Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hour Game (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #2)Hour Game by David Baldacci
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not surprisingly, David Baldacci's books become predictable and formulaic after a while. This book was an enjoyable, easy read, and I got through it quickly. Sometimes it's nice to just be able to read a book without using a ton of brain power.

Probably the most annoying part of the book was not the predictability, but the chapter where the investigators sit down and review the data...the chapter is designed to look like they're all reviewing the information together, to make sure they haven't missed anything, but the real purpose is to summarize for the readers everything that has happened. Except I don't need the summary because I'VE BEEN READING THE BOOK. And this chapter would not be at all necessary if Baldacci didn't try to incorporate a whole lot of plot lines that don't really add value, and simply create a superficial complexity to the story.

Whatever. It's a totally fine book if you want to read something that doesn't make you think (I'm not judging here--I do it all the time myself!)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What do Homer Simpson and hobbits have in common?

Donuts! At least in my imagination, they do!

I learned about Hobbit Second Breakfast Day from my friend, Tracy, over at Tracyfood. And I really wanted to celebrate. But I had to go to work. And then I forgot. I even meant to get a donut (to eat at promptly 11am) when I was getting coffee (sshhh! Don't tell Captain America I was getting coffee!), but I forgot to do that, too. I have no idea where my mind has been. I mean, who forgets about donuts? That's a new one for me. I LOVE donuts. And Blogger apparently also loves donuts because it's very confused about the singular donut. It thinks it's not a word. Like, why would you stop at one? If I were a hobbit, I certainly wouldn't. Because there really aren't any fat hobbits. There aren't any skinny ones, either, and I'm pretty sure girl hobbits don't have to wear bikinis 10 months a year like you do here in SoCal. Because it's mandatory.

And then Tracy did a rockstar job of celebrating with scones and Gaffer's eggs, the recipe for which she found on the...wait for it...official hobbit recipes website. On the one hand, I'm not sure the world could get any better (unless of course there was an official Harry Potter recipes website and it taught me how to make butterbeer and treacle tart), and on the other hand I'm very sad that I somehow missed everything completely. I'm sure this is a sign of the coming Armageddon. And on top of all that, I have to eat vicariously through Tracy, which is decidedly un-hobbit like (I meant eating vicariously is un-hobbit like. However, Tracy is also not a hobbit. In case there was any confusion there. I'm sure I just cleared everything up.).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The InnocentThe Innocent by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

David Baldacci is my newest guilty pleasure. This book was good fun in the same sort of way action movies are good fun.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was utterly disappointing. I SO wanted to like it. I really, really did. It seemed so much like the kind of story I LOVE! I was so frustrated with the book that I actually kept notes on it!

  1. I was expecting more whimsy.
  2. I was also expecting it to be charming.
  3. Technically, I was listening to the book on CD. It was read by the always fabulous Jim Dale, who also read the Harry Potter series. So, unfortunately, I kept hearing those characters. I kept saying, wait a minute! Ron doesn't do that! Or, Luna never says that!
  4. It reminded me of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which I actually enjoyed because I'm weird like that. But the visuals in the book were somehow less enticing. And there was no Heath Ledger. Or Johnny Depp. Or Jude Law. Or Colin Farrell. Really, why even bother?
  5. Because I kept taking notes: The voice kept changing. Sometimes you were addressed, as in, you entered the tent... Most of the time the story was told in third person, but it was distracting when it switched back to...second person...I didn't really think books were written in second person.
  6. For a while I thought Isobel was Celia, and I know I'm not the only one. I read a number of reviews saying this exact same thing.
  7. There's some seriously confusing jumping around in time.
  8. For illusionists/magicians, Celia and Marco are mind-numbingly boring. It's like meeting someone who's just come back from a tour of Europe who wants to tell you all about how much her back hurts after a 14-hour return flight. Good Lord!
  9. For a long time Bailey is a nice, albeit useless character. You really don't learn his purpose in the story until the last (or eleventh, for those of you who are counting) CD. I don't know what that equates to in chapters.
  10. You also don't have any understanding of why they can't stop competing until about CD nine, when Celia asks Marco to imagine leaving the competition and he suffers immense pain. Apparently the kind of pain that makes you see stars. Except it was so undramatically written that I felt like telling him to man up about it.
  11. For a while, I couldn't decide how I felt about Marco and Celia. Then I decided that Marco is creepy and Celia is pathetic.
  12. The book started to become interesting in CD nine when ***spoiler alert*** Heir Teisen dies. Also, in this CD, you actually start to learn how Marco does whatever it is he does.
  13. At one point my note simply said: this is a frustrating and stupid book.
  14. What is the point of the players in the circus not aging? Other than to drag out the misery of the reader?
  15. I think the story should have ended one chapter sooner. Then, at least it would have ended with symmetry. KNOW WHEN TO STOP!

