Monthly Archives: June 2012

Booking Through Thursday — Learning to Read

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A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Margaret asks:

Who taught you to read?

I learned to read from a combination of my parents and good teachers in pre-school and kindergarten.

My mom read several of my favorite books onto cassette so I could read along with them when she couldn’t read to me.

I also grew up at a time with a lot of record/tape and book sets. I had a lot of those, including a whole collection of the Power Records that featured some of my favorite superheroes. If you don’t recall Power Records were similar in size to comic books and had voice actors playing various roles. There’s a great web site that you can journey down memory lane and experience them again, if you’re of a certain age like I am. I also had book and record sets for some DisneyWorld rides, Star Wars and a couple of Charlie Brown specials.

But while these all encouraged me, it was my parents and teachers who really did the bulk of teaching me to read.


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Review: Cujo by Stephen King


In many ways, Cujo is the animal equivalent of The Shining. In The Shining, it’s Jack Torrance going mad and inflicting reign of terror upon victims in an isolated location. In Cujo, it’s a 200 pound St. Bernard, bitten by a bat and gone slowly mad due to rabies infection who becomes a killing machine and inflicts a reign of terror upon victims in an isolated location.

And while most of Stephen King fans will agree that The Shining is the better novel, I think a lot of King fans are too quick to dismiss Cujo as one of the lesser novels from the master of horror. I think part of this comes from King’s confession in On Writing that Cujo was written at the height of his battle with alcohol and that he doesn’t remember writing large chunks of the novel. That may be a good thing because I know that large chunks of the novel have stayed with me since I first picked it up years ago.

Cujo was the first novel by King that I read all the way through. I’d started Firestarter but the long, slow burn of that novel (pun not intended) meant it took a bit longer for it to hook me as a teenager. And while Cujo does take a bit of time to get rolling, the hook of the 200 pound St. Bernard gone mad and becoming an epic killing machine is set early and the horror factor comes into play within the first hundred or so pages of the novel.

Simply put, this book scared the hell out of me when I first read it and it’s still pretty damn scary today. Glimpsing the audio version on the shelf at my local library, I decided it’s been a couple of decades since I’d first read the story, so why not take a chance and experience the story again and see if it held up well.

And while the novel doesn’t quite live up to the memories I have of it, I think it’s still one of King’s better mid-range stories.

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Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Ever since I finished reading Gone Girl, it seems like I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s cropping up on a lot of “must read” lists and USA Today blogger Whitney Mattheson recently wondered if this might not be the “book of the summer.”

If she’s right (and I think she very well is), it couldn’t happen to a more satisfying and compulsively read-able type of book. From the first page, Gillian Flynn pulls you into the relationship and marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne. On the surface, their dating and marriage looks like the fodder for a romantic comedy featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but once you start digging under the surface a bit, you realize these two characters are far from perfect. And once you start peeling away some of the layers, you realize that this isn’t so much a marriage built on love (it may have been when they started, but not anymore) but instead one built on dark needs and secrets.

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The Well of Ascension Blog Tour/Read Along, Week One

A couple of months ago, I read and participated in an on-line read along for Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy novel Mistborn.   I enjoyed the novel and the conversation so when Carl V announced he’d decided to continue the read-along for the next two novels in the series, I eagerly agreed.

This time around, Carl has proposed the idea of making it a blog tour read-along event.  Each week’s conversation will be hosted by a different book blogger.  I’m really looking forward to visiting not only the host site each week but also all the old and new friends as we discuss the second novel The Well of Ascension.

Carl is kicking off the tour this week over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  He’s got some interesting things to say about the first section of the novel.    This week’s discussion is a bit more free-form and without any opening questions.  Before I get into my thoughts on the first section, let me warn you that if you’ve not read Mistborn and the first section of The Well of Ascension, there will be SPOILERS here.

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Movie Review: Brave

Ever since Up made me tear up in the first five minutes and the final few minutes ofToy Story 3 made me cry, I’ve had fairly lofty expectations when it comes to a Pixar film.  And while I was disappointed a bit with Cars 2, it’s biggest sin is that it’s not quite as great as a lot of the other output Pixar has given us over the years.

As the first non-sequel Pixar has put out in a couple of years, I had some fairly lofty expectations when I sat down to take in Brave.

