Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hi, there.

I'm still around, just really busy with school. Our brand-new building is beautiful, but my air conditioning doesn't work and I'm still getting used to the seven periods a day (as opposed to four 1.5 hr-long blocks). I'm hoping to get caught up with grading this weekend, which would give me more free time for playing on the Internet. I'm still posting (sporadically) on Twitter, but I do have a bunch of books to review and new recipes to post, so those will hopefully go up in the next week or so. Congrats to all the BBAW winners! Hopefully you'll all be hearing from me again soon. :)

Is anyone else reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? I'm loving it! I'm only a few chapters in, but it's so much fun. I loved P&P&Z, too. It was pretty much 75% Austen, 25% zombies. S&S&SM is more like 25% Austen, 75% sea monsters, and it works. Poor Colonel Brandon with his face tentacles...

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Crafty) Nerd Alert

Here's some crafty/geeky stuff I working on! Some of it is really cute, and I wanted to share it. Let's go in order of completion, shall we?

First up: this is a cross-stitch I'm working on of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly character from Breakfast at Tiffany's. I just started working on it, which is why there's been so little progress. I found the pattern in the Craftster forums (an excellent place to go for ideas and inspiration, I might add). I'm doing the piece in various shades of blue, and if it turns out well it'll be a Christmas gift for a friend of mine. She loves Audrey, and already has a painting of her hanging in her daughter's room. Fingers crossed!

This hat is another project I'm working on for someone else, and I need to get it finished relatively soon. It's going to be a viking beanie (I still need to crochet and stuff the horns on the sides) for my friend Casey. Dragon*Con is coming up, and this year I'm going to be in the parade! A whole group of us are, actually, and we'll be representing the Periodic Table. (There's a Facebook group if anyone else is going and doesn't have a parade costume yet - we still have elements available!) Casey's going as "Thorium," so I talked her into dressing like Thor by offering to crochet her a viking helmet. I found this pattern on etsy, the home of awesome stuff.

Next up is the only thing I'm currently working on for myself. Anyone else a Doctor Who fan? I recently fell in love with the newest incarnation (thank you, Netflix streaming video!) starring David Tennant. I haven't been able to catch up with the older series (yet), but I decided to go ahead and make this anyway. It's a scarf based on the one worn by Tom Baker during the 12th season of the original Who series. The pattern is available online if you'd like to give it a go as well. I've been working on this thing off-and-on for MONTHS. It's an easy stitch, so I usually pick it up and knit a few rows while I'm watching TV. You can't really tell from the picture, but it's already longer than I am tall (5'5") and it's probably one-third to one-half finished. I was hoping to have it done in time for Dragon*Con, but I really doubt that'll happen. Next year, maybe...

This little guy is another Who-inspired creation. He's an adipose baby, which if you watch the show you know is basically an anthropomorphic blob of fat. But isn't he cute? He's a birthday gift for a friend of mine. I bought enough fabric to make 4 or 5 (I think), which is good because I've already started making another one for my BFF and one to keep for myself. I got the pattern for him from the Crafty Tardis livejournal community. I'm pretty sure you have to be a member to see the pattern posts, but it's well worth joining if you're interested in this kind of stuff. Next I might make a sonic screwdriver out of Sculpy! Or just buy one from ThinkGeek when they get some back in stock.

Last, but not least, we have The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Made. Srsly. I saw this in an episode of Futurama a few years ago and always thought it was a funny/geeky take on the "Home Sweet Home" sampler. My friend Jay recently bought a house, and seeing as we met in a computer class back in 6th or 7th grade, I thought this was pretty much the best housewarming gift I could make for him.

Your turn! Do you have any craft projects you'd like to share or patterns you think I'd like? Post 'em in the comments.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: Fables #12: The Dark Ages

Title: Fables #12: The Dark Ages
Author: Bill Willingham
Illustrators: Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: August 2009
Collects Issues: 76 - 82
Pages: 192
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge
Awards: Fables has won 12 Eisner Awards so far

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The great war between Fabletown and the mighty empire of the Adversary is over, and the victorious free Fables have brought their defeated enemy back from the Homelands to join them in exile. Their celebrations, however, are destined to be short-lived. As it turns out, not even beloved storybook heroes can escape the law of unintended consequences. In the post-war chaos of the Adversary's former realm, a terrible force is about to be unleashed - an evil that threatens not just Fabletown but the entire mundane world.
My review: I was a bit worried about how Willingham et al would keep the Fables story going after ending the big bad war in War and Pieces. My fears turned out to be completely unjustified, as this was an amazing (albeit sad) book and perfectly set up the next great arc in the Fables saga.

Fair warning: SPOILERS to follow. I'll try not to give away the big ones, though.

The book opens with Geppetto being escorted around Fabletown by Pinocchio, who's trying to get him adjusted to life after ruling the Empire. Not everyone is happy with the newest Fabletown resident, but I thought it was interesting to hear Geppetto's side of the story. He believed he was acting for the greater good, so sacrificing a few thousand lives was worth it, because in the long run he saved billions, or so he claims... Now that the Fables have taken him out of power, he believes the other worlds will suffer even more.

Geppetto's warnings seem to have merit, though, as back in a recently-freed-from-the-Emperor-land a pair of marauders unknowingly release a very powerful new enemy. This new adversary wants revenge on the Fables for taking away his magic and using it themselves, and he means business. The Fables are forced to evacuate The Woodland and move upstate to the Farm after the magic spells holding their community together begin to crumble. Baba Yaga comes back, and although she didn't get to do much in this book I'm curious to see what havoc she'll wreck in the next one. Even Frau Totenkinder is scared!

The main purpose of this book seemed to be setting up the new big bad and the next event in the Fables series: The Great Fables Crossover (with Jack of Fables, an offshoot of this series that I also really enjoy)*. The other big part of the story was the death of a character (one of my personal favorites) that brought up questions of what happens to the Fables when they die. We've seen some come back (there are always three little pigs, for example, and Snow White managed to survive a gunshot to the head), so I'm hoping this character will reappear at some point, too. But it was still an emotional arc and really made me question just how great a surgeon Dr. Swineheart is. He seemed like a bit of a pompous jerk, actually, but that could've just been me projecting because of the way he was treating said beloved character.

There was also a smaller mini-story that dealt with Mowgli returning to a jungle world with Bigby's brothers that was a bit more light-hearted and I nice diversion from the darkness in the rest of the book. Oh, and Flycatcher's back! That was one of my grumbles with volume 11, so it was nice to have him back...even if he is still clueless about his relationship with Red Riding Hood.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

* I read Fables and Jack of Fables in trade format, so I haven't had a chance to read the crossover stuff yet. My friends who have read it were less than thrilled with the resolution, but I'm still looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it won't be out in trade format until NEXT FEBRUARY. Sigh.

Zombie Chicken Award

The wonderful Care has bestowed upon me the honor of a Zombie Chicken Award. Thanks, Care!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

My five worthy bloggers are: Ali at Worducopia, Veens at Giving Reading a Chance, Laza at Gimme More Books!, Staci at Life in the Thumb, and Andi at Tripping Toward Lucidity. These ladies are amazing and if you're not reading them regularly, you should check them out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Hot and Sour Soup

Today's recipe is a bit late (sorry!) and it has WAY more ingredients than I normally bother with, but it is so delicious. Hot and Sour Soup is one of my mom's Chinese restaurant favorites and she asked me to make this for her a few weeks ago. I divided it up into 1-cup servings and froze the soup in individual plastic bowls (saved from Chinese takeaway) so she could pull them out one-at-a-time and heat them up whenever she wanted some.

* 8 shiitake mushrooms
* 3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
* 4 oz white mushrooms, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 4 oz extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, drained and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 1/4 cup carrots, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 3 Tbs rice vinegar
* 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
* 2 tsp Splenda
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
* 2 Tbs cornstarch
* 3 Tbs water
* 1 egg white, lightly beaten
* 1 tsp sesame oil

Cut the stems off of the shiitake mushrooms and cut them into thin slices. Put the broth, shiitakes, white mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, and carrots in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, Splenda, black pepper, and red pepper. Cook for another minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the water and add this mixture to the soup. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken. While stirring, slowly add the egg white to the soup and cook until the egg turns white. Remove the saucepan from heat and add in the sesame oil. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Die, spam bots!

Sigh. I've dealt with the occasional comment spam every once in a while since I started posting here. But I just got hit again, and I'm sick of going through old posts and deleting them. So I've decided to turn on word verification. Sorry for any annoyance/inconvenience, but this will keep me from going crazy. Hopefully!

Recipe Tuesday: Basil Peach Sangria

The diet's done - time to celebrate with a drink! This is a recipe modified from Not Martha and Epicurious.

1 cup basil, plus a few sprigs for garnish
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar
3 cans peach nectar
1 bottle dry white wine
2 peaches, chopped
ginger ale

Put the 1 cup basil, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan. Bruise the leaves by pressing on them with a wooden spoon. Add two cans of the peach nectar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Strain the mixture into a heat-proof container and discard the leaves. After it cools, add in the remaining can of nectar, wine, chopped peaches, and basil sprigs. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve over ice. I cut it with ginger ale to help counter the syrupy-ness, but you can drink it by itself as well. Yum!

#gameondiet Challenge Wrap-Up

Today was the final weigh-in for my Game On! diet, and all I can say is, "Thank God!" I enjoyed playing this game. It was definitely a challenge, and definitely different from every other diet I've tried. I only ended up losing about 5 pounds, but I hope I've made some lifestyle changes that will enable me to lose more.

Things I liked about the challenge:
* Drinking lots of water. This was an easy part of the challenge; I normally drink unsweetened tea or water anyway. I never felt bloated or thirsty (except maybe after exercising) and my skin has really improved over the past month. I don't know if that's because of the water or not, but it certainly didn't hurt.
* Eating smaller meals throughout the day. I wasn't hungry all the time, because I felt like I was constantly eating! But I also ate less at each meal, so I didn't end up feeling full and lazy for a few hours.
* The good habit/bad habit changes. The good habits I decided to pick up were flossing every day and taking my vitamins. I did two, because these were things I really knew I needed to do. I don't eat red meat, so I took an iron supplement in addition to my women's multi-vitamin. Hopefully this has helped with my anemia. And for the bad habit, I stopped going to fast food restaurants. I have no idea how much money this saved me, but I can bet it's a lot!
* Doing the challenge with a friend. Having Brandi around really helped - we walked together in the mornings and commiserated over our wonky food plans daily. I probably didn't need the excuse to talk to her, but it was nice to have someone to talk to about the diet and my frustrations.

Things I didn't like:
* Drinking lots of water. Yeah, it's a double-edged sword. Drinking all the water also meant that I had to, um, get rid of it as well. I can't tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night to stumble to the bathroom.
* Eating smaller meals throughout the day. This was another good/bad aspect - I felt like I was constantly eating, which meant that I sometimes had to eat even when I wasn't really hungry. Plus, it was kind of a pain to plan my life around food.
* Eating protein at every meal. I'm a vegetarian, so this meant I was eating a lot of soy, cheese, and fish. Not terrible, but sometimes I just wanted a little variety. I did discover a love for Greek yogurt, though, which counted as a protein and served as a base for many a smoothie. So this wasn't all bad.
* Fresh fruits and vegetables. Let me explain: I have nothing against them, per se. I love fresh fruits and vegetables! But buying them all the time got really expensive (and probably canceled out whatever money I was saving by not eating fast food). Plus, they went bad really fast. I bought a couple of peaches one week and had finished all but one when I went to Atlanta for a few days. I put it in one of those Debbie Meyers Green Bags (which usually work), but when I came home it had molded and I was suffering from an infestation of fruit flies. Gross.* Not entirely the diet's fault, but it's something I associate with it nonetheless.
* The alcohol penalty. Oh, man. This one was huge for me. If you didn't lose 1% of your weight one week, you lost alcohol privileges for the rest of the game. I lost them after the first week, and it really sucked. I'm not an alcoholic or anything, but I do spend a far amount of time socializing in bars with my friends and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with my dinner. This penalty made me miserable, and I really don't think it helped that much because after that first week with no alcohol I didn't have any significant weight loss. Le sigh.

So, will I be doing this again? Eh, we'll see. I'm definitely going to keep up with the daily exercise (Brandi and I walk three miles almost every morning!) and the good habits. I've learned to read my body a bit better, so I'll probably continue to eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep myself from feeling hungry and deprived. I have a permanent place in my fridge for Greek yogurt (those smoothies make a great quick, easy meal!). I think the biggest thing I learned is moderation. Today, for instance, I know I'm going to be having a big dinner (with beer!), so I'm going to eat less for the rest of the day. Brandi and I talked about recruiting some more teachers into our next challenge, but I'm going to wait and see what our schedules are like when the school year starts.

Oh, and I totally kicked Brandi's ass at this thing. :) We had a lot riding on it - a car wash, morning duty (teachers are assigned an area of the school to patrol every month), balloons, a trophy, flowers, and a haiku written in the winner's honor - so I'm super-psyched. I would've enjoyed a bit more weight loss, but now that I've started I'm pretty sure I can continue losing even without the challenge. :)

* If you ever have to deal with these annoying little pests, here's what you do: roll a piece of paper into a cone shape, tape it together, and snip off the tip so you have a funnel. Put some cider or balsamic vinegar in a glass, and tape the funnel (cone side down) onto the rim. Make sure the tip of the funnel doesn't touch the vinegar, and make sure there are no gaps between the rim of the glass and the paper. The fruit flies will fly down the funnel to get to the vinegar, but they won't be able to fly out again! When I first read this (after Googling "getting rid of fruit flies"), I was like, "Yeah, right! How stupid are fruit flies? Do they not know how to fly back out through the hole in the funnel?" The answers are: "Very, apparently," and "Nope!" You have to make sure you toss the vinegar and paper funnel daily, though, because they will lay eggs and you don't want to have to deal with even more of the little suckers. The good news is, fruit flies only have a ten day lifespan, so you shouldn't have to deal with them for too long. *Cue "The More You Know" music*

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Prayer for #owenmeany Discussion Post

So, chapter six. How's everyone liking the book so far? I really got into this one. I tried to make notes as I was reading, and I'll attempt to make sense of them now. Some are just thoughts, some are observations, and some are questions I had while I was reading. Feel free to comment below!

First thoughts: when I went searching for images, I found the three covers pictured above. My book has the third cover (with the dressmaker's dummy), but I thought it was really interesting that all three highlight a different theme or motif from the novel. Which cover do you have? Do you have a preference? It seemed like the armadillo and the idea of being armless weren't mentioned in the chapter, but it's possible I missed it. They did talk a lot more about the quarry and Owen's visions of his own grave marker.

One of the biggest themes from this chapter (at least, the one that spoke to me the most as a teacher) was education. Harriet Wheelwright has some very decided views of reading and writing:
She was a passionate reader, and she thought that reading was one of the noblest efforts of all; in contrast, she found writing to be a great waste of time -- a childish self-indulgence, even messier than finger-painting -- but she admired reading, which she believed was an unselfish activity that provided information and inspiration. She must have thought it a pity that some poor fools had to waste their lives writing in order for us to have sufficient reading material. (261)
I find it interesting to read about reading and writing. It's very meta for a character in a book (a narrator, no less!) to be pondering the importance - the worthiness - of reading and writing. It's not a major idea in this chapter, but as a reader it struck me, especially when compared to Harriet's almost-immediate love for television. Any thoughts?

Back to the education theme. Noah and Simon are being "saved" by being shipped off to Gravesend Academy, while poor Hester is sent to public school: "The idea that she was not in need of rescuing would surely have insulted her; and the notion that my aunt and uncle might have considered her beyond saving would have hurt her in another way" (269). Up until now, everything we've heard about Hester has been hearsay (from her brothers) or through Johnny's perspective (which we know is skewed, at least as regards Hester). Is she really that bad? It seems to me that she would have gotten a lot more out of a private school education than her brothers did - look how hard she worked to move up a grade, just to prove herself. And what really happened with that boatman in the Caribbean? For that matter, what really happened with Owen after the dance? Given all the religious symbolism, I'm inclined to view her as a sympathetic Magdalene figure, but I haven't read ahead so that may not be the case.

Other things I found interesting:

* Owen's continued anti-Catholicism: fearing the nuns, finding them "unnatural" and calling them "penguins;" using The Voice to change the school's fish on Fridays policy; his contempt for Catholic iconography and relics (while at the same time collecting "relics" of his own - the dummy, the armadillo claws, etc)

* The search for Johnny's father - any guesses as to who he might be? Will Johnny ever find out?

* The relationship between Owen and Harriet - they bond over LIBERACE (?!) and she takes on Tabby's role by getting him properly attired for the Academy

* Owen as a teacher - he stays back a year to help Johnny with his school work and even helps him learn to enjoy reading. He also calls being an English major "easy" (it is!) and I'm assuming that's what helped Johnny decide to become an English teacher.

* When Johnny talks about teaching, he mentions Thomas Hardy. Owen says that Hardy tells you everything you need to know: Tess is doomed, fate is against her. Johnny also talks about foreshadowing re: Hardy and we've seen it used a few times in the book so far. Owen says, "After I'm gone" (319), and when Johnny thinks about him in Canada, it's in past tense. So, I'm assuming something happens to Owen (he did see his own headstone, after all) and have pretty much resigned myself to bawling my eyes out by the end of this book. Anyone else?

* The idea of Owen as a prophet - he had that vision at the Christmas play, he knows that the new headmaster is going to be making big changes - is Owen just really intuitive, or is it something more?

* Owen as the Big Man on Campus - he's the one getting dates (but he'll only double, so you'd better bring a friend for Johnny!), he's influencing the hiring decisions at the Academy through The Voice, and he's not afraid to bite a big dude's toes off in a fight. Oh, and he'll sell you a fake draft card so you can buy beer. Does anyone else find this Owen strange and intimidating?

Anything I forgot? Mention it below! Let's get this discussion goin'!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Tomato Peach Salad

Today's recipe is one of my new favorite things to fix for a quick and easy snack. Plus: it's okay for the Game On! diet. I think...

2 small Roma tomatoes
1 peach
small chunk of mozzarella (I use a boccancini ball)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp mint, chopped
salt and pepper

Chop up the tomatoes, peach, and mozzarella and combine in a bowl. Drizzle with the lime juice and olive oil. Top with the chopped mint and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! I've also made it with plums, and it works just as well. It sounds strange, but tastes amazing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lots o' Links: Comic-Con Wrap-Up Edition

I had so much fun putting together last week's Blog Post BINGO post that I've decided to do it again! This time, it's a collection of links I've been reading about Comic-Con 2009. I couldn't go, so I'm living through the lucky thousands that did.

* First up, the trailer for the new Alice in Wonderland. It's not coming out 'til next year, but I cannot wait:

(via BWE)

* SCI FI Wire has a recap of the Chuck panel. And Jeffster performed!

* Scott Allie discusses the future of Dark Horse Comics. The highlights? More Joss Whedon comics! Including a Dr. Horrible one-shot, a Serenity mini-series focusing on Shepherd Book, a Serenity one-shot written by Patton Oswalt, and a Guild comic written by Felicia Day. Yay!

* I'm not sure how I feel about this movie, but here's three clips from the upcoming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:

(via Wired)

* Also from Wired, my girl crush Kristen Bell talks about her role in Astro Boy.

* BoingBoing Gadgets has photos of various toys for sale. There are a bunch in this Flickr pool, too.

* And finally, The Park Bench has a recap of the event from a first-timer: Preview Night, Day One, Day Two, Day Three (make sure you check out the video she links to in that one, especially if you're a Doctor Who/Torchwood fan...rowr), and Day Four

I really want to go next year. Who's coming with me? :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BIP Blog Post BINGO: The links post

This week's challenge for the Blog Improvement Project is another blog post BINGO challenge. I'm not going to get to all 12 of them, but I'm certainly trying. Number one is a link post, so here are a bunch of random things I've found recently that are too wonderful not to share.

* Did you know that the Vatican's newspaper does movie reviews? Even better: they actually liked the new Harry Potter!

* Speaking of Harry, here's an adorable video of Japan's #1 HP fan meeting Daniel Radcliffe:

(via Gawker)

* Anyone else excited about Rock Band: The Beatles? Joystiq has the song list and a video to whet your appetite. (via my friend Luke)

* Star Wars: Uncut is Star Wars, broken down into 15 sec. segments, reshot by fans, and put back together again.

* Weezer goes 8-bit! (via BoingBoing)

* From the "Things That Make Me Go, 'Awww!'" file: an article about a Woodstock couple still together after 40 years. (also via BoingBoing)

* The (new) Doctor in costume. I gotta say, I love the bowtie! I wonder how many of these will show up at Dragon*Con this year...?

* For my fellow Game On! dieters: four myths about staying hydrated.

* After this past Peachtree Road Race, I'm thinking about joining the Atlanta Track Club to help me get serious about running. I don't know if I'll ever work my way up to "marathoner," but here's a list of 11 celebrity marathon runners to help me get motivated.

* If I ever have to get married, I only ask three things: play the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" as I'm walking down the aisle, let me have a karaoke machine at my reception, and please, for the love of God, would someone help me make a wedding video as awesome as this one?!:

Brian & Eileen's Wedding Music Video. from LOCKDOWN projects on Vimeo.

(via i am bored)

* Any other Firefly fans out there? Check out The Browncoats - "The Hero of Canton" does surprisingly well as a pop/punk song.

* There was a bit of a kerfluffle this week when Kindle owners realized that Amazon had deleted their copies of 1984. Here's how to read it anyway.

* Because mocking the Twilight movie never gets old: "Twilight," in a Nutshell.

* And just to bring this full circle, Jimmy Fallon had some clips of DRad and RPatz's YouTube spat:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Music Munday: Mashups!

So...I was debating what to write about for today's Music Munday, and this video showed up in my Google Reader:

Yep, that's Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - two great tastes that taste crazy awesome together! I've been interested in mashups since college, when we all sat around the common room watching Dark Side of Oz (that's The Wizard of Oz on mute and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," for the uninitiated - and yes, they do sync up rather well). So for today's Music Munday, I'm presenting a few videos of my favorite mashed-up songs for your listening and viewing pleasure. FYI: these videos are uncensored, just in case you're reading this at work or around small children.

First up, a recent classic: The Beatles' "White Album" + Jay-Z's "Black Album" = DJ Danger Mouse's "Grey Album"

If you're heard of mashups at all, it's probably because of "The Grey Album." DJ Danger Mouse actually had some legal problems (99 of them? Gah, sorry, that was bad...) when he first released it online, but luckily he prevailed and it's still available here. You will need bittorent software to download it. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a Beatles or Jay-Z fan.

Next: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" + 50 Cent's "Wanksta" = The Silence Xperiment's "Bohemian Wanksta"

I discovered this mashup a few years ago, and I love it! "Q-Unit's Greatest Hits" are available to listen to/download here. My favorite is "We Will Rock You in the Club," but I couldn't find a video for it.

Here's a few from the same DJ:

Rhianna's "Umbrella" + General Public's "Tenderness" = Party Ben's "Tender Umbrella"

Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" + The Police's "Every Step You Take" = Party Ben's "Every Car You Chase"

Oasis' "Wonderwall" + Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" + Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" = Party Ben's "Boulevard of Flashing Lights"

You can get more info and download tracks (seriously, there are dozens, and they're all pretty awesome) at Party Ben's website.

So, what do you think? If you were going to create your own mashup, what songs/artists would you use? Do you have a favorite mashup that you think I'd enjoy? Let me know!

Music Mundays are hosted by Chris. You can learn more about them here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mini-Review: Colonel Brandon's Diary

I wasn't going to buy any new books (packing up two bookcases + random piles that no longer fit onto the shelves will do it to you), but I saw this in a bookstore last weekend and couldn't resist. I loved Amanda Grange's other Austen retells (Mr. Darcy's Diary, Mr. Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, and - coming soon to my bookshelves, no doubt - Edmund Bertram's Diary), and Colonel Brandon's Diary was no exception. I'm glad she chose to write from Colonel Brandon's point-of-view, rather than Edward's, because 1) I think Brandon's back story is more interesting, and 2) I really, really enjoyed picturing Alan Rickman as Brandon while I was reading it. (Yes, yes, I know: "He's too old to be Brandon!" I don't care. It's ALAN RICKMAN.)

The story begins when Brandon is a student at Oxford; he reveals his feelings for Eliza, their plans to elope, and the tragic end to their affair. It also covers Brandon's time in India and his military (naval?) career, his relationship with Eliza's daughter (also called Eliza), his friendship with Sir John, and his eventual introduction to the Dashwoods, culminating in the requisite happy ending. I liked the first half of the novel more than the second, I think. It's nice to read such a fleshed-out story about a situation that was mentioned briefly in Sense and Sensibility - it's very similar to what Grange was able to do with the Wentworth/Anne backstory in her retelling of Persuasion. It also sets Brandon up as a big ol' romantic, something that helps make his attention to Marianne more realistic. That's the main reason I really enjoyed this book: the idea of impulsive, wild Marianne settling down with prim and proper Brandon always seemed a bit strange to me. Some of their interaction in the back half of the novel seems a bit off (a sure sign it's time for a re-read of S&S), and Grange's characterization of Brandon (a reciter of poetry and part-time matchmaker!) is...maybe not exactly how I pictured him, but it works.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

I've never done a "Waiting On..." post before, but when I checked my Google Reader this morning (okay - afternoon...I saw The Half-Blood Prince at midnight last night and needed to sleep in to get my seven hours) I found a bunch of posts about a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I loved.

Are you ready for this?

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters! Heck yes. Although I think Persuasion would've been a better choice for sea monsters (Captain Wentworth, the Lyme Regis trip), I can't wait to read this book.

There's an official book trailer, too:

September 15th can't come fast enough!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Grilled Asparagus

I started the Game On! diet this morning, so I've been thinking about foods I should and shouldn't be eating. Luckily, one of my favorites, asparagus, is an unlimited green on the food plan, which means I can eat as much of it as I want (but only during meals; otherwise, it's a snacking penalty!). I've experimented with different ways to cook asparagus, and this is one of my favorites.

1 lb asparagus
2 - 3 Tbs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 - 3 Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper (optional)

You will also need a plastic baggie (gallon size, with a zip-top), a vegetable peeler, and a grill pan or tabletop grill.

Preheat the grill or grill pan. Rinse the asparagus, and chop off the bottom 1.5 - 2 inches. I usually do the whole bunch at once, if I can. Next, use the vegetable peeler to scrape off the stringy outer layer, leaving the tufty dark green stuff at the top of each spear. Yes, this is time consuming, but it makes a world of difference when you're not picking asparagus bits out of your teeth at the end of the meal. If your shoots are especially skinny, you could probably skip this part if you want. Next, put the asparagus spears in the plastic baggie and add the oil, chopped dill, and lemon juice (salt and pepper, too, if you want). Shake or roll the asparagus to get them fully covered with the oil mixture. Grill the asparagus spears (not in the baggie!) for about five minutes on each side.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Music Munday: Jack Johnson

Does anyone else have certain bands or songs that they tend to listen to only during a special part of the year? My big thing is "summer music." I have several bands that I listen to during the cold, rainy months whenever I want to be reminded about the long, hot days of Summer. These also tend to be the bands that fill my iPod during trips to the beach.

I'm about halfway through my summer vacation (yay, teaching!), so for today's Music Munday, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite "summer music" artists, Jack Johnson. I first heard his music when I was in college; I was chilling at Lakeside, having breakfast, when this music video ("Flake") came on:

For me, it was love at first listen. I'm a sucker for acoustic guitars! I went out and bought his first CD, Brushfire Fairytales, which was full of beautiful melodies and oceanic imagery (probably a result of his surfer-boy Hawaiian upbringing).

This video for "Taylor," starring Ben Stiller, always cracks me up:

There's a better quality video here, but I couldn't imbed it.

This next video is my favorite song off that first album, along with a little explanation from Jack at the beginning:

For the record, I love the "la-da-da-da-da-das."

And finally, those of you with small-ish children right remember Jack's music from the soundtrack to the Curious George movie that came out a few years ago:

How cute is that? :) Jack Johnson has five CDs out now: Brushfire Fairytales, On and On, In Between Dreams, Sleep Through the Static, and Sleep Through the Static: Remixed, in addition to the Curious George soundtrack. All are great for chillaxin' by the pool or at the beach...which is exactly where I'll be listening to them in about a week in a half.

Music Mundays are hosted by Chris. You can learn more about them here.

Playing the game #gameondiet

After following @BethFishReads's, @toofondofbooks's, @myfriendamy's, and @fizzythoughts's progress in The Game On! diet, I decided to take the plunge and start a competition of my own. I bought a copy of the book yesterday and talked my friend/co-worker, Brandi, into doing a one-on-one game. We're going shopping for supplies today and then tomorrow, it's on!

I also picked up a copy of My Weight Loss Coach for my Nintendo DS; between that and my WiiFit, I'll be gamer-girl geeking my way to the top of this competition. I'm not going to review The Game On! Diet book; both Beth F and Dawn (and Amy and softdrink) have done a great job of that already. You can check it out online here if you're interested.

Brandi and I have already decided that if this four weeks goes well, we'll try to recruit some more teachers once school starts back up and get a bigger competition going. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 22, 2009

There and back again, Part One

I've been home from New York for a few days now, but I'm still trying to adjust. The difference in weather is tremendous - I loved the rainy, cooler weather of NYC and now the heat and humidity of GA is really getting to me. Plus, I have a little over a week to move out of my apartment. The woman who bought it actually harassed my parents while I was away in an attempt to get me out sooner. She also called my roommate (at work!) and told the landlord that she wanted to bring in some contractors to replace the carpet, linoleum, and cabinets, so we needed to get out before the 30th. We finally had to threaten to sic the sheriff on her, and that seems to have done the trick. So it's been an interesting few days...

As far as the trip goes, oh, man, was it amazing!

Day One
I went to NYC with my friend Casey. She had never been to the city before, and had never flown on a plane, so this was a very exciting trip for her! We stayed at my sister's house Wednesday night, and she agreed to drive us to Hartsfield/Jackson in the morning. Our flight was scheduled for 11:40am. Not knowing what the traffic would be like, we left around 8. And then promptly turned around and went back, because I had left our plane ticket/shuttle bus/hotel information at the house. There was little traffic in Atlanta (a shock in and of itself), so we actually made it to the airport in record time. Add in the fact that our flight was delayed due to thunderstorms at Laguardia, and we had roughly three hours to kill before takeoff. Yikes.

The flight went well; it was a little bumpy due to the storms, but nothing too bad. And then, we took a shuttle to the hotel. It was pretty much the scariest ride I've ever been on. Seriously, this guy apparently thought that traffic lights, lanes, and speed limits were just guidelines - we almost hit pedestrians several times, and I was terrified that we would end up in the hospital before we ever saw any sights.

We eventually arrived safe and sound. Casey and I were the last ones dropped off, because we elected to stay in the quieter financial district, rather than in Midtown. Our hotel, Club Quarters Downtown, was just amazing. The people were friendly, the rooms were nice, it was right next to a Subway station (the 2/3, which was really convenient), and there was a refillable water bottle station on almost every floor. We unpacked, and then set off to see the city.

Our first stop was Times Square, because it was really easy to get to on the Subway and we were hungry! The rain had pretty much stopped by then, but it was really foggy:

We ended up eating at Red Lobster, because it was the first restaurant we came to. After walking around for a bit (and buying hoodies emblazoned with "New York," because we were cold and really wanted to look like tourists), we made our way over to Kabin in the East Village to see the anniversary show for Comedy as a Second Language. To be honest, we only went because one of my favorite comedians, Max Silvestri, had e-mailed me to say that he would be there. But it was a great show! We ended up staying for about three hours, drinking $2 PBRs and laughing our asses off. Of course, then we were stuck trying to find our way back to the hotel at 2 am. Drunk and lost in a strange city in the middle of the night - what a way to start a vacation!

Day Two
We didn't set the alarm when we got back to the hotel, so we ended up oversleeping on Friday. Big surprise there, I'm sure. We got up and made our way over to Brooklyn, stopping at a comic book store (natch) before hitting up Mezcal's for brunch. I really don't understand the negative reviews on Yelp!, because they had the most amazing sangria and cerritos. Yum! Next came one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip:


Seriously, this was one of the funnest places we found. They sell "real" superhero supplies - costumes, disguises, anti-gravity devices, invisibility detector goggles, and, of course, capes:

(that's Casey - on the left - and me doing our "fighting for justice" stance)

This place is awesome. And all of the profit goes to 826NYC, an organization dedicated to helping students improve their writing skills. How could I not spend tons of time and money in this place?!

After getting our fill of Brooklyn, we went back to the hotel to change. Dinner was at Sardi's, the one restaurant Casey really wanted to go to. It's a bit expensive, but it's also a landmark, so it was fun to eat there. We made reservations, but didn't really need them as we got there before the big dinner rush. Which gave us plenty of time to eat and then head down to Christopher Street and...


This show was the impetus for this whole trip, so I was really looking forward to it. Our tickets were great: second row, center. Casey hadn't read the book, but she had seen the movie, so I had to explain that it would probably be a little different. No Wybie, for example, which surprised her. The show was excellent! I was a little taken aback at having Jane Houdyshell play Coraline, but she was wonderful in the role. She does "bored tween" very well. Julian Fleisher was amazing as The Cat, and the music was great! I loved the toy pianos and the creepy vibe they helped create. My only complaint: it wasn't scary. It was more funny, or campy. Which is fine, I was just expecting it to be, I dunno, more intense than it was. But overall I really enjoyed it, and I wish I could get the soundtrack.

Aaaaaand I think this has gone on long enough for now. I actually started writing at 8:15, which...yikes. It took me way too long to upload pictures and find links. I'll post more about the trip throughout the week. There are a few more photos on my Flickr page (more coming when I get paid and can upgrade to a Pro account).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

New York, New York!

Sorry, no Recipe Tuesday for today. The blog's going to be a bit quiet for the next week or so. I'm currently packing for my trip! Casey and I are going to Atlanta tomorrow morning; my sister and brother-in-law are letting us stay with them, and my sister's taking us to the airport Thursday morning. I'm taking my camera (of course!), but not my laptop, so I won't be updating. I will, however, be twitting my way through the Big Apple, so if you want to get a condensed version of my trip you can follow me there. I'll even be posting pictures!

A big update and more book reviews when I get back. :)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Music Munday: A Cappella

Like many other young adults, my first exposure to a cappella came in the form of Rockapella on the TV show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" The theme song was (and still is) completely addictive, and I admired the music they were able to make just using their voices, but it wasn't enough at the time to really pique my interest in a cappella itself.

Flash-forward several years. When I was in college, I met a fellow RA (who's name I've completely forgotten now) who was always playing a cappella music in her car. I asked her about it one day, and discovered that all the songs I had been hearing were actually the same group, Straight No Chaser. My favorite of their performances is "Africa":

The group Straight No Chaser was formed at Indiana University (the RA who introduced me to them went there for her undergrad; that's how she had heard of them). As it turns out, college a cappella is a big deal. I've found dozens of other groups through sites like There's even a group at nearby UGA! I haven't seen them perform (yet), but I'm keeping my ears open. One group I've found and really enjoyed is TakeNote, a female group from Clemson University. Do yourself a favor and listen to their cover of "Hallelujah" on their MySpace page. With apologies to Leonard Cohen, it's one of the most amazing things I've ever heard. (You can also download it here)

And here's one last video, the Tufts Beelzebubs singing "Umbrella":

Just cause I love the arrangement. And that it's an all-male group singing a song popularized by a female singer.

And no, I'm not going to mention Glee. As much as I loved that show (hint: it's a lot), it's not a cappella. But it is awesome, and if you haven't seen the show yet you should really get on over to hulu.

Music Mundays are hosted by Chris. You can learn more about them here.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Seven

Time spent reading: 31 hours
Books read: 8-ish
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
MAX: A Maximum Ride Novel (My one audiobook - and it turns out I had only downloaded part of it. Oh, well!)
The Sandman: The Doll's House
The Sandman: Dream Country

This, I fear, is the end for me. I'm dead tired (probably didn't help that I've been reading all about Dream, eh?) and I have to get up in the morning to a) organize Girl Scout cookie incentive prizes (which were delivered while I was on vacation) and b) meet with a mortgage lender about financing for my house. It's official: I will be a zombie for a good portion of tomorrow. Thanks to Mother Reader for hosting this challenge - I had a lot of fun, I got a lot of reading done, and I'm way too overjoyed at the four reviews I managed to get posted. I should do this every weekend! Or not...

To those of you still going strong, keep at it! Happy Reading! :)

Review: The Sandman #3: Dream Country

Title: The Sandman #3: Dream Country
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, Malcolm Jones III
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: September 1991
Collects Issues: 17 - 20
Pages: 160
Rating: 8 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge, Dream King Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comics series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics' most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven. The saga of The Sandman encompasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

Four chilling and entertaining episodes make up the tapestry that is Dream Country: the World Fantasy Award-winning tale of the first performance of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; the story of Calliope, a beautiful muse enslaved by a novelist to feed his need for material; a cat's-eye view of the tyranny of mankind; and the final memoir of an immortal, indestructible woman who only wants to die.

My review: Dream Country is way different from The Doll's House. Rather than picking up where the second book left off (which is what I expected), this book contains four stand alone stories featuring Morpheus. Well, three that feature Morpheus and one that features Death. Not that I'm complaining; Death is my favorite Endless, so I was glad she showed back up again, even if I'm not well-versed enough in superhero comicbookland to know who (SPOILER) Element Girl is. Her vignette, "Facade," was sad even without that previous emotional connection. I actually own the single issue "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and had already read that story. It makes a lot more sense being reread now, especially after reading The Doll's House. The other two stories are equally interesting, and both deal with the evilness of men. "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" is great because it's just so different; how many comic books do you know are told from the point of view of a cat? And as for "Calliope," was twisted and creepy, but still amazing.

My only complaints: the book was way too short (only four issues, although my TP did include the annotated script for "Calliope," which was fun to read) and it took the focus away from the main conflict. So now I have to get a copy of Season of Mists to satisfy my curiosity.

