Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Beginnings for April 30th

It's Friday!  And that can only mean it is time for another Book Beginnings, hosted by Page Turners.

I'm going to include two sentences this week since I actually completely read a book between last Friday and today.  That was Death of a Trophy Wife by Laura Levine.  Here's the opening sentence:

It was Sunday morning, and all across Los Angeles, the sun was shining, palm trees were swaying, and birds were tweeting their little hearts out.
I've got to say, since I've started participating in this meme, I've become much more aware of the first sentence.  This one is a bit bland.  As you read on, the first page does hook you (as I knew it would since I've read the rest in this fun series), but that first sentence isn't the best.

The opening of my current read, Double Minds by Terri Blackstock does grab me a bit more:

Emergency Parker!  Call me!

It's funny because the rest of the first page sets up our character and where she is when she receives that text.  Those lines are the most interesting thing on the page.  But in the first book I talked about, I find the first page more fun and engaging then I do the first page here.  So sometimes the first sentence isn't really a good measure of what the book will truly be like.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Word Association for April 28th

Time for this week's word association.

  1. Hell :: Fire
  2. Scott :: Wesley Brown
  3. Dominion :: Trilogy
  4. Stunt :: coordinator
  5. Cougar :: Under Fire
  6. Columbia :: British
  7. Gasp :: Pant
  8. Cancerous :: Tumor
  9. Bitty :: Tiny
  10. Quit :: Trying

So let's see here.

Scott Wesley Brown was a popular Christian singer in the 80's.  And the Dominion Trilogy was written by Robin Parrish.  I think the rest pretty much make sense.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recent Nightstand Visitors

It's time for the April edition of What's on Your Nightstand, hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.  Since I've been bad about blogging about recent books, I'm going to cram mini reviews of several books into this post.  All of these mysteries are comedic, so they definitely tie together.  The links will take you to longer reviews at Epinions if you are interested.

Up first is Corpse on the Cob by Sue Ann Jaffarian, the 5th in her Odelia Grey series.  This book moves the action from Southern California to Massachusetts as Odelia finally is reconnected with the mother who abandoned her 34 years before.  But her reunion winds up taking place in a corn maze when Odelia finds her mother kneeling over a dead body.

This series has some laugh out loud moments, but it is the most serious of the three I'll be talking about.  But it also has the most real characters.  I absolutely love Odelia, her husband Greg, and many of the other regulars.  The dual plots of the mystery and Odelia's family conflicts played together well.  I've been playing catch up on this series all year, and I'm sad I will now have to wait a year for the next in the series, although Sue Ann will launch a new Vampire series in September and have the second in her Ghost mystery series in February between now and then.

Then I read Revenge for Old Times' Sake by Kris Neri.  I've been waiting for this book for a long time, and it was worth the wait.  The series stars Tracey Eaton, the daughter of two movie stars.  Her perception of reality is a bit wrapped, so these mysteries are definitely on the zany side.  In this caper, Tracey is trying to clear her husband Drew of a murder charge when his boss shows up floating in their pool the day after Drew had a very public fight with him.

I mentioned this series is zany, right?  Because there is no other way to describe it.  A couple times, I had to remind myself not to let reality creep in.  But the story is worth it because it is so much fun.  And the mystery under the antics is very solid, with clues and red herrings leading to the solution, not just something pulled out of this air.  The characters are real enough, but they are delightfully over the top at times.

Finally comes Death of a Trophy Wife by Laura Levine, one of my purchases at the book festival this weekend.  Jaine Austen, our series star, is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.  This one falls into sitcom territory, with supporting characters who help provide outrageous situations and sub-plots designed just for the humor.  And it works.  I always laugh my way through these books, and this one was no exception.

The plot was a tad on the weak side here.  It involves Jaine trying to clear her neighbor of a murder charge when Bunny Cooper, the trophy wife of the Mattress King, is poisoned at her own party.  It does provide a couple of nice twists.  But it was the humor that kept me glued to the page.  I finished this one at lunch time, and I did enjoy it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 LA Times Festival of Books

This past weekend, I made my annual trek down to UCLA for the LA Times Festival of Books.  (And once again, a year has gone by without me seeing the campus without all the booths.  I really need to do that.)

