I love making presents for people. In fact, I usually plan way to many for my schedule, even though I started in early November I didn't get finished on time. So some will be delivered after the holidays. I took the pictures on my cell phone, so they are probably a bit fuzzy on the large scale.
This was for my planning partner in 6th grade, World Cultures.
This door hanger ornament was made for my 6th grade team leader.
I made this one for our team member that works with the afternoon tutoring program, and has the most adorable little baby girl.
This was made for one of my fellow social studies teachers, who is really into history and miniatures.
These were originally intended to be for my Secret Santa, but I didn't participate this year. I ended up giving them to my administrators and teachers that are very helpful to me in the classroom.
This one was made for our school librarian, to match her bubbling personality.
This one was created for our Technology Specialist, as she is the queen of our shiny stuff.
I read this book years ago and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd read it again with my Second Life book club. I had forgotten much about the book since I last read it.
Jasper Fforde weaves a tale about a police detective, Thursday Next, who specializes in literary crime. Most of the time it is a very dull job, at least for most of the LiteraTecs. Thursday seems to attract adventure. Before becoming a police officer, she fought in the Crimean War. In this war, she lost her brother, and the love of her life. One to death, the other to the trauma of war.
The world of Thursday Next is a world of time travel, cloned extinct pets, and characters being kidnapped out of famous books. England and Russia have been fighting a war off and on for over a century. Her father is a time traveling fugitive that is trying to fix the past, so she rarely sees him.
Thursday's nemesis in this book is Acheron Hades. He is probably my second favorite character of the whole book. Thursday is drawn into this adventure because Hades was her professor in college, so she can identify him. He has the strange ability to locate people when they speak his name, seems to be invulnerable to any physical harm, and apparently has the ability to teleport and cause others to hallucinate. He commits evil acts for the pure pleasure and feels that to robbery for the sake of financial gain is low, common, and in poor taste.
Fforde combines adventure and comedy together very well. As an American, I know there are some references to part of London and England that I missed completely. There are many puns, some good, some come with a groan factor. I really enjoy the book, it was a fun read. I'm actually in the mood to read the rest of the series.
This book is a dark comedy/horror by David Wong. David Wong is the pseudonym for the head editor of Cracked.com. It is another book, among a growing number, that was originally published online and is now gracing the shelves of our favorite bookstores.
The set up is this, David and his best friend are reluctant paranormal investigators. John, the aforementioned best friend and the title's namesake, takes a drug called "soy sauce". When David comes to rescue John from what he believes is a very bad trip, he accidentally takes some of the drug. There are no quotes around accidentally, as it is completely sincere and meant in no way to be sarcastic. The after effects of the drug cause all sorts of problems for both David and John, though not in the ways you might expect.
The style of "John Dies at the End" is very conversational, it feels like a buddy telling you of his drunken adventures. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, without being grotesque. There were sentences in this books that made me laugh and say "oohh, gross" at the exact same time. The descriptions are not intended to get a gross out reaction, but simply provide a clear mental picture. Wong supplies us with several unexpected twists in the tale.
I recommend this for people that like horror, comedy, or are just looking for something a little out of the ordinary. If you are a fan of Cracked.com then you will definitely enjoy this book, but then again if you are a fan of Cracked.com you probably already know about the book.
This was my first novel by Rudy Rucker. Though I wasn't sure what to expect, I knew that this book would take a different approach to cyberpunk than I have encountered before.
Our main character is Cobb Anderson, he is an elderly scientist that is living in disgrace. The cause of his disgrace is the robot revolution that was brought about by him developing a way for robots to evolve and have real brains, not in the physical sense but in the independent thought sense. He has lost is his money and career, left his wife, and is suicidal while being terrified of death. Another consequence of the robot rebellion is that all the "boppers", or thinking robots, have been exiled to the moon. One of the boppers sneaks down to Earth and offers Cobb immortality, money for a ticket to the moon, and a new passport as Cobb's travel is restricted to due his part in the robot rebellion (albeit unintentional).
Cobb has a nemesis, a police officer named Mooney. Mooney is holding a grudge about Cobb's part in the robot rebellion. Ironically, the person that the boppers plan to have help Cobb is Mooney's son, Sta-Hi. I don't want to go into the plot any further, so that I avoid spoilers.
