Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mini Review: The Unusual Suspects

Here we are. Time for the first mini review of the fall. If you happen to be new to my blog, following the link will take you to my full review at Epinions.

Today's subject is The Unusual Suspects, the second Sisters Grimm book by Michael Buckley. The story is set in a universe where fairy tale characters are real. They are trapped in a small New York town, and the Grimm family is responsible for keeping them in line.

Our heroes are Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, two kids who have just learned all of this. They have also learned that their parents are being held prisoner by some strong magic, but no one knows where.

This book, however, centers around their new school. Something strange is happening as half of the students sleep through the day. Then Sabrina's teacher is found murdered in a giant spider web. What's happening?

I found the start of the book rather slow, but once the plot actually got going, it picked up speed quickly and stayed that way. Heck, I read the second half in one evening. And the cliffhanger made me wish the next book in the series were on my Fall Into Reading list.

The characters were a tad on the flat side, but there are moments that hint at the potential for more development in future books.

My take is that the book is aimed at 6th to 8th graders. That did make it a rather fast read for me, but it didn't dampen my enjoyment in the slightest.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Word Association for September 28th

Time for this week's word association.

  1. What pleases you? :: A good story
  2. Whatever :: Uncaring
  3. Chime :: Doorbell
  4. Pleading :: Mercy
  5. Simulate :: Airplane
  6. Flashing :: Warning
  7. Directional :: Compass
  8. Pink :: Red
  9. Access :: Database
  10. Ugly :: Beautiful

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yes, I Do Have a LIfe Outside of Books

I know, my blog has turned into all books all the time for the last week or so. And I will have all those mini-reviews as I get into Fall Into Reading. But let's talk about the rest of my life, shall we?


Okay, maybe it's not quite that bad.

This weekend was relaxing. First one home for a few weeks. Saturday, I went down and played ultimate Frisbee. And it was an absolute chore to get myself out of the house. I'm really glad I went, however. Fun as always. But the rest of the day was unproductive. Just in a blaw mood and I'm not sure why.

Sunday, I got back into things. Wrote several reviews in between church and Joe's. While over there, we finished season 2 of Babylon 5, and he asked Josh and I to be ushers in his wedding in December.

I've started up with crossfit again. So far so good. Well, I've been really soar again. Looking forward to two or three months down the line where I am not soar all the time. But my shoulder seems to be holding up pretty well, which makes me happy.

Not that I've stopped running. Ran three miles again Tuesday. Changed me route some to include the hill that is a nearby park. Did better at it than I thought I would. Need to keep that up as I prepare for the Mud Run in June.

But the biggest news is that I got my iPod Touch. I wrote reviews like crazy for it over at Epinions in August. I found out right before I left for Texas that I had won. Well, it arrived on Friday. I'm already hooked. Heck, I'm already thinking about how much better a real iPhone would be. Is there any hope for me?

And this week, the new TV season is hitting me full force. It would help if Dancing with the Stars were on its normal 3 hours instead of 5. I've got to get home and play some catch up tonight. At least I'm not blogging the show this year. That's been real nice so far. I can half watch the show if I want, and definitely get through faster as I don't have to pause it to make sure I get comments right for the recap. But that's all I've watched this week so far. Well, that and the first hour of Heroes. Tonight will be a big tv marathon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's Leaving My Nightstand - Septebmer Edition

In addition to the start of Fall into Reading, today is also the Tuesday for What's on Your Nightstand. Now we had the option of just linking up our Fall into Reading post, but I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about the book I finished on my lunch hour (hence the title of my post).

Docketful of Poesy by Diana Killian is the fourth book in the Poetic Death series. What's interesting is that this is the first entry in three years, the first with a new publisher, and the first to be written in first person.

But it was wonderful to spend time with Grace and Peter again. Grace is an American English teacher who specialises in the Romantic poets. Three years ago, she met Peter, a reformed jewel thief who now runs an antique shop in the Lake District of England.

This book involves a film being made from their first adventure together. But strange things seem to be happening on the set.

This book was slower, especially in the middle, than I remember the others being. Then again, it's been three years since I've read the others, so I could be mistaken on that. The ending managed to tie everything together nicely, however. Peter and Grace are still a wonderful couple, and I got caught up in the story just because of them.

Tonight, I start in on my fall reading list.

Fall Into Reading 2009 - The List

Fall is in the air. At least for anyone not here in Southern California. And that means it is time for the Fall into Reading challenge. (Follow the link to read more about this fun excuse to read books).

So, here are the books I am hoping to read. Okay, so it's an overly ambitious list, especially with starting up Crossfit again. But we'll see how far I can get, right?

Books left over from my Spring Reading Thing 2009 list:
Exposure by Brandilyn Collins
Double Minds by Terri Blackstock
A Date You Can't Refuse by Harley Jane Kozak
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

Recent Books by Favorite Authors I Still Haven't Read:
Dead Man's Puzzle by Parnell Hall
Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark
Ghost a la Mode by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Treacherous Teddy by John J. Lamb
The Crack in the Lens by Steve Hockensmith
Offworld by Robin Parrish

New Books by Favorite Authors:
Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke
Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel
Mr. Monk in Trouble by Lee Goldberg
The Chocolate Cupid Killing by JoAnna Carl

Books Crossovered with other Reading Challenges:
7th Heaven by James Patterson
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Alice Through the Needle's Eye by Gilbert Adair
Dem Bone's Revenge by Kris Neri

Other Books I Want to Read:
Mama Does Time by Deborah Sharp
Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn by Ridley Pearson
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
The Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

That's 27 books, one less than I attempted in the spring. Back then, I was reading on my lunch hour, so this will be a lot less. And the kid's books I have on my list are longer than the ones I had last time, too. We'll see how I do, I guess.


Because 27 books just wasn't enough, I've come across too more I have to add.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle
NERDS by Michael Buckley

Monday, September 21, 2009

Word Association for September 21st

In between all my Reading Challenge posts, I thought I'd do this week's word association.

  1. Disconnect :: I don't follow
  2. Contribute :: Money
  3. Dismay :: Shock
  4. Constant :: Dripping
  5. Nails :: Chalkboard
  6. Vibrate :: Color
  7. Therapy :: Expensive
  8. Stupid :: Poor Choice
  9. Poo :: Upset
  10. Commune :: Hippies

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading Challenge: China Challenge

I'm signing myself up for the China Challenge. I mean, how could I resist when I was already planning on re-reading Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station in the next couple of months?

So I am taking the whimpy way out and only reading one book. But I still figured I should sign up. If you think you'd be interested, follow that link to find out more.

Reading Challenge Completed: 1st in a Series

So, I have now finished the 1st in a series reading challenge. Here are the books I read for it.

1. Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian
2. A Mind is a Terrible Things to Read by William Rabkin
3. Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace
4. 1st to Die by James Patterson
5. The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzie & Holly Black
6. Wake Up Little Susie by Ed Gorman
7. Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers and Jerrilyn Farmer
8. Kilt Dead by Kaitlyn Dunnett
9. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford
10. Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
11. Still Life by Louise Penny
12. Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliet

So if many of these also authors also showed up in my list for the 2nds challenge, why did it take so long for me to finish this one?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Don't Want to Be Home

I have the cutest niece in the entire world.

I don't care what anyone says.

Unfortunately, she was in a very fussy mood all weekend, and wasn't sleeping well. So it could have been a better visit. But I would turn around and head back to visit again in a heartbeat if I didn't have this pesky thing called work to worry about.

My flight out was uneventful on Friday (despite it being 9/11). Had a little turbulence heading into Dallas, but it wasn't that bad at all.

Mom and Dad picked me up, and we headed straight to my brother and sister-in-law's. And that's when I finally got to meet my niece. Wow, she is so tiny. And cute. And cuddly when she wants to be.

Like with most kids, she started squirming and crying when I held her. But I did hold her several times. And I spent plenty of time watching her.

Have I mentioned how cute she is?

Other than that, we didn't do a whole lot. B and SiL have some good friends who moved today, so we spent a little bit of time with them. We went to church on Sunday.

And they introduced me to the fun that is the Lego video games. I played Indiana Jones and watched Batman. I'm not normally a fan of mission games like those, but I think I will have to get them, and get them soon.