Fortunately, we'd gotten the rain out of the way early in the week.  While the day started off cloudy, it was sunny most of the day.  Weather was perfect.  It was just a bit warm in the sun and a tad cool in the shade.  I was comfortable in my jeans and T-Shirt all day.

I actually got there an hour early (and on time at that) to meet up with some fellow book bloggers.  (Okay, so I am stretching things a bit to call what I do book blogging.  That's almost all what they do.)  They all seemed to know who I was right away.  First, I was one of two guys in the group, and the other was a blogger's husband.  Second, I had been e-mailing them about my radiator problems.  So when I would introduce myself, I'd get, "Oh, you're the radiator guy."  Started out the day with them getting coffee and then plotting their day to get the most from their panels.

I, on the other hand, met up with Angelique and John at the official start time of 10 AM.  And we proceeded to do our normal pattern of go from one mystery bookstore booth to the other, chatting with our favorite authors, getting some books autographed, and finding out about new books coming soon.

I was a good boy.  I managed to leave with only 3 books, although I had more stuff I planned to buy on Sunday, mostly radio drama versions of plays that LA Theater Works does.  And one of those three books was a planned purchase before I left, too.

That evening, I met up with the book bloggers again for dinner at Jerry's Deli.  We had a fun time talking about books (shocked, I know), how boring we find sports, books, blogging, and books.  I felt right at home in no time at all.

Sunday was day two.  The last few years, I have gone down for a couple hours after church, and then headed a few miles further south to play some ultimate Frisbee on the beach in Santa Monica.  That was the plan when I got up and left for church that morning.  But as I sat in church, I started debating about the wisdom of spending all that money on parking fees and the plays I intended to buy after the money I spent on my car this week.  By the time the service was over, I had talked myself into staying closer to home.  I called Angelique to let her know of my change of plans, and then I called my roommate to arrange to get our Six Flags season passes that afternoon.  I know, I know, I didn't go down to spend money, but this was money I was already planning to spend.

I didn't think about my plans at all during Sunday School, but as soon as I left, I wanted to go back to UCLA again.  After all, the day was gorgeous, so it would be perfect for hitting the beach.  And there were three authors there on Sunday who weren't there on Saturday, including Sue Ann Jaffarian.  But I stuck to my commitments and stayed in town, even when my roommate said he didn't care either way, do whatever I wanted.

Boy, do I regret that now.  I still wish I had gone south.  Next year, right?

Of course, by going to Six Flags yesterday, we were able to ride a few rides.  By the time we bought passes and all that process, we only hit a few rides, especially because the lines were long.

Between the park and carrying around my backpack all weekend, my neck was sore again last night and this morning when I first got up.  It's doing better now, so hopefully I can get back to running on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faith and Fiction Saturday: OffWorld

I had the privilege this month of participating in a e-mail book discussion with some other Christian book bloggers.  We were discussing OffWorld by Robin Parrish.  This is a science fiction novel.  The basic premise is that the four astronauts who were part of the first manned space mission to Mars return after two and a half years away from Earth to find the planet completely empty of people.  Yes, it was quite intriguing, and that link will take you to my full review of the book.

Here's the beginning of our discussion on the book.

Amy: I have to confess I'm not sure how I feel about this book overall. I don't read a lot of science fiction so I don't have much to compare it, too. I loved the premise, but felt like everything got kind of weird, and then I realized that's how I generally end up feeling about science fiction books. What did you think of the story overall?

Ronnica: As for Offworld, I really enjoyed it. It wasn't the best Christian fiction or science fiction book I've read, but it kept my interest and I enjoyed the characters (though they could have been a little more three-dimensional).

Mark: I must admit the biggest draw for me in this book was the mystery aspect. I had to know what had happened to all the people of Earth. I had to keep reminding myself that it was science fiction. I do watch several science fiction shows on TV like Lost, so I was willing to buy into that part of the premise rather easily.

A few of the action scenes seemed to be a bit over the top. As I was reading, I was wondering if that could really happen. But I figured since I was buying in the premise that every person on Earth had vanished, I could let the questionable car chases and what not go as well.