Rucker's writing flowed smoothly, and I even laughed in a few spots. The book was enjoyable, but not riveting. I think that part of the reason I wasn't riveted is because I found some of the events a bit predictible, that might not be the case for you. I wouldn't place it among my all-time favorites; however, I found the question that Rucker posed about the soul very interesting. There was a lack of intensity that I have come to expect from cyberpunk. As the novel is the first in a trilogy, much of the story was exposition. I don't feel that I can reach a definitive conclusion on how I feel about it as a work, because it is not a complete work in and of itself. If you like science fiction and questions of an existential nature, then this would be a good choice for you.
Un Lun Dun is China Mieville's first young adult novel. As indicated by the title it is set in an alternate version of London. It has been compared to Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, though I can not speak directly to this as I have yet to read that work, I can see why the comparison has been made based on the movie adaptations.
The tale begins in London, with our main characters Zanna and Deeba. They begin to notice that strange occurrences are happening, things like a fox watching Zanna during recess. Zanna is attacked by a dark cloud, and stays several nights at Deeba's house. The girls are awoken by the sound of something scratching at the window, it's a broken umbrella. Zanna decides to follow it, dragging Deeba in her wake. They end up in Un Lun Dun with no way home. Needless to say, the girls are scared and confused.
Upon their arrival they are chased by a pile of rubbish and promptly rescued by a boy named Hemi. A friendly tailor notices that the girls are new in town, and chases Hemi off. He's half-ghost, and the living don't trust the ghosts. Zanna then learns that she is the "Chosen One" and is meant to save Un Lun Dun from the Smog. But Obaday, the tailor, won't say anything else. He insists on taking her to see the Propheseers, who will tell her what see must do. Zanna and Deeba meet the Propheseers, but things do not go as predicted. The "Chosen One" is injured in the first battle. We learn that people, things, and ideas can travel between our world and the world of Un Lun Dun. There are several other plot twists, which would be quite surprising to the young readers that are the intended audience. They are handled very well, even if as an adult you can guess that they are coming, they do not feel forced or artificial.
The world of Un Lun Dun is full of unique creatures and objects, as are Mieville's other worlds. I admit I was a bit concerned about Mieville's vocabulary when it came to writing a young adult novel. He is quite fond of big words that make educated adults reach for a dictionary, so I wasn't sure if he could pull back and make his wonderful prose accessible to children. He did so superbly. He gave us several emotionally touching scenes throughout the book. There was a lot of focus on the value of friendship in this story. There was particular good-bye scene which reminded me very much of Dorothy's farewells in The Wizard of Oz.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fantasy, or is looking for a book to share with a young person in their life.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a truly unique book. When I first discovered it, it was on the shelf in the horror section at the bookstore. Then next time I saw it, it was on the literature shelf. It seems that no one quite knows how to classify this book. Once you read it, you will understand why. This book truly defies description.
Danielewski weaves an incredible tale, full of heart, paranoia, fear, danger, insanity, symbolism, analogy, and allegory. He writes the tale as three different people, in three distinct writing styles.
We begin by meeting Johnny Truant, an apprentice tattoo artist, a lover of women and parties, and a prolific storyteller. When we meet him, he is in the middle of an obsession which is destroying his life. The thing that is the center of his obsession is an incomplete manuscript that he found in the apartment of a dead blind man named Zampano. We become acquainted with Johnny through footnotes he writes to Zampano's work. Sometimes they are about the research he and Zampano have done, or they might be translations. Often they are tangents in which Johnny talks of his life experiences (memories sparked by Zampano's words) or descriptions of his mental state and how Zampano's work is effecting him and how he believes it effected Zampano.
The main portion of the book is Zampano's work. He is writing a paper, it reads much like a college dissertation, about a film called "The Navidson Record". There is some doubt throughout the story as to whether the film actually exists. Zampano tells the story of the Navidson family's move into a house in the country to reconnect with each other. Will Navidson is an award-winning photo-journalist, and decides to document his family's move into their new home. Once they move in, they discover that their new house is very strange. The first strange thing that they discover is that it is bigger on the inside than the outside by 5/16th of an inch. Their new house proceeds to get stranger from there. Once the strangeness is discovered, Will insists on continuing to film, "The Navidson Record" is the resulting film from the recorded events in the house.
