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Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
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My current book review policy is behind the LJ cut. Click to read it.Collapse )


(Art by hamburger.)

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Penric's Demon and Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: Loved, Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



I love Lois McMaster Bujold's writing. I even loved her author's note -- her tone of voice comes through so well, and it's so pleasant to read.

The first book did something I never thought a story would be able to do: It made me wish I was possessed by a demon. (How silly does that statement sound!) But in the story's world, having a demon was like multiple personality disorder, but the other people in your head are real and quite old -- full of interesting information, powers, and stories. Seems like you'd never get lonely if you had a demon in you. The story followed how Penric got the demon inside him, and the early days of living with her.

In the second book, set ten years later, Penric was settled into his role. He was sent out to assist another church official in hunting down a criminal, and through that we met the titular Shaman.

Though Amazon reviews disagree with me, I liked the first book a lot better than the second. For some reason I kept getting the other two main characters (Oswyl and Inglis) mixed up -- maybe I have trouble with multiple vowel-names? :P Or it's possible I'm just really distracted right now, since I'm moving in less than a week.

I suspect, if I compared Penric and the Shaman to the average book I read instead of to Penric's Demon, I would have given it a Loved rating instead.

Though Amazon lists these as individual books, they're actually novellas, so I'm counting the two together as one.

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Thanks to the Olympics, none of the usual shows I watch were on. Luckily that lead me to try Better Off Ted. Though I had heard many recommendations for it before, I had thought it was related to that talking teddybear adult humor movie by Seth MacFarlane, so I was avoiding it. I'm so happy when I gave it a shot!

The first season was the funniest thing I ever saw on TV. I laughed out loud multiple times each 20 minute episode! The second season was more hit and miss, though still worth watching.

Set in the offices of Veridian Dynamics, an "evil" big company (use of quotation marks on that is questionable!), it follows the interactions and scientific discoveries of the workers there.

In the first season, every episode comes with a fake commercial



The fake company interacted with the real world, too. Veridian Dynamics responded to President Obama's request for free air time for his press conference:



Though the show was canceled six years ago, luckily you can see all of both seasons online right here.

---

Every time I watch a movie, I rediscover how little patience I have for sitting and doing nothing but watching it for two hours. At best, it takes me a full day to watch a movie (because I endlessly pause it to do other things), at worst, it takes me multiple days to get through one. The fact that it only took me nine hours to get through the new Ghostbusters movie should be a sign of how much I enjoyed it. (Though, to be fair, my expectations were really, really low.)

The whole thing was fun as heck. I didn't mind (outright enjoyed!) the all-female cast and that the secretary was an airhead good looking guy. The story felt true to the original I enjoyed the whole thing.

Oddly, I found that TV movies seem to work better for me. The commercials break it up so I get natural points to do other stuff. I watched The Others on some online station earlier this week, and while I don't really like horror/ghost movies, I found I watched the whole entire thing, and enjoyed it!

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Even though everything's packed so I have nothing left to give away, and I don't really want anyone's secondhand stuff, I still subscribe to Freecycle's mailing list just to see the interesting stuff people are offering/hoping to get. This morning had an offering posting that made me laugh:

California king mattress
20 years old, handles on side to flip.
You will need to carry it. We cannot help.

Good luck with someone wanting that...

---

I had such a worrying thing happen. For the first time since I adopted her, Ellie escaped my apartment. Usually I'm very careful when I open the door, but I had been on the phone and there was a knock at the door, so instead of hanging up and dealing with it, I told my mother to hold on a sec. It was an annoying Comcast person (they pretend to check how your service is, but really just want to try to upsell to you). If I hadn't been on the phone, I could have dealt with him easier, but with my attention divided between the two, I couldn't get rid of him. Standing there talking with the door open, Ellie just ran out. (The Comcast guy was actually the one who saw her escape.)

She took off, but luckily someone was walking their dog towards us, and the dog went crazy snarling and growling and snapping. She flattened herself against the walkway/sidewalk, and so I was able to grab her.

The Comcast guy apologized a lot, but I was still pissed off about it, and really really worried. Now that she's been out once, she seems to be eyeing the door a lot more.

Silly, silly Ellie, I don't keep you inside to be mean! The world is full of dangerous cat-eating dogs and cat-hitting cars and other cats who would kick your pampered butt! Stay inside, where it's safe.

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In hopes of getting my deposit back, I've been cleaning my apartment from top to bottom for a couple weeks now. I've cleaned the ceiling (really, I dusted it and made sure no cobwebs were on it). I cleaned the floor. I cleaned every little thing in between.

And yet I still won't be getting my full deposit back. Not unless I pull out the fridge and the range and clean under/behind them. Seriously. How am I supposed to move the fridge? And I wouldn't think the range could even be pulled out! It must be hooked into the cabinet/counters somehow...

Plus, since I have a cat, they're going to use a blacklight on the carpet to look for pee. That's fine with me, as she's never once peed outside of the box... except google tells me it picks up saliva as well, which means it will show where she had hairballs. They told me if the blacklight picks up anything, they'll have to replace the carpet and do some kind of treatment to the floor.

