Tuesday, December 23, 2008


So, one goal I had for the year was 200 blog posts. And this is it. I've made my goal! (And it's one reason I am blogging when I should be packing to leave for Christmas.)

Of course, I've only made it so far thanks to the Spring and Fall reading challenges and the mini reviews I was doing for those.

Last week, I dropped $1000 on my car. Minor things like timing belt, water pump, front breaks. All things I'm glad I have taken care of before heading to my parents.

But this weekend turned out to be all about fun. Heck, I barely got presents wrapped and laundry done. Friday night was Kurt and Kellie's annual Christmas party, which was fun as always. And I made Blonde Brownies and Strawberry Whippersnappers, both of which seemed to be a hit. Personally, I think the brownies are better, but I'm not a fan of the artificial strawberry taste.

Saturday I hung out at the condo and went to see Yes Man, which was okay at best.

Sunday at Sunday School, I was invited to head out with a couple guys and race electric go carts. Wow, they moved fast! I was almost the slowest person on the track, but it was fun. At the price for 8 minutes, I probably won't do it again soon, but I'm glad I did it.

Then I headed over to Jason and Ashley's to drop off some books for him to read. Wound up staying to watch the end of the Redskin's game and then play some Mario Kart Wii. That got me in the mood, so I came home and played more.

Yesterday I goofed off, just barely getting the afore mentioned present wrapping and laundry done. But I did head over to Chris and Brooke's for a Christmas Open house. I was only going to stay an hour. You guessed it. I stayed two.

Now? I really need to pack so I can get to Donald and Heather's at a decent dinner hour so we can have a good visit before I have to continue on to Mom and Dad's.

If I don't check in before, have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008 Wrap Up

So, the time has come to talk about how I did this fall with the Fall into Reading Challenge.

Here are the books I read (all links take you to my Epinions.com review.)

On my original list:
Stamped Out by Terri Thayer
Relentless by Robin Parrish
Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall
Three Bags Full by Leoine Swann
Ninth Witness by Brock and Bodie Thoene
Murder Most Maine by Karen MacInerney
Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews
The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb
Mr. Monk is Miserable by Lee Goldberg
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind
A Vicky Hill Exclusive! by Hannah Dennison
Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick

Books not on my original list but I read anyway:
Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins
The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson

Books on the list not read:
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
Murder in Grub Street by Bruce Alexander
Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins


All but three of the original books? With two books added to the list this fall? A total of 16 books read? That's incredible! Like four books more than I thought I'd get through incredible. Of course, the planes rides for my trips to Disney World and Thanksgiving really helped. Especially Thanksgiving when I got most of two books read on the plane.

Two of the three books I didn't get to were left overs from my Spring reading list. That's just embarassing. I must get them read.

Favorite new author discovered? Robin Parrish. I'd been reading his non-fiction articles for years, but his fiction debut was wonderful.

Most disappointing read? Stamped Out closely followed by A Vicky Hill Exclusive!

So that's it for me for now. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'll definitely be back for the Spring reading challenge.

Mini Review: Three Bags Full

My final review for Fall Into Reading 2008 is Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann.

The premise sounds quite intriguing, and I had to pick it up. A flock of sheep decide to band together and solve the murder of their shepherd. And it will take all of them because they each have a unique gift like exception smell, perfect memory, or being extremely clever.

Unfortunately this was one of those books that I could get into when I was reading it but had a hard time picking it back up after I had set it down. Between the 20 sheep and the humans, the cast was too big to keep straight. And the plot started out fairly slowly thanks to time spent talking about the sheeps' daily routine.

Probably the thing that bothered me the most was the anti-religious tone. One character was little more than a Bible thumping pamphlette distributor. And, while I found the idea of the sheep thinking the local priest was God (he lives in God's house), I was uncomfortable with what that meant for the narration as he was one of their chief suspects at various times.

On the whole, I finished Fall into Reading like I started with, although I wasn't as disappointed with this book as I was Stamped Out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mini Review: Six Geese A-Slaying

Yep only two more to go, plus the wrap up. And one of them is the Christmas mystery Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews.

Meg has been tapped to run the town's annual Christmas, er Holiday, parade. It's only hours before everything is supposed to start, and Meg has her hands full keeping peace between the humans, animals, and drummers and pippers.