The other person that tells the story, or parts of it, is Johnny's mother. She is institutionalized in a mental hospital, and has been since Johnny was a small boy. We learn about Johnny's early life, and her, through a series of letters that she wrote to Johnny from the hospital. At times it is difficult to know if her letters help us understand Johnny, or just add to the confusion of it all.
One of the things that makes this book unique is Danielewski's use of the textual format. The layout of the text frequently reflects the action in the story and the mental or emotional state of the characters. There are references to the Greek myth of the Minotaur throughout the book, thought it is usually very subtle and in the background. The people in this book have dynamic and real relationships with each other. All I can say is that everyone should read this book. I will have to read it again, as I know there are things I missed this time as well.
This review is long over due, sorry for the delay. My masters class on school law has taken up most of my time.
Though I hate to use the term, because of the often negative connotations, The Scar is a spin-off of Perdido Street Station. Reviewed here. Reading the original story isn't necessary to understand or enjoy this story; however, I highly recommend it.
Mieville opens not with the main character, but with a beautifully described scene depicting an underwater hunter and his trained hunting squid. This scene gives the audience a sneak peek as to what horrors of the deep await our cast of characters. His use of language, as usual, is magnificient.
Our central character is Bellis Coldwine. She is fleeing to a newly founded colony to avoid an unknown entanglement with the New Crobuzon government, with the intention of returning home once it is safe. Bellis lies about her ability to speak the language of a sea-faring people in order to get passage to the colony. Bellis is a complex character, but I admit there were times I found it hard to like her.
In addition to taking colonists to the new colony, the ship is transporting Remade prisoners. Remades are people that have been punished for crimes they committed by being altered physically, usually by having horrible mechanical parts added to their body or replacing a body part. In the course of the ship's travels to the colony they are abducted by a floating pirate city, Armada. It is run by the Lovers. Once you are a part of Armada, you are not allowed to leave. This results in much inner turmoil for Bellis.
There are many more interesting characters in the book, and you do find out how it links back to Perdido Street Station. The story is complex and well-written. There are dramatic sea battles and tender moments. I recommend this if you love language, pirate tales, fantasy stories, or steampunk. Enjoy.
I've gotten so much done on this stocking this summer. Surprisingly I haven't fallen behind on my homework, though I have fallen a bit behind on my reading for my book group. I'm SO close to being done with the main part of the stitching that I can't stop. Though I'll have to pause to get a skein of one color to finish the "x" stitches. Then it's nothing but detailing.
I read this book for several reasons. First, I had read a historical romance novel for kids when I was young about the hurricane of 1900, and the tragedy of the event stuck with me. Second, this is one of the reading assignments for our 6th grade students next year. Students love it when teachers that teacher another subject have read a book that they have to read and can share it with them. Third, I wanted to look at how they handled such a hurricane after experiencing Hurricane Ike.
This book is a bit difficult for me to review, as it's non-fiction. I am not an expert in the field, but I can tell you that the factual and historical data is weaved very well with the first person accounts. The author breaks the time up into increments of a few hours, this really makes a timeline clearer as well as increases the suspense and emotional intensity. Parts of this made me laugh, parts of it made me cry. The author has a clear and direct style. The original publication date was 1957, so he was able to interview many of the survivors.
I was amazed at how quickly the 1900 Galvestonians began to recover from the hurricane. They began cleaning up and rebuilding even before outside help could reach them. The 1900 hurricane is the land-based equivalent to the sinking of the Titanic. It is the event which caused the seawall to be built, though it had been discussed before the hurricane, it was considered too expensive to build. It shifted the ideas of what could be done to protect coastal cities, just as the Titanic altered the safety regulations on cruise ships. I recommend this book highly if you are interested in history, hurricanes, or humans ability to adapt and recover from disaster.
This is stage one, I've been working on this for about a week. It's amazing how much I've gotten done. I can accomplish so much when I don't have to work. Heehee. Working on this has reminded me that I need to work on a stocking for one of my nephews. So I guess that's my next summer project.
