Jennan is killed in the airlock of the ship.  Helva buries her brawn and mourns him deeply.  She is then boarded by Theoda a Physiotherapist who is sent to a plague ridden planet to try and find a way to help people who have become vegetables recover.  Helva, using her heightened senses realizes that the people are not brain dead (yet) but are trapped in their own bodies, eventually leading to madness and death. Theoda surmises that with intense physical therapy the victims may recover use of there bodies.  Helva and Theoda try this on the young son of one of the hospital administrators, proving to the plague ridden world that there is hope. The planet begins recovery efforts and Helva learns that Theoda lost her family to a similar plague on a different world years ago.  They grieve and start to heal together.    Helva is given a temporary brawn by the name of Kira and it is their mission to deliver thousands and thousands of human embryos to a planet that has been left sterile by a radiation flare.  Along the way Helva learns that Kira is suicidal, wanting to die after her husband was killed.  The Federation gives Helva strict orders to stay away from certain planets where suicide is considered legal.  As they go about there mission they end up on a planet that seems to have a strange death cult.  Turns out an old brain ship who has gone mad over the death of her brawn years ago tried to fly into a volcano but got stuck out side of it.  The people of the area built a cult around the ship and have been controlled by a breathable narcotic.  Helva recognizes the ship for who it is and with Kira's assistance delivers a mercy killing to the ship.  Helva and Kira discuss the loss of Thorn (Kira's husband) and Jennan (Helva's former brawn) and the desire to no longer live with out them.  They again help each other grieve and heal and finish there mission.  After the three year mission is finished Helva she is given the task of ferrying a troop of actors to the newly discovered Beta Corvi to perform and teach Romeo and Juliet to a new form of life. One the way there is much strife as the lead actor/director is suffering from a fatal illness and the lead actress is pretty much as shrewish as they come. During rehearsals the director discovers Helva has 
an impressive acting range and casts her as the nurse in the performance. The people of Beta Corvi are essentially bags of gas that float around in an almost aquatic environment. The actors (including Helva) have their brain essentially downloaded into an empty Beta Corvi body to perform the play.  The response of the new life forms is devastating and wonderful all at the same time, with the actors brains becoming more and more Corvi like the longer they stay in these "bodies"  Eventually the director, his lover and the lead actress end up staying in there borrowed bodies on Beta Corvi, essentially allowing the actor to continue living even with his fatal disease.  Helva is tempted to stay, having finally experienced what having a real body is like, but then decides to return to her ship where she is happy.  She demands her own pick of brawns and ends up with an insufferable little prick of a man who treat Helva like she is nothing more then a sophisticated computer. After rumors of brainships dissapering with their brawns her pilot becomes paranoid that she is going to turn on him and double checks everything she does.  They are called to transport highly needed yet highly dangerous medications to various planets.  Along the way they are tricked and taken captive.  Helva is removed from her ship and deprived of her senses which starts to drive her mad.  She is given limited senses back as long as she does as she is told.  She eventually tricks her captors into giving her more power and fries them.  She and the other captured ships are rescued and she immediately dumps her crappy brawn.  She then has enough money to pay her debt and becomes a contract ship.  The Federation immediately bribes/contracts her back for a new drive and she demands that Niall, the sweet-talking supervisor (and protector of Helva throughout the book) becomes her new brawn.  He confesses that he is in love with her and is not sure if that would be good for a brawn/brain pairing.  She eventually convinces him and they sail off into the stars ready for more adventures.
