Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Helllllloooooooo - o - o - o - o

So. It's been a while, hasn't it? Is anyone still out there? Since I switched to a new blog back in what... July?... and then about two months later completely fell off the face of the blogosphere, only popping up to toast Jess and Torsten and to leave a total of about 5 comments scattered about, I'd be surprised if anyone is still hanging around. BUT, I take comfort in the fact that I and many others were too lazy to remove Tess's old blog or the mysteriously absent Flibberty from our readers so that when the two of them popped up again a few days ago after approximately the same length of absence, they still had readers.

A lot has happened (mainly with my kids, not me) during the past few months, but I'll get into that in a future post that I promise will happen pre-July. I need to upload some pictures and whatnot to illustrate, and my mother is arriving on Saturday, so it may be mid-January. I'll TRY to post some little things before then, but the big what's-been-happenings will show up then. In the meantime, if you're going to the Outback Bowl tomorrow, my oldest daughter (let's see what do I call her here... oh yes, Meg) will be playing alto saxophone on the field at halftime. OK, there will also be other kids from her marching band and some other high school marching bands, but I'm sure if you look closely, you'll see her.

Also, can you guess what one of the kids' gifts was this year?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Best wishes

I wanted to take this opportunity, along with probably a half-gazillion other bloggers, to wish Jess and Torsten the best in their marriage. It has been fun keeping tabs on the preparations and giving input on the wedding gown, the jewelry, the invitations, the make-up, etc. It's hard to believe that the wedding will be here so soon. Then what will Jess write about? Married life? Maybe kids? Buying a house? Getting a dog? Whew. OK, there will still be plenty for her to write about. For a second there, I was afraid there would be a dearth of Jess posts. Glad I was able to reassure myself. Anyway, Jess, best wishes to you and Torsten. From what I've read over the past year or so, I'm sure the two of you will continue to be wonderfully happy together. Here's to the life of your dreams beginning with the wedding of your dreams (and the honeymoon of Torsten's)! Congratulations!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unexpected and unintentional hiatus

It seems that for the last week I have been unable to write, post, read and/or comment on my blog or anyone else's. Things are completely nutty here schedule-wise, and there doesn't seem to be a break in it for about another week-and-a-half to two weeks. So, while I will TRY to do a little blog hopping, success in that endeavor is unlikely. I'll be back soon - with so much going on, I have a lot to post, just no time to post it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potty training

Conventional wisdom: Begin potty training when your child shows signs of being ready, such as asking to go to the potty.

Amy wisdom: If I say, "Tinkle? Potty?" Mommy will let me go upstairs, where I can refuse to have anything whatsoever to do with the potty. But I am upstairs. Which is exactly where I wanted to be. Score: Me - 1, Potty training - 0.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Buncha Books, issue 5

FINALLY, I am sitting down to work on the fifth issue of Buncha Books. I have 15 books that need to be reviewed and one more that I'm sure will be done before I finish reviewing the 15. I think what I will do is try to cover eight books in this issue and then do another issue ASAP (next week if I can) to cover the other seven. After that, I need to set a few goals for myself, those being

1) Review the damn book IMMEDIATELY. It's not like it takes that long. Hell it takes more time when I wait to do it, because then I forget what the book was about and have to skim a little to jog my memory.

2) Compile my reviews once each month for a Buncha Books issue.

Sounds doable, no? Of course it does. Unless you are a MASTER procrastinator. In which case it is an excellent PLAN, the trouble comes with the EXECUTION of the plan. So we'll see how it goes. Anyway. Moving on...

If you want to take a look at past issues of Buncha Books, check out the labels section over in the right sidebar and click "Buncha Books". When I figure out how to make a link that acts like the label thing, I will include it in all my Buncha Books posts, but for now, viewing past issues will require a little scroll-and-click work. There are other book reviews too, that are not included in any of the Buncha Books issues. Those can be found by clicking the label "book review". All righty then. Moving on yet again...

Oh, wait, one more thing. I am adding a rating system. Instead of stars, I will rate up to five picklebottoms. You can read the explanation of the ratings system here.

Really moving on this time...

The first book I am covering in this issue is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is a work of historical fiction written from the point of view of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the famous Anne Boleyn, about life in the royal court during the reign of Henry VIII. I do not enjoy historical fiction. In fact, I avoid it whenever possible. I firmly believe that "historical fiction" is another way of saying "boring." I think an equivalent phrase for "That movie bored me to tears." is "Sitting through that film was like reading historical fiction." Are you sufficiently convinced of my standpoint on historical fiction? OK, then, I'll proceed.

