Friday, February 28, 2014

One Last Bit Of Winter Fun

Well folks today is the last day of February.  I have just finished reading my winter books and am ready and eager to move on to my spring books.  But before we trade the snow and ice for rain and flowers here are a couple of winter wonderland tidbits to remind you that winter is not so bad.
Book Snowman
How cute is he?!?
Book Page Snowflakes
What a great idea for next year
Book Snow Sculpture 
An alternate to the traditional Snowman
Snowlady With a Book
Book Sweaters 
So your books don't get cold during your winter reading.

See winter isn't that bad, in fact it is kind of fun to have an excuse to curl up with blankie, a cup of coffee, and a great book for hours on end.  Happy last of winter reading everybody!

Are you scrambling to finish up your winter books?  Are you ready for spring?  Am I the only one who now has the urge to come up with a whole wardrobe for my books?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Traffic Jam

I have a confession to make...sometimes I don't hate traffic.  Seriously it is were I get some of my best reading done (not while I am driving of course). On our daily commute my sweet Hubbin gets stuck with the driving, while I curl up with my morning coffee and a book.
Some days it is the only reading time that I have.  So when the roads look like this.
As they did this morning, I just consider it a gift from the reading gods and try not to waste the precious reading time.  Hubbin on the other hand probably doesn't feel the same way I do :-)  Happy Reading Everybody!
Can you read in a car or does it make you sick?  Do you find yourself taking alternate transportation so you don't have to drive, so you can read?  How is traffic in your area?  Am I mean to make Hubbin drive while I read?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Carrot Juice Zombie Infection

Hi Everybody (Hi Dr. Nick), sorry a bit of Simpsons humor, couldn't help myself.  How is everybody on this fine snowy morning?  Everybody got a big cup of hot coffee?  Everybody got there big fluffy blankies? Everybody got their ax in case of a snowy zombie attack? Oh...I'm being told it wasn't actually a zombie attack this morning, just a bunch of idiots who can't drive in the snow...well zombies are way more fun so lets talk about those instead.  Undead by Kirsty McKay is a YA book about zombies read because it was handed to me by my Hubbin who said "this looks cool, you should read it and tell me what happens", so I did.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD.
Bobby has it rough, she is a British native who was moved to the US because of her mothers job and then back to the UK for the same reason, this gives her a weird American/British combo slang accent that apparently is the basis for her having no friends.  Her concerned mother has sent her on a school skiing trip in Scotland to try and help her make some friends. This backfires and Bobby spends most of the trip being teased or ignored.  They are finally on their way back and have stopped at some little cafe in the middle of nowhere for lunch.  Bobby decides she has had enough of the teasing and stays on the bus while the others go in and eat.  Smitty a rebel without a cause is also staying on the bus as his bad boy attitude has gotten him in trouble. Their teacher goes into the cafe to get Smitty some food.  Bobby meanwhile needs to pee...bad, which we all know is one of the worst feelings in the world, she does not want to face her fellow students so she attempts to use the bus bathroom, but is informed by the bus driver that it is not usable when the bus is turned off. Bobby notes a poor guy in a giant carrot suit passing out samples of some veggie carrot juice to all of the kids and teachers.  All of a sudden the bus is hit from behind and the driver goes out to see what happened.  Meanwhile one of Bobby and Smitty's classmates, the popular Alice comes screaming out of the cafe, yelling that they are all dead and generally being incoherent.  As they look around they see the teacher that went to get Smitty food come out all slathering, hungry, and gross.  The kids barricade themselves in the bus until Smitty realizes that the driver has yet to come back.  Alice stays in the bus while Bobby and Smitty go drag him in, noting what looks like a bite mark on his arm.  Chaos ensues and the trio along with the
unconscious bus driver end up at a near by gas station where Bobby finally gets a chance to pee.  They meet up with the pale and geeky Pete who has been hiding in the bathroom, and the unsavory Gareth who is the local gas attendant.  More chaos and more zombies and the gas station ends up in flames, incinerating a good portion of the undead.  Gareth runs away with the only laptop and the kids discover that their cellphones don't work.  They head back to the cafe where the bus driver turns and more chaos.  They hunker down and do their best to barricade themselves in the cafe.  Bobby passes out from hunger, which while embarrassing is the sign for them to go find food.  being that they are in a cafe it should be pretty easy, the only problem is they don't know what it is that turned all of their classmates, teachers, and cafe workers into zombies.  Eventually they puzzle out that it was the carrot juice samples and tuck into their sandwiches.  They hood up with Lily and her 3 year old brother Cam who lost their mother to the carrot juice zombie infection.  They find a castle and break in, hunkering down for the night.  The next day as they are exploring they find what looks like cells, with a headless body in one of them and a locked tower.  The current occupants of the castle come home turn out to be not very nice, they make prisoners of the kids and continue with their plans. Lily reveals that she found the tower key and they withhold the information from their captors who are desperate to find it.  More chaos (are you sensing a theme yet) and little Cam turns into a toddler zombie who promptly turns his sister.  The rest of the crew make it up to the tower and watch the very convenient destruction of their captors.  They go through all of the papers and realize that the company responsible for this zombie menace is the same one Bobby's mom works for.  We also find out that Bobby's dad has recently died of cancer and that she has never had a good relationship with her mom.  So very conveniently Bobby's phone starts working and her mom calls to tell her where to find the antidote and how to escape and bring it to her.  Bobby and company escape and trudge across the ice, being chased by zombies to a little island.  They make Bobby's mom tell them what the heck is going on.  Apparently the zombie disease has been popping up in isolated instances all over the world and Bobby's mother's company was hired to find a cure.   Unfortunately human greed jumped into the mix and the rest of the team sold the engineered disease to some baddies who want to use it as a weapon.  The company itself was actually using the cafe and the carrot juice as a controlled test and have plans to wipe out the whole area once the test has been completed.  They try to escape, but Smitty goes through the ice and is bitten by underwater ice dwelling zombies.   Luckily Bobby uses the cure (that could save all of humanity) on Smitty and hopefully that cures him.  They flag down a school bus that is also returning from a school trip and hitch a ride.  As she drifts off to sleep, Bobby see's a carton of the zombie carrot juice...and it is empty.  The book ends with her screaming that they all need to get off the bus.
Eh, the book was ok.  It kind of felt like on of those movies on Disney or Lifetime that you don't look for, but since their on and the remote control is on the other side of the couch you may as well finish it.  I think the book was going for a snarky/comic feel, on review compared it to Shaun of the Dead (such an awesome movie), but I don't think it quite made it there.  The characters were all stock characters, slightly exaggerated, I think the author was trying to use them as satire, or parody, but she did not go far enough.  The situations were uneven and were resolved either in a cliche way or by some randomly convenient event.  The story itself was very straight forward zombie apocalypse, which sometimes worked really well, and sometimes just felt boggy.   The ending made it very clear that there was a sequel coming, so of course very little resolution was presented.  On the plus side, the author did a good job addressing things I always
wonder about in these kinds of having to pee, you almost never see or read about our hero's using the bathroom, but seriously when you gotta go, you gotta go.  One of the main things I teach my recruits at the fire station is that if you have to use the bathroom, especially in the middle of the night, don't wait 'cause their is nothing worse then doing CPR with a full bladder.  Things like eating, peeing, clothes getting sweaty and gross, hair and make going to heck, all of these things that we would have to deal with in real life usually get glossed over, but are addressed in this book.  I also loved that the three year old cutie was the requisite person to turn. In these situations somebody in the main group ALWAYS ends up a zombie and I love that she made it the kid. I also love that the disease was handed out as juice samples by a giant carrot.  I understand what the author was going for in this book, I think she was trying to make teenage zombie book in the vein of a parody, but the execution was not effective.  It comes across as mushy, predictable and a wee bit annoying.  Also the blurb and back of the book description are not at all an accurate representation of whats in the book, nor is the front cover.  Overall I think I may have actually liked this better as a cheesy Syfy channel movie and I give it 4 out of 10 zombie infected carrot juices.
What is the best vector for a zombie infection?  How would you feel if you found out your mother was working for a zombie company?  How horrible would it be if they infected the coffee supply?!?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Books And Burlesque

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY SIS!!!!!!  My baby sis and her sweet husband came down for the weekend to celebrate her birthday, as an added bonus our brother also showed up to surprise her, fun was had by all.  Later we ditched the boys to head out to the Sax Lounge where we were not only treated like royalty but were privy to the clubs in house burlesque shows as well. I love burlesque, mostly 'cause of the musical Gypsy.  I love the old school sexy, but not completely slutty feel to it, I like that it is a bit more of a show and dance then a strict strip joint kind of deal, also you rarely actually see the naughty bits, just the idea of them. So in honor of that wonderful evening her are some books about the famous Gypsy Rose Lee for you to read and partake in the love of all things burlesque.
Gypsy: A Memoir
Gypsy Rose Lees take on her life

The G-String Murders
A mystery novel written by Gypsy Rose Lee
Mamma Rose's Turn
A biography of Gypsy's mother, who had a substantial influence on her life
Early Havoc
A memoir by Gypsy's sister June, telling a different side of the story
A book version of the famous and most wonderful musical

Hopefully that will give you a well rounded insight into the world of vaudville, burlesque and marathon dancing, with a healthy dose of drama and humor, enjoy.  
On a side note I have an interview in the middle of nowhere tomorrow so I may not get a post up, or it may be late, so you have been warned.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Then VS Now

As I continue my nostalgia kick, I have noticed an interesting change in how I read these cherished nuggets from my past.  As I read them I have started picking up on things that went completely over my head when I was younger (the hazards of having a reading comprehension level apx 8 years more then my actual age) or I notice subtleties that probably never occurred to me at age 7.  It makes for a very interesting reread experience.  I am not talking about my beloved classics that I read once a year, as much as I love and adore them my Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, and Lord of the Rings, they get read so often that I have grown up with them and my opinion and what I get from them is pretty much set in stone.  No I am talking about the books and series that I devoured and loved as a kid, forgot or put aside as I grew older
and am just now picking them back up.  Some stand the test of time like Peppermints in the Parlor which while a bit simpler then I remember is still a solid story that I would recommend to any young reader.  Others like the SVH series are just so atrocious on what it teaches impressionable young girls that I could not in good conscious recommend it to anybody under the age of 21.  I find it interesting to see what bugs me now that never bugged me before, certain attitudes and especially relationships drive me bananas.  I was never an overly romantic teen, I was fairly pragmatic about boys (and girls) and knew full well that fairy tale loves were just that, fairy tales.  That being said, I still did not see a problem with most of the relationships I read about, especially in YA books, now when I go back and read them I see the same problem I still see today, a controlling boy who is just doing "what is best" for his girl, and the girl, who even if she is supposed to be strong, falls for this overprotective oaf, thank God my Daddy taught me better then that.  I also see a lot of social, racial, and just moral issues that seemed to have been glossed over or accepted in some of these older books, that while I may not have agreed with them as a youngster, I accepted them in the course of the story.  Now of course I take to my blog in outrage over these things.  Of course it is really hard to get over the nostalgia factor, as much as I kind of hated rereading Double Love SVH or rolled my eyes over my recent skimming of one of the BSC books, I can't help but be transported back to when and where I was when I was reading these books.  They also had the added bonus of being written at the pace of about a dozen a year, and at the rate I was reading, this helped keep my voracious appetite for books under control.  I also have to consider that the source of most of my books was my local library which did not get in books at the rate of your friendly neighborhood bookstore.  Growing up with very little money, the library was my source for most things literary (with a healthy injection from my parents whenever they could).  I blazed through their supply of books in a heartbeat and started rereading at an early age, just to have something in my hands.  The librarians were great at setting aside any new book that came through the door for me.  This is why as awful, or simple, or "not my current taste" some of these old books are, I will always have a soft spot for them, and hey as I am rediscovering some of these oldies are actually long forgotten gems just waiting to be rediscovered.  So I am off to read, reread, and discover new and old loves. Happy Reading Everybody!
What books have you rediscovered recently?  What books are you appalled to have loved so much?  Are books just way too much a part of my thoughts?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Double Trouble