It rained the entire weekend. The first 48 hours I was there, it was coming down good. After that, it slowed down. But Monday night, it was the occasional drizzle with just cloudy skies. It was supposed to clear up and be sunny again starting today. It was also relatively cool (low 70's) and not nearly as sticky humid as I had expected.

It was so hard to fly back yesterday. On the other hand, we had a good flight. And the flight was only half full. I think that's the first time I've seen that. Probably because we were one of many flights flying on a random Tuesday.

We'll be back for Thanksgiving. I can't wait.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Word Association for September 14th

I'll do the word assocation early this week for a change.

  1. Omelette :: Eggs and Cheese
  2. Classic :: Book
  3. Thrifty :: Save
  4. Search :: Engine
  5. Fan :: Author
  6. Fussy :: Baby
  7. I am not :: Happy (don't know where that came from because I am)
  8. Indulge :: Ice Cream
  9. Poor :: Me
  10. Manicure :: Nails

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm Outta Here Again

Tonight I will be packing up and getting ready for another trip. This time, I'm flying to Dallas to finally get to meet my niece. I'm so excited!

I am taking my computer with me, but there are no promises that I will be taking much time to update anything. But you can bet I will tell you all about my trip when I get back the middle of next week.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Word Association for 9/9/9

Time for this week's word association.

  1. Abusive :: Relationship
  2. Psychotic :: Breakdown
  3. Parents :: Loving
  4. Yell :: Shout
  5. Amulet :: Necklace
  6. Sandstorm :: Gritty
  7. Amusement :: Park
  8. Imitation :: Flattery
  9. Baby :: Niece
  10. Rainbows :: Clouds

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Disney Family Fun 5K - 2009 (and other fun stuff)

Want to know about my weekend and the race? Well, buckle down because this is a long one.

So, I didn't get out of here until 5 Friday afternoon. Traffic down to Anaheim was actually pretty good, for the first half of the trip. Then things came to a standstill, literally. It normally takes me an hour to get from home to Disneyland. It took two hours to get to the exit. Then another half hour to get from the exit to the Disneyland Hotel (about 5 minutes without traffic). By now it was 7:30, and I had until 8 to check in. But once out of my car, I had no problem finding where I was supposed to be and getting my packet.

From there, I headed over to the Paradise Pier Hotel to meet up with Shirley and Doug. I snagged a copy of their room key for use the next day. Then it was off to Buena Park to check into my hotel. After dinner and a trip to Wal-Mart, it was time to go to bed.

Unfortunately, my mind wouldn't cooperate. I tried reading the book I brought with me. I tried reading the Bible. Nothing was working. I got maybe two hours of sleep. I'm sure it had to do with needing to be up and ready to meet the other runners at 6AM. Any time I have to be up extra early, I lay in bed worrying about being there on time and not sleeping. You'd think I'd learn not to do that by now, but there you go.

So, naturally, I was lying in bed wide awake when my alarm went off Saturday morning. And that's when I discovered that my hotel room only had hot water. And we're talking scalding hot water. So I had to change rooms before I was off to the race. Then the street I was planning to take to Paradise Pier was blocked off. Not sure why, since the race didn't affect it at all. Anyway, it was about 6:05 when I pulled in and parked. Only 10 minutes later. (And yes, I do find this funny now.)

The theme of the race this year was Mickey's Main Street USA. That means as we lined up in the tram path, the Dapper Dans were entertaining us with barbershop quartet music. That made me happy, or at least it would have had I been able to really hear them. People were talking, so it was hard to really listen.

Some people, like me, were just dressed to race. Others were dressed like Disney characters or at least wearing Disney hats. It made for a fun, festive crowd.

At 6:45, the Dapper Dans sang the National Anthem (it was beautiful), and we were off. We started out by running down the tram route from the Mickey and Friends parking structure to the main entrances to the Disneyland parks.

Of course, I use the term running very loosely. It was crowded. For the first mile or so, I ran when I could, but I was often forced to walk while weaving in and out of the slower people. Now this is not a complaint about the walkers. It is more a complaint about those who were walking next to their friends, spread across the entire path so no one could pass them. (I was talking to someone Sunday who did the half marathon, and it sounded like they had the same problem there. And in the marathon, you were supposed to start at staggered times so that the faster people wouldn't get slowed down by the slower people.)