In case you're wondering, I kept listening to the CDs because I kept hoping to fall in love. And I didn't have a lot of better things to be doing on my commute.

Seriously, though, don't waste your time!

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 20, 2012

So many different things, I don't know where to begin

I have such an unbelievable amount of stuff to say today that I've actually begun five different posts.

First of all, somehow the rest of my life is so much more interesting than what I do at work. I'm actually quite glad of that because I'm an accountant. For the most part, I don't mind being an accountant. The pay is good, I know what I'm doing, I work in a nice climate-controlled office; all-in-all, I can't really complain. Except that today there was a brown grasshopper dying in the corner of my cube. I'm pretty sure it was a grasshopper, although I always thought they were green, but it had that body type. I didn't want to touch it in case it was more alive than I thought and jumped down my shirt or something. I didn't think that kind of hysterics was appropriate on my second week at work.

Anyway, this post is not supposed to be about grasshoppers. It's supposed to be about how much more interesting my life is outside of the office. However, I do have one other office related story. While I usually attempt to keep other people's internet profiles low, I really don't know how to tell this story without revealing this person. So I work with a woman who's first name starts with an S and who's last name is Slover, which means that her login is sslover. Like a boat. When I saw her type that in, I almost told her that's what she HAD to name her yacht. But I caught myself before saying anything because I wasn't convinced that she'd appreciate that kind of thing. I mean, if that were my name, I'd tell everyone to call me S.S. Lover, but that's just me.

So back to my interesting life.

As you may or may not recall, I've been training to run a marathon. I've developed my marathon training program partially from a program I used years ago and partially from trial and error. However, just for fun, my running partner and I like to mix things up a little bit. Last weekend, we added in some cetaceanus fun. (How do you like that adjectification?)

Last weekend, Running Buddy (whom I shall now refer to by her Jersey Shore name, Mo-Scream, which, further paranthetically, is a tool she told me about because for father's day she renamed her dad G-Train. How cool is that!?!?). Anyway, Mo-Scream and I were on our final long run before we begin our taper. We were doing 22 miles and had started running at around 5:45 am because it was supposed to be balls-ass-hot out by about 9am. This run was intentionally designed to be suckier, albeit shorter, than the actual marathon.

On our return trip, we stopped at a bathroom in a park to refill our water bottles. I was reading our stats off on my watch: we'd been running for 3 hours and 22 minutes, we'd traveled 16.9 miles, and we had burnt 1543 calories. At this declaration, a fellow park-attending dude whipped his head around and proclaimed, "You just burned 15-hundred calories?" I'm still shocked that he didn't get whip-lash from his sudden interest in our athletic prowess.

Yes, I responded, we bench-pressed a whale.

If you Google an image of that, you get 152,000 image results, and yet, no one took a picture of ME doing it!

Park-dude looked both astonished and baffled, but I had another 5.1 miles to run, so I couldn't really hang out explaining all of the details involved in accomplishing such a feat, but it looks something like this:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I was hesitant to read it at first--I worried that it would be too hokey. I was concerned that the white people would be portrayed as one-dimensional racists, and the black people as one-dimensional victims. But Kathryn Stockett manages to make the characters multi-dimensional, which makes them believable. She also avoids turning the white people into puppets simply proving a point about segregation in the south in the 1960s.