As you may have noticed I have been on a hard core nostalgia kick.  I knew when I was in trouble when I had the urge to read a Sweet Valley High book...don't judge me :-)  I used to read them back when I was in middle school (having outgrown them by high school) and  remember rolling my eyes at them even then.  That being said I still devoured them all the way through the weird and disturbing super specials when they got into the 100's.  It took me a while to hunt down the original first book, they have rereleased them with "updates" which I will rant about shortly, but I wanted to read the originals in all of their early 80's glory. I'll give you a quick synopsis and then we can ramble on about it.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD.
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are perfect size 6 blond haired, aqua eyed, perfectly tanned 16 year old identical twins who live with their lawyer mother, interior decorator father, and college student brother in Sweet Valley, California.  We know the Wakefied twins are beautiful because we are told this in apx 85 of the 182 pages of the book.  Elizabeth is bookish, smart, a wanna-be writer and a complete pushover.  Jessica is wild, vibrant, spoiled and has a few diagnosable mental disorders.  We start our story with Elizabeth mooning over Todd Wilkens the oh so handsome captain of the high school basket ball team.  We learn that it sounds like Todd maybe, kinda of sorta likes Elizabeth in that way too, you know likes likes her. Unfortunately for Lizzy, her twin has decided that she is in love with Todd. Jessica pulls all kinds of hijinks to get Todd to notice her, all the while feeding him stories about Elizabeth's supposed popularity and lack of time for Todd.  Elizabeth notices the two of them together and decides to swallow her feelings for Todd so that her sister can be happy.  Meanwhile she decides to bury herself in her writing when she is assigned to write about a court case between the uber new and rich Fowlers, the uber old and rich Patmans, and the school on the matter of who can use the land the football field is currently on. The twins dad is one of the lead lawyers for this case and it causes him to spend a lot of time with the beautiful and recently divorced Marianna West.  This of course sends the Wakefield children into all kinds of unfounded speculation on the possibility of their father having an affair and leaving their mother.  Todd makes the unforgivable mistake of not worshiping the ground Jessica walks on for every waking second so she decides to go out with the bad boy Rick Andover.  Rick has dropped out of school, has tattoos and drives fast cars, and has now decided he is into Jessica.  Jessica being the brilliant person that she is agrees to go with Rick and ends up in the
middle of a bar brawl when she objects to his pawing of her person.  She is brought home by a friendly police officer who mistakes her for Elizabeth which is of course seen and heard by the school gossip. Now in Jessica's very minimal defense, she did not now the gossip had overheard, so she had no way to correct her.  The next day EVERYBODY at school (without the help of cell phones, Facebook, or any type of social media mind you) is talking about Elizabeth's bad boy encounter. Todd gets all self righteous and decides he can never forgive her for what she has done, even though he has barely spoken to her before the incident, does not actually know what happened, and is getting all his information second and third hand.  More hijinks ensue, and Elizabeth is devastated to be pegged as "the bad girl".  Jessica eventually confesses it was her that the gossip saw and promises to fix it for Lizzy.  She admits to Todd that it was her, but his head is so far up his own ass that he thinks that Jessica is just trying to cover for Liz and he asks her to the dance.  Elizabeth is asked by the class clown Winston Egbert, who has been in love with Jessica since grade school.  Through out the dance, Todd cannot keep his eyes off of Elizabeth, pissing of the royal and all wonderful Jessica, who of course must have her revenge.  After the dance Jess tells Liz that Todd tried to take things further then she wanted to go and almost would not take no for an answer...yep...awesome.  Todd calls Elizabeth the next day, condescendingly telling her he "forgives" her for her actions with Rick...which never happened...and even if it did there is nothing to be sorry for, she was the victim...anyways Elizabeth still thinking that he attacked her beloved sister coldly shuns him, quit possibly one of the only reasonable things she does in this book.  The family also finds out that Steven (the college brother, who is also impossibly handsome) is dating Tricia Martin, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, this sends Jessica into another manic depressive spin, but more on that later.  Eventually Stevens parents sit him down and tell him it is ok for their special little guy to date that girl with the druggie sister and drunk long as she doesn't have any of those problems.  The family all ends up getting their stories straight, Steven gets his girl, the Wakefield parents are obviously not getting a divorce, and all is almost right with the white upper middle class world.  Of course we must have one last bit of chaos, so Rick essentially kidnaps Jessica and Elizabeth and is saved by the heroic, if judgy Todd.  Elizabeth and Todd actually have a conversation, work everything out and end up in love.  Elizabeth tries to talk to Jessica about all of the heinous stunts she pulled, but Jess turns on the waterworks and Liz caves.  Elizabeth gets a bit of revenge by getting Jessica thrown into a pool, but that is it after her dear sister tried on several occasions to ruin her life.  And that my friends is the first installment of the soap opera that is Sweet Valley High.
Oddly enough I actually have a lot to say about this little gem, there is just so much that is horribly horribly wrong about it, yet it is some how still oddly appealing.  Anyways lets jump right in.  First off let us address the travesty that is updating books. Don't do it, just don't.  Books were/are written in certain eras and most of the appeal of the book is in some ways its datedness, I don't want to read about the twins using Facebok, or being a perfect size 4 (so so so so so so wrong)!  I want my perfect size 6 (also wrong, but in a different way), I want my Dairy Burger, and I want my land line phone gosh darn it.  Ok so now that is out of the way lets talk about our leading ladies.  Growing up I always knew that these two girls were not in any way realistic at all, and I was all of 12 when I started reading these, that being said, I always identified more with Jessica then Elizabeth, if for no other reason then Elizabeth was such a wussy pushover!  In pretty much every instance Elizabeth caves, to her parents, her teachers, her friends, but mostly to Jessica, whom she adores with an unhealthy devotion.  The relationship between the two girls if very one sided, with Jessica getting almost all the benefits and Elizabeth thrilled when Jessica is bored enough, or in enough trouble to use her. Elizabeth very rarely gets the upper hand in any situation, yet oddly enough is portrayed as extremely popular and well liked.  This lack of self confidence comes into play in her choice of boyfriend, not to get to deep into a mass produced, soap opera of a book, but her choice of Todd as a boyfriend is a bit messed up.  He gets all high and mighty and judgmental, feeling like it is within his right to make her miserable over an event that he has decided is wrong.  Never mind that he does not even have the facts, that he has never even really talked with Elizabeth and gotten to know her, nope doesn't matter, if Mr. Handsome Captain of the Basketball Team and Judge and Jury of Sweet Valley High School makes up his mind that Elizabeth is a dirty dirty whore then she is to be cast aside and shunned...unless he decides to forgive her and pretend it never happened.  Ladies this is NOT the guy you want to be dating, you will always be worried about pissing him off, you will be apologizing for everything, even if you are not wrong, and God forbid you ever have an
opinion that differs from his, seriously potential bad juju here.  This however seems to be right up Elizabeth's alley as the put-upon, wishy washy giver upper.   Moving on to Jessica.  I will give Jessica an under the table high five for figuring out how the people around her work and using it to her advantage.  She is conniving and border line evil, but she knows how to get what she wants. I think I have always like Jessica because she felt like a more honest character, one who knew she was the standard of 1980's all American beauty and had no issues using that to her advantage.  She is quick on her feet and seems to be able to turn any situation to her advantage, you go girl.  She also seems to be suffering from some sort of manic depressive disorder. She has some very extreme emotional swings, and not all of them are attributable to scheming manipulations.  The number of times she goes from genuine sobbing, to elation and back down to depression actually indicates the need for some kind of therapy and diagnosis.  I won't even get into the various class, race, and morality issues that are so prevalent in this (and the other books), I will save that rant for later books, because my darling readers I will be reading more of these.  Now that I have started I can't stop, so I will be hunting down the best/worst examples in the series and hiding them under my bed (that is where all my guilty pleasure books go) and every once in a while pulling one out to eviscerate just for fun.  I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane and my obvious enjoyment in ripping this book to shreds.  This book teaches us that it is all about the looks, and barring that the money, where if you are conniving and manipulative it is ok if you are 5'6 size 6, blond and blue eyed, you can be a complete push over and still get the overbearing judgy guy, and that in the end all your first world problems will be solved, I give this book 2 out of 10 school newspapers for new readers (especially the 10-16 crowd) and an 8 our of ten red Fiats for nostalgia/guilty pleasure reads.
PS if you want some great snark/nostalgia combo check out these posts, I waste way to much time on these!
Are you a Jessica or and Elizabeth?  Do you wonder why I read these just to rip them apart?  What is your nostalgic guilty pleasure?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