Once we'd reached the area between the two parks, the route led us in a side entrace of California Adventure. We came in right by Soarin' Over California and then ran toward the main entrace. At the plaza in the middle, we headed right, but not before seeing our first "characters." In this case, I use the term loosely since it was the cast of the High School Musical 3 show. Some people were stopping for pictures (actually, there was lots of picture taking along the way), but I just yelled "Go Wildcats!" and continued on my way. From there, we ran through the Bug's Life kid's area and backstage.

Honestly, the fact that we were running backstage was one of the big draws for me. But I didn't get very much insight into the running of Disney from back there. It just looked like a bunch of wearhouses. Yeah, really thrilling.

By now we were at the one mile mark. They had a big sign up and a clock. Of course, the clock started when they started the race. Since I started two or three minutes later, I really don't know what my real times would be. But anyway, it was 18 something. Considering how much I had walked, I just remembered that and kept going.

About the time we emerged from back stage to run down the main street of Hollywood Backlot, I broke free of the pack and was able to run the rest of the way.

We were backstage quickly for a water stop at the mile and a half mark. I didn't get anything and just kept on running.

We left California Adventure and headed across the way to Disneyland. We immediately hung a right and headed back stage in Tomorrowland. I got a kick out of seeing a bridge the train must go over during the Grand Canyon or Prehistoric sections. I never knew we were on a bridge there.

We emerged by Innoventions and headed toward Main Street. Buzz Lightyear was on the platform in the middle of Tomorrowland to cheer us on. And at this point we hit mile marker two, which was at 29 minutes. I had just run an 11 minute mile? Impossible!

We ran to the cirlce in the middle of the park and headed across the drawbridge, through the castle, and into Fantasyland. There, they had Dumbo, the Carosel, and the Tea Cups going. Doug said later that Mary Poppins and Bert were on teh Carosel, but I missed them. The other attractions had no one. We then ran down by Small World and back stage through the gate the parades always take. There, one of the trains was sitting, and an engineer blew the whistle every so often in greeting.

This provided another interesting backstage tidbit. There is actually a road between the houses of Mickey's Toon Town and the mountains that provide the backdrop. I never would have guessed. (Then again, I'm the person who thinks that the sky always looks like it is part of the backdrop, so what do I know?)

By now, we're about 2.5 miles into the race, and we encounter both of the hills in the course. First up in the small dip going under the train track leaving Toon Town. Then we've got the hill by Big Thunder Mountain. Yes, I felt it, but I kept going.

Rounding Big Thunder, right by the Fronterland pin shop, was mile marker 3. My jaw dropped. It said 39 minutes. Only 10 minutes since the last one. I thought I was a steady 12 minute mile person. Okay, so I never kept track of the seconds, so I don't know what I truly hit as a mile by mile pace, but this still made me very happy.

All that was left as to run most of the way down Main Street. As I did, the announcer started calling off the time left to hit before we'd hit the 40 minute mark. I did my best to sprint down and beat that time, but I just missed it, finishing at 40:01. Honestly, I'd be interested to know what I my real start to finish times were. If I get that info, I'll pass it on.

The chute leaving was clogged with people picking up the "medal" for completeing it (really a plastic medal on the end of a ribbon) and then getting food and drink. I grabbed a banana, bagle, and some Gatoraide before walking back to the Paradise Pier hotel, where I used my room key to shower and get ready for brunch. Honestly, I couldn't believe how hot it was already, and it was only 7 in the morning. Humid for Southern California as well. I was dripping all over the place by the first mile of the race.

Anyway, after everyone had cleaned up, we headed over to the Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian for brunch. (Would you believe I had only been to the Disneyland Hotel before this weekend? How I've been to all three in one weekend.) Shirley and Doug hosted, which I didn't expect at all. It was delicious food. There were six of us all told. Shirley, Doug, me, Angelique, Sue Ann Jaffarian (who help corral me into the race with the bribe of a free book), and Sue Ann's friend Susan.

Once brunch was over, Angelique and I set out to do what we had originally planned to do that weekend, spend three days in the parks. We used two of the three days on a 3 day park hopper pass on Saturday and Sunday, then used free birthday passes for Monday. And we had a blast. We were tired by the end of the day on Monday and ready for no lines. Heck, I was in my car driving out of the parking lot by 10 with two hours left in the business day.

