Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Eye of the Leopard - Book #119



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | The Eye of the Leopard |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Henning Mankell |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Fiction |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |315 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |The New Press |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |1990 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
Hans Olofson is the son of a Swedish lumberjack. His early life is isolated and difficult, overshadowed by the disappearance of his mother. When he loses both his best friend, and then his girlfriend in tragic circumstances, his only remaining desire is to fulfil her dream of visiting the grave of a legendary missionary, deep in the remote hills of Northern Zambia.

On reaching Africa, Olofson is struck by its beauty and mystery. After fulfilling his initial quest, an opportunity of employment in the region tempts him to stay, and before long he takes sole responsibility for the farm he manages. Despite his early optimism, he is shocked by the attitude of the local white population to their adopted country, as well as their pitiful vulnerability to alcohol and malaria. As relationships splinter and fray, Hans is soon to discover

Why I read It
Henning Mankell is one of my favorite authors. I have waited on this a while because it is a departure from his crime fiction and instead focuses on his other passion in life; Africa. Even though it is 19 years old, it was only translated last year and as of yet I haven’t mastered Swedish.

The Good
I like books that open up my horizons a little, especially about other cultures. While I am missing the big picture that ties to the two concurrent stories together – the hero’s childhood in Sweden and his adult life in Africa (maybe it is the hopelessness of trying to enforce your values on a culture that doesn’t want it) – each story was compelling on its own.

The Bad
If you are like me and see a bad situation; you want to help, to make it better. When I read about poverty in Africa that is the feeling I get. This book left me with despair at trying to make a change.

The Ugly (my opinion)
Despair aside, this book has made me think, which is a good thing. Is prejudice based on truth or the fact that the individual cannot accept that everyone not wanting things your way is not necessarily a bad thing? Anotherwords, people often express the opinion that others are inferior because they do not do things the way they would do them. The arrogance of that belief system is lost on them.

Mormon Mentions

None

Author BiographyHenning Mankell is a Swedish author who gained bestseller stardom with his series of crime novels featuring inspector Kurt Wallander.
Internationally acclaimed author Henning Mankell has written numerous Kurt Wallander mysteries. The books have been published in 33 countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe, receiving major literary prizes and generating numerous international film and television adaptations.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year of living dangerously (Lean)


I have been doing a lot of reading lately about decluttering and simplifying my life. It seems to be the clean version of hippies for Generation X. Anyways the basic premise is the less you have the less stressful your life, the easier to manage, and ultimately the happier you will be. Peter Walsh makes the point that all this stuff in our lives does more than just fill up our closets; it fills our psyches weighing us down in a figurative sense.


This

Like a fish, we tend to grow as big as our bowl allows. At 40 years old in a rather large house, I find that we are packing up the corners and crawl spaces rather tightly. Storing stuff I don’t use with the false promise I might use one day, or even more pathetic, it might be worth something someday.
To This

If money wasn’t an issue, I would reduce our possessions to what fits in some panniers and spend the rest of our time biking around the world seeing what there is to see. Memories rather than things would fill my storage spaces. That is all good and well in the what if, pie in the sky theoretical sense, but it does nothing for the here and now.

So to that end I want to try an experiment this next year. I want to be rid of as much as the nonessential, superfluous, stuff that fills my life and my home. I hope to document a lot of this through this site, so stay tuned, there might be some good giveaways, or at least some prime Ebay bargains going.

The corollary is I want to take in, buy, or accept as little in the way of stuff (primarily non-consumables) as possible this next year as well. Experiences or necessities will be the order of the day. That means I will need to finish up buying stuff this week!

Then again it might just be a mid-life crisis and I can’t afford a sports car

Ford County - Book #118





|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | Ford County |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |John Grisham |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Fiction – Short Stories |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages | 308 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher | Dutton |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill.
Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road trip through the Mississippi Delta to visit the youngest Graney brother, Raymond, who’s been locked away on death row for eleven years. It could well be their last visit.Mack Stafford, a hard-drinking and low-grossing run-of-the-mill divorce lawyer, gets a miracle phone call with a completely unexpected offer to settle some old, forgotten cases for more money than he has ever seen. Mack is suddenly bored with the law, fed up with his wife and his life, and makes drastic plans to finally escape.
Quiet, dull Sidney, a data collector for an insurance company, perfects his blackjack skills in hopes of bringing down the casino empire of Clanton’s most ambitious hustler, Bobby Carl Leach, who, among other crimes, has stolen Sidney’s wife.Three good ol’ boys from rural Ford County begin a journey to the big city of Memphis to give blood to a grievously injured friend. However, they are unable to drive past a beer store as the trip takes longer and longer. The journey comes to an abrupt end when they make a fateful stop at a Memphis strip club.
The Quiet Haven Retirement Home is the final stop for the elderly of Clanton. It’s a sad, languid place with little controversy, until Gilbert arrives. Posing as a low-paid bedpan boy, he is in reality a brilliant stalker with an uncanny ability to sniff out the assets of those “seniors” he professes to love.
One of the hazards of litigating against people in a small town is that one day, long after the trial, you will probably come face-to-face with someone you’ve beaten in a lawsuit. Lawyer Stanley Wade bumps into an old adversary, a man with a long memory, and the encounter becomes a violent ordeal.Clanton is rocked with the rumor that the gay son of a prominent family has finally come home, to die. Of AIDS. Fear permeates the town as gossip runs unabated. But in Lowtown, the colored section of Clanton, the young man finds a soul mate in his final days.
Featuring a cast of characters you’ll never forget, these stories bring Ford County to vivid and colorful life. Often hilarious, frequently moving, and always entertaining, this collection makes it abundantly clear why John Grisham is our most popular storyteller.