All I Need In Life

As my Mamma would say I am pretty toasty this morning after a long night of running calls.  All I really want is
Which is exactly what I have.  So I am going to go read, drink, and daydream about storm dragons.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Who Knew Peppermints Could Be So Dangerous

Hello my lovely readers, I have finally dug myself out of the snow.  It has been a crazy week involving a lot of snow, a lot of station time, and not a whole lot of blog rambling, my most humble apologies.  I did however manage to squeeze in all kinds of reading time, which besides making me a very happy shut in, makes it possible for me to ramble my little brains out for a couple of posts.  I was also in a very nostalgic mood so I found a couple of books from back in my first library days to keep me company.  Peppermints in the Parlor is a middle grade book I recall rechecking out several times.  It was always a wee bit confusing to me, but it had a spunky girl and a mean old lady and that was one of my favorite story lines growing up.  Without further ado and SPOILERS AHEAD on with the rambling.
Emily Luccock has lost both her parents in a tragic boating accident and she is being sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle Twice, so called because her aunt is her mothers sister, and her uncle is her fathers brother, and when they married they became Emily's Aunt and Uncle twice over.  Though sad at her parents passing, Emily is excited to live with her aunt and uncle, recalling the wonderful times she had at Sugar Hill Hall, the parties, the beauty and splendor, the love of her aunt and uncle.  Emily arrives on a foggy evening in San Francisco and instead of being greeted by her glorious aunt and uncle, is forced to wait for hours until she is picked up.  At first Emily does now recognize her aunt, who has gone from a famous beauty, to a washed out, tired and scared woman.  Aunt Twice tells Emily that she must do exactly as she is told no matter how hard.  When they finally get to Sugar Hill Hall, Emily is horrified to see it in the hands of a snake like woman by the name of Mrs. Meeching who makes it very clear that she considers Emily no more then a common scullery maid. In the front parlor is a huge bowl of Emily's favorite treat, shiny, red and white peppermints.  She is informed under no circumstances is she to ever take one.  Aunt Twice takes Emily through the house, which has lost most of its splendor, through the industrial kitchen to the cellars where she is given a tiny
room, more like a cell really.  Aunt Twice tells Emily that she is a prisoner in her own home forced to work to keep somebody alive.  She will not give Emily any other details and begs her not to ask questions.  Emily is then handed over to Tilly, the rough young maid who is thrilled to finally have somebody beneath her.  Tilly goes back and forth between being Emily's friend, and being mean.  Emily's first task is to help Tilly with supper, which consists of a thin grey soup and moldy bread lumps.  These are given to the dozen or so old people who live in the mansion now.  Mrs. Meeching has turned Sugar Hill Hall into a old folks home.  The residents are silent and barely pick at their unappetizing food.  Emily notices that one resident is missing and is informed that the resident had stolen a peppermint and is now locked in the Room of Remembrance for punishment.  After the residents are fed Tilly and Emily go back to their own portion of soup and moldy bread, forced to watch as Aunt Twice prepares a huge feast of the most lucious foods for Mrs. Meeching and her cohort Mrs. Plumly, the grandmother like, knitting one of the pair.  Emily also meets Kipper, a fishermans son who while doing the occasional odd job for the Hall does what he can to help Emily.  Eventually Emily decides that since she can't help her self or her aunt, she will help the old people.  She starts slipping them fish oil so that they have appetites enough to eat the disgusting food, forcing Mrs.
Meeching to get them fresh food.  Emily and Kipper smuggle a kitten up to the old folks, along with some hobby supplies.  This helps to awaken the older folks, and Emily learns just how feisty they can be.  Mrs. Plumly has taken a couple opportunities to smuggle Emily to her rooms and feed her tea and cakes, she tells Emily that she too is a prisoner in the Hall, albeit a luckier one then Emily or her Aunt.  These visits continue as Emily continues to help the old people.  One horrible day Emily, Kipper and the old folks are all caught and Emily is sent to the Room of Remembrance.  Kipper finds a way to unlock her cell and they discover a trapdoor and tunnel that leads to a seedy tavern.  Their they discover that it is actually the sweet Mrs. Plumly who is in charge, slipping Emily truth serum in her tea to discover what she is up too.  They also discover that the old folks home is just a front for a smuggling operation.  Emily is summoned to Kippers house to hear the confession of an old sea captain who says he framed her Uncle Twice for a murder and used it as blackmail to get the Sugar Hill Hall.  It is all resolved, Mrs. Meeching and Mrs. Plumly are arrested after they are trapped by peppermint pelting old folk, and Aunt and Uncle Twice are reunited.  The family and the old folks, Tilly and Kipper all get their happy ending.
When I was in elementary and middle school, I had a thing for books about poor orphan girls and cruel mistresses that kept them locked up and enslaved, I am not sure why this trope appealed to me so much, but there you have it.  This book like I said was full on nostalgia for me, I remember reading it back when I was 8 or 9 and loving it.  The heroine is great because she does not start all spit and fire, and in fact has to dig pretty deep to keep herself from cracking.  I loved that when she realized that she could not immediately help herself or her aunt that she decided to help the old folks instead. Her initial reaction was always one of kindness, which seems to be lacking in some of the newer books.  I liked for the most part how the older people were portrayed, at first beaten down by the cruel Mrs. Meeching, but they themselves rallied and
became individuals again.  I liked how they reminded Emily that they too were people, with talents and lives. I love love love the character of Tilly, she is probably one of the more realistic characters in this fairly straight forward trope tale.  She is constantly torn between wanting Emily as a friend, and trying to be a good person as far as she knows how and doing her best to get ahead in the world.  She is glad to finally not be the low man on the totem pole and give Emily all the crap jobs, while enjoying the slim perks of what she considers more senior jobs.  She eventually proves herself a faithful, if somewhat rough friend and finds a place with Emily and her family.  Kipper acts at the semi-plausible way for Emily to solver her problems, that along with a gold coin gets her all the supplies she needs to make this story possible, I also love that every other sentence out of his mouth starts with "As Pa always says".  The ending is still a bit confusing for me, seeming to add characters and circumstances that appear out of nowhere to try and make sense of Uncle Twice's disappearance and the reasoning behind Aunt Twice's servitude.  Overall the book is pretty straight forward, sticking with a formula that works, while adding some great characters and just enough creepiness to keep you turning the pages. This is a quick read for most of us and is completely suitable for the 9 and up crowd. I give it 7 out of 10 peppermints.
What books do you remember rereading as a kid?  Do you find it hard to track down these books?  Are you ever disappointed when you reread your childhood favorites?  Is it funny that a grown woman is reading children's books and loving them?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter Storm Warning...How To Make Sure You Are Stocked Appropriatly

