Slaying dragons

Lately, it feels like I’m a dragon slayer. Life is full of STUFF. Between work, kids, and sundry other items, I’m strapping on that magical sword daily.

Also? I’m eagerly awaiting the course material for my next career adventure. It’s a self paced study guide so I can be a Licensed Customs Broker. The test is daunting with a failure rate in the low 90s for first time test takers. Earning it means excellent things for my career. I’m pretty excited about it.

Until it arrives, I’ll polish my magical sword.

September Reading Challenge Report Card

September’s challenge was to read a book with a blue cover. This is a joke in the world of librarianship and/or bookselling. A customer or patron comes in asking for a help in finding a book — only they can’t remember the author, or the title, just that the cover was blue.

insdie-ringBethany’s Pick: The Inside Ring by Michael Lawson

I heard Mike Lawson back in 2009 at Bouchercon. He writes a series centered on DC fixer Joe DeMarco, bagman for the Speaker of the House. He’s written a bunch of them, but I just hadn’t gotten the series started. It’s gun-sighted White House blue cover seemed like a good pick. DeMarco is asked to investigate a failed assassination attempt on the President. One of the Secret Service members looked hinky in the video and DeMarco and the Speaker are worried that the President’s inside ring of protection has been compromised and that other government departments are deliberately botching the investigation.The constructions feels a little first-book-ish (a lot of telling instead of showing) but it’s a solid plot with some fun twists.
station_eleven_cover.jpg
Stacie’s Pick: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

This was a solid recommendation from Bethany that started with a death that was explained through a series of flash forwards and flash backs. Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, the significance of the characters’ lives becomes apparent as the story approaches the ending, and the author skillfully brings the various characters together. It’s rare, in my opinion, for an author to use this technique well, especially while maintaining distinct voices for the characters. It has been added to the short list of titles where it is successful. I’ve already pushed this one to a friend who enjoyed it as well.

 

 

Happy Friday!

Fall weather has me grinning ear to ear. So does Friday night and weekend plans!

Apples

Not the technology company. The edible kind.

apples_hero

It’s officially now fall, so to celebrate, a friend and I are going apple-picking on Saturday. Prepare for all the apple things, likely in this order:

  • Pie
  • Crisp
  • Baked oatmeal
  • Apple pork chops
  • Crockpot apple butter
  • Just eating in a lunch

I think I might have to go picking more than once….

Book Banter: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Title: Dark Placesdark-places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller
Length: 254 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Seven year old Libby Day was an eye witness to the murder of her family. Her fifteen year old brother, Benjamin Day, was convicted of the killings and has spent is life in jail. Libby may have her freedom, but the truth of her family’s death prevents Libby from truly living.

Banter Points: Wow. I really enjoyed Gone Girl and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with Dark Places other than it was by the same author. In this case, it was a good thing.’

The use of multiple points of view to tell the story was used here, as it was in Gone Girl. The combination of voices allowed me to connect with several of the characters and understand the horribly difficult choices facing them. By the end of the story, I really disliked one character, and sympathized with many others, especially those in the Day family.

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years reading thrillers, is not to project the characters onto the author. Usually, they are exploring some area of “What If” that may or may not be triggered by their own lives. I usually don’t even consider the inner workings of an author, however, Flynn breaks that rule for me. I really identified with several of the struggles facing Libby, her mother, her brother, that I often found myself wondering if Flynn has witnessed first hand the abusive and dysfuntional side of alcoholic families.

I had forgotten about the Satanism scares that ran through my own Midwestern town and upbringing until reading about Ben’s foray’s into that part of life. I remember being scared of it as a kid, and now as an adult, I wonder what people really were thinking at that time. When those parts of the novel started, I sort of scoffed and brushed the thinking off. But Flynn drew me in, just as Ben was drawn into the possibility.

Bummer Points: Not a bummer so much, but there are lots of strong images and words in this book. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

I also found myself putting this book down, frequently, and waiting for long chunks of time to pass before picking it up again. The topic was intense, and I needed the break. It didn’t ruin the story by any means, but it was a really slow read for me.

Stacie’s Recommendation: The dark side of the Midwest is showcased well here. Flynn nails the tone, setting, and struggles, while casting a horrific beginning and end.

Avast!

pirate

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Shiver some timbers and all that.

Strive for the impossible

I get together regularly with a group that opens its meeting with a statement that is singular. For me, I am coming to meeting and connecting with those who attend. At the end of the meeting, we close with the same statement, but in a plural form and change “I” to “us”.

Tonight I noticed the continuity of that practice, and how it has become the mechanism to unite us in a common purpose.

Such a simple, yet powerful, way of connecting with another person. As you go into the weekend, how are you able to connect with others?

For me, I love changing perspectives and seeing another point of view, another way of looking at the world and at life.

And the possibilities are endless:

Book Banter: Last Breath

last-breathTitle: Last Breath (Morganville Vampires #11)

Author: Rachel Caine

Length: 332 pages

Genre: YA vampires

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL digital collection

Plot Basics: Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael are trying to bridge the gap between vampires and humans thanks to Eve and Michael’s engagement. The vampires are trying to force the two to not marry. But in the midst of that tension, a new threat arises for both the humans and vampires that threatens Morganville’s very existence.

Banter Points: I really liked the first six Morganville books, then found 7-10 to slump, but Caine introduced a new Big Bad in this one, which makes me excited for the rest of the series. The thing that keeps me going in these books is that they have villains and this new one is great. My defense for this series has always been that the vampires are still scary, still bad guys — no sparkles, no de-fanged love interest. Even when Caine tips into the Michael/Eve romance, there is danger there.

Bummer Points: Caine did a bit of head-hopping in #10 and well full-on with it in this one. Since the series didn’t start this way, I find it a bit jarring now, but this is one of my irksome areas as a reader and doesn’t bother every reader.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want to tackle a whole series, go for it. Or start at #7.

Coloring Shadows

It’s not exactly the type of shadow work I want to add to my coloring skill set but it’s the type that Jynx loves best: on top of whatever I’m doing.

The first cat added to the household — Lucky — never does this sort of thing. He sits at a dignified distance, preferably on a bag of some sort.