Why I read It
I find John Grisham books quite enjoyable most of the time.

The Good
Quick glimpses of a southern town. All the stories were quite good and developed some really strong characters; from the lawyer trapped in a dead life who catches an opportunity for freedom, to a men who have death beating a path to their door.

The Bad
My problem is universal to all short stories. If they are bad they tend to be really bad. If, as in this case, they are good they are too short. I would have liked to have read a full book on each of these.

The Ugly (my opinion)
If you have never taken the time to read a short story collection before, than this is a good place to start. The tales all involve characters from Ford County (which was featured in the book A Time to Kill). If I were to name a binding them that runs through all of them it would be Escape. As in the unknown gambler who escapes his boring identity and finds the life he should have had, to the death row inmate who is trying to escape his rapidly approaching destiny. I liked the last story in which a wealthy black sheep returns home to finish out his days because of AIDS. Through his struggle his caretaker is able to escape the social bonds that have held her prisoner for decades.

The Truth? (other reviews)
The Washington Post

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyBorn on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It ain't easy being fat & green


So I got to spend some time with the young people over the holidays which is always fun. The young people really like me because they can see the true awesomeness on the inside. Anyways I received some particularly harsh feedback but I took it in stride like the mature adult I am.
First I was in the kitchen working on something with the TV on in the background. The show airing was the Biggest Loser - Where are they now? episode. So they were parading out the past winners and memorable contestants and seeing how they are doing now away from the show. JT was watching with me and then pipes up with:

Hey Dad, you should go on that show. You could get skinny.
A few days later we had all the family and friends over for our traditional Christmas Eve party featuring KFC. This gets about 30 or so people in attendance including a lot of little kids. Being the entertainer I put on the movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the new one with Jim Carey). Pretty soon I have my niece Abby scrunched up next to me on the couch. Now Abby has never seen the movie before and the Grinch is scaring her a little. So to alleviate her fears I say:

Don't worry Abby. The Grinch is mean and rough on the outside, but on the inside he is nice and soft; just like your Uncle Eric.

Then Abby turns with a serious expression and lets me know:

No, that is like you.

That's my Abby. Next time I see her I will be pushing 50 and she will be a teenager. Then I will just be her creepy Uncle who she will just want to avoid (like Randy :-)

Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn - Book #117



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Jamie Maslin |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Nonfiction - Travel |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |265 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Skyhorse Publishing |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|



Synopsis (from web-site)
When Jamie Maslin decides to hitchhike the entire length of the Silk Road, he decides to travel first and plan later. Then, unexpectedly stranded in Iran—a country he's only read about in newspapers—he wonders whether he'll make it out alive. After crossing the border on foot from Turkey, Maslin finds himself suddenly plunged into the subversive, contradictory world of Iranian subculture, where he is embraced by locals who are happy to show him the true Iran as they see it—where tourists are treated like royalty, where cab drivers shout abuse at Mullahs from their car windows, where unmarried men and women mingle in Western clothes at secret parties, and where cans of whisky (the possession of which is punishable by lashings) is readily available on the black market. This is the charming and astonishing account of one Westerner's life-altering rambles across Iran that illustrates first-hand the attitudes and aspirations of a nation in flux.

Why I read It
The Title!! Which is unfortunate because a lot of people who read these silly reviews I write will avoid this book for the title alone. Too bad for you because Persian porn is covered in less than 3 sentences. As in the guy on the bus was watching porn - and then juxtapositioning the strict society in Iran with someone doing that.

The Good
As I firmly believe with most demonized people, almost all of them will be pleasant, nice, and unbelievably helpful to you. This book will make even the most diehard "axis of evil" believers want to visit. Yes Iran does have its problems, especially on the human rights front, but the average person on the street are fantastic.