So us East Coasters are supposed to get hit with a Snowmageddon II tonight...yep we like to name our weather events all kinds of awesome names.  This means one of two things, either we will be trapped in our homes for the next three weeks...or it will all be gone by 5am.  Of course just the mention of snow sends my fellow East Coasters into panic mode and they all go racing for the stores to stock up on bread, milk and crackers.  I bet you anything if I walked into any local grocery store those shelves would be completely empty and there would be a line of frantic angry people freaking out 'cause they need to get all their bread, milk and crackers home before the snow 9 hours.  YEAH!  All kidding aside though it is important to be prepared, so I started my preparations yesterday by going to the most important store when it comes to storm stocking, that's right folks my local Barnes and Nobles.  Lucky for me they also knew a storm was coming and had all the books I wanted just waiting for me to pluck of the bank account maybe not so prepared :-)  Here is my all important list for getting through most major weather events.
1) Books!  This is the most important item on the list because they are useful in so many ways.  You can of course read them, you can get survival tips from them, you can build and igloo out of them, you can use them as a way to spell out HELP or SOS so the helicopters can find you, you can use them as weapons, you can use them as a reward or punishment in the post apocalyptic society that will naturally come about after three days stuck in the same house as that stupid person (people) over there!  Things you may not do with your books no matter what the emergency or you will go straight to book-less hell where the only entertainment available to you will be Keeping Up with the Kardashions and Tiger Beat.  You must never burn your books no matter how cold you think you are, you must not use them to build a raft, even if you think you can see land, you must never never never never leave them behind, they are your children and must be taken care of.

2) Coffee, so much coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Coffee is a miracle substance, it keeps you warm, alert, and contains most homicidal urges.  Coffee can be brewed, iced, rewarmed, added to, or just eaten straight from the bag/bin/tun it comes in.  Coffee makes you feel full so even if food is scarce you will survive, coffee cures almost all ills so no one in your group will every fall prey to stupid little diseases, coffee will revive the dead...just ask my Hubbin any given morning.  Make sure you have enough coffee for everybody in your group, about a pound a day per person should be enough...unless there is a super bookworm in your bunch, then you had better double it.  Make sure everybody consumes their full ration every hour, no matter what and you will survive.

3) Duct Tape-Need I say more?

4) Mad-Libs, this easy simple hilarious game can keep ANYBODY entertained for hours and hours and hours.  You can do a zillion variations, make up rules, themes and all kinds of fun stuff.  You can reuse them, play them by yourself, play with others, build a society around them.  If you have Mad-Libs you may survive this hellish ordeal with some of your sanity intact.

5) A sense of humor.  For some reason even the most prepared person seems to forget to pack their sense of humor.  Stuff if gonna go wrong, toilets are going to stop working, the laptop will lose it's charge, and the roads will be impassable the day you finally agree to watch your baby nephew...Deal with it!  A sense of humor will not only make life bearable for your fellow trapees, but for yourself as well. A well prepared sense of humor will make you the hero of any weather related disaster.

