Super Bowl Sunday

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I live in the land of Football Obsessed. Even though the Green Bay Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, I anticipate many questions today along the lines of “Watching the game in Sunday?”

No need to explain what game needed. It is safely The Game, and if you aren’t watching it, aren’t you going to tune in for the commercials?

Personally, I am headed to a friend’s place for The Game, to hang out with their tribe, and watch the commercials. Being who I am, people watching will also ensue and I’ll end up with some sort of working thesis as to the types people watching the game, and possibly create some sort of classification system.

Are you watching The Game?

Midwest Snow Storms

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The Word Nerds are familiar with the snow storms that plague the Midwest this time of year. As another one approaches my portion of the Midwest, I prep for it by making sure I have food (check), water (check), and plenty of books (check, check, and check).

I miss the days when snow storms meant no school and freedom. As an adult, they often mean shoveling, plowing, snow blowers, and a potentially stuck vehicle. As I plan for this storm, I can add some work related provisions so that I have the option of staying home for the day, just in case the road past my house doesn’t get cleared. A day home with my dogs? Sure thing.

Monday wishes

covers

Why yes, I’d rather be hiding under the covers right now.

Reading Challenge: February Invitation

We are one month into the 2016 Reading Challenge.  The Word Nerds challenge you to finish a book in February that is a 2015 Award Winner (You pick the award: Man Booker, Pulitzer, Minnesota Book, Indiana Authors Award, Edgar, Anthony, Hugo, Word Nerds Top 10, etc.).

The challenge is two-fold:

  • One, complete the book.
  • Two, select a book that is outside of your typical read.

According to PewResearch Center, fewer Americans are reading (regardless of format):

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Seven-in-ten American adults (72%) have read a book within the past year, whether in whole or in part and in any format, according to a survey conducted in March and April. That figure has fallen from 79% who said in 2011 they had read a book in the previous year, but is statistically in line with survey findings starting in 2012.

The Word Nerds are definitely outliers that skew the following results, as we both read more than 75 books a year.  Join the challenge and be part of the 72% that reads at least 1 book a year.

January Reading Challenge Report Card

The challenge for January 2016 was to read a cold book. What cold meant was kind of up to the reader. We both finished and here’s what we read (and what we thought of it.)

Bethany

Winter at the Door, by Sarah Graves
Lizzie Snow, an ex-Boston PD detective takes a new job in the sheriff’s office in Bearkill, Maine. The sheriff has an unexplained reason for hiring her — a string of deaths that he thinks are suspicious. She’s got her own reasons for taking the job — trying to find her missing niece. There are a few more layers of plot and the whole thing turns into a hot (ok, cold) mess of a book.

The problem was the book was trying to be too many different kinds of books. It was, 1) a deep woods serial killer book, 2) a small town cop book and 3) a romantic suspense, complete with brimming love triangle. It’s the first book in a series, but Graves jammed ALL the setup for any future books into this one. I’m not reading on.

Challenge completed, but I wish I would have picked something else

Stacie

Mythos Academy series by Jennifer Estep

Books 1-3:  Touch of Frost, Kiss of Frost, Dark Frost

Gwen Frost is a 17 year old with a gift that allows her to gather information about people by touching objects.  The objects, like a hairbrush, can transfer impressions of people including their thoughts and feelings.  Typically, Gwen uses this for her part-time job of finding lost objects for her high school classmates, however, after an incident that revealed a deep secret about a classmate, Gwen finds herself launched into the world of Mythos Academy.

Overall, this was a fun YA read.  The introduction to the world and Gwen’s starting spot was well handled.  She didn’t need to walk through a portal or discover that she had magical powers.  Instead, she knew about her powers and how they worked.  Her mother and grandmother deliberately took her from the world that they belonged in.  It was a pretty solid technique for handling the transition.

However, reading them back to back meant that the backstory was carried through to each book.  This is definitely an issue for the series, and a challenge for authors – how do you convey the backstory succinctly, but with sufficient detail, that the reader can pick-up any where?  I’ve seen a few different methods used throughout my reading experience, with differing levels of success.  The one used isn’t a great example.  Fortunately, it’s something that I can skim quickly, find the end, and jump back into the current story.

Predator

penfish

But the question remains, are penfish steaks as tasty as swordfish steaks?

Guidelines for Coffee Production

I’m rather annoyed at the lack of coffee production in my office. image I drink two or three (okay, three, sometime four) cups daily.  Almost every time I refill my mug, I find that all three of our coffee pots are nearly empty and no refill is in the works.  Let’s be honest, people.  Coffee is essential.  That’s why I drink it.  That’s why you drink it.  That’s why the pot I made 20 or 30 minutes ago is empty already.  We all appreciate how it transforms us.