Jonathan: Overall, I felt that the story was contrived. In comparison to the works of Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke or Robert Heinlein, the story lacks any overarching theme, or compelling reason for the reader to suspend disbelief. Every person on Earth, gone, great premise, and yes I agree with Mark, I did want to find out, but each chapter added another layer of barely possible, highly improbable situations that I had to also believe in order to continue to follow the story.

Carrie: I found the majority of the book to be unbelievable but, then again, it is science fiction so I was willing to accept it as-is. It certainly didn't sell me on the idea that I could learn to enjoy science fiction in a broader sense though. I wouldn't say that this is a genre that I'm going to suddenly sink my teeth into with any regularity.

Jennifer: I feel like the only one, but I really enjoyed "Offworld." I did find the story unbelievable, but I thought it was a real page turner. I don't normally read Science Fiction books. I accepted the unbelievable aspects of the books and read it for entertainment. I thought the story was original. The idea of astronauts coming back to an empty world was very intriguing, especially after being gone for such a long time. I knew Mae had something to do with everyone missing and I wanted to know what happened to Chris on Mars. His blackouts were very random. I do admit, I had a hard time remembering the difference between Owen and Chris and I thought Trisha was a strong female character.

I was disappointed with the "machine" at the end of the book. No one knew how it worked, they just knew it worked. I thought it needed more explanation.

To find out what else we discussed about the book, check out these links from the other participants:

Reading to Know
Ignorant Historian
Random Ramblings from Sunny Southern CA
Behind the eyes, oversimplified
Mrs. Q Book Addict
My Friend Amy

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Beginnings: Revenge for Old Times' Sake

If it's Friday, it must be time for this week's Book Beginnings.  Here's the first sentence from Revenge for Old Times' Sake by Kris Neri, which I actually finished last night (link takes you to my review).

I never thought sex would kill me, but it nearly did.

Okay, first there's the shock that I am posting that sentence on my blog since I generally try to keep things very innocent PG around here.  But, really, with a first sentence like that, how can you not keep reading?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Hate Car Repairs

Which I know is shocking.  Who loves spending money to repair their car?

So, I took my car in for a long overdue oil change before I headed north last weekend.  When I picked up my car, my mechanic told me that there was a leak in my radiator, so keep an eye on it.  Naturally, that started worring me since I had a big long trip ahead of me.  Not that I changed my plans in the slightest.  Things seemed to go well on the trips up and back.  I did have to add water before I headed back south, however.

Tuesday, I was driving home from work, and at one point noticed water on my windshield.  I thought it was weird, but I didn't think anything else of it.  Frankly, I kinda forgot about that after I got rear ended.  No damage to my car (I think the spare tire took the majority of the impact), but my neck was pretty sore last night.  I skipped my run this morning.  I'm feeling better now, so I think I will run tomorrow.


On the way to work yesterday, I started noticing water on my windshield again.  And lots more of it.  Then I saw it was coming from under the hood of my car.  Yeah, I kinda freaked.  Finished driving into work, and called my mechanic.  He was going to take a look at my car on Friday, but I decided to drop it off last night.  From the phone call we had today, it sounds like he took a look at it.  They've recommended changing some of the hoses, too.  It will just cost me parts, so I figure why not.

But this is going to cost me a pretty penny I really hadn't planned to spend right now when I'm down a roommate.  And I get to pay for my auto insurance for the next few months in another couple of weeks, too.

I was hoping my mechanic would start on my car today if he had it since I really want my car back this weekend.  It's the annual LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA.  I have to go to that!  I'm debating about whether or not I will go both days or just Saturday.  It will cost me gas and parking money.  I usually only spend an hour or two there on Sunday, heading to Santa Monica to play ultimate on the beach later in the afternoon, which is an additional parking fee.  But if the weather does warm up like its supposed to this weekend, I may not be able to resist.  I can always cut back on expenses next week, right?

The ironic thing in all this is I am getting rides to and from work with my roommate.  His water pump died last week, but he got his car back on Wednesday, just as my saga started.  I'm just glad one of us has a car.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Word Association for April 21st

Time for this week's word association.

