Thursday, December 31, 2009

knitting: first scarf

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I took up knitting and started on my first project: a blue scarf. (I was only on my first skein when this picture was taken; it has grown considerably since then!) I'm using a nice, soft-feeling yarn called Sugar 'n' Cream, avaliable at most craft and hobby stores. Knitting is an especially great project in the winter!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review: Briar Rose

This haunting (and I do mean haunting) tale is very well-written. Jane Yolen's use of parallels is amazing, utilizing the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty throughout the book to contrast with a moving account of the Holocaust. The main characters are fictional, but the storyline is based on real events. That said, this book is a fairy tale meant for adults only, as several parts are not child-appropriate. (I read this book originally in high school and disliked it so much that I'd blocked out the storyline entirely-- it gave me nightmares.) This book also has a pro-homosexual agenda, which I did not appreciate. Re-reading it now, I can appreciate several aspects of this retelling, but it's still not a book I really want on my bookshelf.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

comments on the "New Moon" movie

I saw New Moon tonight. My friend and I arrived at the theater an hour and a half early with advance tickets, expecting the show to be sold out (it wasn't). Because we'd waited a day, the fangirl insanity wasn't nearly as bad as when we went to see Twilight last year. My friend absolutely loved every second of the movie, but I left the theater with mixed feelings. I thought that the werewolf parts were very well done, and I enjoyed them. The vampire parts were mostly just cheesy. Overall, I wasn't sure what the point of the movie was supposed to have been, but it seemed mostly an excuse to showcase the non-explicit "porn for girls" of extremely good looking, muscular, shirtless young men. Easy on the eyes, to be sure... but I'm not sure I like the idea of seeing guys that way. I am a Christian and I'm not afraid to say so, and I couldn't help wondering how my future husband (should I get one) would feel. I'd rather save myself in all ways for my wedding night, and to me, that includes not feasting my eyes on the perfect-looking men that Hollywood favors. I rather think that by doing so, a wife could possibly negate part of the love that should rightfully belong to her husband. (Why would I want to wastefully lust after the guys on the silver screen-- when I could reserve my eyes until I'm married to someone I truly love, and have those feelings be a new experience to me then?) Just as pornography will destroy the love a husband has for his wife, I think that this also can be destructive to a relationship. (And what of the young stars who are being made into sex objects-- what kind of horrible lifestyle is that? Oh, don't believe me? Just how many relationships and lives in Hollywood have made it through the fame? Almost none!) Get more at

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: The Fair Folk

This elven-themed anthology contains six stories specifically written for this collection. Each one of them were thought-provoking in different and unique ways, and that's what I really loved about this book. Some stories were funny, some serious, but all were themed around faerie folk. (Not the Santa Claus kind. Think Lord of the Rings.) Edited by Marvin Kaye and published in 2007, this book is already out of print, and I can't understand why. (It's so good!) In some stories, the book does contain a few flaws (the f-word is overused by some authors). It contains stories by Jane Yolen, Kim Newman, Tanith Lee, Craig Shaw Gardner, Midori Snyder, and Patricia A. McKillip. The best place to find it will probably be at your local library or a good used-bookstore. If you're able to find it, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review: Dr. Pompo's Nose

As Dr. Pompo goes about his morning rounds, he finds a mysterious object. What could it be? A garden tool? A horn? A fossil? Or perhaps... someone's nose? These clever photographs will appeal to young children, and the easy reading level helps young readers who are learning to rhyme. Kids will love the pumpkin faces inspired by the natural shape of the vegetables. Other books by these authors include How Are You Peeling? and Dog Food.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I threw a Halloween party last weekend, and these are the pumpkin pies I made. Topped with real whipped cream, they were delicious!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the buck stops here...

On Monday night as I was driving home from work, I saw a big white blur leaping at me on the driver's side, and all I could think was, "DEER!" My mind was filled with blind panic, and I didn't know what to do. But while I was busy being unable to think, an angel was driving for me, because somehow I managed to brake, swerve, AND not end up in the ditch. The deer-- a huge white buck-- impacted heavily with a CRUNCH of glass and metal on the front left-hand corner of my truck, tearing out the headlight and putting a huge dent in the hood. (All I was actually aware of at the time was the crunching sound and the screeching of my tires across the rain-slicked pavement.) After I came to a complete stop on the side of the road and stopped hyperventilating enough to realize I needed to turn on my emergency lights and find my cell phone, I saw that the buck was lying on the opposite shoulder of the road-- definitely dead. I started tearing up a bit, not for the buck but from the aftershock, and proceeded to call my dad and the police department (in that order.)

God was definitely watching over me that night. If anything about the crash scenario had been even the slightest bit different, the buck would have hit on the driver's side door, and I would have had a faceful of shattered glass and a trip to the emergency room at the very least. Thankfully, I came out of it unscathed (if a bit shaken), my truck is still driveable (though in need of a new headlight), and God is good!