 

However, this lack of coffee production is really quite disturbing.  If I’m not making the pot so I can get another cup, I typically see the same two other people making it.  I frequently see the same handful of people walking away with a cup and leaving empty pots behind them.

In order to solve the problem, I’d like to propose the following guidelines as a standard for most offices, with the ability to justify as needed.  (This, like National Hug Day guidelines, will join the Word Nerd Chronicles.)

  • If you drink coffee, make coffee.
  • If you don’t know how to make coffee at your office, find out.
  • If no one knows how to make coffee, this is a sad place to work and warn new hires, please.
  • Coffee should be made regularly between the time the office opens and lunch-ish.
  • Determine if your office needs post lunch coffee.  (Mine does, but a pot of decaf and a pot of regular seems to cover the needs.)
  • Coffee making duties are not gender specific.  Men and women alike can make coffee.
  • Non-coffee drinkers – please refrain from making coffee.  Coffee drinkers everywhere thank you.

What guidelines do you want for your office?

 

Tagged

The Shakespeare Party

Over the past two weeks, my book club and I hosted a Shakespeare reading party.

We found the idea on BookRiot and were hooked on doing this ourselves. We don’t pick a January club title because we’ve all agreed with the holidays, it’s too hard to get a book read with travel etc. But you don’t have to read anything ahead of time for a Shakespeare party. Just show up, play in hand and read.

Since it’s January, we picked “A Winter’s Tale,” which most of us didn’t know.

The first meeting, we got through Act I-III and had so much fun, we decided to meet the following week to do Acts IV and V.

Reading Shakespeare aloud really helps with comprehension. Occasionally, we’d stop just to say, “Wait, did he just say this?” to make sure we were all getting it. But the longer we read aloud, the more our brains started to get it without needing a translation.

Not only is this geeky, cheap winter fun, but we also got to learn that one friend is freakily talented at being the mad, jealous, king Leontes. Another was eerily good at playing trickster/con-man Autolycus.

Yours truly got to be Polixenes, king of Bohemia, and various other small parts, including a mariner who quickly got shipwrecked. Sad.

And the best part?

HATS!

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One participant brought every hat she could find in her house, plus some scarves. As we changed characters, we changed hats. As you do at a Shakespeare party.

Book Banter: Brilliance Trilogy by Marcus Sakey

Title: Brilliance – A Better World – Written in Fire
Author: Marcus Sakey
Genre: Urban Fantasy? Sci Fi?
Length: 439 – 390 – 345 (1174 total, if you are going to read them back to back)
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Personal Collection

Plot Basics: Cooper spends his hours hunting Brilliants, a genetic mutation that impacts 1% of the population. They have powers that enhance their interaction with the world, and it terrifies the U.S. government. Cooper is one of them. He is hunting his own, until the world of Norms and Abnorms implodes and he is forced, again and again, to make decisions that will haunt him.

Banter Points: I’ve been a fan of Sakey’s writing since the other Word Nerd lived in WI (aka, a long time.) When I found myself standing in the right spot at the right time during Murder & Mayhem last November, I about swooned when an ARC was handed to me. The ARC eventually went to Bethany and I have my own e-copy in my library.

The world that Sakey builds is quite astonishing. There is enough scientific explanation to make the story telling plausible without sounding implausible or making the reader cross their eyes to understand what is going on. It helps, tremendously, that Nick Cooper is often a flawed character who recognizes a second too late what would have been a better solution or answer to the dilemma he faces; often, this recognition comes from new information revealed by events, characters, or a pause in the action.

Sakey is quite skilled at handling back story (a point that make others series suffer since, as a reader, you can see how well it can be done.) Any story can be picked up and read as a stand alone because Sakey gives you enough details to understand what is going on without slowing down the story’s momentum. I meant to re-read books 1 and 2 before reading three. However, I couldn’t resist peeking at book 3 and I was sunk. I didn’t feel as though I needed to re-read the others because Sakey pulled me right back into Cooper’s world with the details that jogged my memory and picked-up the relevant story lines.

Bummer Points: I did think that the series improved with Book 2. At the end of Book 1, I was left feeling like Sakey had taken a step backwards by switching genres, and that the learning curve was too steep. I wondered what he would add to this genre that would make him stand out from some other really good story tellers. I was left wondering if I would have to confess that I didn’t like Book 1, a crushing admission that I don’t remember making after the book first came out. I did re-read Book 1 when Book 2 came out and found that reading them back-to-back improved it as did the second reading. Perhaps it was me, dealing with some reader baggage. Or, perhaps it was a better understanding of where the series was headed.

Stacie’s Recommendation: Seriously, just get these. They are going to be on my Top Ten list this year. I hope the publisher offers a bundle of the three of them because this is a series to gift to people.

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