  1. Drug :: Medicine
  2. Questions :: Answers
  3. Active :: Lifestyle
  4. Facts :: Fiction
  5. Amount :: Spent
  6. Supervise :: Children
  7. Ingredients :: Cookies
  8. Dentist :: Pain
  9. Meal :: Ticket
  10. Packaging :: Shipping

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Family Weekend

I took Friday and Monday off work to head up to my parents' in the north San Francisco Bay Area.  The main reason for going was the attend a 90th birthday party for my uncle's mother-in-law.  Louise is therefore, no direct relation to me, but she's the closest thing I have to grandmother right now.  She was doing pretty well at Christmas, but has definitely gone downhill since she broke a hip earlier this year.  It was hard to see her like that since she has always been so sharp and full of life.

It was a great time, however.  Naturally, there were plenty of people on my aunt's side of the family there.  I hadn't seen most of them for a year or two, so it was good to see them and chat a bit.  A good time was had by all.

And I got some running in, too, while I was up there.  There's a walking trail around a man made lake.  It's been there for as long as I can remember.  It's a 3.7 mile loop.  We've walked it for years, and I've ridden my bike around it plenty of times.  But I've always wanted to run it.  I don't know why, but I have.  I tried once in college, but I wasn't running regularly, so I may have made it half way.  Saturday after the party, we went home so I could change clothes, then hit the lake.  Mom and Dad walked it, and I ran.  After I completed, I turned around and run until I caught up to them, so all told I got in at least 4 miles on Saturday.  If I realized I was going to do it Saturday afternoon (I was thinking more Sunday after church), I probably wouldn't have started grazing the buffet again about half an hour before we left, but I made it.  I know it isn't much, at least on the running blogs I read, but I really feel accomplished.

Sunday, we went out to a redwood forest and did some walking.  Don't get me wrong, I love so much about living in Southern California.  But I wish we had redwoods closer.  They smell so wonderful, and they are always so quiet.  Being desert, we just don't have trees that compare here.

Monday, I stopped and had lunch with Donald, as usual.  He seems very interested in joining me in a future mud run.  Hopefully, I can talk him into it.  Have you figured out I am slightly addicted to these things after only one?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Beginnings: Corpse on the Cob

Time for this week's Book Beginnings.  This week, I'm reading Corpse on the Cob by Sue Ann Jaffarian.  The first two sentences are:

The dead guy on the ground did not look familiar.  The woman crouched over the body did.

Now I know I'm cheating again and including the first paragraph.  While that first sentence is good, it gets so much better with the second sentence, especially when you learn that the woman is main character Odelia Grey's long lost mother.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ending My Work Week

Yes, you read that right.  Today is my Friday.  Again.

This weekend, I'm heading up to my parents'.  I haven't been home since Christmas, so it will be good to see everyone.  And we're having a birthday party for my "Grandma" on Saturday, so I will get to see extended family as well.  That will be lots of fun.

This has been a busy week at work.  I've been trying to get my normal work done plus help people with budget stuff.  We're only giving them a week and a half to tweek their own budgets this year, and this is it.  Fortunately, all the questions I've been getting have proved that people are working on it.

I've only run once this week.  My left leg started bothering me as soon as I did on Tuesday and bothered me most of yesterday as well.  Meanwhile, my boss asked for a ride into work today.  And since he'd picked me up at the mechanic's yesterday (oil change before the trip), how could I say no?  The good news is my leg is feeling much better today.  I am hoping to go for a run while I am out of town.

And I think I've found a friend to do the July mud run with me.  We'll see if he comes through or not.

Unfortunately, the timing of this trip couldn't be worse for my roommate.  His car died today, and I won't be around to help him.  Hopefully, he can get some things figured out for while I'm gone.  But I should be back to help him on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Word Association for April 14th

Time for this week's word association.

  1. Habit :: Hamburgers
  2. Relaunch :: Franchise
  3. Mondays :: Dread
  4. Bootstrap :: Pull Yourself Up By
  5. Funk :: Mondays
  6. Appreciate :: Thank you
  7. Yay! :: Celebrate
  8. Life :: Magazine
  9. Sheets :: Bed
  10. Date night :: Dinner

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Finally, Talking About the Cozy Mystery Challenge

So, I have been very bad about posting about a reading challenge I am participating in right now. It's right up my alley, too. What is it? The Cozy Mystery Challenge, of course. Since I read so many cozy mysteries, I signed up for the challenge level, which is more than 10 cozies in the next six months (April through September). The lowest level is just six cozies in the next six months, or one a month.