The Bad
He can be a little glib, in the way young men are, about certain dangerous situations. And by dangerous I mean hitchhiking, alcohol consumption, and other activities (fast driving). It is also quite superficial, but if you are looking for a detail orientated history of Iran you should probably look elsewhere.

The Ugly (my opinion)
What defines a good travel book for me is how I feel at the end - Would I have wanted to have taken that trip? I can say a definite yes to this. It is like traveling with the funny British guy from the Lonely Planet show.

I like when Iranians ask him what westerners think about Iran and he shares with them that everyone told him not to go because he will get shot. They think that is the funniest thing they have ever heard. You may still feel that but a lot foreigners think that about America too, because all they watch is American movies and television. Everyone is getting shot and killed all the time if that is your only basis of opinion.

Wonderful book which at a minimum will change any stereotype opinions you may have about the average Iranian and the country while at the same time being honest about the current regime.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author Biography
Not much out there, but I did find his Twitter feed.

The Unit - Book #116



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | The Unit |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Ninni Holmqvist |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Fiction |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |268 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Other Press |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2006 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
"The Unit" is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the "dispensable" people--those in their 60s, childless, or unemployed--are convinced of the importance of sacrificing for the "necessary" ones.

Why I read It
I was looking for Swedish literature.

The Good
A quick tale that opens up all sorts of discussion questions.

The Bad
I disliked the solution, but that is just a personal preference.

The Ugly (my opinion)
One of the best possible book group choices I have read in a long time. So if you are looking for something for your group please consider this. Plus you get the props for reading Swedish literature. It is especially timely given the large ongoing debate about healthcare.

The Truth? (other reviews)
Washington Post

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyNinni Holmqvist was born in 1958 and lives in Skane, Sweden. She made her debut in 1995 with the short story collection Suit [Kostym] and has published two further collections of short stories since then. She also works as a translator. The Unit marks Holmqvist's debut as a novelist.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest - Book #115



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Stieg Larsson |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Mystery (Nordic Noir) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |599 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Maclehose Press |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2007 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|

Synopsis (from web-site)Two seriously injured people arrive at the emergency ward of the Sahlgrensa hospital in Gothenburg. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is Alexander Zalachenko, an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe.

In this third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth is planning her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and even more importantly, revenge against the government which nearly destroyed her life. But first she must escape from the intensive care unit and exculpate her name from the charges of murder that hangs over her head.

In order to succeed with the latter, Lisbeth will need the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He is writing an exposing article that will shake the Swedish government, the secret service and the whole country by its foundations. Finally there is a chance for Lisbeth Salander to put her past behind her and finally there is a chance for truth and justice to prevail.

Why I read It
Part three of the Millenium series.

The Good
Neatly draws together the plot lines in the books and gives the characters a future you unfortunately have to speculate on.

The Bad
Not much at all.

The Ugly (my opinion)
As I said about book two – this is one of the best trilogies of all time. Characters, plot, pacing – the magic triangle of good writing and Larsson has hit them all. To think he just wrote these for his own enjoyment originally.

The Truth? (other reviews)
The Guardian
The Sunday Times

Mormon Mentions
None

Author Biography
Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish writer and journalist.

Prior to his sudden death of a heart attack in November 2004 he finished three detective novels in his trilogy "The Millenium-series" which were published posthumously; "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest". Altogether, his trilogy has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide (summer of 2009), and he was the second bestselling author in the world 2008.

Before his career as a writer, Stieg Larsson was mostly known for his struggle against racism and right-wing extremism. Starting in the late 1970's, he combined his work as a graphic designer with holding lectures on right-wing extremism for the Scotland Yard. During the following years he became an expert on the subject and has held many lectures as well as written many novels on the subject. In 1995, when 8 persons were killed by neo-Nazis I Sweden, he was the main force behind the founding of the Expo-foundation, a group intended on exposing neo-Nazi activity in Sweden. From 1999 and on, he was appointed chief editor of the magazine Expo.

During the last 15 years of his life, he and his life companion Eva Gabrielsson lived under constant threat from right-wing violence.

The Girl Who Played with Fire – Book #114



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |The Girl Who Played with Fire |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Stieg Larsson |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Mystery (Sweden) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |503 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Alfred A. Knopf |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
On the eve of publisher Mikael Blomkvist's story about sex trafficking between Eastern Europe and Sweden, two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Mikael Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander--the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid years before.

Why I read It
This book two of the Millenium trilogy (book one is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The first book was fantastic.

The Good
Absolutely phenomenal! The characters work, the plot works, the pacing works, this book and series are just about perfect.

The Bad
Through unfortunate circumstance (a fatal heart attack) this planned 10 book series is finished in three leaving you the reader wondering what awesomeness we will never know.