And while the film doesn’t quite achieve the pinnacle that Up, Wall-E or the Toy Story movies had, it’s still a spectacularly enjoyable film that both kids and adults will really enjoy.

Brave is Pixar’s first attempt at taking on the classic Disney fairy tale formula and giving it a new spin.  Set in Scotland, we meet Princess Merida.  She’s more Katniss Everdeen than Snow White or Aurora, happier to be shooting arrows at targets and riding her horse than learning all the in’s and out’s of being a princess, much to her mother Elinor’s chagrin.   When Elinor and King Fergus decide it’s time to choose her a suitor from a group of three princes, Merida rebels and turns to an old witch for a spell to change her mother.   Unfortunately, Merida isn’t quite specific enough in her request of the spell and she ends up changing her mother in an entirely different way than she imagined.

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Retro Review: Star Trek–Miri

There aren’t many first season episodes of classic Star Trek that I actively dislike–to the point that I’ll rarely bother to watch them if I stumble across them in syndicated repeats or when I’m randomly selecting an episode or two to revisit.

“Miri” falls into the camp.

Returning to the episode for the first time in a long time, I’ll admit there were moments during the first fifteen minutes or so that I wondered why I bore such ill-will toward this voyage of the starship Enterprise.  The the first commercial break rolled around and everything went straight to hell yet again.

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Booking Through Thursday — Quotable!

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A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Valentina asks:

Do you have a favorite quote from a book?

I’ve got a couple, including my new “favorite” from Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant.

“A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.”

Another highly quotable book and series is Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Here’s a couple I like (and I’ve culled myself because I’d say 90% of the book is quotable).

“In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been wisely regarded as a bad move.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

One more for Adams’ Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.  It’s in the running for one of the best opening lines I’ve read.

“It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.”  

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one quote from my favorite author, Garrison Keillor.  This one comes from Pontoon.

“You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.” 

And finally here’s a good one from Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.

“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.”


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“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Edge of Nowhere

It’s been a couple of weeks since I participated in the Waiting on Wednesday meme, kindly hosted by Breaking the Spine.   I’ve hit the library lottery, where several books I’ve put on reserve have all arrived at the same time and have been re-adjusting my to be read list accordingly.

But that was before I picked up last week’s copy of Entertainment Weekly and flipped to the books section.   A short article on best-selling authors dipping their toes into the young adult publishing world caught my eye.  One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth George, will publish her first young adult novel,  The Edge of Nowhere later this year.

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Review: I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern

I Suck at Girls

When Justin Halpern decides the time has come to propose to his girlfriend, Amanda, he takes his father to lunch to discuss the decision and look for some fatherly wisdom and/or advice.

For most of us, this would be fairly normal. But Justin’s dad is the dad from S*** My Dad Says. After his father points out that the news shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, he then challenges Justin to take a moment and reflect on his various relationships with women before he makes the momentous move. Justin takes that advice, the result of which is this book.

I’ll have to admit that S*** My Dad Says wore out its welcome rather quickly for me. It was amusing, but it felt like Halpern was stretching at times to achieve the short page count for that novel. Unfortunately, I Suck at Girls is guilty of the same thing, even if some of the stories and incidents in here are laugh out loud funny (the incident of finding a homeless man’s porn is a riot).

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Booking Through Thursday — That Old Familiar Feeling

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A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Sally asks:

Have you ever bought a book, started reading it and then realised you have already read it? If so, how far did you get? (Can you tell this happened to me for the first time ever this week!?!)

And–did you keep reading??

This is the problem with having an ever growing to-be-read pile and having it split across several locations across the house.  It also isn’t helped by the fact that sometimes my memory isn’t what it used to be.  Of course, I’ve bought duplicate copies of a book I want to read, generally at a used book store or some other outlet where the cost is fairly low.   And yes, I’ve actually purchased a book I’ve read before, not recalling I’d read it until I got a certain number of pages into the story (this can also happen in checking out books from the library).

Of course, this isn’t helped by some authors (I’m looking at your Dean Koontz) who write the same novel over and over again.  Or at least it feels like the same novel as I read it.  I swear every time I pick up a Dean Koontz novel, I am struck by the feeling that I’ve read it before even if I know it’s new and I never have.   It’s one of the reasons I really don’t pick up many of Koontz’s novels any more.


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