Of course, I am just now starting my first cozy of April. I do find that highly ironic.

I'll update this post with the books as I read them:

Corpse on the Cob by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Irvine Lake Mud Run - April Edition

I took Friday off work, which turned out to be a great thing.  Daniel and I were able to leave after he got off work, so we were actually out the door at 2 PM.  We hit some traffic along the way, but it was nice to not be stressed trying to pick up out packets.  We were able to get them long before they stopped handing them out for the day.

From there, we went to our old roommate Brennon's place.  He'd moved close to the race site, and he was nice enough to let us crash on his couches the night before.  We met up with a group from his Bible study for dinner.  It was a very fun evening.

Unfortunately, I got the amount of sleep I expected Friday night.  Daniel and I were in bed by midnight, but I didn't fall asleep until sometime after 2AM.  I was awake by 5:30.  I do this all the time before a big event.  The whole "I've got to get to sleep because I want to be well rested for tomorrow" thing doesn't work for me.  And getting me to sleep when I'm not tired is impossible.  Despite all that, I was surprisingly well rested.

We were on the road at 7AM, which was when we wanted to leave.  We arrived at Irvine Lake at 7:30, parked, and walked over to the starting area to check out the layout.  Then we went back to the car, got our race numbers on, and got ready to race.

We were scheduled to run in different waves since they had us seperated by age, but I snuck into Daniel's wave, which meant we were part of the first wave to go.  The waves for the open sized groups kept going until well after 11:30, but we left at 9AM.  Because they didn't release us all at once, there was no conjestion at the various obstacles.  Heck, we only had 12 or so people in our wave.  Granted, I got passed by people from waves behind me before I finished.  But I was there for the run and to complete and not to win.  Ironically enough, I wasn't that nervous standing there on the line.  I was ready, I knew I had trained, and there wasn't anything else I could do.  Bring it on!

The first obstacle we hit was a small mud pit.  That's when I realized one problem I was going to have.  My shoes got gravel in them.  I had quite a bit of it in my shoes by the time I actually hit the finish line.

We actually ran beside the lake for much of the first half, and most of the first half was actual running.  There was a tire obstacle and a 3.5 foot wall.  The idea was again to help space us out.  When we came to those 3.5 foot walls, I was very glad they had been professionall built and sanded.  Most of the people around me would hop up and then jump off the top.  I, on the other hand, put a leg up, sat, then pushed myself off.  Slower, but I was afraid of hurting myself.

Once we turned away from the lake, that's when we really started to hit the mud pits.  Up for was the devilish Whoop-de-do.  I had no idea what that was.  Basically, it was several hills with mud pits in between.  So you'd run up and down into mud, back out and back into mud.  It was murder on my legs.

The one that really killed me was the "Triple Threat."  This was three larger mud pits pretty much back to back with even larger hills in between them.  In the first mud pit, I actually kept getting stuck.  My shoes stayed on (fortunately), but I was having a problem getting my foot out of the mud to take another step.  This is also the point where I lost Daniel.  He'd taken off fast, intending to let me catch up.  I did about the time of the Whoop-de-do, but after I got stuck here, we never did connect back up.

After those pits, I was a bit worried.  I'd fallen over a couple of times, enough to get my shirt wet, but not lying in the mud.  My shirt looked wet, but not muddy.  Darn it, this was a mud run.  I wanted to look muddy.

I didn't need to worry.  Up next was a small pit with a cargo net over it.  We had to crawl under the net.  I got out to see my shirt looked pretty muddy.

Next came the big hill.  I must admit even after the hill training I had done, I walked up the last bit of it.  I could have run the entire thing (at a very slow speed), but I just didn't feel like it.

The home stretch had two more obstacles.  First, we had the Car Wash. 

No, I don't know what they used to make those bubbles, but it was fun to run through.  Then came the final mud pit.

We were supposed to crawl through it, under those rows of flags.  From there, it was just a short sprint to the finish line.

As you can see, we were definitely dirty when we finished.