She Murdered Me with Science is David Boop's first novel. It combines historical fiction, sci-fi, and detective noir. Boop often plays for humor, and I think he does it well. I love the liberal sprinkling of period slang, though I admit my knowledge and taste of it come from "Casablanca", bits of "The Maltese Falcon", and Shirley Temple movies like "The Bachelor and the Bobbysocker".
As is a staple in the detective noir genre, when we meet our hero, he is "down on his luck". Noel Glass was a teenage science protege. He was recruited in his childhood by NMIT and graduated at the tender age of 16. He left NMIT in disgrace when an experiment went horribly wrong and killed six people, including his lover, Tangie. To make ends meet he becomes a private eye and forensic detective. He has been struggling to invent something to reestablish himself as a scientist.
Just as he completes his new invention he is approached by a mysterious man that not only wants to buy his invention, but tells him that the accident was really a frame job. The people that framed Glass for the deaths are trying to kill his benefactor. Glass then uses his detective skills to figure out why this mystery man is helping him and who framed him.
He is helped in his quest by Mr Lee, who had previously rescued him from depression and self-pity, and Vincent, the mystery man's body guard. At times the interaction between the three makes me think of a buddy flick. Boop also pulls in the sultry songbird, though this one is far from helpless.
I was a bit disappointed in the twist ending, as I predicted it much earlier. Now whether this was accidental, or done on purpose to play up the archetypes of the genre, I can not be sure. Over all, this was a fun read. Perfect for a vacation or to read on a beach.
The Gunslinger is the first book in "The Dark Tower" series by Stephen King. "The Dark Tower" is King's magnum opus that has been written over the course of the last 25 years. He was inspired by Robert Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." The series ties most of King's works into a single universe. This book takes us into the realm of horror, as well as fantasy, westerns, and epic journeys.
When we meet are protagonist, he is "a man without a name", simply "The Gunslinger". The Gunslingers are a mixture of nobles and law enforcement. The titles are inherited, but must be earned through a trial of battle. We later learn his name is Roland. He is pursuing the man in black. The man in black has wronged him, and many others. Later we meet a young boy named Jake, he is crucial to the story as well.
King makes frequent use of flashbacks to develop the back story of Roland and Jake. King paces the story well, and is often vividly descriptive. King's words pull the reader into the events in many places, the paintings included in the first edition are also quite beautiful. This book is the back story, set up, for the rest of the series, but it is done in a way that doesn't make it feel like its exposition only. King even gives the reader a classic cliff hanger ending.
Welcome to Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams' world of super corporations, hard-wired skills, and smugglers. This is an extremely fast-paced, classic cyberpunk novel.
The opening of the book gets your heart racing. We meet Cowboy, our protagonist, as he is driving his car to his mountain hideaway. It does great job of introducing the feel, the hero, and the technology of the story. Cowboy is a panzerboy, THE panzerboy actually. A panzerboy is a smuggler, a bootlegger, and a line-runner. He smuggles to maintain his freedom from the control of the Orbitals, corporations that run the world and maintain their head quarters in orbit around Earth. His approach reminds me very much of what in America was referred to as the "frontier spirit".
Our other main character is Sarah, Sarah is a person for hire. She has a modification called a Weasel, it is very dangerous to those she uses it on and herself. Sarah's goal is to buy tickets for herself and her brother to live in Orbit. She has held some very borderline jobs in order to achieve this. In fact, when we first meet her, she is on a job to assassinate one of the Orbital employees and steal some information from their database. This results in her home being blown up and her brother being seriously injured.
Her fixer, or agent, for the lack of a better word is put in danger as well. Cowboy and Sarah meet on the job related to finding out who is trying to kill her. Both Cowboy and Sarah have strong senses of integrity, despite the fact that they hold what is in our world criminal jobs. They discover that the black market is not all that it seems.
This story contains much complexity in the plot and character development. The details come together wonderfully, though occasionally there is a slight feeling of deus ex machina. I would say that for most people this is an excellent introductory novel to the cyberpunk sub-genre. It is much more accessible than Neuromancer by Gibson for those brand new to the genre. It contains less "techno-babble" at any rate.