The format of this book was kinda quirky in that all but the last chapter was actually a collection of short stories.  Each chapter while part of a whole timeline was its own complete story.  This made for a bit of a choppy read, but overall it was amazing as is all Ms. McCaffrey's books.  This book is unique because it is her one of her first work to be published and remained one of her favorites.  It is interesting to see the development of this amazing woman's skills from the beginning to her death.  As far as content goes, it is still amazing to me how advanced Ms. McCaffrey's thinking was, some of her ideas far outpaced what was the norm for the 60's and 70's when these stories were published.  During those times it was not uncommon for children with any sort of perceived defect, whether it be physical or mental to be institutionalized and forgotten. It was also assumed a lot of the time if you had a physical deformity then you were also slow in the brain, something we now know is not always true.  The idea to give these kids not just a life, but a life of near immortality with freedoms and respect is pretty cool.  I have read several criticisms of the premise of these stories, how the children never had a choice and that they were essentially sold into indentured servitude, which in some ways is not entirely incorrect, but I think there is more to it then that.  First of all just about any time a parent makes a decision for their children, especially health related, they are essentially altering that child's future, whether it be to pierce their ears, circumcise them, institutionalize them, heck even name them, that is what happens when you are a parent, you try and make choices that are best for your kid, and in 
these stories a life of living in the stars was a much better alternative to pretty much anything else this era had to offer.  As far as paying off their debts go, well this is probably the most plausible way for something on this scale to actually happen.  It would cost a lot of time, effort and resources on an unsure outcome...so yeah it's gonna cost somebody and the shell person arguably is the one getting the biggest bargain in the deal.  I like that the author made a point of having Helva be a person, no a brain hooked up to a computer, not a ship that was super smart, but a real flesh and blood (albeit one stunted and encased in titanium) human with emotions, wants, needs, and preferences.  I love that she is not a cold, calculating android, but a women with emotions and a need to express them through song (Anne McCaffrey's ever pervasive love of music appears in all of her books).  The conditioning that the shell people go through to accept their lot in life, the training the brawns go through to see the ship as an equal partner, not a machine to be driven, the emphasis on treating the brains as humans all points to how we need treat our own special needs friends here in the real world.  This book is among other things a call to see all humans, regardless of their form, color, shape, size, or disability as first and foremost a human.  I very much enjoyed getting into this authors earlier works and am now going to go read my whole shelf full (which is now spilling onto a second and third shelf) of her works and also I am going to go hunt down the few I don't own yet.  I give this book 8 out of 10 singing ships.
Would you choose to be encapsulated if you were born with sever deformities?  Do you think it is ok to take the choice away from a newborn infant if it is the only hope you have?  What would you sing if you could soar through the stars?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Stupid Kate