I also found the black people believable, but hard to relate to. For no particular reason, I just don't know a lot of black people (I don't even know if I'm allowed to say "black" but I really dislike "African-American" which is not a term used in the book, but I dislike it because it presumes that I know where someone is from, and also that all places in Africa are the same. I would never say I'm a "European-American," but rather a "German-American," or whatever. And finally, the phrase "African-American" presumes that I know that someone is, in fact, American, when they could simply be a Kenyan. Okay, rant over).

As I was saying, I had a hard time relating to the maids in the story because I have a very hard time imagining what life was like for a black woman in the south in the 1960s. My parents were both in Memphis when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. When I've asked what Memphis was like during that time, my mother held a similar view point to mine: how could kids who were fed, nursed, bathed, and cared for by black maids grow up to hate black people? It just makes no sense.

I once read an interview with Whoopi Goldberg in which she said that everyone is either an introvert or extrovert racist. She went on to explain that people either pretend they don't see color, or they just admit that they do. She wasn't complaining or accusing or anything, but I thought it was an interesting point.

Bear with me, as I really am going someplace with this, but when I watched the movie The Joy Luck Club, I kept wondering why I couldn't keep the different characters straight. I had just read the book, so I knew what each character was doing, what their personality was, and their motivations. But I just couldn't keep the actors separated.

Years later, I read that the reason we do this is because back, thousands of years ago, when we were all tribal nomads, anyone who looked like us was likely to be part of our tribe, and therefore distinguishing characteristics were useful identifiers, but anyone who didn't look like us was probably an enemy (presumably fighting over valuable resources and the like), and therefore distinguishing characteristics weren't useful identifiers. Even though socially we've evolved past this, our brains still group everyone in a different race as "them." In fact, there's even a bit on 30 Rock where Tracy Jordan says, "No, you can't leave, Ken. Who's gonna help me tell white people apart?"

So to tie all of these points together, I felt like after reading the interview with Whoopi Goldberg, and especially after I read the science behind it, I felt like I could actually say that I can't tell all black people apart without feeling like I'm a terrible human being and intentionally being racist (I can't tell all of the Indian people I work with apart, either, especially when I'm on the phone with them).

So now, to get back to The Help, the book was really interesting, and I'm actually a little sad that I didn't read it as part of a book club, because I think it would have sparked an interesting discussion. One really interesting point made in the book was how sneaky the white employers could be. One character discusses how the white ladies might destroy a family by firing the maid, and then spreading rumors that she stole or whatever, so the maid couldn't get another job. Then the white lady's husband would talk to the owner of the house the maid's family was renting, and evict them in the middle of the night, and then the maid's husband would get fired because the foreman (or whoever) wanted his wife to stay in the social circle of the white lady who originally fired the maid. It's just mind-boggling to me that this elite power-play could go on and everyone knew about it.

I felt the same sort of horrific wonder while reading the book that I do when I read about women getting the right to vote (what were the men really afraid of? That we'd take over the world? That requires a tremendous amount of effort! That we'd make stupid choices? Or even worse, that we'd make smart choices?) . What were the white people in the south really so afraid of? I mean, deep down, how could they really be so concerned with sharing a water fountain or a bus seat? Did they really think the black people were going to take all of the jobs, all of the opportunities, all of what, exactly?

I think the black people in the south weren't interested in taking everything the white people had. They were interested in the same things that all decent people are interested in: their kids' schools, being safe, having a job that pays a reasonable wage, and in general being treated like a human. That's really not too much to ask for.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh, adulthood, how you vex me sometimes!

So I'm trying really hard to be a mature, responsible grown-up. It's not easy, people.

I started a new job. At a pretty awesome company. The catch is, they want me to change the dates I'm in Portland for the marathon. I was originally scheduled to be in Portland from Wednesday-Monday, but they want me in the office on Wednesday-Friday. For some meeting. And that's really all I know about that. I have a meeting with two of my bosses on Friday to sort that one out.

