Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz

I just finished reading Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz. This is a modern day Arcane novel which continues the story of the struggle of Jones & Jones and the Arcane Society against the evil Nightshade organization. The book also has a minor connection to the Eclipse Bay series in the person of the eccentric Arizona Snow.

As a long-time reader of Jayne Ann Krentz novels, this book met my expectations very well. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Typical of Krentz' books, it is the story of two misfits and how they each find the mate who, if they don't complete them; matches them very well. The hero and heroine have been without family for most of their lives, and have not found a partner who will accept them and love them unconditionally. They form a bond that satisfies and fulfils. It is (as I expect in my books) a happily ever after type of book. I personally don't have a problem with that. You will never find me reviewing a book recommended by Oprah, after all. The story is romantic suspense with the suspense being provided by the conflict between Nightshade operatives and our hero and heroine. This book gets my recommendation--with four stars out of five possible. Sadly, since I finished the book today--I can't count it toward any part of the 2009 Book Challenge, darn it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Book Challenge

Judy and I have decided to create and compete in a book challenge this year. We invite our friends and family to participate too. The challenge is in three parts. You can participate in all three or just one. It's up to you. Part one: read 12 biographies in the coming year. Part two: reading 12 nonfiction, mystery, science fiction, suspense, or romance (not including category romance) books in the coming year. Part three: read 50,000 pages worth of books counting any and all books read. (Magazines, internet, etc do NOT count toward your page total.) We recognize this challenge will be tough for those of you who have kids (rethinking that decision yet? ;o) oops, too late) which is why we added some flexibility to the levels of participating in the challenge. The challenge begins January 1, naturally, so get reading to READ.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Cookie Bake

So the great Cookie Bake of 2008 is over. In the end we had an unintended white chocolate theme but I think the mix of cookies is interesting and I hope really good. All that's left to do now is prepare the boxes. Each box will have:
White Chocolate Candy Cane Drops
Sugar Crisps
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Cherry Chocolate Kisses
Orange Sugar Cookies
Coconut Drops
Candy Bark (a cracker/toffee/chocolate candy)
White Chocolate Trash (a white chocolate/cereal candy)
Pretzel Rods coated with white chocolate and jimmies
I still have some baking to do for our Christmas Day company but the biggest amount is over.
I hope we get some good feedback from the family so we can adjust for next year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Long Absence

Considering how much time Robin spends on the computer everyday I'm amazed that it's been 10 months since her last post. I, on the other hand have spent very little time on the computer this last year. It's only been since we bought the laptop that I've got into the habit. Not that I get to USE the laptop mind you, but now that Robin is on the laptop all evening it leaves the desk computer free. So Yay! I've opened a Facebook account and re-connected with lots of friends and now I want to keep the blog up to date. I'm very opinionated and if I go too long without expressing these opinions in a positive way among friends, then I start boring people at work (and the checker at the grocery..). It's not a pretty sight. Today we began the 2008 Cookie Bake. Of course since Robin and I are uber-procrastinators, first we had to clean the kitchen, rearrange the cupboards, organize the pantry and the baker's rack where we store canned goods, take out the trash, go to the grocery and....take a nap! FINALLY, I started baking. First I mixed up the dough for sugar crisps a long-time family favorite, then I moved on to Peanut Butter blossoms while the 1st dough was chilling. I have to say so far, excellent cookies. The family will be suitably grateful I'm sure.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Snow Day Musings

I'm home for a snow day. ;o) As I look out my window I see a very wet landscape. It's raining here---but west and north it is icy. I'm glad I don't have to navigate on the icy roads. I checked the weather from my previous home (Champaign-Urbana)and my old school is out for weather too. They got eight to ten inches of snow. Sometimes I'm just sooooo happy I live in Maryland. Most particularly when Illinois is getting hit with sub-zero temperatures (last week) and snow, snow. snow (today).

Meanwhile, I'm hanging out at my house not doing anything too strenous. I have cinnamon rolls rising on the back of the stove and I've been channel hopping as we call it in my house. To be specific, I've read a little, watched tv a little, napped a little. Well, you get the idea. It's a SNOW DAY!!

Anyway, while skipping past a lineup of uninteresting movies I found the biography channel showing a piece on Pete Rose. The baseball player. I was inspired to post my personal, non-expert opinion that he should be reinstated in baseball, and further that his name should be put back on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. Not because he didn't do anything wrong--obviously gambling on your sport is particularly stupid--but because in light of what we now know of the use of performance enhancing drugs, it seems way less offensive than what some have done. I mean, if Pete Rose had bet against his own team (as far as I know he never did) or there was evidence that he had thrown a game to receive a betting payoff (again, never did) I'd get the hysteria and attitude that he had harmed baseball. But to act like gambling makes him a person of low character and that the Hall of Fame is a testament to a life-well lived in the moral sense...that's just ridiculous. Hall of Fame honors are about the sport, and unless you plan to kick out anybody who really did cheat, imo, by using steroids or HGH or testosterone etc. Well, it's kind of hypocritical. Anyway--it got on my nerves listening to the various muckity-mucks interviewed in the piece acting like Pete Rose was the worst guy who ever lived and that his exclusion from the Hall of Fame was somehow the right, moral thing that just annoyed me. Thus, I share my annoyance with you, dear reader.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Best Quotes of LMB