I had my dad come pick me up, as there was no WAY I thought I could drive after that. While I was waiting for him to arrive and the police officer was finishing up, the officer came and asked me, "Do you want the deer?" I wasn't expecting the question, and I laughed a little and said, "Um, NO."

After Dad came to drive me home, I thanked God for keeping me safe and thanked Him for my life. After I got home, I realized that there were two more things that God had done to keep me safe: 1) None of my friends were avaliable, so I hadn't been on my cell phone, and 2) My umbrella, which is one of the long lance-like ones from Barnes and Noble (not the little fold-up jobs), usually sits quietly on the passenger seat next to me so that I won't forget to use it. Normally it behaves itself and stays wherever I put it, but that night it was flopping all over the place and getting in my way before I'd even left the parking lot at work. Exasperated, I'd thought, "That's weird," and thrown it behind the seat to keep it out of the way. I'm blown away by the fact that God made my umbrella uncharacteristically annoying so that I wouldn't be impaled by it when I hit the deer!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Review: Prom Nights from Hell

Prom Nights from Hell features five mediocre stories about proms gone paranormally wrong. A couple of the stories were entertaining, but most fell extremely short of the mark. This book might be okay if you're looking for something light (read: vapid) to read around Halloween, but it's hardly even worth the time. Overall, the stories weren't particularly well-crafted or even interesting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I was surprised that I was able to take such a close-up shot of the bee nestled in the flower!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: Boys That Bite

This is a vampire book told from an unusual point of view, and it worked really well. Sunshine and Rayne are identical twins who got their names from their ex-hippie parents. Both girls are blonde, but Sunny likes to wear flip-flops, tank tops, and jeans, while Rayne's all about the Goth thing. Told from Sunny's perspective, Boys That Bite utilizes situational humor to poke fun at vampire novels in general. This book made me laugh a lot (sometimes out loud), and I really enjoyed it.

It all starts when Rayne invites Sunny to go with her to a Goth-style (alcohol-free) club called Club Fang. Rayne's supposed to get a "love bite" from her future vampire mate, Magnus, so that she can become a vampire, but unfortunately Magnus gets the wrong girl and bites Sunny instead. But Sunny isn't the one who wants to be a vampire. What follows is a quest to "unvampirize" Sunny and a surprisingly sweet, romantic storyline as Sunny and Magnus find themselves... together.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Review: Blood and Chocolate

If you've seen the movie version of this... I'd recommend that you forget you ever saw it! Hollywood didn't seem to have read the book (and if they did, they completely missed the point). I've never really cared for the title-- it doesn't fit in well with the book, and it usually makes my stomach churn (but it comes from a quote from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, which I have not read). That aside, the book itself is much better than its title suggests, though it does have its problems.

Vivian is a young loupe-garou (werewolf) whose pack-family is divided. Her father, the pack leader, died in a fire some time ago, and it's taken some time for the group to recover as far as they have. Which isn't much, Vivian realizes. With so much going wrong at home, Vivian seeks other companions and becomes romantically interested in a human boy at school named Aiden. The rest of the pack members-- especially the Five, the young male werewolves that are Vivian's age-- are not happy about her choice. As her relationship with Aiden progresses, she longs to tell him that she's really a loupe-garou. When she does, he laughs at first, but when she shows him her true form, he (understandably) runs. Vivian wishes he could see how beautiful she knows herself to be, and is upset with him for making Vivian hate herself. By the end of the story, however, she's found the one who appreciates her for herself, and embraces her new role in the pack.

Overall, the book has a pretty good storyline, but I felt that a few of the elements detracted from the point it was trying to make. There's some mild innuendo and sexual content that was unneccessary, and a few darker themes run through the storyline as well, marring an otherwise excellent book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: The Silver Kiss

Similar to Twilight in ways but written in 1990, this has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. Unfortunately the Twilight Saga may have already pushed this book into oblivion, because the slight romance element in the book that makes it exciting has been far more thoroughly explored in the Stephanie Meyer books. Nevertheless, I still like this one.