We hit the showers, which were just cold water shooting out.  It took a while to get me under the water (have I mentioned how much I hate cold?) and to get the mud washed off since the water pressure was pretty light.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around looking at the various boothes and listening to the bands they had for the concert.  I took some of those pictures above after we were done as well.

They had at least preliminary results posted before we left, and I finished in just over 40 minutes, or just about a 10 minute mile.  I am thrilled with the results because it means I must be running faster than I realize these days.  That especially made me feel good about myself since there was the time I spent stuck in the mud pit or walking up the last of the big hill.  If I had run that hill or not gotten stuck as much, I could have finished under the 10 minute mile mark.

The entire course was pretty well marked, but it was also filled with volunteers encouraging and making sure we didn't get lost.  I really appreciated all that help.

At the race, we just stuck our dirty clothes in a garbage bag.  Once we got home, we washed it at a faucet outside, then threw everything in the washing machine.  After two cycles, everything looks as good as new.

And I have to mention the weather.  I was worried I'd be cold, but it turned out to be a nice day.  It was cloudy in the morning, but it wasn't windy, so that helped.  After we finished the race, it became partly cloudy.  It was actually nicely warm in the sun.  It's got to be 10 degrees colder today and it was raining about the time we were running.

As you might have noticed, I had a blast.  I am definitely looking forward to Camp Pendleton in June now (even though I talked to a guy who had done it, and he said it was much harder).  They are planning another one at Irvine Lake in July, and I will be looking for a friend to go with.  Who's in?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Survived the Mud Run!

Yes, I am back from the Irvine Lake Mud Run.  Had a great time.  I'll post more tomorrow.  Just throught I'd update you quickly now.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Off to the First Mud Run

I can't believe the time has actually come.  My roommate and I are about to head off to my first mud run of the year.  We're picking up our packets this afternoon and then running tomorrow morning at 9AM.

I am excited and nervous.  Most of all, I really do think this will be fun.

I'll will check in later this weekend (probably Sunday) to let you all know how it was.  I'm taking my camera, so there will be pictures as well.

Book Beginnings on Friday

Somehow I missed Book Beginnings on Friday last week, but here we go for this week.

I'm reading The California Roll by John Vorhaus, and the first sentence is:

The first person I ever scammed was my grandmother, who had Alzheimer's disease and could never remember from one minute to the next whether she'd given me ice cream or not.  I'd polish off a bowl, drop it in the sink, walk out, walk back in, ask for another, and get it.
Okay, so I threw in a second sentence again, but it really was needed to complete the thought.

Frankly, even without it, I really loved that first sentence.  It's just a tad fun while really introducing our main character, a scam artist.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Very Late Weekly Geeks

I really had intended to do this week's Weekly Geeks earlier in the week, but then I forgot.  So here is it better late than never, right?

The topic this week is libraries.

I don't know how I would have gotten through childhood without my library.  For several years in late elementary school and early junior high, we went to the library once a week as a family.  Like now, I always came home with more books than I could realistically read.  Some things haven't changed, I guess.

I had a shelf in my bookcase devoted to library books.  I had them arranged by due date, and I'd read the ones with the closest due date first.  I also had them arranged in order of page number, figuring that shorter books would be easier to get through by the due date.  Of course, I'd only get through half of my books, so I'd have to renew the rest.  Plus I'd check out more, so I'd wind up with more books than I could get through again.

It was a vicious cycle that I never wanted to see end.

Of course, I was buying or being given books, too.  But they wouldn't get read in favor of the library books because I could read the books I owned if I ever caught up on library books.  Like that would happen.

Somewhere late in Jr. High I stopped going to the library quite so much, although I still used it some for pleasure reading.  But I was finally trying to read the stuff I owned that I hadn't read yet.

Now a days, I buy more books than I can realistically read.  Unfortunately, much of what I read would be hard to find in a library, too.  And I've gotten spoiled by having a book to read whenever I feel like it without having to go to the library to get it or request it far enough in advance if I need it through interlibrary loan.

But in the last year I have started using the library a bit more again.  I probably got two dozen books from the library this last year, specifically kids' books I wanted to read.  It's a small dent in my reading budget, but it's a nice start.