As you may recall, I became a really bitter person at my last job (okay, I've actually had three jobs since my last job, but they were short-term consulting affairs. Except one. Which was a mistake, but not because of anything I did...the position was presented as one thing and ended up being another. Anyway.). One of the things that really bothered me is that we were NEVER ALLOWED TO TAKE VACATION. There was always something going on at work that was more important than anything anyone on my team could possibly have going on in our personal lives. It really sucked. Big, hairy monkey balls. Yes, that much.

So, this job asked, before I started, if I could move my trip. I explained that I could change my flights, but that I couldn't move a marathon. So yes, I agreed to all of this before I started. Because it's a good company. A really good company. And I didn't want something like a few days in a city I've lived and visit at least once a year in to be a reason I couldn't get a job with a good company. But I'm still not very happy about it.

But because of my experience at my old company, I have this niggling feeling that I'll never be able to take a vacation when I want to. Which is totally not fair because it's not like the two companies have anything to do with each other or anything. I'm just projecting. At least those years of therapy have been put to good use--I can now identify my emotional behavior. Go me!

I'm trying to be accepting of my feelings that I'm not happy about moving my flight, while at the same time, accepting that I've also agreed to this, and that I shouldn't let it make me bitter. (I'm trying not to make "good" the opposite of "perfect"--It's still a good company to work for, and I'll still have a good time in Portland, it would just be perfect if I could have my proverbial cake and eat it, too, but wouldn't we all like that?)

And if you write good enough times, it starts to seem like a funny word...I mean why isn't is said with the oo-ee sound like gooey?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Further proof...

that my life is a little more stressful than normal right now.

Today I went to the DMV because we couldn't find my registration. Mind you, we had the stickers on the plates, and when I called, the guy confirmed that my transaction had been processed. Captain America thought he must have thrown out the registration. I thought we just never got it. It's not the kind of thing we would have thrown out or lost.

And there's an $18 fee for replacing a lost registration card. Because as the lady at the DMV office told me, the stickers come stapled to the card. I told her that I know that that's what's supposed to happen but we're not the sort of people to lose things like that. She charged me $18 anyway. You're welcome, California.

As it turns out, I've just been losing my mind because my registration card was in the same envelope where I keep all of my other important documents. I found it because I was getting out my passport. Sadly, I'm not going anywhere, but I'll be starting a new job on Monday and I need it for my paperwork.


I've got to get it together soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Writing is hard, and this is why

I read Nathan Bransford's blog on fairly regular basis. I think I stumbled upon it while reading The Writer magazine, and an author said one of the things that helped her get published was reading his blog (presumably, she meant, reading his blog and using his suggestions, and possibly even striking up a friendship with him, but whatever). So this one stuck out to me, in particular.

And I also liked the article it was based on,

I especially liked this observation. The emphasis is mine (and sorry that it's such a long quote. I just couldn't figure out where to cut it and keep the meaning):

Something, obviously, is going on. I manage, every few years, to generate a book. And of course, there are things that I know. I know how to wait until the last minute before putting anything on paper. I mean the last minute before the thought leaves me forever. I know how to leave out anything that looks to me—after a while—forced, deliberate, or fake. I know that I need to put myself in the story. I don’t mean literally. I mean emotionally. I need to care about what I’m writing—whether about the characters, or about what they’re getting up to, or about the way they feel or experience their world. I know that my job is to create a perspective. And to impose it on the reader. And I know that in order to do that with any success at all I must in some mysterious way risk everything. If I don’t break my own heart in the writing of a book then I know I've done it wrong. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I know what it feels like.

I also like this, because I hate to do research. When I do research, I want to find one answer to my question. Not "about 128,000 in .32 seconds":

Research is its own slow fiction, a process of reassurance for the author. I don’t want reassurance. I like writing out of confusion, panic, a sense of everything being perilously close to collapse. So I try to embrace the fiction of all things.

I think that might be all I wanted to say about this. I read the blog and article a while ago, and I'm no longer feeling very ranty about it.