The last things she needs to be dealing with is town grouch Ralph Doleson. In a case of miscasting, he isn't playing Scrooge but Santa. At least he would be is someone hadn't killed him with a stake of holly through the heart. Now Meg has to get the parade together and sniff around for clues.

Let's get the bad out of the way first, the plot was a tad weak and I had it figured out pretty early on.

Okay, now the rest. The characters were their normal charming selves. And the first half was hilarous with several great laugh out loud moments. The second half the plot became more important, but it had some good laughs as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mini Review: Stalking the Puzzle Lady

Finally getting a chance to talk about Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall.

This book finds Cora Felton, the public face of niece Sherry's Puzzle Lady cross word puzzle columns, getting ready for a publicity tour for her second job, hawking a breakfast cerial. But before she can get out the door, a puzzle is left there with a message in it. Is it a threat? Cora can't decide. But when one of the people on the tour turns up dead, it looks like it might have been.

This book seemed to have a hint of a stronger plot them most in the series thanks to the very personal nature of the case for our main character. Yet the trademark humor had me laughing the entire way through. And even though the book was set out of town, all the main characters make an appearance and most play an important part in the book for a change.

Unfortunately, the ending was weak, another staple of the series. Just once, I'd like to see Cora do a good job of solving things. Still, I love the series so much it's a minor complaint.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


So last night, I was driving home and the following sing was flashing on the freeway I normally take. "Freeway closed 3 miles ahead due to SNOW."

I thought I lived in Southern California.

Of course, the snow wasn't that close to me. It was just the last exit before the snow on the freeway.

It was 35 when I was driving home. My poor car heater never really warmed up.

Fortunately, we are supposed to start warming up today and get back to the 50s. I never thought I'd say this, but I am looking forward to the warm 50s.

In other news, I got to hang out with Kurt and Kellie for a while on Saturday. We watched Wall-E after a great dinner at Souplantation. They've got their turkey and stuffing soup back again this year. I had two bowls.

And I really hurt my shoulder while working out Monday. It's getting much better, but it's still not completely well. So I've been doing alternatives like running or bike riding. Hopefully if I take another few days off it will heal completely, or at least get back to where it was before.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mini Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard

Today's mini review is of a mini book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling.

Of course, this book is a part of the Harry Potter universe. Beedle the Bard is a writer/recorder of wizard fairytales. This book contains five of his stories along with Dumbledore's commentary on them.

Each of the stories is short. With the commentary, they are about 20 pages each.

But that doesn't mean they aren't fun. The touch of whimsy and magic that fairytales need are present. And magic isn't always a bad thing here (not that it is in all our fairytales either. Just as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.)

The third tale is rather dark and gruesome, which might not make it appropriate for younger kids. Then again, the original versions of some of our tales are rather gruesome, too.

Finally, the last story in the book is "The Tale of the Three Brothers" which played an important part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, really, we are only getting four original stories.

But you know what? The book is fun. And really, that's all that matters. I read it no problem in a couple hours.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mini Review: A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax

Today's mini review is of a reread: A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman.

In the fourth in the series, Mrs. Pollifax is off to Switzerland for the CIA. She's hunting for missing plutonium and they believe it has been sent to a resort. So off she goes to find it.

Once she arrives, she is distracted by a handsome man who won't admit what he does and a boy who is staying with his sick grandmother. Or are they distractions?

This book is the first time that Mrs. Pollifax has to do some detective work. And she does great at it. All the fun and danger of the previous books are here. It's one of my favorites in the series, and I loved rereading it just as much.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's Post Something

And for a change, it won't be about books (although I really need to get going on those if I am going to get them all done before Fall into Reading is over.)

So, what have I been up to since Thanksgiving? Not too much of excitement.

The expection to that was last Saturday. I went to Mysteries to Die For annual Christmas party. Yes, I bought a couple books for myself, but I did plenty of Christmas shopping as well. And I got to chat with authors Lee Goldberg, Joanne Fluke, and Laura Levine. Plus I sampled Joanne's new Hint-a-Mint Brownies. Can't wait to get that recipe.

I'm just about done with my Christmas shopping. I just need to get something for my uncle and his dog. I know what I will be getting. It's just a matter of getting it.

And I made a very pleasant discovery this week. Since I started doing the Fit Quest workouts in July, I have lost 20 pounds. I've still got more I would like to loose, but this is a very positive start. Now, if I could just be turning some of that into muscle I'd be really happy. I'm just not gaining muscle as quickly as I would like to gain it.