This is the finished design, minus the couples' initials and the wedding date. I thought that posting it in it's pure form would be a good idea. I'm kind of nervous that I may have thrown off the design with the initials. The next step is to wash it and let it dry. Then I will add the borders and backing for the pillow.
It's official as of Monday, I now have a 10 year old, a child in the double digits, a pre-teen. Broke down and got her a cell phone, she was over the moon with excitement. I just couldn't stand not being able to find her the first circuit of the apartment complex while she was out playing.
We are having Luau themed swimming party today. She asked for a lemon cake decorated to look like Hawaiian flowers, aka hibiscus.
My 5th period class rose to my challenge of staying quiet while the 8th graders tested, and it was a challenge for them. They also earned a cake. They chose triple chocolate cake and asked me to make the Taj Mahal, so with icing and my limited skills I did.
I made another cake for the March and April birthdays at work. I experimented with butter cream fondant icing. People liked it, but seemed to prefer the old-fashion butter cream icing.
I've also continued working on that wedding gift, I hope that I am able to finish it on time with my studies keeping me so busy. Luckily, the professors have had to back off on the workload, as they were giving us at least 35 hours of coursework a week. If I was a full-time student it would be fine, but everyone in this program is a full-time teacher and most have families.
Sometimes is stinks to only have a camera phone. Hard to adjust to the natural lighting of a room. I'm finally able to work on the finishing touches such as the outlines and French Knots. I have to go get some more of color #3371, I ran out yesterday. Then I can match a fabric to make the back out of and use my machine to sew it up.
School is going well, both work and studying. I finished my GRE last week, now I don't have to worry about getting kicked out of grad school. I've almost successfully given up soda. They re-shingled our roof over the break as well, by the end of this week, there will be no more blue tarps on the top of the apartment complex.
This is probably one of my favorite fantasy works of all time. Martin masterfully handles multiple story lines and points-of-view. This story is an epic fantasy, yet the magical elements very much take a backseat to the characters and the plot. In fact, Martin's style gives it the feel of historical fiction rather than fantasy. Many of the stories and characters seem to be plucked directly from Medieval Europe.
We begin the story in the Northlands with the Stark family. They are the main protagonists of our tale and are known as honest and honorable. Lady and Lord Stark have four children ranging from 3 to 13, two boys and two girls. There is also Ned's bastard son, Jon, who is the same age as their oldest son, Robb. Jon has been brought up with his half-siblings, and been well loved for the most part, despite the Lady's resentment of his presence.
Ned's best friend is King Robert, who pays Ned a visit to offer him the position of The Hand of the King. This is basically the position of running the country while the king enjoys feasting, hunting, and wenching. King Robert is married to a Lannister, a family known for their cunning and greed. When Bran, one of the Stark children, witnesses an encounter between the Queen and a man that is not the King, she insists the man dispose of him by throwing him out the window. This event leads to many further complications later in the story.
Shortly before the King and Queen come to visit, the children find a litter of direwolf pups. These wolves are larger than normal wolves, and they usually stay above the Wall. The Wall is a very long wall that protects all of the Seven Kingdoms from the Wilds of the North, where horrible creatures reside. The Night Watch, which patrol the Wall, and the Starks are concerned because "Winter is coming". In the world of Martin's Fire and Ice, winter and summer both last for years on end. This summer has in fact been unusually long, in fact none of the children have seen winter.
If you are new to fantasy, and prefer historical fiction, this would be a great novel to begin exploring the genre with. Martin's work is not predictable, nor are his characters stereotypical of the fantasy genre.
A coworker asked me to make her daughter's birthday cake. She is having a Build-A-Bear birthday party and she takes dance class. She asked that the bear be a blue-green and I thought a ballerina would be perfect for her. I took pictures at three different stages of the decorating process. I was a bit nervous, since this was my first 3D cake that had to be assembled after baking. I think it turned out well. Of course, only the little girl can tell me for sure. Stage 1.
As you may have noticed, I've not been good about updating my stocking progress every Saturday. I think I'm going to have to be less ambitious with that. Life has been very busy. I am still teaching full time, tutoring online on the weekends, taking the kid to horseback riding lessons. I'm also running a book discussion group and maintaining web groups for it.