Hello all and Merry Christmas eve x 364.  I hope everybody had a wonderful and book filled Christmas, I know I certainly did.  I got spoiled rotten with B&N and Amazon gift card, bookends, Ikea gift cards (for more book shelves to put my new books and bookends on), book ornaments, book related toys, and of course new books!  Needless to say my little bookworm heart is full to the brim.  To top off my literary holiday Hubbin took me to see the second installment of the Hobbit movie trilogy based on the book The Hobbit by my buddy J.R.R. Tolkien.  I had seen the first one last year and loved it, still wasn't sure why this little book needed to be made into three movies, but hey it is gorgeous and well done so no real complaints on the first movie.  I loved the lighter feel of The Hobbit compared to the pretty dark and sometimes
depressing (yet awesome and EPIC) Lord of the Rings series in both book and movie form.  The Hobbit sets up the potential world ending doom and gloom events of the LotR trilogy in a more, hmmm I'm not sure how to put it without taking something away...I guess the Hobbit is a bit more personal, we see the beginnings of whats to come, but for the most part the quest to recover the Dwarven treasure is more about individual beings and families then it is about saving the WHOLE WORLD.  This gives a bit more room for some hope and fun.  The casting for the first movie was fairly spot on and kept to the book as much as any epic movie can (that is not to say it remained purely faithful by any stretch, just that I could actually tell what book the movie was made from.). And can I just say the Misty Mountains song is sublime!  All of this to say I was very much looking forward to the second movie in the series, I was especially excited to see the dragon Smaug as I LOVED him in the book (what can I say I'm a sucker for dragons).  And then I watched it...As always spoilers ahead.
I am not going to rehash the whole plot of this movie here, I will save that for when I reread the book, I am mostly writing this to vent, so apologies for the scatter shot writing :-)  Part of the reason for no real synopses is that most of the movie was just a string of action, lots of running and fighting and fighting and running and then more running and then some more fighting.  They pretty much took a couple chapters from the book and filled out the rest of the movie with fighting and running.  This is not to say it was not very entertaining fighting and running, but I don't think it was worth 161 minutes.  They did keep in my friend Beorn the skin-changer who can take the form of a great bear which was pretty cool, and reminded me what a great world and history Mr. Tolkien had built.  The great spiders of Mirkwood were pretty cool and I am pretty sure gave my baby sis nightmares for weeks, and it was nice to see Bilbo use his new found courage/ring to step up his game. I loved the elfking (even if he was a bit snotty for the book version) he came across very etheral and superior just like he was supposed to.  Then came stupid Kate.  So a bit of background on to who this stupid Kate is.  For some inexplicable reason the movie writers decided to add a character that is nowhere in any of the books, much less the Hobbit.  The reasoning was essentially to add a female to a male dominated cast and of course provide stupid love stories 'cause apparently you can't make a movie without a stupid love story.  To make it worse they cast Evangeline Lilly  who while gorgeous makes my teeth hurt every time I see her on screen.  This stems back to her time playing Kate on Lost.  The character of Kate was a
reckless, whiny, drama queen who's every decision seemed wrong and dumb (obviously this is all personal feeling and opinion, feel free to disagree).  Now anytime we (Hubbin and I) see or read or hear a person make a decision based on stupidity we call it a stupid Kate (see Lori in The Walking Dead tv show for example).  Now I was trying very hard to be open minded, they have strayed from the books before and it has been ok, so maybe this character would add some depth.  Nope, this character was stupid Kate all the way through.  And to make it worse they set her up to be part of a dwarf/stupid Kate/Legolas love triangle that was so unnecessary and distracting.  It also turned our beloved cool, calm, otherworldly (as written by Tolkein) Legolas into a mean, temperamental teenager.  I can see why they wanted to bring back Galadriel and Legolas, even if they were not technically in the Hobbit, they were at least around and could possibly be used in a way that served the story, but this stupid new character just did not fit in in any way and actually demeaned the story (in my most humble opinion). I don't know if this would have been any better if they had gotten a different actress, but I doubt it as her whole storyline seemed forced.  I enjoyed it much more when we were in the Lonely Mountain and hanging out with Smaug, who was the COOLEST THING EVER.  Seriously the CGI team should get major awards, the dragon was everything I wanted it to be, massive, sleek, red, fiery, toothy, gleaming, sarcastic, old, gold obsessed, just wonderful.  I was both terrified and entranced by him all at the same time.  Lake-town was fairly well done and the surprise addition of Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town made me squeal with delight. I know I am in the minority in not being overly thrilled with 2/3 of this movie, but it really felt like filler to me.  I felt like I did with several other movies and books that this does not need to be three movies long.  You could easily have cut out about 60+ minutes of the running and fighting and still have kept all the story and all of the dragon (man I love that dragon).  If you cut out the insipid love triangle you could probably give yourselves another 45+ minutes.  I guess my feelings are not as positive about this movie as compared to the first one and I bet these could have been really great if they had stuck to two movies instead of three.  I guess I will have to watch the third one next year and come back and report on the trilogy as a whole.
What did you think of the first and second movie?  Do I have unrealistic expectations of book to movie adaptions?  Am I being to hard on Kate?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Original Christmas Story