Zoe's mother is dealing with cancer, and it seems to be a losing battle. Her father isn't home much because he's usually at the hospital with Mom, and Zoe's best friend Lorraine is moving to Oregon. Everything seems to be going wrong, and Zoe is lonely and having a hard time dealing with the idea that her mother may die. It takes the eventual friendship with a handsome vampire named Simon to help her deal with these issues and learn that life is about more than death.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review: Bunnicula

This favorite kids' book isn't really a 'hare-raising' tale, but it's still a lot of fun. Harold, a dog (and the narrator of our story) and Chester, a cat (who enjoys reading books late at night) are the Monroe family's pets. One night, the Monroes go to see a Dracula movie, and bring home a small bundle. What could it be? Garlic? Popcorn? Or perhaps... a small bunny with curious markings on his fur, and an attached message written in Transylvanian-- Take good care of my baby. The Monroes decide to call the rabbit "Bunnicula" in honor of the Dracula movie where they found him. What ensues is a hilarious read full of white vegetables drained dry of their juices, Chester's attempts to prove that Bunnicula is really a vampire, and the suprisingly simple yet creative solution to the problem.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Review: Frankenstein

Everyone knows this classic story-- or do they? Thanks to a lot of Hollywood versions of Frankenstein, perhaps not. Read on! (Note: Please keep in mind that Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the actual monster that looks like this picture.)

Initially, this is a hard book to get into, even if you're used to the language typically used in classics. (I am, and this book's opening was still long and monotonous.) The story is begun by a man named Walton, the captain of an icebound ship sailing to the North Pole, who rescues a man from the frozen Arctic wasteland. The rescued man is named Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and he has a terrible story to tell. Victor Frankenstein starts out with a fairly happy, pleasant life until he begins to desire glory. His aspirations drive him more and more, and he craves knowledge. Eventually, he's built up the gall to create a sentient being: a monster made out of dead body parts, stitched and stapled together, and sparked into life by the power of electricity. Although Dr. Frankenstein wanted his creation to be handsome and human-looking, his monster is ugly. (This is partly because Dr. Frankenstein had to enlarge everything in the monster's body to a larger scale, because he was unable to put together something normally-sized-- some body parts are too small for that to have been possible.) Victor Frankenstein's dream of creating a superior, godlike race has failed, and he abandons his unattractive creation.

As Frankenstein's monster starts out trying to find his way in the world alone, thinking that humans are "divine beings," he tries very hard to improve himself so he can fit in. He learns the human languages, helping them "as if by an unseen hand," learning the history of mankind, and trying to make his voice sound less harsh. Frankenstein's creation does everything he can to be accepted, and wants someone to love him. He attempts to communicate with an old blind man, DeLacey, and since DeLacey can't see him, things go fairly well at first. Unfortunately, the blind man's children find him, and they beat him. The monster has been wronged by society, and begins to retaliate against the human race. He curses Dr. Frankenstein, and decides that since he has had to experience suffering, his creator should suffer also. The monster goes on a killing rampage and murders William, Victor's younger brother, and frames a servant for it. The servant is put to death by the law, even though she is actually innocent. Later, Frankenstein's monster kills Victor's bride Elizabeth, as well as his best friend, Henry Clerval, and haunts Victor wherever he goes. The monster is never accepted by society, and it makes him miserable and angry. Frankenstein also denies making the monster a mate, destroying his creation's dreams of happiness. Eventually both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster end up chasing one another to the Arctic region, where Victor is picked up by Walton's ship, and Frankenstein's monster goes further north. In these respective places, both eventually die-- alone, friendless, and far from the reaches of sanity.

Overall, this book isn't really about the Hollywood horror that people generally associate with Frankenstein. Instead, Mary Shelley has used various themes, including that of death, to illustrate her ideals and the development of society. Shelley believed that people were basically good until they were wronged by society, and she shows this view best in Frankenstein's monster. However, the main theme this book struggles to answer is: Who is the real evil-- Dr. Frankenstein, or his creation?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Review: A Taste for Red

I first heard about this book on a blog I regularly follow, Miss Print, and it sounded really good. However, when I read it myself, it turned out to be somewhat disappointing. (Sorry, Miss Print. Sorry, Mr. Harris.)

Svetlana is a really fun character to listen to-- smart-alecky and hilarious-- with a preference for eating only red foods, sleeping under her bed, and wearing black. Because of these things, she thinks she's a vampire. (I wish she'd turned out to be one in the book, instead of... what she did turn out to be.) I enjoyed the beginning of this book quite a bit. As it progressed, I felt that it wasn't living up to its inital promise and potential.

Overall, I thought the book had a good and unique idea, if perhaps a little short on plot towards the ending. It's not the worst-written book I've ever read, by far... but it's not really the best of the best, either. Instead of being a book I felt like I must add to my personal library (as I was hoping), it turned out to be one I can live without. (Worth checking out at the local library, though.)

That said, I will say this: This is Mr. Harris's first book, and I've seen FAR WORSE books by more experienced authors, and been left wondering why the publisher let it go through to the printing press. This is not one of those books, and I am eager to see what Mr. Harris will produce next. He has a unique, funny, attention-grabbing writing style that's sure to be appealing with young adults. It's not what I'd call a 'must-read,' but it is at least 'worth reading.'