Maybe I will turn to the library more in the coming years.

What Ever Happened to Differences?

Warning, I am about to go on a rant.

An author I am friends with on Facebook posted a link to this article this morning talking about negative reviews of classics.  Even though I am not posting much on Amazon any more, I am still reviewing regularly at Epinions.  And after all those years reviewing at Amazon, I am still curious about what is said about things over there.

As I expected, the author of the piece picked some truly horrid one star reviews to mock.  And I will also admit I don't see much point in some of them.  Heck, the read more like rants of people who were forced to read the book than honest reviews by someone trying to point out the good or bad of something.

However, having left some negative reviews of "classics" (both books and movies) and getting some nasty comments in response (I had people joining Epinions to tell me how wrong I was to dislike The Dark Knight), I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people being mocked.  And let's admit that was the entire point of the article.

But then I started reading the comments.  I was blown away by the snobbery expressed there.  Most of the responses were by people saying, "Any idiot can leave a review" (which is true) "and the fact that people are expressing their lack of intelligence shows what is wrong with this country."  Heck, some of the commenters I read concluded that all these people must be stupid GOP TeaBaggers.

Which I found ironic considering how at least one person commented on how the Internet has allowed people to say things behind anonymous user names they would never say to someone face to face.  Exhibits A-E were on the same page as that post.

Now, in all fairness, there were some people bringing up the point I would have made there if comments were still open.  And since comments aren't still open there, I am going to make it here.

Some of the comments read like teens letting off steam after having been forced to read the book for English class.  And I read some "classics" that were pretty bad.  I also read some books for school I enjoyed.  Many people said they reread stuff they hated in school and loved it as an adult.  Opinions can change.  There's nothing wrong with that.

But the thought the kept entering my mind was, what ever happened to differences of opinion and freedom of speech?  Just because a book is a classic doesn't mean that every single person on the planet will love it.  It doesn't make the book any less valuable.  It doesn't mean that person is an idiot.  It just means they didn't like the book.  Shrug it off and move on.

But what scared me more was the underlying idea that these people shouldn't be allowed to post at all.  No, no one actually came out and said it.  But I felt several of them felt they should have just kept their opinion to themselves.  That's just wrong.

Now I will sometimes read negative reviews of something I loved (or the other way around).  Sometimes they help me shape what I think about the book a little better.  And sometimes I just shake my head at how the person missed the point or didn't see how horrid it really was.  Yes, there are times when the review just seems stupid to me, and some of the reviews posted are more on the stupid level than the thoughtful review level.  But I never feel like a review should be taken down just because they disagree with me.  There may be other people out there who will benefit from knowing not every person on Earth liked the item in question.

You know, if you don't like something, give some thoughtful reasons why.  Don't just name call or call for them to shut up.  Your response shows as much about you as it does the person who left the original comment.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Word Association for April 7th

Let's do this week's word association, shall we?

  1. Philanthropy :: Giving 
  2. Said :: Did
  3. Blanks :: Firing
  4. Movement :: Forward
  5. Detention :: Facility
  6. Restaurant :: Food
  7. Weird :: Strange
  8. Sniffle :: Allergy
Yes, I cut a couple out.  One I didn't know what was, and the other I didn't feel comfortable doing.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Finally, A Slow Weekend

This last weekend, I got the slower pace I was craving.

Since it was Good Friday, we got off at noon.  Now, I know that most people don't get any time off for Good Friday, but I work at a Christian college.  They give the students (and professors) all day off.  So remind me why staff has to work half a day?

Anyway, I got home and went for a run.  Covered close to 3.5 miles, including some hills.  Boy, was it painful and slow going, but I made it.  I spent the rest of the day catching up on TV and finally watching a movie I had borrowed from some friends months ago.  Wasn't the best, but I finally got it off my list.

Saturday was a very lazy day.  I started by finishing my book.  Then I went to ultimate Frisbee.  We actually had a total of 8 people show up, so we had a good game of 4 on 4.  Hopefully, this is a sign of the game coming back to life.  Came home and watched a movie I'd had on my DVR since June.  At least I got what I paid for with it.

Sunday started at church.  We had one combined service, and it was packed.  I got there a couple minutes late, and barely got a parking spot and a seat.