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Luke 2 (New International Version)

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas The Night Before Christmas (Now With More Books)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Aliens

I'm BAAAAACK!  Did you all miss me?  You did notice I was gone right... I had the best week ever.  Got to play with lil G, got to know baby L a bit better (they are both awesome little weirdos), got to see the WHOLE ENTIRE FAMILY and shared a hotel room with most of them.  Trekked down south to visit Mom and Dad J and continued to get spoiled absolutely rotten. Seriously best Christmas ever.  On top of all the family and the getting spoiled and the driving (so much driving!) I also finished four books and started a fifth Ahhh bliss. So get ready for many a rambling on a varied number of books.
 Since it is Christmas week I will start of with my new Christmas book, Miracles and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Williams.  It took me forever to find this years Christmas book, after last years disaster I was a bit leery.  I got this book on several recommendations and the fact that it was short stories which usually works well for me, oh and there was supposed to be a sci-fi element to some of the story's.  I started reading it all curled up on my MIL couch in my new fluffy spa robe (felt like being wrapped in a warm cloud) sipping a cup of egg nog infused coffee.  I have to tell you folks, this book was perfect.  I will start by listing some of my favorite stories.

Miracle-The title story is awesome, it references the classic Christmas movies, has an eco-friendly spirit who turns expensive dresses into leaves, a sweet and plausible love story, and just a bunch of Christmas heart.  A sweet story that perfectly walks the line between sentimental and hilarious.

Inn - This story has a completely different feel (in a good way) from the first one.  In this one a suburban soccer mom is faced with the original Christmas story in a very very real way.  Again combining a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy feel with a true Christmas story, loved every word of it.

In Coppelius's Toyshop - This story was a bit creepy and drives home the point that mean people who don't get the spirit of Christmas get what they deserve.  In this semi-horror story a grinchy single urban man gets what is coming to him when he snarls his way through the magical toy store of Dr. Coppelius.  Also I really want to visit this store!

Cat's Paw- This is the authors homage to the classic Christmas Mystery with a bit of a futuristic twist.  In our tale we have apes who act as humans, their sweet, smart and slightly naive keeper, an heir who is up to his eyeballs in debt, an animal liberation terrorist organization, a pompous detective and his assistant who just wants to get to his sisters for a country Christmas. This one is just really cool.

Newsletter- This is probably my favorite.  This is the first story I have ever read to successfully combine aliens and Christmas and still retain what makes both genre's/feelings/atmosphere so unique and special.  Somehow the author manages to tell a sci-fi story with aliens and research and conspiracy theories and STILL retain a feeling of holiday cheer, amazing!

I think what struck me most about this collection is the authors real love of Christmas.  A lot of authors in this genre tend to take a jaded and cynical look at the holidays, or completely discount the original story as impossible and absurd, but she really has a feel for it.  She successfully put out several stories spanning a ton of genre's and in each one kept to the feeling of Christmas without once getting overly sappy.  The author also obviously loves books and referenced so many amazing ones throughout her stories, some playing an important role, some just there because they are beloved books. Also her grasp on old school sci-fi movies is quit impressive. Her ability to mention Jesus and the Bible without being apologetic, but not falling into preaching territory is such a refreshing read compared to the over sanitized politically correct versions or purposefully inflammatory crap that has been out there around Christmas lately.  I understand the need to not offend...but if you don't like Christmas and all the parts that go with it, don't read Christmas books, problem solved.  Overall I loved, loved, loved this collection, I felt like it was written just for me being the Christmas loving, book adoring, sci-fi geek that I am, this hit the spot perfectly.  I recommend it for any body who loves both the tradition of Christmas and appreciates a twist on an idea.  I give it 10 out of 10 candy canes and will probably reread at least a couple of the stories every year.  Happy Reading Everybody!

What is your favorite Christmas story?  Do you like your Christmas stories in novel length or short story form?  Who would have thought combining aliens and Christmas would work so well?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Road Trip Randomness

WOOOOHOOO I AM SO EXCITED PEOPLE!!!!!!  I HAVE THE BESTEST WEEK EVER COMING UP!!!!  Whew sorry about the excessive caps but I am so EXCITED!!!!!!  I get to see everybody and I mean EVERYBODY this week.  We start with finishing our wrapping and packing tonight (along with some liquid Christmas cheer if you know what I mean, nudge nudge wink wink). Tomorrow we meet up with awesome friends K and L and co and head out for more Christmas cheer in the form of our favorite winery Cobbler Mountain Cellars which not only has the best Northern Virginia wines, but treats us like royalty, seriously if you ever get a chance stop in or look them up they are awesome.  Back home to do the most important part of packing...the books!  I have reserved two hours for this very delicate process.
 Up and at em early early early on Sunday to head to the Midwest where under one teeny tiny roof we shall gather the WHOLE clan.  Yep we will have Mamma, Daddy, Me, Hubbin, lil bro and wife, lil sis and family (including hubby, lil G and baby L), and baby sis and hubby and whoever else happens to stop by.  This is the first time the whole clan has been together since baby sis wedding years ago.  I am totally excited and a wee bit apprehensive as we tend to get very..um..loud when we are all together.  After an all to short visit we head south to visit Momma and Pappa J, the Hubbins folks.  Very excited to see them and have some quiet down time on the farm.  I haven't been to the farm in winter in forever and love the calm peacefulness it evokes.  As if all of this amazingness were not enough my sweet Hubbin goes and sweetens the deal by getting me what promises to be the coolest book ever for my trip. It is simply called S.  It is if nothing else a beautiful looking book that has an interesting and very cool sounding premise, here is what the back cover says.