Sigh. I really feel like this is a scam. I've lived here two years. How can they not expect there to be some wear and tear and some cleaning needed? It's probably stated in that 55 page lease I signed that you have to give it back in the same condition you got it in.

I'm tired of being an adult.

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Red Fox by Lara Fanning
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



This story had such potential. This story had such plot holes.

Set in Australia, the government finally decided to do something about global warming. They decided to ban use of all electricity. They decided to ban use of all gas-powered things. (Good thing Australian government officials don't need to be elected, right? ...wait.) Then they go beyond that -- they want all humans to go back to living as we did in caveman times. Nothing but hunters/gathers; they wanted all humans to go back to being "feral".

How would such a thing be accomplished? First they had to kill off a good third of the population. Anyone who protested that (a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of people, one in a thousand or less -- the main character one of them, of course) got turned into "Breeders" -- humans who were (assumedly) more aggressive so the government wanted their children to populate the world so they'd do better as hunters/gathers.

One of the first big problems of this story: How does that make sense for the government to do? Where is the benefit to the people with the power/money?

But anyway, since it was an interesting idea, I kept reading.

So the government has all these "aggressive" human types, and now they need babies. They put them into groups (three men with twenty women) and order them to make babies. If you have a bunch of "alpha type" men who are ordered, under the threat of death, to make babies with women, shouldn't there be (at the very least) pressure from the men to have sex with the women? If not outright rape? That never happened! (Other than one single almost-case of it, at the very end of the book.) All of these supposedly "aggressive" alpha males were nothing but nice and kind and blushing at the idea of having sex with the women... UGH.

It really was an interesting idea for a story, and some parts of it held my attention. I read the first 90% of it then started skimming because the end got even worse: Set-up for a love triangle in book two. Ugh.

I'd love to see this story in the hands of a more experienced, more skilled, and edited writer. (Self-published, this book was full of editing mistakes. One character was called three different names on a single page!) Still, that this author is 22 years old and this was her first book. She has potential. I'm not going to read any other books in this series, but I might pick up something from her again in the future.

MindWar by Andrew Klavan
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



I really hate it when a book starts with self-promoting quotes, though not usually for this reason. MindWars had this one:

Through it all, [the main character] teaches lessons in Christian decency and patriotism, not by talking about those things, or thinking about them much, but by practicing them... Well done, Andrew Klavan.

Can an author dictate how a review interprets his book? Nope. But he sure as heck can decide which quotes to include with his book, so he must have approved of this one. (Self-published book, so it's the author's decision in this case.)

So the story opens with a "perfect" teenager -- captain of the football team, every girl in school lusts over him, perfect grades, everything perfect about him. Then a car accident breaks his legs and that's the end of football, thus he thinks his life is over. So he starts playing video games. In a couple weeks, long before his legs heal, we learn from a government official:

"We've actually trained people to play the game. Professional gamers. Soldiers. Army Rangers. Navy SEALs. Some of our finest, best warriors. They've never matched your score. They've never come close.

UGH. So Mr Perfect McPerfect is also perfect at playing video games. Better than professional gamers, who practice gaming for more hours in a day than most people work! But this main character, in the space of weeks, is better than them all! And it's not even like he focused on one game, he played many different ones.

I actually got to the 14% point of this book, though I should have given up much, much sooner. Reviews said it was about the government having a program where people fight wars in cyberspace, which would be an interesting story, just not in the hands of this author.

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Poor Ellie New Cat. She now hates all of you who suggested I use a squirt bottle on her. (I, on the other hand, thank you.)

She adapted to non-water corrections too quickly. The first day, just hissing worked. Second day it stopped, so I ran at her while hissing. Third day she was ho-hum about that, so I added waving my arms over my head while running at her and hissing. Then that stopped working and she would just give me a "WTF are you doing?" sort of look.

I don't own a squirt bottle or water gun, and I don't want to buy anything new so close to moving, so I just put a little water in a cup. The problem is, that's too effective and has overwhelmed her poor kittybrain. She now thinks I'm trying to keep her away from her food bowl and won't go into the kitchen while I put her food down (and runs out if I walk into the kitchen while she's eating). However, the meowing problem is about 98% fixed in the evenings and 90% fixed in the mornings.

I'm really pleased at how quickly this issue has been corrected. It's time-intensive right now (I have to correct her every single time she meows no matter what else I'm doing at the time), but it's only been about four days and the issue is nearly corrected.

And people say cats can't be trained...

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The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



When I saw this book, I snapped up a copy. Long, long ago, I saw it on a Saturday morning Storybreak Special (animated half-hour long show based on a book! It was the best thing ever to young me!).



The story wasn't bad. A "talking animal" book, which is one of my favorite kinds. Extremely dated, but on purpose. Hank the Cowdog lived on a ranch, and a murder (of a chicken) took place. As boss of the ranch, it was his duty to solve the case.