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: The Bourne Identity

I can't compare the book to the movie on this post, because (gulp) I haven't seen the movie. Yet. (Though I hear it's entirely different from the book.) This was my first time reading Robert Ludlum, and I really enjoyed The Bourne Identity. It was so full of twists, turns, action sequences, and complete surprises that I couldn't put it down. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him. I really can't write about my favorite parts-- it would ruin everything, and I won't spoil it for you (even if you've seen the movie and you think you know already). However, I will say this: this is probably one of the most exciting novels I've ever read, and I stayed up waaaay too late several nights trying to finish it...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music Review: Skillet- Awake

I'm a brand-new fan of Skillet, and this CD might be the best thing I've ever listened to in my entire life. Full of catchy rock vibes and thought-provoking lyrics, Skillet's album Awake really caught my attention because nearly every song seemed to relate to me in some way or another. It's rare to find an entire album that feels... real... let alone one that has a good sound as well. Skillet has done an amazing job of both on this album!

For more information, visit the official website at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

The only good thing I observed about this book was its format, which was unusually clever. Author John Green utilizes a unique "before-the-event/the event/after-the event" structure to tell the story of a group of teens, who they were before a life-changing event, and who they became afterwards. Unfortunately, the story is peppered with graphic sexual content, pornography, lewd references to both genders, smoking, drinking, cursing, and little to no consequences for poor actions made by the characters.

I'd previously read a short story by John Green in the book Let it Snow (book review coming in December), and had thought at the time that that particular story wasn't too bad overall. When I picked up Looking for Alaska randomly from a library shelf, I thought, "Oh yeah, John Green, this should be okay." However, I was extremely disappointed with my findings. First of all, the sexual content is far too graphic for Green's target audience (which, he writes, is high schoolers). I skipped over the worst parts, hoping that the story would manage to redeem itself in the end, but it didn't do that either. The event that becomes the turning point of the story is the death of a main character, and afterwards her friends are left wondering 1.) whether it was an accident or suicide, 2.) the meaning of life and why things like this happen, and 3.) whether there's any point to living life at all. The book then attempts to answer the meaning-of-life questions with a jumbled and unsatisfactory mix of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, which results in an overall feeling of hopelessness and drudgery. This is one of the few books I've read that I truly felt was a complete waste of time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Review: Swords for Hire

If you enjoyed The Princess Bride (either movie or book version), you'll probably enjoy Swords for Hire. Written in equal parts sarcasm and humor, this book made me laugh quite a bit. It parodies your typical fantasy adventure-- dynamic sword-wielding duo rescues princess and overthrows bad guy-- so it isn't particularly original, but the material is familiar enough (and funny enough) that it's not really a disadvantage. Instead, it's more like seeing an old friend again. Overall, I thought that this was a book worth reading, and it made me wish that its author, Will Allen, was still alive. I'm sure he would have made a mint with books like this, and I wish there was more where this came from. (It was written in 1979 by Will Allen when he was twenty-two. He was terminally ill with melanoma.) The characters in the book are actually based on Will and his family members, and their portraits are on the cover!

If you can't find this book and think it sounds interesting, more information is avaliable here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Beauty

This version of Beauty and the Beast is possibly one of the best-written books I've ever read, as well as being a perennial favorite of mine. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast is a fresh, more detailed take on the classic story, full of vibrant color and rich descriptions.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Review: White Fang

While I enjoyed The Call of the Wild, I thought that White Fang was even better. (I haven't seen the movie, so I can't compare the two.) It's rather the opposite of The Call of the Wild: instead of a domestic dog becoming wild, White Fang is about a savage wolf from the Yukon who becomes a loyal and loving companion animal living in California.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review: The Call of the Wild

Buck is a Californian dog, part St. Bernard and part shepherd, who finds himself taken from the comforts of his domestic home and thrust into the part of a Yukon sled dog. As Buck discovers firsthand the rules of his new life, he also finds that the inability to adapt means death.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: The Princess Bride

Most people have seen the movie The Princess Bride. It's iconic, and extremely quotable. The book version is just as hilarious, if not more so.

[Spoiler Warning] For the record: there is no S. Morgenstern, and therefore no actual abridgement, and the book is entirely fictional. There are parts where author William Goldman talks about himself, and the trouble he went through with the Florinese historians, and the Morgenstern estate... Not a word of that is true. It's written to be funny, so please don't take it seriously!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Gamer Girl

If it's possible to have a crush on a book, I think I have one on Gamer Girl! After picking it up off a library shelf at random, I tore through its 224 pages in three hours and forty-five minutes, because I just had to know what happened next. It's not that it's packed with action; it was just such a refreshing change from the average young-adult fare that I couldn't help but enjoy it.