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world's greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they're willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.S., conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don't understand, and it is also Abrams and Dorst's love letter to the written word.
Only my Hubbin could find a book to intrigue me this much, seriously it is all I can think about and am debating abandoning (temporarily) the books I am reading now to dive into this unique book...or I can just use the 35 hours I will be in the car and the three days at the farm to read as much as humanly possible.  Ok enough rambling.  I will probably not be doing a whole lot of posting next week.  I will try and pop up some updates when I get the chance.  Other wise be prepared for an onslaught of ramblings, updates and some holiday goodness when I get back.  Happy Reading Everybody!!!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's A Wrap

Spent last night wrapping all the Christmas presents we were not gonna buy this year.  Seriously this happens every year, we decide that we will buy gifts for the nephews and just small token gifts or gift cards for everybody else and then we go shopping.  My Hubbin and I should never be allowed to go shopping together, our tastes, sense of humor, and monetary spending habits are near identical and it is very rare for one of us to be the adult and say "maybe Suzie Q doesn't need a thousandth candle holder even if it does have cats on it", it's more like "wouldn't this be perfect for Suzie Q it has a cat on it, she loves cats" and the other person is like "Oh that is sooooo perfect it will go with the other 999 cat related items she can't actually use but we get for her anyways, lets get it".  So anyways this leads to epic marathons of wrapping...which is fine with me 'cause I think it looks so pretty under the tree.  I also like to coordinate my wrapping with the tree each year 'cause that 's how I roll so it's always fun holding out for the perfect roll of wrapping paper.  Here are some literary wrapping ideas for you to coordinate with your bookshelves :-)
Christmas Book Wrapping Paper
Sorry for the blurry pic, but go to the site and check it out. it's pretty awesome.
Penguin Classics Wrapping Paper
I love the bright colors of this paper.
Vintage Book Pages
This would also be an easy DIY project
Book Bow
You can also use pages as accents instead of the whole wrapping (that is what I did this year)
Page Runner Package
Only attempt this if you are of a Martha Stewart type...or you are keeping it for yourself :-)

Hope you all have fun wrapping your presents in these awesome book related wrappings, keeping Christmas literary...just the way it was intended ;-)

Are you a wrapper or a bagger?  Do you coordinate your gift wrapping with your decor or do you just go to town?  What do you watch/listen/ignore while doing your Christmas wrapping?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cold, Tired, Happy

So incredibly tired, but so incredibly happy.  Had duty last night and ran so many calls I literally have not even tried to go to bed yet.  It was/is literally freezing (and literally is literally my favorite word today) and we were outside in the cold all night, but still happy.  See I am happy 'cause as exhausted as I am and as sure as I am that I will probably never actually be warm again I still, I got to spend time helping people, working with people I enjoy, coming home to a Hubbin and a huge cup of coffee, and looking forward to more Christmas shopping tonight. I get to look forward to crazy family time, farm time, and just all around awesome time.
I get to continue to teach people who are eager to learn, go to birthday parties with friends, I get to read and read and read and read and read!  So am I to tired to even keep my head up, yep, am I so cold I am pathetically huddled around a space heater with multiple layers of blankets, yep, am I sore and in a fair amount of pain, yep, am I incredibly happy YEP! Happy Reading Everybody.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And A Book On Top

It is snowing, there is Christmas music on and I am sipping a peppermint mocha...it can only mean one thing TIME TO DECORATE THE TREE!  Actually mine has been decorated for a week, and I even created some snazzy book related decoration, but since my camera is being dumb you will just have to wait to see it.  In the mean time here are some perfect ways to put that finishing touch on you book tree.
DIY Starburst Topper
This topper can be quite impressive for very little work.
Sparkly Flower Topper
I love the sparkles and jewels on this one
Book Star
If you are more of a traditionalist this star may fit the bill
Woven Book Star
Seriously can somebody please make this for me?
Book Angel Wings
This could look really cool fastened to the top of your tree.

The best thing about all of these toppers is that they all come with instructions on how to do them yourself, or if your like me to give to the coordinated crafty people in your life who do not hot glue there fingers together.  Hope you have fun decorating your tree or home or small pets, send me pics!  Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Whoa Nellie!