The Ugly (my opinion)If you do not read these books there is something wrong with you. This ranks right up with Lord of the Rings for all time great Trilogies.

The Truth? (other reviews)
The Guardian
Washington Post
New York Times

Mormon Mentions
None

Author Biography
Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish writer and journalist.

Prior to his sudden death of a heart attack in November 2004 he finished three detective novels in his trilogy "The Millenium-series" which were published posthumously; "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest". Altogether, his trilogy has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide (summer of 2009), and he was the second bestselling author in the world 2008.

Before his career as a writer, Stieg Larsson was mostly known for his struggle against racism and right-wing extremism. Starting in the late 1970's, he combined his work as a graphic designer with holding lectures on right-wing extremism for the Scotland Yard. During the following years he became an expert on the subject and has held many lectures as well as written many novels on the subject. In 1995, when 8 persons were killed by neo-Nazis I Sweden, he was the main force behind the founding of the Expo-foundation, a group intended on exposing neo-Nazi activity in Sweden. From 1999 and on, he was appointed chief editor of the magazine Expo.

During the last 15 years of his life, he and his life companion Eva Gabrielsson lived under constant threat from right-wing violence.

Say Goodbye - Book #113


|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |Say Goodbye |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Lisa Gardner |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Mystery |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |360 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Bantam Books |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2008 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
For Kimberly Quincy, FBI Special Agent, it all starts with a pregnant hooker. The story Delilah Rose tells Kimberly about her johns is too horrifying to be true—but prostitutes are disappearing, one by one, with no explanation, and no one but Kimberly seems to care. Dead hookers aren't exactly Kimberly’s specialty and the young agent is five months pregnant—she has other things to worry about besides an alleged lunatic who uses spiders to do his dirty work. But Kimberly’s own mother and sister were victims of a serial killer. And now, with no bodies and precious few clues, is she chasing a crime that never happened? Kimberly’s caught in a web more lethal than any spider’s, and the more she fights for answers, the more tightly she’s trapped.

Why I read ItMy college roommate, Lincoln Hoppe, is an actor and improve comic who also supplements his income as a reader for books on tape. Unfortunately I usually learned about books he worked on after I had read them. Most notably would be King Dork and The Gargoyle. So I went to his website and browsed his resume until I found a book I would want to try (he has read quite a few young adult books) AND my library system had on tape (well CD in this case). That is how I settled on Say Goodbye.

The Good
For what it’s worth, the story moved forward at a good pace while applying all the requisite drama.

The Bad
This is a prime example of why I eschew most American crime fiction. The killer was a Serial killer who kills and disposes of his victims in overly elaborate ways, while at the same time actively engaging the authorities in an ongoing dick measuring contest. With most crime dramas I read I come away with the feeling that it could happen here in my small little town, but with this stuff I feel like someone has been watching too much TV. Plus the crimes presented where pornographically violent beyond reality.

The Ugly (my opinion)
Too much choreographed and stylized play acting and not enough real crime and investigative work. As I have said before that is my preference and not a problem per se with the actual book. If you like the standard American fair and find the likes of Rebus and Wallander too boring, then this book will be perfect for you.

As for the reason I got this book; Lincoln did fine. It is always pleasant to hear the guy who used to sleep in the next room talked about violently murdering people. I am betting he now gets treated like that poor guy who played Satan in those church movies.

Mormon Mentions
None, but a Mormon does 30% of the reading on the book on tape.

Author Biography
Lisa Gardner is an American author of fiction. She is the author of several thrillers including The Killing Hour and The Next Accident. She also wrote romance novels using the pseudonym Alicia Scott. Raised in Hillsboro, Oregon, she graduated from the city's Glencoe High School. As evidenced by her 2003 work, "The Killing Hour," Gardner has been heavily influenced by the box office smash and best selling book The Silence of the Lambs. Her novel Gone is set in a fictionalized version of Tillamook, Oregon.[1] As of 2007, Gardner lives in New Hampshire.

Bear With Me

I am way behind on book reviews and I want to catch up before the end of the year.

Raising Jake - Book #112



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |Raising Jake |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Charlie Carillo |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Adult Fiction |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |341 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Kensington Books |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|



Synopsis (from web-site)
From the author of "Found Money," a wildly inventive new humorist, comes a wry, heartwarming yet darkly funny novel about a father and son's weekend of self-discovery.

Why I read It
I liked the cover – no other reason.

The Good
A really good story.

The Bad
I was left wanting to know more of what happens to the characters.

The Ugly (my opinion)
An estranged father and son (estranged through age and divorce) both experience tragedy and spend the weekend rebuilding their lives and their relationship. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I read this quickly and enjoyed it immensely.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyCharlie Carillo was born in New York City on December 8, 1955. He grew up in Douglaston, Queens, a town that was put on the map by three world-class tennis players - John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe and Charlie's sister, Mary Carillo, now a famous sports broadcaster.