Maddy is a skater/emo girl who loves manga (Japanese comics), drawing, and recently for her, video games. Her parents have just divorced, and she's going to a new school. Unfortunately, things at her new school take a bad turn on the very first day, and she has a hard time making new friends. She also won't get to see her dad as often due to the divorce, so for her birthday, Dad gives her the game Fields of Fantasy so they can hang out in the virtual world. However, Dad doesn't seem to be able to hang out much there either, and so Maddy (alias Alora in the game) ends up hanging out virtually with a kid named Sir Leo. Sir Leo is a lot of fun, and before Maddy knows it, Sir Leo is also Maddy's best (and only) friend.

The book is good with this, too, however. Maddy's dad tells her not to give out too much information to strangers online, pointing out that he could be anyone-- not neccessarily the sixteen-year-old guy he says he is. And later, the book points out the dangers of gaming too much when Maddy's dad ditches her for his online gaming buddies. Maddy clearly sees that there is a difference between being a gamer and being a computer addict. Conquering her fear of the bullies at school, she learns to stand up for herself, makes some new friends, and discovers Sir Leo's true identity.

The book, published in 2008, is written very much in the "now"-- you'll find references to things like Facebook, Myspace, cell phones, and actual manga titles like Fullmetal Alchemist. This part of it was especially well-done. Too often, name-dropping feels like an advertisement, but in this book, Mari Mancusi makes it work, adding to the feel that Maddy could very well be someone you actually know. I also felt that Mancusi did a good job with the 'internet dangers' part, making sure that her readers know to watch out, without lecturing. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and felt that it was refreshing and well-written.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: The White Dragon

Jaxom, the young Lord Holder of Ruatha, and his unusual white dragon Ruth star in this volume of the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. Chronologically set at the same time as the Harper Hall trilogy (or roughly thereabouts), it was interesting to see Pern and other major characters (such as Menolly) from yet another point of view.

However, I found this book somewhat tedious (though fairly well-written), because the basic plot doesn't ever really pick up. Things are seen from Jaxom's point of view, and he is discontented during the majority of the book. (You'd think he'd spend more time doing something about his situation than whining about it.) Eventually Jaxom does figure this out and takes a few steps in the right direction, but I felt that his full potential as a character was never very well realized. Instead of sympathizing with him or cheering him on, I mostly felt annoyed with him. Much more interesting were the support characters (who are main characters in the other books). Overall, I thought this book was "just okay," but not worth purchasing for my personal library or even really worth re-reading.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: Death of a Ghost

It's high time for a break from fantasy and sci-fi books. Need a little mystery in your life? Meet Albert Campion. While author Margery Allingham is no Agatha Christie, her characters and plot ideas are quite good. Her writing style and deliverance of the story, however, is somewhat lackluster and predictable. It's still a decent enough read, although if you're prone to figuring out the ending before finishing a mystery, this may not be the book for you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: Dragonquest

I enjoyed Dragonquest far more than the previous book in the "Dragonriders of Pern" series, Dragonflight. The brown dragon Canth and his rider F'nor are the most major characters in the book, and I liked them a lot. Also, this book takes place at the same time as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger from the Harper Hall trilogy, so there were a lot of the same events happening from a different viewpoint than Menolly's. I thought this was a very entertaining and fairly well-written book.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review: Dragonflight

For many years, I've been reading and re-reading the Harper Hall trilogy, loving it each time and taking the general social structure within the book for granted. However, I recently became interested in Pern outside of the scope of the Harper Hall. As I read Anne McCaffrey's first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, Dragonflight, I learned that things were not always as I had thought. This book is the story of how the Pern I've always enjoyed came to be. I had a bit of trouble keeping everyone's name straight, as several different characters frequently have similar names (for example, F'lar is not to be confused with F'nor; and T'bor is not the same person as T'sum) due to the method of naming children on Pern. Thankfully, in this particular copy there was a "Dragondex" in the back that helped to keep the main characters straight.

Lessa is a lowly kitchen drudge at Ruatha Hold. However, there's more to her than meets the eye. It turns out that she's actually one of the last true Ruathans, and the cruel Lord Fax killed the rest of her family when she was eleven during his conquering of Ruatha Hold. Since that day, Lessa has been planning her revenge so that she can take over the home that should have been rightfully hers.

Everything changes on the day that F'lar, rider of a bronze dragon named Mnementh, visits Ruatha Hold with Lord Fax. (A bronze dragon is the highest-ranking male dragon.) With F'lar are his twelve wingmen, other dragonriders, including his half-brother F'nor, who rides a brown dragon named Canth. F'lar is on Search-- in other words, he is looking for a strong woman who is capable of becoming Weyrwoman. Lessa doesn't know this--she only sees an opportunity to rid her Hold of Lord Fax forever by making him renounce his claim on it in front of dragonmen. She subtly manages to make Lord Fax's meal inedible in various ways, which makes him angry, and he swears an oath that he will not have a Hold that cannot support itself.

