September 21, 2008

More Books

I've been on a bit of a reading tear lately. Although, I must admit that most of the books in this post are quick reads. And all but one were mysteries which I tend to read really fast because I have to know "who-dun-it" as soon as possible.

The Secret of Platform 13
Eva Ibbotson, 1994
Eva Ibbotson has quite an imagination. I've read some of her stories before so I knew I was going to like this one. She writes about ghosts and monsters, but it's all very matter of fact and there are very few bad monsters, most are just misunderstood. It's a cute story about a kidnapped prince and the rescue party that is send to retrieve him, and even though it's very full of characters you never feel lost or confused. It's straight-forward good vs. bad and you root for the underdog the whole time. Very worth the read.

The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse
Rick Riordan, 2006, 2007
I really liked the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and was ready to keep reading about the characters, but the 2nd and 3rd books were amazing. The stories were better with scarier monsters and narrower escapes and you keep learning more and more about the world of the "half-bloods" and greek gods. And now there is an overarching story line that you can see running through all the books and you can see Percy and his friends headed towards. It's like when you're reading Harry Potter and you know there that each book is it's own story, but the battle against Voldemort is brewing under the surface in each one. Still... each books is so good and they keep building on each other so you can't put them down. When I finished the Sea of Monsters I immediately went to the library to get the next one and I'm kinda pissed that the 4th one is checked out. Definitely read these!

The Name of This Book is Secret
This is one of the quirkiest books that I've read in a while. It's told by a narrator who is conflicted because he thinks the story is too secret and dangerous to share, but he just can't help himself. So he changes all the names and only describes things if he's sure you won't be able to track them down and jumps in to the narrative every so often to warn you about impending danger or explain why the characters did what they did. It's very entertaining and creative. The main characters are two 11 years olds so it's definitely written for that audience. It's full of logic and actions that only make sense to the naive and un-worldly 6th graders, but it's still a great story and worth the effort.

The Library Card
Jerry Spinelli, 1997
Jerry Spinelli is a really good author. He's able to tell stories that are real and full of true feeling, not fluffy or fake, but at the same time make them relatable to a younger audience. Maniac Magee is a great example of that and his series of 5 short stories that make up The Library Card are also. Each story follows a different person as their life is affected by a small blue library card. Some use it to learn, others use it to remember, and others use it to connect. There's an element of magic in the stories, but it's not overt or cheesy, it just feels special. Of course I picked this book up because of the title, but I'm glad that I did. It's stories are touching and remind me of one of the reasons that I love sharing books and stories with people.

September 16, 2008

IL Hearts McDs, I Heart Taco Bell

I don't know what it is about the McDonald's around here, but they are always busy. It doesn't matter when I pass one, there is always a full parking lot and a line at the drive-thru. I can't figure out why. It's not like it's the only game in town. There's every fast-food joint I can think of around here, well...except for a Sonic, but no town is perfect. I don't get it. Case in point: I wanted to drive through McD's last weekend to get a coke (because they have the best fountain cokes, obviously) but the line was around the building, at least 10 cars long. And usually if they drive-thru is too busy you can go inside, but the parking lot was full. I didn't see one open space, and it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I don't get it.
So I've slowly been converting to Taco Bell for fountain pop. Fountain Mt. Dew from Taco Bell is second best behind fountain Coke from McDonalds and there's one on the way home from work so I let myself take a little detour every so often. There's rarely a line, which is nice and every so often, if I only order a pop and nothing else, I'll get it for free. I love that! I got one today, "on the house" he said. That's three times now! That's the way to keep me coming back, and maybe sometime I might even order food.

September 12, 2008

End of Summer Reads

It’s officially the end of summer. It’s been raining off and on all week and it was dark by 7:20pm tonight (darn Central Time Zone). It all goes downhill from here. Despite the depressing loss of sunlight I’ve managed to read some good books lately. So here are my end of summer reads:

Q is for Quarry
Sue Grafton, 2003
Sue Grafton has quite a series going, and it worked out very well for me since I needed a ‘Q’ book for my reading challenge. The A, B, C books are mysteries that follow Kinsey Millhone, a private detective in California, as she tackles cases. They are fun and suspenseful and hard to predict. They’re also amusing because they are slightly dated. They are set in the 90s before cell phone and PDAs and lots of modern technological conveniences that would be beneficial to someone in Kinsey’s line of work.
Overall they’re great stories. I’ve read two of them out of order, and they can definitely be read as individual books, but I think you could get even more out of the stories by reading them in order.

Mansfield Park
Jane Austen, 1814
Jane Austen is very good. Her stories are so calm, yet cover so many events and emotions. I’ve read all but one of her books and I have to admit this is probably my least favorite. It’s very long and it seemed to drag more than the other books she’s written. I’ve seen two different movie versions of this story, and never realized how much they condensed the book. As much as I admire Fanny Price’s moral character, I kept getting annoyed at her crippling shyness. It’s a good book and well worth the time it takes to read, but if you could only read one Jane Austen book, I would say go with Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice over this one.