The teenage Charlie tried his hand at tennis and lost a match to little John McEnroe 6-0, 6-0. Charlie won a total of one point and wrote about the humiliating but humorous event years later in the New York Times. Charlie graduated from Queens College of the City University of New York in 1977. That same year he won several prizes in the school's writing contest, including one for "the writer showing the most promise." The cash prize was $300, the first money Charlie ever made without pushing a broom or a lawnmower.

In 1978 Charlie took a job as a copyboy at the New York Post, eventually working his way up to reporter, rewrite man and columnist. In 1993 he switched to television, working as a producer for the newsmagazine shows "American Journal" and "Inside Edition" until 2006, when he moved to London. There he continues to work as a freelance TV producer and a magazine writer. He also takes his wife Kim's chocolate labrador retriever, Bailey, on frequent walks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance – Book #111



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |The New York Regional Mormon Singles |
| |Halloween Dance
|
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author | Elna Baker |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre | Memoir |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages | 274 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher | Dutton |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright | 2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
In this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek memoir, writer, actress, and gorgeous stand up comedian Elna Baker tells what it's like to be the Mormon "Tina Fey"--the girl who distresses her family when she chooses NYU over BYU; the girl who's cultivating an oxymoronic identity as a bold, educated, modern, funny, proper, abstinent, religious stand-up comic, equal parts wholesome and hot.

Why I read It
This book has been all over the bloggernacle with reviews and author interviews. It is one of those books that I would want to read but the chances of me finding it was pretty slim. But then much to my surprise I found it in my local library so I checked it out immediately.

The Good
Very funny and I can empathize a lot with her problems with fitting in with the very vocal Mormon majority. They think they are right in all ways possible and have no problem letting you know about it. As an interesting note, we both spent our teenage years living in the same place if 15 years apart.

The Bad
She deals with some various sensitive subjects very bluntly which will make some people very uncomfortable. And while I enjoyed the book I always hate when people write memoirs when they are a long way off from any sort of conclusion in their life.

The Ugly (my opinion)
Being a successful humourist/comedian requires you to be honest. The problem with most Mormons is they have a real problem with honesty and thus their humour fails. They tend to be extremely worried about their image and being seen as perfect (the irony being they are not so interested in actually being honest). So whenever someone points out the flaws within the church culture, the Mormon majority feels the need to circle the wagons and show where the perpetrator are not within said circle.

So what does all that mean? This is a hilarious book which really highlights some of the contradictions within the church system. Because if we are all honest, there is plenty of things in the church that is worthy of humor. But for some of you it will be a little to personal and will discuss things which you have tightly locked away in the closets of your mind.

Mormon Mentions
About 95% Mormon.

Author BiographyThe Back Story: Elna Baker was born in Tacoma, Washington. She moved overseas when she was nine, and grew up in Madrid, London and New York City—where she attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her parents now live in Siberia where her father runs a titanium factory. When she goes home to visit she runs down the halls of the factory and knocks things over while chanting, “it’s Daddy’s factory!” in a pretentious British accent.

Profession: When Elna used to answer the dreaded, “What do you do?” question she’d say: “actress” or “comedian.” Now she says, “writer.” In honor of this switch she purchased a bunch of button down cardigans and glasses, (see BLOG page for a visual explanation).

Her Credits: As a comedian and storyteller, Elna has performed with The Moth, on This American Life, Studio 360, BBC Radio 4, at the Upright Citizens Brigade, The PIT, The Magnet and at many other comedy clubs throughout New York City.

Her show IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING premiered at the NY Fringe Festival and under the direction of her mentor Elizabeth Swados, she also created MEXICAN-MORMON (La Mama Etc.) and A BOOK OF OVER-DRAMATIC CONFESSIONS.

She’s written for ELLE Magazine, GLAMOUR, Five Dials and The Onion. She also appeared in The New Yorker…or a really bad picture of her did, but hey, that counts. In 2007 and 2008 Elna was awarded residencies at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony.

The Future: Her book The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance will be published by Penguin Oct. 15th, 2009.

Resolution - Book #110



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | Resolution |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author | Denise Mina |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre | Mystery (Tartan Noir) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages | 367 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher | Carroll & Graf |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright | 2001 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|



Synopsis (from web-site)
Blending suspense, compassion, raw instinct, and grim wit, this powerful conclusion to the Garnethill trilogy returns to the seamy side of downtown Glasgow and the untidy world of Maureen O'Donnell.

Why I read It
The final part to the Garnethill trilogy.

The Good
Excellent book that pulls all the plot lines from the first two books together

The Bad
Not much. This book exemplifies what tartan noir is all about.