However, things do not happen as Lessa has planned. Fax ends up dead, Ruatha Hold goes to his newborn son Jaxom, and F'lar has found the woman he wants to become Weyrwoman: Lessa. As Lessa consents to go to Benden Weyr, she has no idea that she will have to learn to work with F'lar, and together, somehow find a way to save Pern from the deadly spores of Thread...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Beastly

Ever wonder what it was like for the Beast? When I first started reading this book, I planned to write a review describing it as "a refreshing, modern-day retelling of 'Beauty and the Beast' from the Beast's point of view." While that's essentially accurate, after finishing it I'm much more inclined to tell people that it's simply one of my "new favorite books." Alex Flinn is a new author to me, and I was fairly pleased with the way she handled this take on a classic story.

The son of a wealthy news anchor, Kyle Kingsbury is one of the "Beautiful People" at his high school. He's just about to be elected prince of the ninth-grade dance, and most people--including himself-- seem to think that he deserves it. He's gorgeous, after all. Unfortunately, Kyle is also a jerk. He asks a "fat girl" named Kendra to be his date to the dance-- all the while planning to embarrass her by ditching her when he shows up to the dance with his real date, Sloane Hagen, the hottest babe in school. Sloane is all for Kyle's ditching goth-chick Kendra, and is happy to go along with it so that Kendra will actually show up. Both girls want corsages: Sloane wants a purple orchid to go with her barely-there black dress, and Kendra wants a white rose. "For purity," she says. However, when the night of the big dance comes, the new maid has messed up and gotten just a white rose. Sloane is seriously ticked and refuses to wear it. Unsure what to do with it, Kyle gives it to the girl selling tickets at the door. (She's thrilled.)

Unfortunately for Kyle, Kendra turns out to be a witch-- and extremely good looking, even if she does have green hair. To teach Kyle a lesson, she transforms him into a beast. Since looks are all he values in people, he needs to learn what it is to be beautiful on the inside. Kendra tells him that because he performed one small act of kindness--giving the rose to the girl at the ticket booth-- that he can have a second chance. To break the spell, he must find a girl within two years that can look past the fur and claws and love him for who he is (and kiss him to prove it), and what's more, Kyle has to truly love her back.

When I first picked up Beastly, I was just planning to read the first few pages to get a taste of what I'd be in for. However, the presentation of the story was so intriguing and new to me that I couldn't put it down. (I think I finished it in about 3.5-4 hours, straight through.) I'll have to read it again to be sure, but I think I just might have to buy a copy of this one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review: Dragondrums

It's been about three years since the last book, and Piemur's voice is changing. Having lost his famous soprano voice, Masterharper Robinton decides it's time to put Piemur to good use with his other abilities. Piemur's primary other talents include picking up important snippets of information and putting them together to see the whole of whatever's going on, and dissembling. So Master Robinton secretly makes Piemur his new apprentice, and assigns him to the drumheights (the primary message center). This way, Piemur will be in a position to send and recieve messages, as well as covertly perform any other tasks the Masterharper might wish.

This is my least favorite book in the Harper Hall trilogy. I like Piemur, but as the other two books are about Menolly, I would have expected her to be more important in this book than she actually turns out to be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Review: Dragonsinger

The second book in Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall trilogy, Dragonsinger, chronicles Menolly's eventful first week as a harper apprentice.

Menolly and her nine fire lizards have come to stay at their new home, the Harper Hall. Initially she is put in the small cottage with the other girls--paying customers--but most of the girls make life miserable for Menolly because of their envy. It doesn't help that the cotholder Dunca hates the sight of Menolly and fears her fire lizards. When a message to Menolly about her classes is withheld by Dunca, Menolly is given a room of her own within the male-dominated Harper Hall and becomes Masterharper Robinton's apprentice.

After a few initial trials and tribulations, Menolly is befriended by the mischievious young boy Piemur and Master Robinton's journeyman, Sebell. Piemur's clear soprano voice earned him a place as an apprentice harper at an unusually young age, and he proves a true friend to Menolly (and not just because he wants a fire lizard of his own someday).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: Dragonsong

This book is a longtime favorite of mine, and for quite awhile I was not aware that it was actually part of a trilogy. It can be read alone, but works fairly well with the other two books also.

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong is about a girl named Menolly who lives in Half-Circle Sea Hold on the planet known as Pern. Menolly's one true joy in life is music. She has talent, and was singled out and taught by the Hold's harper Petiron. In this society, songs are used to teach Pern's history and school the children, among many other things. After Petiron's death, Menolly is the only one able to sing and play properly, and must take over schooling the children until the new Harper arrives. However, her strict, tradition-abiding father, Yanus, is the Sea Holder, and anything musical is considered "harper's business" and therefore a man's job. (Traditionally, only men can become harpers.)