I hope this list serves you well as you hunker down for Snowmaicemonsterwindsofdoomageddon II!  I will be at the fire station answering the calls of the poor trapped souls in need of my crew and our magic ambulance, rescuing people who seem to close their eyes and drive if you even mention snow, and join into the never ending snowball fight that we have going between calls at the station.  I was not kidding however on stocking up on books yesterday and will be bringing them all to the station for in case we get stuck their (along with extra socks, you always need extra socks). I hope everybody has enough books to survive.  Happy Reading Everybody!
PS In all seriousness, please try and keep a path to your door for emergency crews should you need their help, it will make it safer for everybody, including the patient.  If you know a neighbor is house bound, or sick, or has a newborn baby, show some of that awesome Olympic spirit that has been going around and clear a path to their door.  Mark your fire hydrants and keep your address visible hopefully you won't ever have to see me, but if you do we will both be glad that the prep work was done.  Stay Safe!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Tale of Two Women

Hello my lovely readers, how are you all this fine morning?  Have you been staying up until all hours watching the Olympics?  I may have been trading sleep for extra Olympic hours so if I seem a little loopy...well I'm always a little loopy so carry on.  So this rambling will be a bit different.  I am going to be combining two books into one big synopsis and rambling because I think they fit together to well and offer way to much comparative goodness to do separately, besides I would be constantly referring to the other book so this will be much easier...I think.  The books are two from my beloved Anne McCaffrey's Pern series.  Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern and the companion novelette Nerilka's Story.  I love both of these books for two very different reasons. The first book (which I shall refer to as Moreta) is one of Ms. McCaffery's signature Dragonrider tales, complete with many characters, various places and sweeping story.  The second book, (which is more of a novelette and will be referred to as Nerilka) is about the exact same event/story but told from a much smaller more personal view.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD
We start our story in the past...well the past compared to the first Dragonrider books...well just go with it.  Moreta is the current Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr and is stuck with Sh'gall a capable but humorless Weyrleader.  Moreta is on her way to the Ruathan Gather where she hopes to watch runner races, drink Benden white, and dance the night away in her new dress.  She and her queen dragon Orlith go and do just that with the added bonus of the company of Alessan, the new Lord Holder of Ruatha.  Alessan is a younger man, vigorous, wry and also an avid runnerbeast racer.  He is most known for the tragic death of his young bride Suriana, whom in a world where marriages are usually made for alliance was a rare one of love.  His wife was thrown from an untrained runnerbeast and broke her back, sending Alessan into a deep mourning.  He is finally recovering and is now trying to dodge the numerous attempts at the high-born daughters of his fellow Lord Holders to take her place.  As the races progress, a runnerbeast collapses and dies, apparently from an unknown respiratory illness.  While sad, the runner is cleared away and the Gather continues.  Moreta is meets Oklina, Alessans youngest sister who is in turn introduced to the bronze dragon rider
B'lerion.  After dancing the night away with Alessan, Moreta returns to her Weyr with her dragon who is near to clutching.  They do their duty and fight the menace Thread (which is explained in the start of every book), looking foward to it ending in the next eight turns and a chance at least 200 years of Thread free life to look forward to. Unfortunately a crimp is put into all the happiness when a plague brought up from the Southern Continent threatens all human and runnerbeast life on Pern.  We eventually find out that it is a flue like illness and its initial outbreak kills off a huge percentage of people who catch it.  Hardest hit are the two holds that held gathers, Ista and Ruatha, with Keroon being hard hit as it is an area known for its runnerbeast breeding.  Even worse is that the dragonriders start succumbing to this illness, causing riders to die and their dragons to go between, unable to live without their riders.  This is the biggest calamity possible as it inhibits the ability of the dragonriders to do their first duty which is to protect Pern from the deadly Thread, which is not kind enough to stop falling just because the whole world is sick and dying.  The healthy dragonriders decide to pool resources and miraculously discharge their duty. Eventually it is discovered that a vaccine can be made out of the blood of the people who have recovered from the disease, unfortunately the vaccine has to be given to every living person and runnerbeast on Pern before the next outbreak hits, or they will probably not survive the next wave.  Moreta, Alessan, Olkina, B'lerion, and the healers Capiam and Desdra use a technique called "timing" which is essentially a dragon ability to go between times as well as space.  This is incredibly dangerous and is discouraged for the most part.  They use timing to go to a remote island in the future to gather supplies enough to inoculate all of Pern.  As they do this Moreta and Alessan finally give in to the intense attraction they had been feeling, as do the rest of the party (insert eyebrow waggle here).  They decide the best way to distribute the serum is via dragonback, using a very tight timing schedule.  Plans are put into dissary when on of the Weyrs refuses to help.  Moreta decides to finish of the route, riding the old queen Holth as her Orlith is stuck on the Nesting Grounds with her eggs.  Old Holth and Moreta finish the grueling task and take of one last time...and never come out from between.  The death of Holth and Moreta are a huge loss to the planet,
just as it was getting back on its feet.  Leri (Holth's rider) and Orlith stay until the eggs hatch (with Olkina Impressing the Queen) and then they to go between.  Two year later Nerilka's Story was published here is that story.  Nerilka is the daughter of Lord Tolocamp and his wife Lady Pendra of Fort Hold.  She is tall, ungainly and likes to be useful.  She is left behind when her father, mother and her older (and prettier) sisters go to the gather at Ruatha, presumably to try and get the new Lord Holder Alessan to marry one of them.  While they are there the plague appears and Nerilka does her best to help her brother (who was left in charge while her father was away) maintain the quarantine placed on the planet.  She also offers her help at Healer Hall (which is located in Fort Hold) and any of the over abundance of supplies her Hold has. While they accept the supplies, her help is rejected.  Nerilka's father returns, breaking quarantine...though he holes himself up in his room to "protect" the hold leaving his wife and other daughters in Ruatha where they end up dying.  As as soon as word reaches him of his wife's death, he installs his mistress the simpering and incapable Anella as his wife and Lady Holder.  This young twitty thing (who to add insult to injury is younger then Nerilka) takes control of the Hold.  The Healer Hall applies to Lord Tolocamp for extra supplies as they are running short, and are denied.  They are also denied the ability to help the people in the internment camp that had been set up outside the Hold.  For Nerilka this is the last straw.  She cuts her hair, dresses as a drudge and takes matters into her own hands.  After securing supplies for the Healers Hall, she goes into the camps to work as a nurse (at this point she has been vaccinated).  She eventually ends up in Ruatha where she had dreamed about ever since her foster sister Suriana had married her Lord Alessan.  Nerilka or Rill as she is now known proves how helpful she can be and is asked to stay on and help restore Ruatha.  Rill is as happy as can be and gets right to work.  She is there when news of Moreta's death comes and is the one to attempt to comfort Alessan in his grief.  For Alessan this is one more tragedy in a long string and it is more then he can take, he tells Rill that he just wants to die.  Rill tells him that he can't die, at least not until their is a Ruathan heir, or the hold will fall to another holder.  Alessan (who knew all along that Rill was Nerilka, from Suriana's sketches) makes a deal that he will marry Nerilka and as soon as their is an heir, she has to mix him his cup (his way of committing suicide).  Not knowing what else to do she agrees.  Eventually Oklina impresses her queen, and Nerilka bears Alessan a child, but instead of dying, he decides to live.  Nerilka knows that he will never be the light hearted man Suriana married, or the reckless racer Moreta loved, but he is a good man who loves and cares for his family and readily recognizes Nerilka for her work and effort and that is enough for him.
Whew that was really really really ready for some more?  Good.  I love reading these two books together, not only 'cause they are companion pieces but for the complete and different views you get.  With Moreta you see a strong, older woman who has not only born several children but is in charge of one of the largest Weyrs and is responsible for the care and safety of essentially a whole planet.  She is capable, decisive, fun-loving, and knows how to take responsibility.  I love that she is not some young supple waif of a girl, but a mature woman, who is described at being near the end of her child-bearing years, which puts her in her 30's or 40's, yet she is also described as desirable and fun and lovely...despite the cropped hair and fine lines on her face.  This is not the type of heroine we see a lot, usually it is the young, the new, the virginal, the unattached that the story centers around.  I love that we have a mother, who as much as she loves her
born children, knows she must be more then that, she is a mother figure that is not at all homey or hearth bound.  Then we have Nerilka, who's story is told in the first person, which is one of the few times I have heard this style from this author, but it works for this story.  Nerilka was born and raised in a completely different way then Moreta, she is a high-born Holder, taught to be much more decorous and dainty (even if she is not) she knows that arts of running a household, she knows how important a well run hold is.  She is well aware if costs, supplies and help get out of hand it could spell disaster.  It is her diligence in this sort of "homey" work that not only saves her Hold (which is the biggest and oldest on Pern) but potentially many others as well.  She does things on a smaller scale then Moreta, yet what she does is just as important if not more so to the overall survival of Pern.  Moreta is passionate and free, partly because of her being part of the Weyr (which by virtue of the dragons have to have a different code of conduct) and partly because of her nature.  Nerilka is more aware of her duty and is willing to fulfill it to the point of honor.  Moreta has a passionate, if ill-advised love affair with Alessan while Nerilka does what needs to be done after her death in helping Alessan continue forward.  In Alessan we see three different yet very valid kind of romantic loves.  We here about his first bloom of wild, young love with his wife Suriana, we get a more passionate, plunging love of Moreta, and finally a dutiful, which eventually turns into a mature and deep love for Nerilka.  I like that between these two books we see that not every love has to be a wild flame of desire at first sight with a pretty young unknown yet dangerous know what I mean.  I also like that these books show you
can have more then one love, that you can move on without being disloyal, or loving somebody any less. The best part is, after all my rambling on love, neither of these books is a love story, in fact in Moreta the page count of Alessan and Moreta together is fairly minimal compared to the rest of the book.  As far as the story there is so much for me to dive into full force.  I love that medicine was a central part of this story as that is one of my personal passions. The science was fairly accurate and the methods well thought out.  I liked learning about the healing aspect of dragons and their riders (this is so what I would do if I lived on Pern!) I also love how this book fits into the history of Pern.  In the original trilogy the song Moreta's Last Ride is sung and is also mentioned several times in the Harper Hall trilogy so to actually read the story is pretty cool, and adding Nerilka to the mix made it even better. The stories also remind us that this is actually a science fiction story when they talk about the Crossing and their ancestors and the old records that talk about influenza, connecting to an even deeper history. So obviously I love these books and think you should read all of them, and will know continue my Anne McCaffery kick 'cause I just LOVE LOVE LOVE reading her stuff! I give this combination of books 9 out of 10 golden queen dragons!