Don't know why but I have been in full on nostalgia mode lately, everything reminds me of yesteryear and has that hazy film of softness like you see in flashbacks in movies.  Maybe it's cause my nephews are all having birthdays and making their own memories, or maybe 'cause I get to see the whole clan next week (more on that awesomeness in a later post), or maybe it's Netflix and all the old school shows and movies I used to watch as a kid, or possibly it's because of books like this Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I survived Nellie Olsen and Learned to Love Being Hated.  This is a memoir by Alison Arngrim who play Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie.  I picked this book up for many reasons, one being I love the books, to this day they still hold a place of honor on my all time favorites shelf.  Two I grew up watching the TV show and forcing my siblings and most of my friends to reneact it (with certain amendments as I saw fit of course) on a very regular basis.  Three, I have always adored the character of Nellie Olsen, I don't know if it is because I started reading so young, but I have always understood that a story is only as good as its conflict, and the main conflict in Little House tv series was Nellie.
Alison Arngrim has a fantastic tone to her writing.  She covers a lot of ground in this book, everything from her parents origins all the way to the present day.  She is the daughter of a formerly closeted gay stage actor and a glamorous character voice actress, who roles included the voice of Gumby...yep that creepy green claymation dude.  Alison also has an older brother who was a brooding child actor who never really got it all together. Ms. Arngrim takes us through her young years, growing up and moving around constantly.  Landing the role of Nellie Olsen on the TV series, her amazing friendship with Melissa Gilbert who played Laura Ingalls and all of the funny, frustrating, sad and silly stories of what it is like growing up on a television show.  She talks about how playing a hated bratty villian forced her to come out of her shell and taught her how to deal with other people.  The role gave her the freedom to not have to constantly portray the idea of a sweet tractable girl as so many others had to do during that time period.  Alison seems to be able to find the humor in almost any situation and seems to recall the feelings of witnessing all kinds of events and scenarios as a child, comparing and contrasting how she felt then with the knowledge and understanding of a child, with what she knows now as an adult.  She also does not shy away from hard issues.  She tells us early on that she was horribly abused by her brother, and could not ever get anybody to believe her.  This spurs her on in adult hood to try and promote the striking down of laws and loopholes that are written into most state legislation that actually use incest as a way to LESSEN the penelties given to a sex offender.  Yep if the
molestation is done in the context of incest is was considered a lesser crime then if some child was molested by a stranger...seriously no words.  This was on the books in California and was vehemently defended until 2005!!!!! This only changed when Ms. Arngrim was brave enough to go on national television and tell her story and essentially shame the legislators into changing the law.  She also does a lot of work with various AIDS groups.  She has lost dear friends to the disease and works on promoting knowledge, care and help for people suffering and the general public to become more informed.  She is married to a fellow AIDS volunteer and at there wedding everybody wore tuxedos, bare feet and black toenail polish, how awesome is that.  She embraces her most famous role as the bratty Nellie Olsen, allowing fans to talk, scream, yell, cry or whatever at her, all in the name of defending there heroine Laura Ingalls.  Alison has turned all the bizzarness surrounding peoples reactions to her into a stand up comic show that does quit well.  All in all she seems to be a trooper who knows how to take hard situations and turn them into a way to make life better for herself and others.
I really enjoyed reading this book, it went by pretty quickly the pacing is spot on.  She spends about 2/3 of the book talking about her Little House years, which is what people want to hear about.  There is a good mix of on set stories, personal information, facts, feelings, assumptions and a fair amount of well placed profanity.  To me the mark of a well written memoir or biography is one where I would like to meet the person after I
have finished reading it.  After this book I want to invite Alsion Arngrim over for a couple bottles of wine and a slumber party :-)  This brought back some happy memories, and reminded me that no matter how good or bad the past was, the only good option is to move forward. I would recommend this book to anybody who has ever seen even one episode of Little House on the Prairie, needs a good laugh, wants a child actors insiders perspective on Hollywood, or is interested in activism...and doesn't mind a bit of swearing. I give this book 8 out of 10 horse and buggies.
What type of memoir/biographies do you like to read? Does learning about your favorite character as an actor make the character better or worse for you? How weird is it to read a book about a tv show about a book?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Everything Is Catching Fire