After an unfortunate accident and the increasing unfairness of her parents in denying her music, Menolly leaves the Hold-- a daring and dangerous thing to do, because of something known as Thread. When a wayward red star passes close enough to Pern, it drops deadly spores that eat through anything living. Metal and rock are the only things that stop Thread, so one must have shelter during Threadfall. The inhabitants of Pern have come up with a way to combat Thread: huge dragonlike creatures are ridden by specially chosen human beings--dragonriders--and together, they char Thread into ash midair. Menolly's leaving her Hold and living without shelter is dangerous, but she finds a cave in time. Inside the cave, a clutch of fire lizards (similar to dragons, but much smaller) are about to hatch, and from there, all her adventures begin...

Book Review: The Complete Robot

A collection of all the robot stories by Isaac Asimov, The Complete Robot includes the stories found in I, Robot as well as in other works. (Also included are stories not found anywhere else.) The collection was refreshing and entertaining, and each short story worked individually because of the strong ideas portrayed within each one. Some of my favorites were "Robbie," "Sally," and "Light Verse." Included in the end is Bicentennial Man, a quick-read version of The Positronic Man, though not as skillfully written. The beginning stories can be read in no particular order, though the last several are about Susan Calvin and should be read in order for the full effect. Overall: excellent!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: The Positronic Man

This book by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg is actually what the movie Bicentennial Man was based off of. (However, the movie takes it in a different direction.) The Positronic Man is the story of a robot named Andrew who embarks on a 200-year quest to "become human." Throughout his two hundred years, he discovers what it means to be human and aspires to become one himself.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: The Outlaws of Sherwood

Robin McKinley's take on the classic story of Robin Hood is an exciting and unusual read. I'm most familiar with the Disney version of events, and while I was aware that Robin Hood was not really a fox, the ending was somewhat disappointing. (You mean there are consequences at the end of robbing the rich to feed the poor?) It was still an enjoyable book, however, and I will definitely be reading it again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Liberator

The sixth and final book in the Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn finally wraps everything up neatly-- and excitingly! Who is friend? Who is foe? The answers may surprise you...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Judge

A quick stop on the planet Semaline turns into a prolonged adventure. Jack ends up serving as a judge to a group of aliens, and while doing so discovers who his parents were and just what happened to them the last time they were on Semaline. The fifth Dragonback book by Timothy Zahn.

Book Review: Dragon and Herdsman

The fourth book in the Dragonback adventures finds Jack and Draycos on an obscure world herding... K'da? No, they're actually Phookas-- K'da that aren't intelligent. Back for more adventures is the mysterious Alison Kayna. Just why does she keep cropping up? Is she one of the good guys? Or is she really a spy? Jack and Draycos don't know, but they might be about to find out. In the meantime, however, bad guys are chasing them through the woods, and Jack must herd the Phookas along-- or else enemies will kill them all. While Jack, Draycos, and Alison are doing this, Alison "wakes up" a Phooka, transforming her new friend into a full K'da named Taneem.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Slave

What have Jack and Draycos gotten themselves into this time? The third book in the Dragonback series kicks off with Jack trying to infiltrate the Choockook family estate on the planet Brum-a-dum, home to the alien species Brummgas. Working as a team, Jack and Draycos must try to solve a puzzle that seems to have more pieces than they can fit together.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Soldier

The second installment of the Dragonback books, Dragon and Soldier, finds Jack and Draycos trying to track down yet another clue. This time, their search has led them to the Whinyard's Edge, a mercenary group that may have had a hand in the attack on Draycos' people. They sign up as part of the underage mercenary army, and in the process meet Alison Kayna. Who is Alison, and why does she seem to be so good at everything they're learning as soldiers?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Thief

Book One of Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback adventures, Dragon and Thief is an exciting but somewhat bizarre science fiction story. If you can get past the initial weirdness, the series as a whole is very exciting and entertaining. The main characters are Jack, a fourteen-year-old human boy, and Draycos, a dragonlike alien who prefers to be thought of as ‘a poet-warrior of the K’da.’ It’s a bit difficult to explain about Draycos, but I’ll do my best. Most of the time he looks like a shiny gold dragon about the size of a small tiger, as the book puts it. However, that's only when he's in three-dimensional form. He can also become two-dimensional (and still be alive). To illustrate this concept, please imagine that you have a tattoo (if you don't already have one). Now imagine that that tattoo can move around on the surface of your skin. This is sort of what Draycos does when he becomes two-dimensional and "rides" Jack's skin. As a K'da, Draycos is three-dimensional for most of the time, but he needs a symbiont host in order to recharge. If he goes without becoming two-dimensional on his host's skin for over six hours, he'll die. The K'da aren't parasites, though-- they take nothing from their hosts (except maybe their privacy, as Jack points out in the earlier pages of the book), and give protection and companionship in return.