What do you think of companion books?  How do you feel about non-stock characters?  What do you like to see in your stories (e.g. medicine, music, sports)?  How obsessed am I with Anne McCaffrey?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Just Add An Airship

Hello all, I hope you all had a great weekend cheering on your favorites at the Olympics, I know I did.  As much as I love the Olympics I had to take a break from the screen and read for a couple hours yesterday...ahh so refreshing :-)  I finally finished The Mammoth Book of Steampunk with its 30 short stories all set in the Steampunk genre.  This book took me FOREVER to get through and as I contemplated why I came up with one main reason.  Writing steampunk is hard.  I find steampunk and all its co-genres and sub-genres and parent-genres to be a very visual thing and sometimes it feels that all an author has to to is add a zeppelin and BAM steampunk.   Now this is not true for everything, in my last post I showed off some of my favorite books in the punk genre's and all of them are excellent.  A couple things I have noticed about genre books I like, the story always comes first. In all of the books I mentioned the story comes first, world building, characters, and genre conceits are all well done, but are added to serve the story, not make a book steampunk.  Here is where I veer into total personal opinion, everything I am about to say hinges sole on my own likes and dislikes as a reader, you may see things in a completely different way, which is awesome and wonderful and you should tell me all about it.
The biggest problem I have with written steampunk, especially in short stories is that it gets really really dense.  The authors seem to get caught up either in trying to describe every little cog and wheel or they meander into over inflated pseudophychology/philosophy of deepness/scientificology (those are all real words I swear).  I love the idea of exploring alternate universes and timelines and I understand this means discussing various ideas of those times, but when you sound like a jumbled pretentious book your overly academic professor assigns you in how to sound like a rambling jerk class it is no longer enjoyable to me (yep I have actually taken that class before). The books and stories tend to get caught up in minutiae or

vagueness or vague minutiae when all you want is to know what is going on.  Again I think that part of the problem is that steampunk is so visual, if I say steampunk what pops into your head is probably images of top hats and goggles, clockwork limbs, the ever present airship, the genres seems to be most easily defined by its visual aesthetic and when a writer tries to write to that you end up with a jumbled mess.
On the other hand their is some wonderfully written steampunk(ish) out there, oddly enough most of them are in the YA section (as I am sure you noticed in my last post).  I think this is because YA novels are allowed to be about the story or characters, while adult genre sometimes feels it needs to be thought-provoking and deep, and gritty, and "real"  all of the time.  This is not to say that YA stories are all perfect, or you cannot get a good adult steampunk book, in my humble opinion I just have an easier time finding it in the YA section.  I have also found that a lot of books fall into the steampunk (or sub-genre punk styles) without us even realizing it.  Many of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne books could be now considered steampunk (though back when it was written it was plain old science fiction).  I mean how can you read The Time Machine and not think clockwork and science, or how about my personal favorite 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which has to be at least one of the inspirations for the octopus/seahorse steampunk aesthetic.