I only decided to try this novel because someone who promised me that she hated historical fiction said she LOVED this book and that I should read it. So I read it. And I LOVED it. It was interesting and fascinating and drew me right in. No, I have not changed my thoughts on historical fiction IN GENERAL, but I hear that this book has a sequel. If that is true, I MAY read it at some point. After I read the 937 (only a slight exaggeration) books piled next to my dresser in my TBR stack. In conclusion, this book gets my recommendation. Which we all know the author has been waiting for. What's a bestseller and a movie? Pfft. Nothing until Fiona gives it some picklebottoms. Let's see, I think I'll give it 4 1/2 picklebottoms.

Next up is a book I found on the shelf of the cottage where we stayed on vacation this summer. It is Codes of Betrayal by Dorothy Uhnak. This novel is about a man who is a police officer and the grandson of a notorious mobster. When his son is gunned down, the man falls into his old gambling addiction, loses his wife, becomes desperate and commits a crime to pay off his debts. Unfortunately, he stumbles into an FBI sting operation. To avoid jail, he must become an inside man in his grandfather's organization. He becomes a double agent of sorts. As he slowly finds out what really happened the day his son died, his commitment to his efforts wavers. Does he bring down his grandfather's organized crime syndicate or do his allegiances switch? Does his grandfather figure out what he's really up to?

I had never previously read anything by this author. I'm glad I found this on the shelf, because I enjoyed it. I recommend this novel and give it 4 picklebottoms.

Now I'm going to do a three-for-one. I picked up the first Stephanie Plum novel, One for the Money by Janet Evanovich on the bargain table at either Barnes and Noble or Borders, I don't remember which. Anyway, it was a quick, easy and fun read, so I Bookmooched some others in the series. So far I've read the first three: One for the Money, Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly.

Basically they are about a down-on-her-luck Jersey girl who needs a job, so she goes to work for her uncle, who is a kinky bail bondsman. So she becomes the world's most unlikely bounty hunter with a handsome policeman she's known since childhood, Joe Morelli, as her antagonist/love interest. In One for the Money, Stephanie is actually after Joe, who has skipped out his bail while trying to figure out who framed him for murder. In the process, she gets mixed up with a psychotic professional boxer. In Two for the Dough, Stephanie is after Joe's cousin, who shot and killed his best friend.

In Three to Get Deadly, she must track down the beloved owner of a local candy shop. All three were pretty good reads, funny and with some interesting characters, particularly Stephanie's gun- and funeral-loving grandmother. You either have a grandmother like her or you wish you did. These are great lying out on the beach or next to the pool books. They each get 3 1/2 picklebottoms.

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst was about a mother and daughter who sign on to do a reality show that's like "The Amazing Race" combined with a scavenger hunt. The mother made the decision to do the show because she and her daughter had grown so far apart that when her daughter gave birth to a baby one night, the mother had not even been aware that her daughter was pregnant. There are other interesting couples involved as well. There are two brothers, one who has a very ill son and becomes friendly with the mother. There is an uber-religious (how do you do an umlaut?) married couple who had met while going through some program to make them not gay, which of course they still were, but what better way to prove to the world they weren't than entering into a heterosexual union? There are two child stars who have faded from the limelight and want to regain some of their old notoriety. There are a few other duos as well, but I can't recall them at the moment, since it's been a while since I've read this book. Anyway, when I first picked up this book, I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea. I'm not sure WHY exactly I thought that, but I was wishy-washy on even reading it. I'm so glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think you will too. It gets 4 picklebottoms.

Next up is Beach Road by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge. Now I love James Patterson because I have kids. "What does one have to do with the other?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you. James Patterson's books have REALLY SHORT CHAPTERS. This means that often I can read an ENTIRE chapter between eruptions of sibling rivalry. That alone would make me like his books, but they are also GOOD. Beach Road is about a lawyer, Tom, who goes back to the area where he grew up. There isn't much going on there, so he doesn't get a lot of work. One night, two of Tom's best friends are killed and a young black high school basketball star is accused and arrested. Tom believes the boy is innocent and endures the wrath of his whole town, his friends, his family and his dead friends' families when he decides to represent the boy. This is a really good read and delivers a SHOCKING twist at the end. Four picklebottoms.

Our last review in this issue is The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Apparently, this is the seventh in a series featuring Agent Pendergast. I, however, was not aware of this series or my OCD would have NEVER allowed me to read the seventh book before reading the preceding six. Luckily, this book stood alone quite well, though I am interested to learn more about the background of Agent Pendergast and his brother. In this novel, Agent Pendergast is in prison for a crime for which he was framed by his brother. There is a group planning his escape. In the meantime, at the New York Museum of Natural History, a bag of dust, at first thought to be a possible anthrax attack, is determined to be what remains of the museum's stolen collection of precious diamonds, which results in some very bad publicity for the museum. In a timely turn of events, a mysterious benefactor donates a large sum of money to be used to open an ancient Egyptian tomb exhibit. Strange things begin to occur surrounding the exhibit.

