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June 2006

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5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

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Gentlemen & Players: 06/28/06

Gentlemen &  Players

Last night I finished reading Joanne Harris's newest novel Gentlemen & Players. I have to admit that I almost gave up on the book as the first 50 pages confused and to some degree bored me. Usually I would have given up but there was something lingering in the book that made me try one more chapter. I'm glad I did; by page 64 the book picks up and a book I was avoiding reading, I was now making time to read!

Here is my BookCrossing review:

If I had track the moves in the book like a chess game, I would have guessed the murderer's identity. In all honesty, I'm glad I didn't because I enjoyed the final confrontation all the more. The book like many chess games starts out ponderous. The pieces are set up and the characters introduced. Pay attention to Staitley's description of his colleagues. It is the only time they will all be presented at once. From there the play flips between the black and white pieces, black represented by Staitley and the white by the murderer.

To confuse things further, there is a replay of a previous game, a series of events over the course of an academic year where the murderer falls in love with the school. It is the love of the school that motivates the murderer to plot and scheme. At first these flash backs seem confusing but they do help to develop the murderer as a character and begin to play out almost as a juvenile Mr. Ripley plot.

Up until the ending of the book, I was thinking of writing my review strictly in terms of the Mr. Ripley books by Patricia Highsmith in that they both deal young characters who resort to crime (and murder) to protect their newly created identities newly found acceptance among the upper class. Harris's protagonist murderer, though, seems to have more motivation than just protection of a new lifestyle but I dare not write more as I'll probably spoil the ending. Go read the book and enjoy it!

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Five Children and It: 06/23/06

Five Children and It

Last night I also finished an Edith Nesbit novel, Five Children and It. While Sean is getting dressed in his jammies after his bath, I like to have a book to read. It has to be a book I can put down at a moment's notice and pick up again without any rereading. Nesbit's book fit this criteria and had lovely illustrations as well. I especially loved the drawings of the grown up Lamb (even if I didn't especially enjoy the chapter).

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Five Children and It was E. Nesbit's is the first of a trilogy, the other two in the series being The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet. In it she takes an otherwise dull summer of living with the servants and turns it into a a series of adventures and lessons stemming from eleven wishes gone awry. Fortunately each wish only lasts until sunset and the servants can't see the effects of the wishes, allowing the household to continue on as normally as possible. Unfortunately eleven wishes is really more plot than this little book can handle. The last two or three chapters drag towards the conclusion of the story.

My next book for reading while Sean is getting dressed is The Plot Against America. I know that sounds a bit heavy for a book to read only a page or two at a time but so far I am clicking with Roth's style of writing and it is working well.

Comments (0) Steps: 5500

The Cookcamp: 06/22/06

The Cookcamp

One of my favorite contemporary authors of juvenile fiction is Gary Paulsen. My most recent read by him is The Cookcamp, a book that I devoured in a couple of hours on Tuesday night.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Excellent book! As with the other Paulsen books I've read, this story weaves together the adventure of living at a construction camp with the bittersweetness of being without family and the loss of loved ones. In this story a young boy (probably between the ages of 4 and 6) lives with his grandmother near the close of WWII while his mother settles some personal affairs. Throughout the boy must balance the excitement of living somewhere new with homesickness he is feeling. Meanwhile the grandmother must come to terms with her sense of loss for lost siblings and lost children as she watches her grandson grow.

I ended up rating the book a ten out of ten stars.

For books like The Cookcamp that I thoroughly enjoyed and that perhaps touched me in some sort of emotional way, I want to make sure the book travels to someone else who wants to read it or may take something extra away from reading it. One way I can do this is by RABCKing the book (a random act of BookCrossing Kindness, taken from the Danny Wallace Book, Practice Random Acts of Kindess) to another BookCrosser who has wished for it. In this case, I found only one person who had requested The Cookcamp so I sent a PM and received a lovely response. I won't go into the details of it beyond saying that she was very happy to receive the book and had been going through some tough times. I feel like the book has used me to find the person who needs it most.

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Steps: 4500

Apocalipstick: 06/13/06


After a bunch of serious reading, I'm giving my poor brain a break and reading something completely stupid: Apocalipstick. The characters remind me of some of the folks from the series Ab-Fab. The protagonist isn't a stand-in for either Edina or Patsy but the people she works for do remind me of a hybrid of Edina and Patsy.

Apocalipstick isn't a book I would have picked by myself to read but it was recommended to me by a man who goes to the BookCrossing meetings on a regular basis. Ian has also read the book although it wasn't goofy enough for his tastes: he prefers the parody books like the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison. So far though, I'm enjoying Apocalipstick for its disfunctional characters and artificially high stress work environment. It's rather funny to have a woman who thinks most beauty aids are crap working for a beauty magazine.

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Steps: 7000

The Baby Catcher: 06/12/06

The Baby Catcher

Near the middle of The Baby Catcher, Peggy Vincent describes two births that ended in C-section; one where the mother waited too long and one where the mother didn't. For the one that ended poorly (in extreme brain damage including blindess and deafness), the mother ignored all the advice she had been given even though she had a history of fetal distress deliveries resulting in C-section.

One detail that stood out for me in both births was the activity of the baby prior to birth. The children had the tendency to flip around or move their heads up from the head down position. Vincent says that late positional activity like that dramatically increases the changes of cord wrap or prolapsed cord. Sean went into fetal distress with an erratic heart beat shortly after getting to the hospital and after only a couple hours of labor I was raced off for a C-section. He had all the signs of things going horribly wrong: the heart beat problem and the meconium. I've wondered if Sean's distress was a fluke or something that had been on-going. Now it seems that it was an on going problem. I'm glad I was such a worry wart and didn't labor for long at home.

Instead of either having a still birth or a brain damaged baby, I have a healthy son who is at the head of his preschool class. The only trade off was a bit of adominal surgery which I will gladly repeat for Harriet. Speaking of baby number two, she so far is not following in her brother's foot steps. While she does respond to the world around her, she does it now mostly with her feet and sometimes her hands. She seems to have figured out that she should be head down and should stay head down. I could probably VBAC with her but given other issues like being over weight and being monitored for PIH (although my blood pressure is lower with her than it was with Sean), I am opting for a C-section. At least this time I will be awake for the experience and will be able to hear her first cry.

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84 Charing Cross Road: 06/11/06

84 Charing Cross Road

I'm still coughing, though I seem to be in the last stage of the cold. I'm coughing up all the drek that has accumulated in the last week or so. Ian meanwhile seems like he's on the verge of coming down with the cold. Poor Sean who is perfectly healthy is stuck with us at home. He's been nice about it but he'd rather go out and do something.

Ian did offer to take Sean to the park to play ball or frisbee but Sean so far is out cold. He can be a very heavy sleeper. Although he has given up on napping at school he still gets a good four hour nap in on Saturday and Sundays.

While we've been home, I've been reading. I finished the second of the Mr. Ripley books: Ripley Under Ground, 84 Charing Cross Road, Weight and The Baby Catcher. Most of these books are short and easy reads which is why I've been able to finish so many.

Comments (0) Steps: 3500

RSS and Atom: 06/09/06

RSS and Atom

Ian kindly went to Borders yesterday and got me a copy of Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom by Ben Hammersley. As with the other O'Reilly Media published books that I keep on hand for reference, it is a well written book. It introduces the technologies by discussing the history and methods in creating the various standards. Then it shows numerous ways on how to use feeds both as a syndicator and as a subscriber.

As I was telling Ian last night, I don't think I would have ended up doing web production if we hadn't met. I think I would have been put off by the computers. Programming was something my brother did as a kid, not me. Sixteen years ago I couldn't have imagined relaxing after dinner to read a technical book! But he has always been very encouraging and never doubted me when I said I could something.

While I'm reading the book, I am also retooling what's currently under the hood here at Puss Reboots. I've cleaned up a bunch of old latent code and I will be doing some minor but important changes to how I handle my blogs (specifically my archives). Current blog archives will not be affected by these changes and frankly other than the final switching on of the feed, regular visitors should see no changes to the site.

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Steps: 6000

On the Way Home: 06/07/06

On the Way Home

Last night I took a break from the heavier reading (Mr. Ripley) to read something short: On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. The heart of the book is a short diary of the Wilder family's migration from De Smet to the Ozarks during a crop failure in 1894. Laura's contribution is a diary of brief entries for each day, mostly noting where they had traveled, what they ate and how hot it was. Rose's introduction, conclusion and periodic annotations flush this diary out to explain the hardships the family faced at that time.

The most poignant bit of the 115 page book is the disappearance of their nest egg, a single one hundred dollar bill hidden away inside a lap desk that Almanzo had built for Laura. Having traveled for six weeks and hundreds of miles on the hope of buying a new homestead in the Ozarks their dreams are nearly dashed when the arrive. The money isn't in the desk. Did their traveling companions take it? Did Rose play with it and lose it? Did it fall out? Read the book to find out what happened.

I can relate to this story of the secret bill. I'm currently carrying a secret bill of the same amount with me. It was a gift last Christmas and with our tight budget I don't want to spend it on the wrong thing. I'm still trying to decide what to spend it on. In the meantime I keep it close just in case I need it.

Comments (0) Steps: 3500

The Penelopiad: 06/06/06


The Penelopiad suffers from the problem as Cat's Eye. Atwood seems to believe that "strong" female protagonists prove their strength by bitching about how hard their lives have been. Unfortunately this approach takes an interesting and tragic character and turns her into the one dimensional shadow that the Greeks belived people became in the afterlife! Atwood may have written many well received books but she should stick to her strengths, namely distopic near future science fiction. When it comes to epics, she is no Homer. For a much better modern interpretation of Penelope, watch the Coen Brother's film O Brother Where Art Thou.

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