We were actually surprised at how light the crowds were in California Adventure on Saturday. At 11:50, there was a 15 minute wait for Soarin'. We went on Toy Story Midway Mania a second time because the wait was only 25 minutes. The lines were longer in Disneyland and the rest of the weekend. We only made it on Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain once because of the lines.

And boy was it hot! The weathermen kept predicting that temps were going to come down. It was still in the 90's yesterday instead of close to 80 like they were predicting. It made it less pleasant than it could have been, but we still had a great time.

And if you really want more details on the race, stop by and read Sue Ann's take on it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Getting Ready for a Fun Weekend

Work? My mind is on the weekend already.

This is the weekend of the 5K at Disneyland. I'm leaving as soon as I can get out of here (5 at the latest), so I can get down to Anaheim in time to sign in for the race. I hope traffic isn't too bad, because if it is I will be cutting it very close.

But that's just the start of the weekend. Angelique and I will be spending all weekend at Disneyland. In fact, I got a hotel room down there so I'm only 15 minutes away instead of an hour. Ironically, I'm right by Knotts Berry Farm. Some day, I'm going to make it down there to go to Knotts.

I'll be off line the rest of the weekend. I'm not taking my computer with me. In fact, I don't even know if they have internet at the hotel for free or not. But I doubt I'll be around enough to get on line if I were. I am physically unable to leave a theme park before closing after all.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Word Association for September 3rd

This seems to be my Thursday things these days, doesn't it?

  1. Spinning :: Twirling
  2. Impasse :: Impassive
  3. Gravy :: Train
  4. You are :: Special
  5. September :: Fall
  6. Divulge :: Tell
  7. Training :: Video
  8. Crap! :: Darn It!
  9. Results :: Contest
  10. Shutting down :: Computer

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Alice in Wonderland Challenge

Okay, so I really shouldn't be adding to my reading challenge list. I think these reading challenges will really hurt my chance to get to reading those books I have stacked up and waiting for me to read. But they also look like so much fun.

So here we go.

I am joining the Alice in Wonderland Challenge hosted by Jenny over at Take Me Away.

There are two parts. And yes, I am signing up for both parts.

Tasks: (Part 1)
1. Read and review Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll DONE!
2. Read and review Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
3. Read and review Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (publish date December 2009)
4. Read and review one other book from the list of "retellings and sequels" or "literature with allusions and influences" from the list here . If you know of a book that will work that is not on the list, you may use it, but please have it approved as part of the challenge first.

Tasks: (Part 2)
1. Watch and review Disney's animated version of Alice in Wonderland
2. Watch and review one live action (already released) movie version of Alice in Wonderland.
3. Watch and review Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (due for release in 2010)
4. Watch and review one other movie listed under "Film" here

Unfortunately, this does mean I'll have to rewatch the animated Alice in Wonderland since I watched and reviewed it at Epinions last year.

Not sure I'll get everything done in time to win first prize. I do know I will be visiting my library a little more to get these books and movies.

And this will give me more ammunition for the reread challenge I joined last week.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Is Something Burning Out There?

Well, fire season seems to have started early this year. And once again, we've got to have a major fire outside of town. I can remember when we went years without a big one that threatened everything, but that's not the case any more.

If you've been hearing about the Station fire, that's the one that is affecting me.

Fortunately, it isn't affecting me too much. It is burning on multiple fronts, but the one closest to me is buring north east instead of south west. Odds are it won't make a run for town.

However, the smoke and ash have been bad today. It's been overcast all day, and not with moisture. And a couple of times after going outside I've found ash in my hair.

On the plus side, the humidity is higher today than it has been. We've been having very hot and very dry weather for the last week. It's still very hot, but not nearly as dry. Not deep south humid, either, of course, but better for fighting the fire.

Also in the plus column is the lack of wind. Yesterday, we were having 20 mph winds, but those are the first "bad" winds we've been having since the fire started. And compare that to the 60 mph winds we have had when the Santa Annas get started during the more traditional fire season of mid-fall, and even those aren't bad.

I'm really hoping that this will mean a better "fire season" later this year. With all this are already burned, how can it not be better? Unfortunately, there is still plenty of area to burn, so we'll see if it actually is better or not.