Hubbin took me to the movie Catching Fire last weekend, based on the book of the same name and second in the Hunger Game series. The main thing I took away from this film is that the director took the title very seriously and pretty much set everything on fire.  Clothes, trees, people, villages, food, whatever it was all on fire.  But lets get to the good stuff shall we, the big question is always how did it compare to the book.  This was an interesting one for several reasons.  One I was not a huge fan of the second half of the book, so my caring level for the movie was already at a lower threshold then for the first one.  Second, this movie had a much bigger and flashier budget then the first movie did so instantly the costumes, sets, and effects were already better.  Keeping both of those things in mind here is how I felt about the movie compared to the book.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD! Also I am going to assume you have either read the book and/or watched the movie and not spell out the plot.
As far as the Hunger Games trilogy was concerned I always wanted to combine the first half of Catching Fire with the second half of the third book Mockingjay to make a perfect book.  I felt the second half of Catching Fire as a book kinda was an excuse to have another Hunger Games and it felt like a recycled idea.  The first half however, dealing with the aftermath of the games and the realization that there was never going to be an end, that even as winners they were the Capitals playthings until they died was pretty heavy and awesome.  The movie I felt went a bit further away from the book then the first one did, focusing on President Snow (I love you Donald Sutherland!) and his need to keep any and all possible dissension controlled. The movie
rolled through a lot of stuff pretty quickly, the victory tour, Peeta and Katniss being weird with there partially pretend romance, Haymitches excessive drinking, and the crackdown on District 12.  This all was explored pretty thoroughly in the book and was shown in pretty quick succession in the movie. What I thought they did really well was show Katniss trying to quell the rebellion by following President Snow's orders, she was never trying to incite rebellion, she was simply trying to stay alive and after the games keep her loved ones safe.  I liked the progression the movie showed of her realizing how much danger her family was in, how hard she tried to "behave" and then finally realizing nothing she did would ever be enough so she may as well fight back. I felt that they glossed over the whole Peeta and Katniss love/fake love/maybe not fake love story, which normally I am all for 'cause I am not a huge romance fan, but in the book the added tension of these two trying to survive in close quarters while this huge thing hangs there was kind of great and added some dimension to the typical teenage love story.  In the movie it was all resolved in the first 20 minutes with a quick chat and then poof all better blah!  I actually liked how they did the Quarter Quell better in the movie, with it seeming to be more obvious that the President was using the games as a means to eliminate all the victors, while in the book it seemed like a happy coincidence that the old founders of the game wrote up this version of the game long before President Snow needed to rid his country of the victors.  I wish we had gotten to see more of the other
victors in the movie.  In the book they studied old videos of the various victors to try and figure out there strengths and weaknesses and we learn some surprising things about various people. At the Capitol in the book there is also a lot more conversation on how the victors are used and abused.  Finnik especially is blunt about what the victors have to do to survive post-games.  We get a bit of that in the movie but not nearly as dark and heavy as in the book.  Also can I just say I am not a Jenna Malone fan and it sadly ruined the character of Johanna for me, which is sad 'cause I liked her bitchy only helping 'cause I've got nothing left attitude in the book.  The casting for everybody else was very well done and I am still in love with Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman...seriously if they made a spin-off with him I would watch it every day.  The costumes were stunning, the makeup surreal, the sets fantastic, special effects well done and the camera work motion sick inducing...seriously they kept zooming in on weird things, I think I saw Katniss's left nostril at least three times.  Overall I enjoyed it, it kept completely to the plot of the book, adding a bit here, leaving out a bit there but nothing to change the basic story.  I hear they are going to make Mockingjay into a two parter (groan) so we shall see how that goes, probably more running around and angst.  I would recommend this movie to anybody who read the books and/or watched and enjoyed the first movie.  We have a couple more book inspired movies coming out so I shall watch them and post on them later.  Happy Reading Everybody!
Do you find that you lose all the tension when you watch a movie that you already know the outcome?  How important is casting to a movie made from a book?  Do I spend way to much energy on a simple pop film?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Coffee Contemplation