I enjoyed this novel and I think that I will pick up the preceding novels in the series to read after I read the books that are currently in my TBR pile. (My husband has kindly requested that I not buy any more books until it is no longer possible for the pile to fall over and bury small children.) So I will award it 4 picklebottoms.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 15: Slightly less ass, still being kicked

This past week, I decided that if I'm going to kill myself with the 30-Day Shred, I should also adjust my diet and drop a few pounds. And by a few, I mean 20. After losing exactly ZERO pounds the first week, I cut calories back to about 1500 per day, give or take a hundred or two. I have to do things calorie-wise, because I can't cut fats or carbs as I do not have the willpower to look a slice of chocolate cake in the face and say, "No, cake. I will not eat you." I AM, however, able to say, "OK cake, I WILL eat you, but then I won't eat dinner." It may not be the way to do things, but I have learned after much trial and error that it's the only way that I am capable.

So this week I did Level 2 every day. I worked up from certain death while gasping and choking on my lungs to periodic POSSIBLE death. I will stick with this level for another week and then I MAY try to move to level 3, but I'm not going to make any commitment to that just yet. Anyway, I dropped only 2 pounds this week. While a bit disappointing, I'm not too discouraged as I am chalking up the lack of weight loss to the fact that it is that certain time of the month associated with bloating and water retention. I think next week will be better, and despite the lack of melting poundage, I am definitely in better shape physically after these past two weeks.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Buncha Books rating system

I am working on issue #5 of Buncha Books for this week, but I have become sidetracked. You're probably not surprised by the fact that I am easily distracted. This time my distraction was the thought that a ratings system might be a nice thing to implement for my Buncha Books book review posts. So I went off on this tangent, but I think it was a productive one. Instead of stars, I will rate up to five picklebottoms. What the heck is a picklebottom, you are wondering. [See how I read your mind?] This, my friends, is a picklebottom:

I KNOW I'm not an artist. No need to point it out. Luckily I'll be using this image in a much smaller format. If you'd like to submit an image of a picklebottom for consideration, I will consider it, and probably gladly replace my image with yours. You will not receive any compensation other than my thanks and possibly credit in a post somewhere that you made the image for me. So you know, if my undying gratitude is enough for you...

Anyway, here is an explanation of the ratings:

One picklebottom will mean that the book was SO boring and/or bad (usually boring, see OCD tendency mentioned in two picklebottoms explanation below) that I couldn't even finish it, and thus could not possibly recommend it to you, EVEN if someone else (or EVERYONE else) considers it a classic. Examples could include The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. In all fairness to Stephen Crane, that is my 10th grade opinion, but I'm not willing to try to read the book again to see if my opinion has changed.

Two picklebottoms means that I was able to finish it, but it wasn't actually worth reading. Chances are that the only reason I finished it is that little OCD tendency I have that makes me HAVE TO FINISH any book I begin. Which should reinforce just how boring and/or bad those books are that only rate one picklebottom. Maybe I finished the book and thought, "Oh, that sucked. Why did I waste my time with that?" or I thought, "Meh. OK, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

Three picklebottoms means that not only was I able to finish it, it would make decent vacation reading or it was a fairly interesting read but wasn't particularly compelling. Books with this rating fall into a couple main categories. Either they are light, entertaining fluff that give equal or more attention to sexual tension and/or romantic involvements of the characters rather than to the actual plot, or they are more serious fare that is pretty good, but might lean slightly toward the boring side. While they typically wouldn't ever be mistaken for LITERATURE, I'm not too embarrassed to recommend them, though I may whisper the recommendation. Some examples of books that would get this rating are most of those written by Iris Johansen.

Four picklebottoms will probably be my most used rating. It covers most of what I read, because I have become pretty good at picking books that I like. Most of the novels by authors that I read regularly will get this rating. They might be light and entertaining, they may be darkly comedic, psychologically twisted, or focus on the inter-relationships of the characters. Basically, if I really enjoy the book and feel that others would really enjoy the book, it will receive four picklebottoms.

Five picklebottoms will be awarded to any book that I feel my life would have been wasted had I not read it before I died. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but these books are those that just blew me away. Books with storylines so unique as to be unlike anything I had read before, books that made me sad when they ended because I could have gone on reading them forever. Books that fascinated me or that contained language so eloquent as to be utterly captivating. Examples of books to which I would award five picklebottoms are Beach Music by Pat Conroy and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Some books may fall between ratings, in which case I will award them half-picklebottoms.

So if a book is light entertaining fluff, but I'm willing to give the recommendation in a loud and clear voice, it would receive three and a half picklebottoms. Now I realize that you may feel that some of the books I will award four picklebottoms might be light entertaining fluff, but if they involve murder, mayhem, mystery, courtroom drama, espionage, conspiracy theories, or anything that makes me wish I were a detective, private eye, CIA/NSA operative, vigilante, etc., they will get four picklebottoms from me, because these are MY reviews.