Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman was good. I had a feeling it would be good, but it was better than I thought. I first encountered Ben H. Winters as the co-author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and then with Android Karenina. When I saw that he wrote a new non-regency, non-romance novel, I was eager to check it out. Luckily, Goodreads helped me with that by giving me The Last Policeman as a first reads win. Also, how could I resist a pre-apocalyptic mystery?

Though I knew who the killer was after the second encounter with the character (while suspecting him during the first)*, the mystery was very interesting. It was an examination of typical motives or scenarios, with the added aspect of how those things changed in the current world climate. There's an added desperation with the knowledge that this potentially planet-killing asteroid is going to impact in six months. Behaviour changes, as do thought processes, risk assessments.  

As I find with most mysteries, I found the beginning a bit slow as we got to know the young detective Henry Palace, the victim, Peter Zell, the other detectives, the suspects and people in Henry's life. That did not last long. Soon, we were in the thick of things. There was suspicions proven, disproven and all the while Henry's sister, Nico, calling and calling.  I loved the storyline with Nico.  I have to know what happens with her and what she's doing.

I'll find out one day.  I didn't know it when I first was interested in the story, but The Last Policeman is the first in a seriesCountdown City is book two and already out. Book three, World of Trouble will be published in July and I have a feeling I'll be wanting that book too.  

*I could have been wrong. Also, figuring out who the killer was, wasn't about evidence. I was thinking about who the writer would choose, who would be surprising, not-obvious/least suspected, etc.   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Before I Re-Read Lives of Girls and Women

For the Classics Club Spin, the randomly generated number decided I was reading Lives of Girls and Women, a modern and Canadian classic that I love. I first read it probably thirteen years ago (yikes!)  It cemented me as a lifelong Alice Munro fan and I've since read several of her works, though not all of them. The goal of the Spin is to have the book read and the post ready to go up on April 2nd.  I was so excited though, that I immediately went to the shelf, just so I could look at the book.  What was the first thing I noticed?  Bright pink Post-its.

I read Lives of Girls and Women for a Canadian Literature class back in University.  It was a wonderful, amazing class and I read some amazing literature.  I don't remember if I wrote an essay or anything about Lives of Girls and Women, but from the quantity of Post-its, I thought it was important that I keep notes.  I haven't looked at any of the notes yet.  I'm not sure I want to.  This isn't the first book I've ever re-read.  It is not even the first that I've found a little note I made in the book.  This is the first time I've picked a book to re-read and it is FULL of notes.  What I'm wondering is, how will this affect my reading of the story.  Will I let my old thoughts influence my new thoughts?  Will I wonder, what was I thinking, oh so long ago?  More than just my love of the story itself, these notes have me excited to re-read Lives of Girls and Women.  Has anyone had a similar experience?  Finding old notes while re-reading a book?

Side Note: This is probably why I haven't re-read The Handmaid's Tale

Friday, February 14, 2014

Undead and Unfinished

Half the time, I love time travel stories; half the time I hate them.* Going back into the past or forward into the future can be very revealing. You can learn more about a character's motives and personality.  We certainly learned a lot about Tina's loyalty and Sinclair's persistence with Betsy in Undead and Unfinished. When MaryJanice Davidson first wrote Undead and Unwed, she probably didn't think nine books later she would write a time travel story to explain more about Sinclair and Tina.  I wonder if nine books ago, Davidson knew where the Book of the Dead had come from or if time travel inspired her.  The glimpse into the future was very intriguing. One thousand years is a long time and clearly a lot can happen. I wonder if Davidson is planning on more time travel. I know that Book 10, Undead and Underminded is related to Betsy and Laura's time travelling escapade, but will there be more messing about the time line?

Here's where I'm a little more sketchy when it comes to time traveling in Undead and Unfinished.  It wasn't consistent.  This may get vaguely spoilery, so be warned...  Betsy and Laura go to several different times periods in which they are directly affecting Betsy's timeline (and Laura's indirectly, as she is Betsy's sister).  In three of these ventures into the past, Betsy needed to be there.  If she wasn't, things wouldn't have worked out the way they were supposed to, she was there, because she was always there; it was predetermined.  In one instance, however, Betsy goes back to a time when she merely regrets her actions.  She stops herself from doing something bad, which is great, but has surprising consequences when she returns to the present.  Her return home is part, "Thank goodness we can tell you the truth: we met you in the past." and "How did that happen?/This is different."  I don't mind that Betsy changed her past in itself, what I'm not a hundred percent happy with is that there was one trip different from the others.  I suppose that when she went into the future, it confirmed that events were not fixed and things could be changed... but I don't know.  I was happy with the result to the story, at least.

The end of the book, the epilogue, is really what made the story for me. I really enjoyed the entire novel, but those last pages, bam! So good. Very unexpected. I don't think I can wait very long before I read Book 10. 

Hate: Due to time travel, the last season of Fringe is not remembered by any of the characters. So frustrating. 
Love: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, time travel used as a social commentary in the class system of Wells's era.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Thousand Orcs

The Thousand Orcs is the first book in R.A. Salvatore's trilogy The Hunter's Blades, which is also the 14th book in The Legend Of Drizzt series. There are 25 books, I think.  It's a lot of books to read, but I've enjoyed each one and I expect to enjoy them all until Salvatore stops writing them. I started reading the series years ago, but it has been a long time since I read a Drizzt book, at least a year. I don't know what created the delay. Maybe I was really satisfied by the last book. Maybe there were too many other books got in the way. I'm going to start reading them more often again. Perhaps I'll catch up to my Hubby soon. 