Cross-posted to the Graphic Novels Challenge and The Dream King Challenge blogs.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Six

Time spent reading: 28.5 hours
Books read: 7-ish
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
MAX: A Maximum Ride Novel (My one audiobook - and it turns out I had only downloaded part of it. Oh, well!)
The Sandman: The Doll's House

Man, I lost almost six hours of reading time going over to my parents'. OF COURSE the Tonys were on. And it's not like you can leave in the middle, you know? I'm glad I watched the whole thing, because it's gotten me really excited about my NYC trip (leaving this Thursday!), and because I got to see that performance by the cast of Hair (which totally cracked me up), and also because those three boys winning best actor for Billy Elliot was freakin' adorable. Oh, and NPH was awesome, as always. His little "btw" cell-phone rant gave me Dr. Horrible nostalgia - fingers crossed for the sequel!

Moving goal for this challenge is now to break the 30 hour mark, which I'm pretty close to doing anyway. I've read quite a few books and even written three reviews, which is really good for me (if the huge stack of books in my to-be-reviewed pile is any indication). I'm probably going to call it a night after reading Dream Country. Hopefully not during, but we'll see.

Happy reading!

Review: The Sandman #2: The Doll's House

Title: The Sandman #2: The Doll's House
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: September 1991
Collects Issues: 9 - 16
Pages: 240
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge, Dream King Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comics series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics' most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven. The saga of The Sandman encompasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

In The Doll's House, Rose Walker finds more than she bargained for - long lost relatives, a serial killers' convention, and, ultimately, her true identity. The Master of Dreams attempts to unravel the mystery, unaware that the hand of another, far closer to home, is pulling the strings.

My review: Once again, I'm kicking myself for not having read this before. I mean, I call myself a Gaiman fan, and yet I've never read The Sandman series? What's wrong with me?!

This book picks up where the first one left off - Morpheus has recently regained control of his kingdom and is still looking to set things aright. Namely, finding some bad guys who disappeared while he was imprisoned. He's joined in this jaunt by his servant/pet raven, Matthew. So how does Rose Walker figure into this? Well, she's trying to find her little brother, who has inadvertently crossed paths with three of the aforementioned baddies. That's not the only reason she's so important to Morpheus, though...but I'm telling you the other reason, because that would just spoil the book for you. And it's way too good for me to do that.

I loved the minor characters in this one - Gilbert, Barbie and Ken (hee), Hal the cross-dressing landlord, the spider sisters...the people Rose meets while searching for her brother are all unique. I also really enjoyed the one-shot story, "Men of Good Fortune," about a man who simply chooses not to die. Instead, he and Morpheus agree to meet every one hundred years, just in case he changes his mind. It's quite an interesting idea: given the choice, would you want to live forever? Robert Gadling, the character in question, never ages, but he has to watch everyone he loves grow old and die. He certainly seems to think it's better than the alternative, but I'm not so sure. Another aspect of that particular issue that I liked was the way Morpheus viewed Robert, eventually thinking of him as a friend. To me, that really helped humanize Morpheus, which was nice.

All in all, an excellent book. Much easier to understand than Preludes & Nocturnes; I found "the story so far" bit at the beginning very helpful. Off to start the third book in a bit...I'm looking forward to this, as the events in The Doll's House seem to indicate that some serious intra-Endless fighting is on the horizon. I just hope Delirium pops up soon.

Cross-posted to the Graphic Novels Challenge and The Dream King Challenge blogs.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Five

Time spent reading: 27 hours
Books read: 6-ish
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
MAX: A Maximum Ride Novel (My one audiobook - and it turns out I had only downloaded part of it. Oh, well!)
The Sandman: The Doll's House (so close to being finished!)

I only have two chapters left in The Doll's House, but Mom just called to remind that it's Sunday, which is our family dinner night. Also that she needed me to stop by the store and pick up some groceries for her on my way over. We're making Italian, so at least I'll have good food in my belly when I get back to reading.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Four

Time spent reading: 24 hours
Books read: 5
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

I haven't been reading blogs much, but I have been twittering a lot more than normal. Up next: a shower (while listening to a random James Patterson novel I somehow downloaded onto iTunes), and then another graphic novel, I think.

Mini-Review: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde's novels are what I like to refer to as "English major porn." First Among Sequels carries on in this tradition, but it also has plenty of meta-humor, time-travel conundrums, and just plan fun. Thursday has a job working as the celebrity spokeswoman/installer for a carpet and flooring company, which is really a cover for the disbanded-but-still-going-strong SpecOps, which is yet another cover for her clandestined Book World jaunts. She's busy dealing with a national Stupidity Surplus (leading to a decline in reading and an increase in crappy reality shows), an apathetic 16-year-old son who SHOULD be rocketing up the career ladder as a ChronoGuard, and two other versions of herself: the fictionalized Thursday1-4 (from the first four sex- and violence-heavy Thursday Next book series) and a hippie-dippy Thursday5 (from the universally panned The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco). Sound confusing? It is, a bit. It's also quite enjoyable. Fforde clearly has a love of language and literature. He character name-drops quite a bit: Harry Potter is rumored to make an appearance at a Book World meeting, and Tempe Brennan shows up, asking Thursday for advice on a real attempted murder within her own book. Plus there's appearances by the Hades family (Thursday's long-time nemises), the Goliath corporation (ditto), Pickwick, Uncle Mycroft, and others. It's a fun read set in a complex, interesting alternate universe. There are several different story lines, but they all come together in the end. There's even a bit of a cliffhanger, making me eager for the next book in the series.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Three

Time spent reading: 13 hours
Books read: 4
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta
Currently reading: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

I feel asleep last night around 1 am, book in hand. I'm up now and trying to read while eating a healthy breakfast of sugary cereal. Yum! Later I plan on following Leila's lead by listening to an audiobook as I shower and get dressed. Probably something Austen as well, because that's what I have on iTunes already.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update Two

Time spent reading: 9 hours
Books read: 4
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r
V for Vendetta

After reading V and experiencing (slight) technical difficulties, I've decided to go with a lighter book for my next read: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. It's been a while since I read the previous Thursday Next books; I hope I haven't forgotten anything too important.

Review: V for Vendetta

Title: V for Vendetta
Author: Alan Moore
Illustrator: David Lloyd
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopia
Published: 1989
Pages: 288
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
A frightening and powerful story of the loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian world. V for Vendetta is everything comics weren't supposed to be.

England Prevails.