Starting on the 24th, I will be returning to school as a student. I will begin working for my masters in Educational Technology. It will take 18 months to complete the program. I am excited and a little nervous as well. It's been a long time since I was in school, and I was only working part time before. This will also be the first time I'm taking an online class. There is a test that I have to take before I'm done with 6 hours of course work, as well.
I guess this will be a situation that will force me to get organized and not procrastinate. It will offer me the opportunity to improve my education and give me an opportunity for self-improvement. This degree will help my family be more financially stable, make me more marketable at a teacher, and allow me more career choices in the future. So if my infrequent posts become more erratic than normal, do not despair.
Nymphos is an unusual read for me, though it's technically horror. The author, Mario Acevedo, was at my first book talk in Second Life and suggested his book. I figured, why not? Trying to authors can be an adventure, and it fits in with the theme of the group. Plus, part of the Guild of UK Writers mission is to promote authors.
Felix Gomez is our hero, he is an Iraqi war veteran that has been turned into a vampire. He makes a living as a private detective, and gets a call from a friend to come investigate a strange case of contagious nymphomania on a military base. It is in part a vampire, a detective, and a comedy novel. The novel is not as saucy as you might expect from the title, if that is what you are looking for you will be disappointed.
It took me some time to get into the story, partly because I was unsure if I would like it and partly because I was really interested in the other book I was reading as well. Being his premiere novel, I think that it also took a little while for him to smooth out his style.
Acevedo exhibits quite a skill for descriptive passages. The car chases were well paced, and there were a few places where I laughed out loud. He included some Latin like words to give the vampire's special characteristics and skills a sense of realism (I am not sure if he borrowed them or made them up.). This book, and probably the whole series, would be excellent reading for a vacation or just a break from stress and strain.
I know I mentioned Second Life once before, when I started I mostly found clubs and party places. There is so much more: fan clubs, astronomy places, botanical gardens, book clubs, writing workshops, Shakespearean plays, and much more.
I am now working with a couple of book groups, Guild of UK Writers and Bookstacks. They support writers and readers. I host a scifi/fantasy and horror discussion group. We just finished World War Z by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks). Our next book is The Nymphos of the Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo, an Iraq war veteran that is now a vampire. The discussion will be held in Second Life on February 2nd.
We are also looking for authors that would like to do readings of their work. It's free advertisement for your books or poetry. There are also write-ins, writer workshops, and time to just relax with other writers (such as book trivia).
If you are interested in either the book group or reading for an audience come check out Second Life or contact me.
Now that I have finished my niece's blocks, I'm returning to work on the stocking. I had hoped to get it done before Christmas, but since I'm unable to give it to the child it is meant for, I figured I could take a little longer. My new goal is to finish it by his first birthday.
I'm hoping to do a weekly update, but it may not be that regularly.
I was reading two books at once this time, a habit which drives the husband nuts. I had started Obsession by John Douglas first, and it was really what I was wanting to focus on. It's a non-fiction book that looks at the motives and behaviors of serial rapists, stalkers, and sexual predators. My other book is from the other end of the spectrum, Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. I was reading Hogfather with a dual purpose: to make the holidays a little more humorous and for my book discussion group.
Obsession discusses not only the motives and behaviors of such criminals, but how people can avoid being victims, fight back when they are attacked, and the justice system in such cases. John Douglas's feelings of sympathy for the victims of such acts, as well as his anger at the fallacies in the public mind and well as the justice system come across clearly. He even discusses the criminals that inspired Thomas Harris to create Hannibal Lector. Many of the accounts were quite upsetting, there were parts that were definitely not easy to read.
Hogfather was light-hearted, funny, and also insightful. What else can I say? It was another great book by Pratchett. Death and his grand-daughter Susan must prevent the Audtitors (of the Universe) from destroying the Hogfather (Discworld's Santa Claus). Pratchett looks at the human need to believe in myths, and speaks a great truth about the human psyche. "You must believe the small lies to believe the big ones." The big lies refer to things like justice, equality, and other noble concepts that many of us hold dear. Death tells Susan, "If you don't believe them they will never come to be." I may have paraphrased both those quotes a bit, and I apologize for any mistakes I made in them.
Both books are ones I would recommend, though for completely different reasons. I hope everyone has a great new year.