The Thousand Orcs was exactly what I wanted from a Drizzt book. There was action, adventure and emotional turmoil brought to us by the Companions of the Hall. It was a book that had more mature companions, individuals who had grown, learning more about each other and themselves. There was also a sense of "ends" in the story. At first it was about the endings of particular ways of life. Bruenor's adventures, Torgar in Mirabar and Regis's quiet life. Catti-Brie and Drizzt were starting to see ends. Only Wulfgar might be the exception, though you could interpret his new found confidence as the end of his instability. 

Speaking of Wulfgar, he has a beard in this book, part of his maturing. Though this novel was published ten years ago, I couldn't help but picture Thor. Wulfgar wields a hammer, is large in stature and makes battle cries as he sweeps his hammer through enemies. The hammer is even enchanted to return to Wulfgar when thrown, though it's more like teleportation than telekinesis, if you know what I mean... There are worse people to picture than Chris Hemsworth. 

I'm happy to have returned to the Legend of Drizzt series. I'm looking forward to reading The Lone Drow and seeing how crazy Drizzt goes. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Spin Number is...


Will I read it this time? I definitely think so. I've been looking forward to re-reading Lives of Girls and Women since I first read it over a decade ago. It's why I put it on my classics list. Just the thought of it being my Spin book makes me want to pick it up and read it right now. Is it weird that I want to hug it?

What's your Spin book? Are you looking forward to it?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Deconstructing Meals

I am the mother of two beautiful, wonderful, crazy children.  My daughter is 4 1/2 and my son is 2 1/2. What does that mean for me (and most parents) during meal times?  Picky eaters.  They're not as overly picky as I've seen some kids, but they're still pretty particular.  They're children; this is not unexpected.  What it can be is infuriating.  I refuse (REFUSE) to make more than one meal.  I know some parents do, one meal for them, another for the children.  No.  Not me.  To me, that's a waste of what little time I have after I get home from work.  It's also important to me that we sit together for meals.  That can't happen if I'm stuck making two dinners.

However, I still want them to eat.  One day (just a few weeks ago), my Hubby suggested deconstructing our meals for them.  What does that mean?  I made Chicken Fajitas.  An easy meal to deconstruct. Instead of putting everything in a tortilla and handing it to them, I put each item in its own serving dish so they could see what was being put on their plates. They ate all of it. The tortilla, the chicken, the vegetables. ALL of it.  They ate each component separately, but that didn't matter.  I only made one meal and I didn't have to fight to get the kids to eat it.  I figure anything that's going in a wrap or pita is easy to separate into its components.  Recently, I served pasta on one side of the plate and the sauce on the other.  Done.  Gone.  This week, I gave them deconstructed stir-fry.  Rice noodles, chicken and veg separated. Ate it all, the end.  

Do they always finish every single scrap of food on their plate?  No and I don't expect them too. They get full and we can [usually] tell the difference between genuine fullness and fussiness. After all, adults sometimes put more food onto their plates than they can finish.  I'm still using chili powder or teriyaki sauce or whatever; I do not spare the spice. They are just able to see the pieces of the whole before they consume it.

Image from here.
Recently Amanda at Food Riot wrote about only making one meal for her family. I love the title of her post, Mean Parent Confessions: My Kids Eat What I Serve Or They Don’t Eat.  I agree with all of it, every word.  In addition to not wanting to make two meals, I don't want my kids to be fussy/picky when we go out, as children and when they get older.  I feel like the Deconstructed Meals is a good way to get them to eat like us too.  They see us put all the parts of the meal together and often they copy what we do.  (For those who don't know, kids copy their parents.) Some foods they like to keep it separate (and that may translate into adulthood as my mother-in-law still likes plain pasta with the sauce on the side.)  As long as I'm making only one meal and they're eating it.... and maybe there's a reason there are so many partitioned children's dishes.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  How do you get your little ones to eat?

*Note: I do not mean "deconstructing" the way chefs seem to be doing lately.  It's not like I'm aiming for my kids to be trendy with their meals.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Another Spin Around The Classics

I don't know what it is about the Classics Club Spin that attracts me.  I think I like the encouragement it gives to keep up with my classic reading.  To be honest, though, I didn't read my last spin book.  I just wasn't feeling the book at the time and I didn't want to force myself to read it, because I knew then I wouldn't enjoy it.  I've decided to seperate my list again the way I did last time, with an additional category at the bottom.  I guess I really like doing things my own way. I'm also hoping I'll actually read the selection on this spin's list. We'll find out what book on February 10th and hopefully I'll have it read by April 2nd!

1. Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
2. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
3. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

Short Stories / Novellas
5. Sherlock Holmes: A Study In Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle
6. The Big and The Little, by Isaac Asimov
7. Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker
8. The Man Who Loved Islands, by D.H. Lawrence

Poetry / Theatre
9. Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath
10. Queen Mab, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
11. Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand
12. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Children’s / Young Adult / Juvenilia
13. Tales of Angria, by Charlotte Brontë
14. Grimm's Fairy Stories, by Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm
15. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
16. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

17. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
18. The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence
19. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
20. Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro