Author Archives: Stacie Penney

Book Banter: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: RedshirtsRedshirst.jpg
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: 320 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  Four new crew members join Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. They quickly find themselves in the unique position of completing jobs and tasks that don’t seem logical or rational to their scientific minds. Within days, the truth of their situation is revealed — they are Redshirts, compelled by the Narration, to perform seemingly impossible (or deadly) tasks.
Banter Points:  For the record, I’m not a Trekkie. I am, however, a gamer, and the meta gaming that happens in this novel had me laughing. I also love time travel stories along with their unique world rules; my delight in this book was primarily due to watching them unfold, complicate the story, and be resolved.

As a non-Trekkie, I’m sure I missed out on puns and insider jokes, however, nothing was so insider that I couldn’t keep up with the overall story.

The way that the main characters solved the first mystery and identified that they were red shirts inside of a television show was clever. I liked how it used conventions where someone already had parts of the information, and getting all of the people into a room (and on the same page), made it believable. At their core, each character has unique attributes, predefined to fit the wold, but also build to compliment each other so that ultimately they solve the puzzle together. Just like any good marauding party in your favorite dice-rolling game.

Bummer Points:  I bet a missed a bunch of good humor, not being a Trekkie. It didn’t cause gaps, but given the humor that existed, I missed out.

Stacie’s Recommendation: Fun, quick read that I’d recommended to anyone who understands the vital role that redshirts play.

Washington DC

Last week, I jetted to DC for a work related conference and had the bonus of staying for Saturday, which meant trying to cram in all the museums in to the six hours between museum opening and my flight.

I spent most of my time at the American Musuem of Art and the National Gallery, first exploring new to me artists, then exploring new to me works by familiar artists.

It was a breath-taking day of art, and enriching.

Now, back to my regularly schedule work week.

How to Spend a Saturday

We are finally getting some nice weather in Wisconsin, and the cat took full advantage of it.

Color Study: Blue

I’ve been been coloring a bit since my exam studying days are past. I’ve got several books that I want to dive into but I keep going back to my stand by — Angie Grace. I love the repetition of the pictures as I can focus on the colors from a blending and depth perspective. I get lost in the layering I can achieve with Blick Studio Pencils. The play aspect of coloring, and evoking emotions is the area something I’m starting to figure out.

As a medium, pencils work for me. I’m excited to share my latest with you.

Book Banter: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder, Book 1 of The Lunar Chroniclescinder.jpg
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 550 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  Cinder, a cyborg inventor, helps rehab a favored droid of Prince Kai’s, and is pulled into intergalactic struggles that a poor girl from the slums is ill equipped to handle…even one with cyborg parts.
Banter Points: This title first caught my eye closer to the original publication date. The cover art is gorgeous. Unfortunately, this also was an reading era of gorgeous covers and bad content, especially in the YA market (for me, at least.) I would see this one, and wonder, but wasn’t willing to commit to reading it until a friend verified that it would be worth while.

I appreciated some of the twists of this Cinderella retelling. For example, the setting of China tickled me. There’s a theory that Cinderella stories with the unique and exacting shoe fit is related to the practice of foot binding. Setting the story here, with Linh Cinder’s cyborg foot, was a delightful way to open the story, especially as Linh Cinder is putting on a new foot when the Prince walks into her shop.

The idea of a cyborg being a society reject rather than a coveted option was interesting too. Often, in the fantasy books I read, this sort of hybrid human is envied, rather than scorned. The enhancements lead Cinder to hid parts of herself so that Kai will continue to like her. Being a cyborg also contributes to her success as an inventor, which impacts the plot as well. Having a few different threads of this nature kept me entertained during this reading.

Bummer Points: This was a fun, but not fabulous, read. I’ve got book two — Scarlet — on reserve, however I’m hoping it doesn’t suffer from the sophomore slump that can happen with the second installation of a series. The unique elements were not enough to carry a predictable plot. This was a standard set-up for bigger, better intrigues. It could be, also, that YA romances are only minimally entertaining for me.
Stacie’s Recommendation: Mostly entertaining, worth checking out for improvements in number two. Love the cover art.

Reading Challenge: March 2017

March was a tough challenge month for both Word Nerds.  The challenge was a “Best Books before…<insert your age here>.” One of the Word Nerds has a milestone birthday this year. We liked the list from here: http://www.listchallenges.com/oprahs40book

Each chalks up a DNF, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for “Must Read” book lists for either of us…Read on for more details.

download.jpgStacie’s Pick:  I selected Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  A friend loaned me a copy and a few days later, the audio version from the library showed up as well.  It was a win all around…until it was time to read the book.  I really liked the style of the author and the narrator, but given the already heavy brain work I was doing in order to pass the exam (results in 5-7 weeks time) I couldn’t absorb this book.  I need time to pause, reflect, and process against my own journey.

I’m starting to recognize a pattern for myself with books like this.  I put them down to think about them, and don’t always pick them up.  I definitely read for entertainment, primarily, and thoughtful books like this are always good, but take me time to actually finish in a way that applies them to my life (I’m still working on the January Reading Challenge book, which was along these lines as well.)

Bethany’s Pick: Mine was a DNF. Technically, a DNS (Did Not Start.) All the books on the list seemed so heavy and I was not in a place for a heavy book. I checked out Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder” with the best intent… but I took it back unread.

Book Banter: The Invasion of Tearling

Title: The Invasion of Tearling41MT-Ny8w6L._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Author:  Erika Johansen
Genre:  Fantasy
Length:  544 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  The kingdom of Tearling is facing invasion from the Red Queen after her shipment of slaves does not arrive. The treaty between the two countries is void and only one thing will satisfy her. At the same time, Kelsea is learning more about the founders of Tearling as the Tear Sapphires reveal it to her through the memories of Lily.
Banter Points:  The questions I had after reading Book 1 — The Queen of Tearling — were answered. The founders of Tearling fled the U.S. for a New America, one where they could create A Better World, which also serves as their rally cry. One of the founders, Lily, a house wife who stumbles into the rebellion, serves as Kelsea guide. It is through Lily’s memories that Kelsea sees what the founders envisioned for the world she now rules.

Like all good trilogies, the protagonists are in peril at the end of the book, leaving the reader wondering how on earth they are going to get out of the mess that they are in. Added to that, I now have questions about what happened between the founding of Tearling, specifically the nobel ideals that were to guide them. The vision painted of Tearling’s ideals and the reality facing Kelsea are polarizing opposites. I don’t yet understand how this happened, but the author has gained my trust so far of answering my questions.
Bummer Points:  No bummer points. I’m eager for book 3.
Stacie’s Recommendation: This is a solid read. I think Book 3 — The Fate of Tearling — will make or break this one for inclusion on the top ten list this year.

Reading Challenge

New month and a new challenge! The March Challenge was to read a “Best Before…” book since I had a significant birthday year.

April’s challenge is to read a book with food in the title. Bonus points if there are recipes in the book from the author. Triple points for making one of the recipes.