I liked Hank's voice, but the story was just flat for me. I reached almost exactly a third of the way into it (30%) and gave up.

The Wild Ones by C. Alexander London
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



Another talking animals book. This book had the odd thing of being well enough written that I enjoyed it, yet it was so full of plot holes. (The animals wore clothing, coats and hats and such, yet humans never noticed the clothing...)

Though a YA book (or younger?) it had some surprisingly dark scenes. A young wild/woods raccoon had to move into the city because his parents were killed, only to discover that the city was more wild and dangerous than the woods. At one point he was threatened with being "rabbited" -- nailed to the wall by his ears, and so if he struggled, his ears would be pulled long long a rabbit's.

Though the writer seemed skilled and could craft enjoyable sentences, the story just didn't hook me. Got a third of the way in (33%) before giving up.

Chasing Sunrise by Lex Chase
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



This book was billed as dark and supposedly dealt with abusive relationships -- it should have been perfect for me! It started by doing the thing I hate: It had a glossary of terms and phrases that the story used. Dear Authors: If you cannot explain something in-story, naturally, you're doing it wrong. If you want to have a bunch of different vampire clans, introduce their names through the story as needed! If you want to have a bunch of different were-animals, introduce them to the readers through your characters!

Not only did this book have a glossary, it was so long that it took up the first 3% of the book! I skipped most of it and I was able to follow the story mostly fine.

I really shouldn't have bothered. If I had known this was a vampire story, I would have skipped it. The whole thing was overly complex (thus the need for the glossary), with a second world existing overlaid with our world. The vampires and were-creatures lived in that other world, keeping humans as cattle for food. The story followed a toddler as his royal parents were killed and some guy basically took ownership of the prince and raised him as his puppet.

The writing wasn't good, the story didn't hook me, and after the glossary that was three strikes. I gave up on it quickly.

Currently reading: Red Fox by Lara Fanning:

In the 1950’s, a Siberian scientist began an experiment with one goal in mind - to breed a domesticated variation of the red fox. After ten generations of breeding the scientist had reduced the adrenalin levels in the animal and created a tame creature named the Silver Fox.
Decades later, the Australian government use this knowledge to devise a shocking plan that will end humanity as the world knows it...


Though that summary has two typos/misspellings in it, I'm enjoying the story so far.

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It's two weeks and two days until I move, and... I'm done. Everything is packed except last minute stuff that I'm still using. I've done nearly all the move-out cleaning that I can do with boxes in the way and me still living there. I'm all done, yet I still have two weeks to wait and do nothing.

On one hand, I should enjoy this time. I have AC, and I'm moving into a place without it. I'm in a pretty, nice complex, and I'm moving into a place that's more than 50% smaller and a whole lot less nice, so I should just enjoy the last of my time here. But I can't. Because I'm moving in two weeks.

It's actually better to have stuff to do because I feel like I'm accomplishing things and getting stuff done when I pack. Now I'm just sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, and stressing/worrying about all the what-ifs. I just want to get on with life -- get moved, get unpacked and settled, iron the bugs out of my new place.

The first day there is going to be interesting. All of the apartments are being moved in to at the same time. (They were all being renovated, the whole building.) I don't know how all the moving trucks are going to handle it -- there's so little parking, and people are going to be moving in all day. Hopefully it will be a little easier for my people, since I'm taking Thursday the 1st off for the move. Maybe more people will move in on Friday the 2nd or the weekend.

Ellie New Cat update: Her nonstop meowing begging for food is 90% corrected in the evenings, yet somehow only 20% corrected in the morning. (How do kittybrains work that she can't connect the two?) Whenever she meows, I run at her hissing and waving my hands over my head (just plain running at her stopped working after a while). It's a good thing I live alone, as I'm sure that would be amusing to watch. However, since she's improved so much in the evenings, I have hope that eventually the mornings will get corrected as well.

I no longer make her talk for a treat, as I think that would send mixed signals. Maybe not, maybe meowing on command might register differently in kittybrains, but I don't need to risk it.

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I just finished season two of Better Call Saul and... *#$#(@$#)

[Spoilers for whole show.]

Maybe this would be a show that's better to watch once a week instead of marathoning it. Jimmy/Saul really got on my nerves. He keeps getting himself into deep crap because he's too nice of a guy, and somehow that's more annoying than if he were a jerk. Maybe that would be less annoying if it had been spread out instead of all of it in a week or so.

His whole darned life could be better if he wasn't nice, if he didn't tell the truth, if he didn't try to help someone -- what kind of a lesson is that?

As the season went on, I was wishing Mike were more the focus of the show instead of Jimmy. Mike is complex and growing/changing/evolving, and very, very interesting.



While I enjoyed the show, it left me feeling annoyed more than anything else.

I have no idea what I'm going to watch now, I think I'm caught up on everything I wanted to watch...

Edit: Trying out Better off Ted. Might just die of laughter. :D

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