The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan, 2005
For those of you who are slightly depressed that there are no more Harry Potter books coming out and slightly mad that Warner Brothers has decided to move the next Harry Potter movie release back from this November to July 2009, there is hope. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series follows Percy and his “half-blood” friends as they navigate the world of mythological monsters and gods. The world of Greek mythology is real and Percy is learning what it means to be the son of a god and to see all the creatures and monsters that he’d always thought were just tall tales.
This is a great story. It had been recommended by a couple of people, but I just now got around to reading it. It’s well written with exciting adventures and action sequences. It’s chocked full of Greek mythology, but you don’t have to be an expert to understand what’s going on. It’s a quick, fun read that’s perfect for lazy rainy days, when you are yearning for HP type adventures.

The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde
I loved these books. It’s been a while since I read something that was so creative and fun, yet complicated and compelling. These are the first two books in the Nursery Crime Series. They tell the story of Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergent Mary Mary who run the Nursery Crime Division of the Reading Police Force. They investigate the cases involving PDRs or Persons of Dubious Reality.
In the first book, The Big Over Easy, Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. Was it an accident or was there foul play involved? In the second book, The Fourth Bear, Henrietta “Goldilocks” Hatchett has gone missing and the last people to see her alive were the three bears. Adding to Jack’s problems is the fact that the Gingerbreadman – “psychopath, sadist, genius, convicted murderer and cookie” – has broken out of prison.
There are so many ways that these books could fall flat, but they don't and I'm sure it's because the author is intensely talented. They are full of nursery rhyme characters acting out their stories in incredibly creative ways, but at the heart of the books is a really good who-dun-it mystery that truly keeps you guessing.

September 5, 2008

My Brick

If you read my last post, you heard mentioned the fundraising effort at USF that involved "buying" bricks that they would engrave to your specifications. Here's what mine looks like: (If you were standing the the side of it, since I can't get the picture to load right side up)
They put it in yesterday. For those of you who aren't British sci-fi nerds, it's a reference to Doctor Who. In the first season of the show the main characters kept coming across the phrase "bad wolf" and *spoiler alert* we find out in the season finale that someone had scattered the phrase all over space and time as a warning to the good guys. The Bible verse, Ephesians 1:3-10, is a response to that really cool concept. It says:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

I've got THE EYE

At my university we celebrate Founder's Day. It's a day when we celebrate and thank the Sisters of St. Francis who founded our school. This year I was asked to do a display in the large display case in the middle of the main building on campus. (No pressure). So for the last three months I've been gathering materials, scanning photographs, cutting out background pieces and much more. Because I'm such a detail person things had to be just right and I've slowly been driving myself insane.
Here's a little background about the display. At this year's Founder's Day celebration there will be a blessing of the bricks that have been newly laid in the nice walk in the middle of the Quad. (The school raised money by having people "purchase" a brick and have them inscribed to their liking and then placing them sporadically throughout the path). So I decided to use the theme of the day "From our past, we pave our future" and show how the school has changed over the years using photos and other stuff to compare the past and the present.The background of the display is a brick path that mimics the one outside in the Quad and then moving from left to right the photos and brochures and other things move through the years. I found some really cool stuff and it was pretty fun coming up with ideas. I added a couple of 3D elements by hanging some framed pictures with clear fishing wire so they are suspended and not just flat against the back wall. There are also a couple of key-chain and pennants both old and new.
I had help from my director with setting up a laptop so that we could play a video within the display. I put all the images that are in the display into a video and it's playing on a loop in the corner.
I'm intensely proud of this project and was very gratified to have people walking by commenting on it as it was going up. My favorite comment was from a staff member that I didn't know who said "This display is just great. You've got the eye." I'm really hoping that's a good thing and he wasn't referring to smudged mascara, but either way he noticed and appreciated the display.
Here are some pictures I took as it was developing. The first one is the brick walk before I added all the stuff. I took pictures of the path outside and used Photoshop (because I'm an expert now) to cut out individual ones to mimic the pattern and colors of the bricks outside. Then there's the display without the AV equipment and then the final product. Feel free to stand and applaud.

September 2, 2008

Labor Day Golf Lessons

This Labor Day Weekend I went home to MI for the long break and had a wonderful time. I was able to see old friends and extended family and I spent some quality time on my parent's couch in front of the TV, which is one of my favorite places to be.
During the course of this full weekend I played my first round of golf. My friend Paulette took me out on Saturday morning for 9 holes at Indian Hills in Okemos and I had a blast.
Here's what I've learned about golf:
- My clubs are too short
- I'm not very good at hitting the ball off the tee, but my short game isn't too bad.
- Paulette is the most patient, kind and supportive golf partner/teacher/coach EVER, although "hello noodle, goodbye noodle" is totally stuck in my head. (The golf balls we used had the word noodle on them).
- The golf sandals that my grandma gave me are great, unless you're playing early in the morning when the grass is covered in dew, because they tend to pick up bits of grass and water so that by hole 5 you squish when you walk.
- Keeping your eye on the ball doesn't always work. Sometimes you just watch is sit on the tee as the golf club swings by.
- Hitting a divot of grass farther than the ball is embarrassing.
- The day after golfing can be painful. I have muscles in my lower back and arms that I had no idea I was using, but can definitely feel now.
- I can totally see why people head to the clubhouse after a round. By hole 8 I was famished and could really have used a stiff drink.
- Golf courses are beautiful!