Sounds weird, yes, but the book does a far better job explaining that whole concept than I just did. However, that whole two-dimensional thing frequently comes in handy whenever Jack needs to hide the fact that he's got a small dragon with him. On Jack's skin, Draycos just looks like a full-body dragon tattoo, and anyone who sees him (and hasn't heard of the alien species K'da) thinks that's just what Draycos is. That's a good thing, as there are alien bad guys called the Valahgua who want to destroy the K'da and the Shontine (the other K'da hosts), who are coming to the Orion Arm to find a new home. The trouble is, an unknown ally to the Valahgua has already nearly eliminated the K'da/Shontine advance team (that's what Draycos survived), and knows the rest of the refugee fleet is coming.

Together, Draycos and Jack make a good team. Jack has a rather checkered past, thanks to his uncle, Virgil Morgan-- the best safecracker in the black-market business. Uncle Virgil frequently used Jack as a distraction for anyone who might stop Virgil in his work, and was apparently trying to train Jack to follow in his footsteps. Since his uncle's death, Jack has been trying to reform, but eleven years of habit are hard to break-- especially since before he died, Virgil Morgan programmed Jack's ship, the Essenay, with a computerized personality of himself. Luckily, Draycos is around now, and begins teaching Jack about ethics and doing what's right, even when there's no reward involved. Jack thinks it's a waste of time-- at least at first.

When some unidentified bad guys kidnap Jack in order to find Virgil Morgan--since Jack didn't exactly print an obituary-- it's up to Jack to perform one last safecracking job in order to clear himself for a crime he didn't even commit...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: I, Robot

If you’ve seen the movie, then I should tell you that it’s nothing at all like the book. (Honestly, I’m not exactly sure where the movie directors got the plot for their movie… there are perhaps two very minor incidents in the book that are similar, and that’s all.) However, the format of the book I,Robot is actually a series of short stories all happening to the same group of people, and which are quite thought-provoking. Isaac Asimov’s books are usually just a little out of my depth, but I always enjoy them nevertheless. If you like good, logical thinking and problem solving, you’ll probably like this book.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Review: Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood

This book by Meredith Ann Pierce has been one of my favorites for quite some time. I always finish it thinking that the ending was a little weak-- and weird-- but I like the beginning and middle so much that I always re-read it. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood is about a girl named Hannah, who lives in the middle of the Tanglewood in a hut with her companions: Badger, Magpie, and three mischieveous fox pups. They can talk to her and she can understand them, unlike the local villagers, who keep their distance unless they need medicinal assistance (for Hannah is a healer). She is also the ward of a Wizard, and each month she must brew a special tea for him. Thus she has always done, for as long as she can remember.

Before long, Hannah starts to realize how odd it is that neither she nor Magpie nor Badger (not to mention the too-young fox pups) can remember how they came to be living in the Tanglewood. What is love? Who is the Wizard, really? And why do young, handsome knights keep venturing into the wood? As Hannah begins to discover the answers to these questions, she also eventually discovers who she truly is and the power that lies within her.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: The Hobbit

The first time I read The Hobbit, I was in sixth grade. I finished it, thinking it was a good book but a real snoozer, and didn't touch it again. Until, of course, this past weekend, when I decided to give it another go-round. I've read the Lord of the Rings trilogy several times through and love them all, so to me this is 'light reading.' This was my second time through it, and I was pleasantly surprised. While I remembered the basic story, I found that I'd forgotten several details. It is a lot lighter than The Lord of the Rings, and is good for when I want a taste of LOTR but don't have the time or inclination to go through them all again. The Hobbit chronicles the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and a band of dwarves as Bilbo helps them reclaim their home from the dragon Smaug. It doesn't have a lot of action in it (compared to the trilogy), as it's simply the beginning of the later adventures, but it's well worth reading. (Of course it is; it's a classic.) I am glad that I gave it a second chance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

my favorite mug.

Book Review: Missing Abby

I first picked this book up because I really liked the cover... sort of 'summertime Goth' (or something like that). I went on to read it because the title was rather intriguing. Abby is a girl who has gone missing, and the story is narrated by her once-best-friend Emma. But as the story progresses, it's also about Emma missing Abby and their old friendship. The story takes place in Britain. [Note: The American-born-turned-Brit author, Lee Weatherly, thoroughly confused me at first with her writing style, because there's a lot of British slang all through it, and it felt forced as well. But maybe Emma's expressions are simply how a thirteen-year-old British girl of today would actually talk.] It's sad at the end, but positive.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

into the woods...

just a couple of shots from the afternoon's hike.