My review: That last line is a quote from the book; it's a motto for the government figures. V is amazing book. I've had it sitting on my shelf for ages (I bought it shortly after meeting David Lloyd at Dragon*Con two years ago) and I can't believe I waited so long to actually sit down with it. Thank you, 48 hour book challenge!

The setting of V is an AU late-1990's London, in which the people are constantly monitored and recorded by the "Eyes" and "Ears" of their controlling government. They are also completely dependent on the "Voice" of the government, an hourly broadcast designed to keep the masses ignorant of what's really happening. It's very 1984, but darker. The character known only as "V" is a man with a troubled past who takes it upon himself to establish a new world order - anarchy and chaos, but with an opportunity for the people to think and choose for themselves. He is joined in his quest by Evey Hammond, a 16-year-old prostitute he saves from a police gang-rape her first night on the job. See? Dark.

The story feels incredibly topical (especially given recent events), so much so that's it's a bit scary. It's not all gloom and doom, though. There's a message of hope and independence, mainly due to the great character that is V. My favorite line of his: "Did you think to kill me? There's no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There's only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof." And it's very true: the idea of V and what he represents are what endures. He's an anti-hero, but an intriguing one, and his story makes for excellent reading.

Cross-posted to the Graphic Novels Challenge blog.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update One

Time spent reading: 5.5 hours
Books read: 3
Under the Tuscan Sun (only had a few chapters to go when I started the challenge)
l8r, g8r

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm not getting any blog reading done right now (my G-Reader is full to bursting!), but I may try to review the books I've finished later. Right now I'm about to start some graphic novels.

Happy reading! :)

48 Hour Book Challenge: Hour One?

Well, I just got home from my fun run ("run" is used loosely - I walked the mile with a friend of mine, and I'm not even going to write our time because it was embarrassing) and I'll have to leave to talk to my Realtor about putting an offer in on a house (hooray!), but I'm finally able to start my 48 hours of reading. Two and a half hours late. Oh, well. Right now, I'm finishing up Under the Tuscan Sun, which is an amazing book. Hopefully I'll have a more informative post later. To the other participants: happy reading!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge

Mother Reader is hosting the 4th annual 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend, June 5-7. I missed out on the 24-Hour Read-a-thon this past time, so I'm looking forward to this one. The rules:
1. The weekend is June 5–7, 2009. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the fifth and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday... or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But the 48 hours do need to be in a row. Edited to add: But during that 48-hour period you may still have gaps of time in which you can’t read, and that’s fine. In the middle of the three different challenge weekends I’ve had to go to work, attend a ballet recital, and drive for a Girl Scout event. You can certainly work around the other events in your weekend.

2. The books should be about fifth-grade level and up. Adult books are fine, especially if any adult book bloggers want to play. If you are generally a picture book blogger, consider this a good time to get caught up on all those wonderful books you’ve been hearing about. Two graphic novels can be included in the reading. I’m not trying to discriminate, I’m just trying to make sure that the number of books and page counts mean the same thing to everyone.

3. It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. If you want to skip sleep and showers to do this, go for it. If you want to be a bit more laid back, fine. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge.

4. The length of the reviews are not an issue. You can write a sentence, paragraph, or a full-length review. The time spend reviewing counts in your total time.

5. On your blog, state when you are starting the challenge with a specific entry on that day. This makes it easier to track the participants. Write your final summary on Monday, and for one day, we’ll all be on the same page, so to speak.

6. Your final summary needs to clearly include the number of books read, the approximate hours you spent reading/reviewing, and any other comments you want to make on the experience. It needs to be posted no later than noon on Monday, June 8th.

7. Sign up in today’s comments. You’re more than welcome to post the challenge on your site. Point them to today’s post to sign up. On Friday, June 5, I’ll have a starting-line post where you can sign in to say you’re officially starting the challenge.

I have a huge stack of books to read, and an even bigger stack to review. Maybe next month I should host a 48-hour review-a-thon...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Music Munday: JoCo and Paul and Storm

Sorry this one's going up a bit late; I'm on vacation and I was out on the beach all day. :P I had planned on writing about my obsession with a Cappella music for this week's Music Munday, but then I went to a Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm concert Saturday night. It was one of the best concerts I've been to in years, and since it was a tech-geek-heavy crowd, there's footage of it on YouTube!

Before my BFF Fran invited me to the show, my only exposure to JoCo was the song "Code Monkey" (which my ex-boyfriend loved and played for me a few times) and this Warcraftian video for "First of May" that a friend of a friend made me watch a few months ago (NSFW - the f-word is used liberally and the video features animated, acting out said word). I wasn't at all familiar with Paul and Storm, which gives me some measure of shame to admit now that I've seen them. Both musical acts are fairly simple: acoustic guitar + geeky lyrics = success!

To be perfectly honest, I actually preferred Paul and Storm, the opening band, over JoCo. But they were both awesome. P&S were just a bit more upbeat. They also gave away "FABULOUS PRIZES" during their set, usually to people who cracked funny jokes. I have to say, that crowd was one of the quietest I've ever heard; while the songs were being performed, everyone was listening attentively (and laughing appreciatively). But during the silences in between songs, well, there was some pretty funny heckling. Paul and Storm got us a bit riled up: when Jonathan Coulton came on, he jokingly complained about the vivacity of the audience (I blame "The Captain's Wife's Lament" - see below).

Now, on to the videos! Since these were recorded on digital cameras, the quality isn't the best, but I think you get a pretty good idea of what it was like. First up, Paul and Storm's first song, "Opening Band." This video is not actually from the Atlanta show, but it was such a funny song I wanted to include it.

It's pretty similar to what I saw Saturday, except during the lyric "No panties have been thrown," a bunch of people at the front of the stage threw panties of varying colors and sizes (including a pair of Batman Underoos) and one frying pan. We were rechristened "Pant-lanta," but it apparently happens every time. At least I know for the next show...

This is the last Paul and Storm song, "The Captain's Wife's Lament," which got us all pirate-y:

This was Jonathan trying to get us to stop "Arr"-ing:

Following this clip, he requested, "Don't put that $h!t on YouTube." As one audience member so eloquently put it, "Too late!"

This interesting little instrument is called a zendrum. The song, "Mr. Fancypants," was one of my favorites of the night:

That's right, we got Rick Roll'd.

And, last but not least, Jonathan Coulton AND Paul and Storm singing "Creepy Doll":

If you liked these songs, I highly recommend you check out the websites. They also sing about zombies and fighting nuns and stuff, too. Both acts have Twitters, too: @jonathancoulton and @paulandstorm.

Thanks to Chris for hosting Music Mundays. You can learn more about them here.