In other news, the financial crisis is hitting the college where I work hard. We had meetings about it all afternoon, so I'm a bit depressed. There are hard cuts, but no across the board pay cuts and I still have a job. They cut a benefit, which is in essence a pay cut. But, as I said, I still have a job, so that's a very good thing.

Well, tonight I am off to the Christmas concert at my new church. That's my big plan this weekend. Man, I really need to get a life again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mini Review: Shooting Gallery

Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind is the second Art Lover's Mystery. Set in San Francisco, they center around Annie Kincaid, owner of a faux finishing business. Oh yeah, and she has a past as an art forger, something she learned from her grandfather who still practices the crime.

This book opens with Annie at a showing only to discover the sculpter dead. Everyone thought his corpse was another piece. That same night, the Brock Museum next door is robbed and one of Annie's friends is the prime suspect. Plus Annie has been hired to get a reclusive artist to return the sculpture he was going to restore and now refuses to give back.

But if all this weren't enough, Annie's mother suddenly arrives in town and demands Annie leave the entire thing alone. Never one to listen well, Annie keeps right on going. Will she find the answers?

This is a fun romp. Between all the threads, the plot moves forward quickly and never stops until the end. Annie and her friends are a wonderful cast of characters.

And there's plenty of humor. In fact, this book has the funniest stakeout scene I've ever read. I laughed my way through the book.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mini Review: Ninth Witness

Today's mini review is of Ninth Witness, the latest AD Chronicles book by Brock and Bodie Thoene.

This book interrupts our march to the Crucifixion and Resurection to flash back to the episode from Jesus' childhood. While Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are heading to Jerusalem for His first Passover celebration, nine year old orphan Jude is trying to take his sister there so that will be taken in by family.

The plot will be fairly predictable to anyone familiar with the New Testament. But that's hardly a new thing in this series. As always, what really brings it to life are the characters. I especially liked the interaction between Jesus, John the Baptist, and a young Simon Peter.

What I didn't like was the theological implications of several things over the course of the book. They went for the perpetual virgin myth with Mary for starters. Then they changed the meaning behind some lines of scripture in the climax. It's not exactly earth shattering stuff, and I can see where they got that meaning, but it's still wrong.

So, as a result, I am going to give this a mediocre reaction. But I know fans of the series will definitely want to read it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mini Review: Murder Most Maine

Wow, I'm really getting behind on these. I need to start posting.

And, along those lines, I will be talking about Murder Most Maine today. This is the third Gray Whale Inn Mystery by Karen MacInerney.

Spring has finaly sprung on Cranberry Island and Natalie is hoping business at her bed and breakfast will pick up. The weight loss retreat she has booked should definitely help. But things get off to a rocky start when one of the two leaders is a former girlfriend of Natalie's boyfriend John. But when the other leader turns up dead, things go from bad to worse.

I really enjoyed this entry in the series. The story moved forward steadily, and a sub-plot involving the lighthouse on the island certainly helped. I had a good feel for the setting. The series characters are well drawn, but I did have a hard time keeping all the guests straight. And the book even includes a few recipes at the end for you to try.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yep, I'm Back

Yes, I have returned successfully from a great Thanksgiving.

Heck, this year, I didn't miss my flight. I made it to the airport with about an hour and a half to spare.

It was cold in Dallas. Looks like it was around 70 here most of the time, but it was in the low 50's there. And it was very windy. Let me tell you, a cold wind bits right through you.

Thanksgiving was just the family this year. And it was delicious. Like there was any doubt with my mom and sister-in-law doing the cooking.

We got to visit several of b&sil's friends over the course of the week. That was great.

And we made our annual trek to see A Christmas Carol, which I think we all enjoy more every year. It's funny because we pick apart the changes they've made from year to year, too. This year they used too much smoke effect at one point, so the smoke detector went off. They had to clear us all out for a few minutes, then resume the play. But the actors got right back into it without missing a beat.

Sunday was spent at the church were my brother works. There are some neat kids in that youth group. Most especially the one who always remembers me every year. Okay, so I'm a little biased.

I think I did better reading wise than normal this year. I finished three books while I was gone.

And I kept up on my workouts. Granted, I didn't do much variety. But I did something all but two days, one of them being a travel day.

All in all, it was another great Thanksgiving.

And I can't believe it's December 3rd already. I really need to start getting ready for Christmas.