Overall I guess I have to say that I prefer my stories first and then genre second.  If you can use cogs and wheels and steam and alternate history to tell me a great story then I will love you all that much more for it.  But if the only way you can make a book steampunk is by overly descriptive phrases stating exactly what each automaton or air ship looks like, or use it as a platform to pontificate on an alternate philosophy then I will let somebody else enjoy it.  As for The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (on which this post was supposed to be a rambling) it has some good little stories like Icebreaker by E. Catherine Tobler, Clockwork Fairies by  Cat Rambo, The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Muhammad Akbar by Shweta Narayan Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu by Alex Dally MacFarlane and Lady Witherspoon's Solution by James Morrow.  I found these stories to have a good mix of story and atmosphere and in a few a good bit of humor.  This book is full of variety so if you have any interest in steampunk, science fiction or short stories go ahead and pick it up, just be warned it is not a sit down and read straight through collection, but more of a keep it at hand for when the mood strikes.  I give it 5 out of 10 clockwork gear airships.
What part of steampunk most appeals to you?  How defined do you think the steampunk or any specific genre or sub genre should be? Do you sometimes think that I am just a wind-up bot that types until my spring runs down?

Friday, February 7, 2014


My Hubbin is a punk :-)  Not really, he is just into the various kinds of punk out there. So many kinds of punk out there, we have the original punk which was originally attached to the punk music craze, but then developed into several sub genres.  We now have Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Dieselpunk, and a potential new one called Mythpunk (which is where one starts with a myth or fairytale and some post modern elements to it) and I am sure many more.  As with all good movements each of these has a few unique books attached to them.  Here are a couple of my favorites in each category for you to peruse.
Howls Moving Castle
I consider this one of my favorite Steampunk books, it is set in an alternate Victorian era, has all kinds of clockwork machines, and females take a strong prominent role.  I'm sure there are more typical examples out there and I promise I will do a whole post on this genre next week to discuss it, but I love this one too much to not use it today
Ok again a young adult novel clearly aimed at girls is probably not the first book you think of when I mention Cyberpunk, but again it has all the elements.  Cybernetics, clashes between the establishment and the working class, hacking, computers, creepy moon humans, viruses, gurbbing for a living, AND it is a great way to get females into all of it.
The Windup Girl
This book focuses on the genetic part of engineering, combing genetics with machinery and technology to produce a girl who while part cyborg is more importantly genetically imprinted to find and serve a master.  This is the basis for most of the Biopunk movement, pointing out the potential harm and misuse of to much genetic tinkering in all its forms.
Leviathan Series
I consider this book to be a bit more Dieselpunk then Steampunk, mostly because it is more about war type machines and set more in WWI-II era then a truly refined Victorian era.  The various machines and the added bonus of a bit of Biopunk in the form of the Darwinist beasties make this book a mix of punk aesthetics, but the overall feel places it in the Dieselpunk category for me. This is also a great introduction into the various forms of the different punk movements if you have never given them a try before.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Of all the new proposed genres I think I like the idea of Mythpunk the best.  I am a sucker for fairytales and adding elements of clockwork, or the internet, or whatever modern invention tweaks your fancy seems to have endless possibilities.  This book incorporates a girl who uses a wrench as a sword and encounters all kinds of machinery and even some technology as she explores fairyland.
Hopefully some of these suggestions are able to show you that you don't have to be hard core punk to enjoy some these various subgenre's of a very popular phenomenon.  I love the possibilities that adding a "punk" to the mix can bring, I love that these genre's are more then just books, they are a look, a sound, a feel and when all the various mediums come together you have something very cool.  Hopefully Hubbin will also find something he likes...even if I did you a girl book for his beloved Cyberpunk.  I will continue with a full on Steampunk post sometime next week because as always I have a lot to say on the matter :-)  I hope everybody has a great weekend! Happy Reading Everybody!
What is your favorite sub-genre of punk? Do you think I am stretching a bit with my book picks? Do you think this whole punk craze has gone on long enough?

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Wooohoooo it is time for one of my favorite events, the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia.  As I have mentioned in previous posts watching the Olympics is a hard core ingrained tradition.  Starting tonight in between calls I will spend the next to weeks watching every little story, game, sport and controversy unfold.  I will revel in the togetherness of all the different countries, dismay at the idiots who use it to spout poisonous rhetoric and delight when the underdog wins.  This of course means my reading will probably slow down a bit as I use that time to watch my Olympians, but hey we all need our special things.  That being said there are several books that can help us better understand the current Olympics, Olympic history and the knowledge of the city the Olympics are being held in.
2014 Winter Olympics
A quick rundown on the history and current Olympics, complete with stories and pictures
History of the Winter Olympics
A history of the Winter Olympics...which is much shorter then the Summer Olympics
Sochi Travel Guide
Even if you are not there, you can pretend with the travel guide
Figure Skating
A guide to my favorite Winter Olympic sport, figure skating (it's harder then it looks)

Curling for Dummies
'Cause I know you want to know :-)
I hope this years Olympics are full of fun, competition and sportsmanship.  I hope the naysayers and the pot stirrers can see this as an event to promote peace, love and whacking each other with sticks (that what hockey is right?) I am very excited and if my posting is a bit spotty, just check to see what sport is on and when it will be over and then check back :-)  Happy Olympic Reading Everybody!