Sunday afternoon, Daniel and I went over to the Scroggins for dinner.  They fixed a great meal, and we had a good time hanging out with people and playing a few games.

When I got back, I still headed over to Joe and Erica's for a little Middleman (I still miss that show) and fellowship.

Yes, for a quiet weekend, I was still fairly busy, especially on Sunday.  But I felt like it was slower.  I really think that extra few hours on Friday really helped with that.  Now I am rested up and ready for the fast pace that will be the next few weekends.  May looks to be a slower month, at least for now.  We'll see how it turns out.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

You Can't Have One Without the Other

One of the blogs I've started following in the last year is My Friend Amy.  Every Saturday, Amy posts a question for Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday.  And multiple weeks, I've thought about joining.  But this week, I actually am.  The topic?  Easter.

For the last few years, I've been thinking about how Easter seems to be short shafted, at least in my church at the time and my circle of friends.  This was really brought home to me one Easter Sunday morning.  I went to church ready to worship the risen Savior, only to have almost all the songs the choir did be about his death.  The last song was an Easter song, and I left thinking, "But this was supposed to be an Easter service."

So I've long been on a soap box about how the church seems to short change Easter in favor of Good Friday.

Now don't get me wrong, I know exactly how important both days are.  But it seems to really have hit me this year.

Let's start by thinking about what each day represents.  Good Friday is when Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins.  It's that sacrifice that frees us from the power and penalty of our sins.  Pretty important stuff.

Easter Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the grave, crushing death.  As Paul says in I Corinthians, if Jesus had not risen, we'd have no hope for a resurrection ourselves.  Think about it.  Without the hope of Heaven, why live life in view of the next one?  This is all we get, so eat drink and be merry.

So, as you can see, both are very important.

But let's think about what one means without the other.

Okay, so I pretty much already gave my Good Friday no Easter speech.  Our sins are forgiven!  Wonderful!  So we deny ourselves the momentary pleasures of sin here on Earth.  Yes, we don't have to face the consequences of our sin (which is always a good thing).  But there's no future for us.

And Easter without Good Friday?  That's just as depressing.  Yes, Jesus conquers death.  But that does us no good because we will die in our sins and be separated from God forever.  After all, "There is none righteous."

So we really do need both.  And we as Christians need to balance both.  Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins.  And He rose again to prove He has conquered death once and for all.  When He promises me eternal life with Him, I know I will have it because of both Good Friday and Easter.

As I said on my Facebook page today, "You can't have Friday without Sunday.  And you can't have Sunday without Friday."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Word Association for April 2nd

I still need to do this week's word assocation, don't I?

  1. Bow out :: Can't do
  2. Relationships :: Fun
  3. Facebook :: Friends
  4. Items :: Bought
  5. Ours :: Yours
  6. Sting :: Bee
  7. Hangover :: Drunk
  8. Contacts :: E-Mail
  9. Lonely :: Friendless
  10. Seven days :: Week

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Mini Review: Dem Bones' Revenge

I promised a review of this book last Friday, and I am finally getting around to it.  I'll be talking about Dem Bones' Revenge by Kris Neri.

Our series stars Tracy Eaton, the daughter of two movie stars, Tracy has become famous in her own right for a series of mystery novels.  And normally she'd be excited to have a real mystery drop into her lap.  The only problem is this time around, her mother, Martha Collins, is the prime suspect.  She was found bending over the body of someone she didn't know, yet she isn't saying a thing to help herself.  As Tracy begins to investigate, she begins to think that her mother is hiding something from deep in her past.  Can she figure out what it is in time to keep her mother out of jail?

This is actually my third time through the book since it came out in 2000.  (And the next book was finally published!  Yeah!)  It's a wacky ride through Hollywood.  There are several laugh out loud moments that I absolutely loved.

However, it works well as a mystery, too.  It had been a while since I read it, so details of the plot were a little sketchy, but as thing unfolded, I recognized the clues and the red herrings and was able to remember who done it before it was revealed to us.

The characters are walking the very fine line between character and charicature here, but they fit the wacky world of the novel.

All in all, I love this ride.  I hope to get to the latest in the series in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait to read it.