The Ugly (my opinion)
While each book had its own independent mystery, the overall story was very satisfying and draws to solid conclusion. Like all Scottish crime books, it makes me never want to visit, let alone at night.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyDenise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settle in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.

At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time.

Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, 'Garnethill' when she was supposed to be studying instead.

Dying Light - Book #109



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |Dying Light |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Stuart MacBride |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Mystery (Tartan Noir) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |424 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |St. Martins |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2006 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae has been bumped to the "Screw-up Squad," a team made up of the most worthless or inexperienced members of the homicide department, and Logan will do anything to prove he doesn't belong there. Including working overtime on two baffling cases: the murder by arson of six people, and the beating to death of a prostitute down by the docks, not a high priority compared to the fire. At least not until another prostitute ends up dead. Although both cases seem simple on the surface--turns out the fire's victims are part of a drug dealer's inner circle, and what fate is to be expected for working girls in Aberdeen's red-light district?--in Stuart MacBride's hands, what's going on in this rainy Scottish city is bound to be much more complicated than it appears.

Why I read It
Scottish Police Procedural – what’s not to love?? I originally became aware of MacBride through his blog which was linked on Sarah Weinman’s site. If you have any interest at all in Mystery books you must visit Sarah’s site to get all the latest news. Most of my favorite authors I have found through her. Anyway I was reading his blog regularly when he announced his first novel, Cold Granite, was being published. I read that when it came out but then over the next year forgot about him. Saw one of his new books the other week and so I went and got this his second one.

The Good
Good solid gritty crime with MacBride making the case for Aberdeen being the most violent city in Scotland.

The Bad
The bad guy was a little too cartoonish.

The Ugly (my opinion)
A good effort and worth the time. That said, all these Scottish crime novels I have been reading are making Scotland to be the most dangerous place in the world. Definitely reading book three.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyStuart MacBride lives in the North East of Scotland, where he writes gruesome crime novels and grows gruesome potatoes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The funniest thing I have seen in a long time

If I had known that this show was a comedy I might have watched it once.
via Yes but No but Yes

The Law of Balance Screws Me Again

I got my bonus at work Thursday and it is higher than last year AND more than we were expecting.

By Thursday night the new picture window cracked and the Hot Water heater broke.
It is as if the house knew!

(Picture of creepy all knowing House)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sad, but you know you totally wish

That you could have been there to toss some back in. And then when a guy out walking told you it was a waste of time because there were too many you would pick just one more up and look at the guy and say "But I am living the dream man!!" No, wait. You would have said "but it matters to this one." And then you would have shared a little life lesson*** with him and both of you would have grown a little. Plus it would make a really great church talk one day and then you would get promoted to GA in no time, just to share your real life experience instead of the wussy recitation the rest of the people share.

Stretching along the shore as far as the eye can see, it is a galaxy of starfish.

More than 10,000 were left high and dry on the sands after choppy seas washed them from their feeding grounds. And unfortunately, nearly all perished, unable to get back to the safety of the water. The graveyard of orange and pink extends more than a quarter of a mile along the golden sands of Holkham Beach in Norfolk.



Article with more pictures
here (Daily Mail)
I found it via Bits and Pieces

*** Awesome Alliteration Alert+++

+++Awesome All..., well this could go on forever, but you get it.

Superfreakonomics - Book #108




-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | Superfreakonomics |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Nonfiction (Economics) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |216 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |William Morrow |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
SuperFreakonomics, the highly anticipated sequel to the best-selling Freakonomics, was released on October 20, 2009. Steven Levitt, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and author Stephen Dubner have again teamed together to apply economic reasoning to a wide range of real-world questions. As with the original Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics is largely based upon the research of Professor Levitt, who has tackled problems inside and outside the field of economics.

Why I read It
Loved book one and really love odd ball correlations.

The Good
Some really good stuff to make you think. They pull stuff from all over and show how it is all inter-related.

The Bad
There could be a tendency to think these relationships between events is the absolute truth. As I am sure the authors would say themselves - this stuff is interesting but it doesn't mean it is fact.

The Ugly (my opinion)
I really liked this book. I always become reflective on my own life when I see two seemingly unrelated things brought together in interesting ways. I believe most of us become dismissive of these relationships in our own lives and either miss out on some wonderful opportunities, or more likely, we abuse these relationships until they die. Interesting factoids - the chances of getting on trouble with the law for using a prostitute is almost nil. Drunk walking is just as dangerous (if not more) than drunk driving. The big controversy in this book though is their dismantling of the global warning hype. That is true religion to a lot of people so it stirred up a lot of strong emotions.