My last post about The Sharing Knife books, has set my brain to whirring about the works of Lois McMaster Bujold. It is only with great discipline that I am stopping myself from pulling down my bookshelf of Miles and starting a massive re-reading of every novel. To satisfy my craving, I have pulled down Palladin of Souls so that I can share what I considered to be the finest of Bujold's writing. Hmm, how to set this up. In the story, a character has died and his soul has been prevented from traveling to the after-life as it should. This has caused grief to the god who wants to receive him.

The Father of Winter says tells Ista,
"...For my great-souled child is very late, and lost upon his road. My calling voice cannot reach him. He cannot see the light in my window, for he is sundered from me, blind and deaf and stumbling, with none to take his hand and guide him. Yet you may touch him, in his darkness. And I may touch you, in yours. Then take you this thread to draw him through the maze, where I cannot go."

Later, Ista delivers the message,

"Your Father calls you to His Court. You need not pack; you go garbed in glory as you stand. He waits eagerly by His palace doors to welcome you, and has prepared a place at His high table by His side, in the company of the great-souled, honored, and best-beloved. In this I speak true. Bend your head."

I cannot read those lines without a lump in my throat. So perfectly written, they choke me up every single time. Whew. If you haven't read Lois McMaster Bujold, you just don't know what you are missing.

Lois McMaster Bujold

I just finished reading The Sharing Knife Volumes 1 & 2 (Beguilement, Legacy) by Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I cannot say enough about the quality of her writing. Indeed, I frequently re-read what she writes because the richness of the language, full-bodied development of the characters and the complexity of her plots are simply unmatched. I rank her as the finest author I read. I have often tried to think of what my top ten favorite book list would be, or my top author list and my list quickly goes beyond ten names or books. (I read a lot!) I confess to feeling some surprise when that phrase "the finest author I read" popped off the page at me. But having said that Bujold is my number one--I confirm it. She is a fabulously talented author.

In The Sharing Knife books, which I read back to back, Bujold has created another new world. I confess to loving the other ones quite a bit, so I approach each new world with optimism and sadness. I'm confident I will like the new world, but I'm sad that she didn't write more with the last world. It 's a conundrum. ;o)

Back to The Sharing Knife review. Hmm, review...I'm probably doing a review-lite here because I'm not much for analyzing books like a real reviewer--I'm first and foremost, a reader. To me, books rise or fall on, "Did I like it?". I loved TSK.

Bujold has created a world in which society is divided into those who devote themselves to commerce and the business of creating goods and inventing and living--and those who protect everyone else for little thanks. I expect some deep thinker could see some analogy to current events today. The "Farmers" are the portion of society that goes about building, creating, growing, without fully understanding that the myths and stories about evil and bogeymen are true. The "Lakewalkers" are the nomadic tribes that deal with the evil and bogeymen at great cost personally, and as a society. These two groups are represented by the heroine--Fawn, a Farmer and the hero--Dag, a Lakewalker. They are the Romeo and Juliet of the story. The classics plots always manage to get a foot in the door, don't they? Okay--that might be pushing it as Fawn and Dag don't off themselves, but they are star-crossed, how's that?

I have read reviews that have characterized the first volume of TSK as the romance and the second volume as what came after. That's a fair portrayal. Beguilement introduces this new world and the main characters and the book culminates with their wedding. Legacy is what happens next. There is a long-held interdict on inter-marriage between Farmers and Lakewalkers and the couple seemed doomed. There is suspicion between the two groups, as well as very different customs. That's the smaller story---in the larger context, evil is afoot and somehow, needs to be stopped.

I don't suppose, I've explained the plot terrifically well, and perhaps that is for the best. After all, I recommend that you read the books for yourself. When I finished TSK: Legacy, it was 2 am on a workday. I don't stay up late reading many books anymore, so I'd say that is a good indicator of the quality of the story. Further, I immediately regretted that I did not have the next book in the series on my side table awaiting me--indicator 2.

For those who think they don't like Science Fiction or Fantasy novels--with which TSK is classified, I say, try it and see. This is firstly a story about two people who don't fit in and find acceptance and love with each other. Secondly, it is a story about how difficult it can be for cultures to accept, appreciate, and understand each other. And finally, what is the cost of protection from evil and who should pay it. The fact that the story includes a little magic does not in any way lessened the strength and complexity of the plot and the thinking you do as you read it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New York in November

New York skyline from our bus.

Judy and I went to New York in November. It was a day trip--a co-worker arranged the whole thing. It was mainly about buying purses--but we did see some of the sights. I'm not, (I have finally accepted) a good photographer. Here are some of the better focused of my efforts. ;0)

The Apple Store

Judy and me outside Tiffany's

Times Square

View from a Window

Snow as decoration tops the lamppost.