I love coffee, I love coffee, I love it so much that I am over here singing out loud about coffee as my co-workers look over to make sure that I am ok...so maybe I will quit singing about coffee quit so loudly. As you have read before books play a significant role in my own personal history, but what you may not know is I have been drinking coffee for as long as I have been reading books...in fact I may have been holding a cup as I learned to read...(I see it's gonna be an ellipse day...).  My Mamma grew up on a farm and in her house they got a cup of  coffee did chores and then came in for breakfast so she did not see anything wrong with giving her oldest daughter coffee at a fairly young age.  The other thing was my Mamma likes her coffee
wussy, sweet, and creamy so there was none of the bitterness that kids usually don't like.  Fast forward to the present and I now drink my coffee with the consistency of mud, the strength of battery acid, and nothing but a little cream to balance it out.  For that I blame my Daddy.  As the other adult in the house, not to mention one of the medical profession (ER docs for the win!) you would think that he would have nipped that coffee obsession in his way to young (according to those pesky so called health experts) daughter in the bud, but nope, he not only did not stop me, but he cultivated my taste for REAL coffee, not that flavored water stuff my dearest Mamma drinks.  Coffee plays a role in just about every memory I have, way back when I was younger I remember huddling over the heater grate with a blanket, a cup of coffee in my country blue plastic mug and my newest library book.  As I got older coffee became a family thing with a pot made by Daddy for breakfast every morning (Mamma watered hers down) making it possible for us to get out the door without killing each other.  I graduated to espresso drinks (Hey I'm a Seattle girl down to my coffee soaked bones) being the only 7 year old I know who would spend her allowance money on coffee.  Going to school in Seattle had it's perks because every high school had a coffee shop on campus, for real, I am not even joking, so that we could all get our fix before hitting class...I spent many hours discovering many books I was not supposed to read in those little coffee shops.  Moving to Montana for my Jr and Sr year made coffee all that much more important, which of course when my Daddy realized that all that coffee may not be the healthiest thing in the world and declared it of limits for the kids.  That is when I realized what an addiction is, seriously my grades dropped, I was an evil wench troll, I had major headaches, I felt horrible, I didn't even want to read and not just for a day or two either.  After that experience I never asked anybody why they couldn't just quit something like smoking 'cause there is no such thing as JUST QUITTING!  Needles to say Daddy quickly allowed me my coffee again, focusing on my younger sibs who were not quit as addicted as I was.  College years were rough on me, I was trying to do it all on my own, rent, work, school, theatre, friends, boyfriend, family, a lot going on and sometimes I just couldn't keep it together.  I knew though no matter how tough it was I could always run home for a cup of coffee.  I remember a particularly bad day...week...month, it
doesn't matter, all I know is I came through my parents front door, my Daddy took one look at me, handed me a cup of coffee, a special cookie, sent me up to my Mamma and promised to bring refills.  The best part about this memory is the love and comfort I got, I don't even remember what was wrong. Then the worlds best invention ever came along Barnes and Nobles and the rise of the book cafe.  Visiting for the first time was like a dream, I had to pinch myself, there were books, so many books, and coffee, so much coffee and I was encouraged to drink the coffee while reading books...I was never going to leave.  Life moved on and I met the guy who eventually become Hubbin and I knew he was awesome because he kept suggesting Barnes and Noble as a date place, and he would stay there with me for hours!  Seriously we thought about inviting the workers to our wedding we spent so much time there.  Eventually I moved away from my precious family, embarking on new adventures, but before we left my Daddy pulled (eventual) Hubbin aside and showed him the secret to happily living with me, and that was to make sure I had a cup of coffee before I ever got out of bed.  I am happy to report that I am the happy girl who has rarely been without a cup of coffee within minutes of
opening my eyes.  The funny thing is that Hubbin is now addicted.  Now that we are all scattered across the country I find my coffee time even more important, every time I sit down at a Barnes and Noble and sip my coffee while flipping through a book I feel connected to my Mamma, every time a sibling visits we start with a cup of coffee, every time I smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee I feel like my Daddy is giving me a hug, when Hubbins family visits I impress his brother with my ability to find coffee ANYWHERE!  So yep coffee, books, and a few minutes to escape is all I need to be a happy girl!
Did you think it was possible for me to love anything as much as books?  What is your alternate addiction (other then books of course)?  How does one get a job drinking coffee and reading books?