The Truth? (other reviews)
Guardian
Louisville Courier Journal

Mormon Mentions
None

Author Biographies
Steven LevittSteve Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Levitt received his BA from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from MIT in 1994. He has taught at Chicago since 1997. In 2004, Levitt was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine's “100 People Who Shape Our World.” Steve co-authored Freakonomics, which spent over 2 years on the New York Times Best Seller list and has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. SuperFreakonomics, available this October, includes brand new research on topics from terrorism to prostitution to global warming. Steve is also the co-author of the popular New York Times Freakonomics Blog.

Stephen DunbarStephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in New York City. He is the co-author, with Steven D. Levitt, of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. He is also the author of Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family (1998), Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper (2003), and a children's book, The Boy With Two Belly Buttons (2007).

Making the Big Signs

I like how the second one says "And" Mormons, like an after thought. It must be like a football team getting ranked #25 in the coaches poll. Yeah - We made the big times!!



Missing Mark - Book #107


|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title |
Missing Mark |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |
Julie Kramer |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Mystery |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|

| Pages |273 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |
Doubleday |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2009 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
In this page-turning sequel to the national bestseller Stalking Susan, TV reporter Riley Spartz pursues a curious story of a bride left at the altar and finds herself caught in a dangerous missing-person case.

When Riley Spartz sees a want ad reading "Wedding Dress for Sale: Never Worn," her news instincts tell her the backstory might make an intriguing television sweeps piece.

The groom, Mark, last seen at the rehearsal dinner, never showed up for the wedding, humiliating his bride, Madeline—and her high-strung, high-society mother—in front of 300 guests. His own mother, eager to spare him further embarrassment, waited weeks before filing a missing-person report, and then learned how difficult it is to get police, or the media, interested in missing men.

Now Riley is up against a boss who thinks finding a famed missing fish will net the station higher ratings, a meth cartel trying to assassinate a K-9 dog because of his powerful nose for drugs, and a neighbor who holds perpetual garage sales that attract traffic at odd hours.

When her missing-person ca se leads to a murder investigation, Riley discovers a startling motive for Mark's disappearance—and a TV exclusive guaranteed to win the ratings... if she lives to report it.

Why I read It
This is book two of Julie Kramer's series and I really enjoyed book 1 Stalking Susan. Plus Kramer is a local writer, so even better. These books were originally recommended to me by a coworker.

The Good
Great mystery and wonderful writing. It also opens up a lot of the inside world of TV news reporting. Plus if you have any Minnesota experience you can have “secret insider” knowledge that just adds to the book. We had just been to several of the places mentioned (
Underwater World and the Mary Tyler Moore statue just the week before)

The Bad
I am not buying the romantic relationship - but that is a very small part of the story.

The Ugly (my opinion)
Fantastic book. I hope this series just goes on and on.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyJulie Kramer is a freelance news producer for NBC's Today show, Nightly News, and Dateline. Prior to that she was a national award-winning investigative producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. Julie grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa state line, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for 130 years. Her favorite childhood days were spent waiting for the bookmobile to bring her another Phyllis A. Whitney novel. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters always being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging. She lives with her husband and sons in White Bear Lake, MN.

The Mermaids Singing - Book #106



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | The Mermaids Singing |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Val McDermid, |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Mystery |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|

| Pages |276 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |HarperCollins |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |1995 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one's different - this one's on the loose. In the northern town of Bradfield four men have been found mutilated and tortured. Fear grips the city; no man feels safe. Clinical psychologist Tony Hill is brought in to profile the killer. A man with more than enough sexual problems of his own, Tony himself becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional skill and personal nerve to survive.

Why I read It
I have been working through McDermid’s backlist and this is book one in her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. The characters have been adapted into a very successful BBC television series called Wire in the Blood.

The Good
Solid mystery and the two main characters really work. Usually new characters take time to find themselves (i.e. think Friends season 1 versus season 8), but these two are smooth from page one.

The Bad
This is one of the most pornographically violent books I have read in some time – I have to think back to Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs for a similar feel. It seemed a little over the top but how many serial killers recreate Inquisition era torture devices to kill men for sexual pleasure? Over the top may be the only way to tell that story. The conclusion was a little too convenient and forced – everything worked out just so and just in time.

The Ugly (my opinion)
I liked the characters and will definitely read book two in the series, but if it continues with the extreme violence I will probably put her books on the back burner (i.e. only read when I can find NOTHING else in the library). I really do not have much interest in serial killer fiction because it is usually way to romanticized. By that I mean is overly elaborate and choreographed. I prefer my mysteries more realistic wherein most murders aren’t planned, or at least they are pretty straight forward. But that is probably just me.

I hate sounding so negative when overall I really like McDermid’s writing. The words flow and the story is laid out clearly. There are no lulls in the plot and I get through them very quickly. Most of my dislike comes from a personal preference and that is a statement about me and NOT the writing. What do I know? I think Surviving Christmas is a fantastic movie

Mormon Mentions
None

Author BiographyCrime writer Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and studied English at Oxford University. She trained as a journalist and worked on various national newspapers for 14 years before becoming a writer. Her first published book was Report for Murder (1987), and since then, she has written a large number of crime novels.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

For Those of You Who Went

My High School closed down in 2007, one of the few dormitory schools supported by the Department of Defense. Here is the Mrs. DeYoung's speech from the closing ceremony. I had her for math and she was infamous for covering her entire chalkboards each AND every day with small, exact printed notes. It was so good I took the class twice :-)



Friday, December 4, 2009

Sexist Double Standards

So with the release of the latest Twilight movie New Moon, I am seeing a lot of women swooning over Team Jacob. Our young werewolf hero Jacob, as portrayed by Taylor Lautner, spends a lot of the movie shirtless.
So we have a lot of 40 something women openly expressing their appreciation/desire for a 17 year old boy and yet the general reaction is "Well, he is hot!!" So the bottom line is it is totally okay.

Yet if I as a 40 year old male were to vocally swoon over say Hermione Granger, as portrayed by Emma Watson
The general reaction would be that I am a sick, disgusting, old pervert who should be locked up, even though she is totally 19.

See, sometimes the double standards work in your favor ladies.

Exile - Book #105



|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Title | Exile |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Author |Denise Mina |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Genre |Mystery (Tartan Noir) |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Pages |364 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Publisher |Carroll & Graf |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|
| Copyright |2001 |
|-------------+----------------------------------------|


Synopsis (from web-site)
he last time Maureen O'Donnell saw Ann Harris, she was in the Glasgow Women's Shelter smelling of a long binge on cheap drink. A month later Ann's mutilated body, stitched into a mattress, is washed up on the banks of the Thames. No-one, except for Maureen and her best mate, Leslie, seems to care about what has happened to her, and Maureen is the only person who thinks Ann's husband is innocent.

But solving Ann's murder comes as light relief. Maureen's father is back in Glasgow, Leslie is sloping about like a nervous spy, and then there's Angus, Maureen's old therapist, who's twice as bright as she is and making her play a dangerous game with the police.

In the long tradition of Scots in trouble, Maureen runs away to London. Looking for answers to the mystery surrounding Ann's death, she becomes embroiled in a seedy world of deceit and violence. Alone in a strange city, Maureen starts to piece together Ann's final days. But time is not on her side, and Maureen needs just twelve hours, just twelve, to put things right, and she doesn't care what it costs...

Why I read It
This is part two in a three part series. Book one was Garnethill and reviewed here.

The Good
The writing is much better, losing that stilted dialogue found occasionally in her first book. The mystery was well laid out as well. I like how she makes mention within the plot how odd it is she has known two people murdered within six months. It is one of those obvious clich├ęs in the mystery world that most authors just avoid noticing. Like everywhere Jessica Fletcher went people died, as if it was contagious to her.

The Bad
The plot moved a little too fast in the last 100 pages. The graphic despair of the Scottish underclass is sometimes portrayed too vividly. Not that it isn’t accurate or necessary, it is just depressing. Caution: Drug Use, Alcohol Abuse, Sexual Situations, and Violence (especially violence against women).

The Ugly (my opinion)
Great book and I am eagerly looking forward to book three. This is definitely a writer who I will keep up with. While book one is not absolutely required I wouldn’t recommend reading this one without that one first.

Mormon Mentions
None

Author Biography
Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settle in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.

At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time.

Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, 'Garnethill' when she was supposed to be studying instead.

Taste Like ***

Totally love this guy's expression (via Eat Liver)


Unfortunately I can't remember where I saw this, but it is always sad to see a dog with a hangover.



Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sammy Walnuts and the Squirrel Mafia


I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I am in the middle of a remodel project and I am currently gutting the main stairs, entrance, and upstairs landing & hallway. Now I live in an old house and we have squirrels travelling in the walls all the time - especially the winter.

So it is not unusual to find walnuts and the occasional corpse in the wall when tearing them out. Well many a year ago a false ceiling was put in over the main stairs and it became the main hangout for our furry friends, so I totally expected to find the above. I got two bodies and about 500 nuts (sounds like the beginnings of a good joke yeah?).


What I didn't expect was to wake up the next morning and find this dumped on the pile of rubble.

I guess the little Scarfaces noticed I was doing a good clean up and dumped the body during the night so I could get rid of it for them. I feel like I am in Goodfellas helping to hide the evidence.

Here is some more work in progress shots. This is the drop ceiling:


This is the break in the plaster underneath the drop ceiling where the squirrels were getting in.