Author Archive


Got milk?

   Posted by: Admin    in Health

Visited Kamas and the awesome Milky Way Dairy today. Got to have a little fresh milk. And by fresh I mean really fresh! Straight from the source.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is about the incredible journey of 9 college boys who worked to be in the 1936 Berlin Olympics in rowing.

The book focuses on Joe Rantz, one member of that rowing crew, from his early beginnings through the Olympics. There are some side trips to Berlin and Hitler and his propoganda machine to help give context to the story.

I enjoyed reading about their journey and how they overcame so many different trials and problems to get to the Olympic stage.

There was a lot of information that the author has pieced together based on his interviews and research. And he did so rather well.

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Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this one took me awhile to get through, it had more to do with my schedule than with any deficiencies in the book. I did find that I wasn’t as drawn in as I would have liked, but that might have been because I took so long between readings.

I had no idea what to expect from this book. I only picked it up because I like bookstores and have thought about owning one.

The title character, AJ Fikry, runs said bookstore and is dealing with the death of his wife at the onset of the book.

This is a book about new beginnings and about how books can draw people together.

There are some interesting insights into the book selling world, which I hope are true 🙂

There are inside jokes for book nerds in the form of AJs commentary on several literary works (presented on a page at the start of each chapter). He is a book snob, but it was funny to read some of his thoughts on the “classics” of literature.

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Review: The House of the Scorpion

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The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I would have been able to read this book along with my bookclub members because I found it intriguing and would love to have talked about it in a group. Instead, I’m about a year behind and have to just leave my own opinions here without discussion.

The book is set in an unspecified future where human cloning is possible, where opium is the drug of choice coming out of what is currently northern Mexico, and where hovercars exist. In contrast to this, there is still superstition from some and longing for the “good ol’ days” from others. The main character in the book is Matt, who is a clone of El Patron, the de facto ruler of Opium.

And, a majority of the book takes place in Opium on the estate of El Patron. The setting is described very well, so that it is easy to picture the estate and the way that El Patron keeps things like they were hundreds of years ago. The view we see is limited to Matt’s perspective, so it starts very narrow at first while he is kept in a small hut and then a small room on the estate, but gradually widens as he is able to explore and as get ages.

The main plot involves Matt learning who he is and how to live in his world. In many ways, it is a coming-of-age story. But it also explores cloning (of course), slavery, love, and sacrifice. I was especially surprised by the twist revealed toward the end about El Patron. But then it all made sense, so the weaving of hints throughout was masterfully done.

Matt sees lots of conflict in his so-far short life. He is threatened by a house keeper and doctor, El Patron’s power-hungry family and especially one boy, dangerous bodyguards, those wh0 would use him for their own benefit, and others. His intelligence, training, and personality (inherited from El Patron, a ruthless and evil man) supply lots of opportunity for conflicts to develop in the story. Matt’s survival is at stake through much of the book, and that drives things forward at an increasingly escalated pace, which helps to keep the reader engaged. I had a harder and harder time putting the book down as I got more and more into the story.

The characters all felt very real to me. In fact, I want to get the next book ASAP so I can keep reading about them. I really enjoyed Matt, Tam Lin, Maria, and Chacho, to name a few. They all felt so different and quirky in their own ways.

The writing was clear. I enjoyed the interspersal of Spanish words throughout the book. I also loved the metaphors and similes used in describing things. They were very fresh and evocative.

I highly recommend this book.

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Review: 11/22/63

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11/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had expected some sort of horror novel based on the author, but this was really sci-fi — about time travel. There were some horror elements (violence and psychological), but nothing that I wouldn’t expect in this genre.

I did enjoy the story, despite taking so long to read it. The first several hundred pages took me a long time to get through because I just wasn’t getting into the story. It seemed to drag on and had just so much information. Looking back, I see that it was because King was focused more on the idea than on the results. I wanted to get to the event (for this story, it is obvious from the cover and the title that the event is the assassination of JFK) and the results of that, rather than the concept of time travel and one man’s psychological dealings with it.

Setting: The story starts in New England in the current day. Not much information is really given about the area, apart from the restaurant and Al’s house. Gradually we move back in time to the 1960s or so, and the setting moves to Dallas, Texas and surrounding areas.

Character: We mainly get to know the protagonist, Jake Epping, and some people from a small town in Texas. We also get to know a little about Lee Harvey Oswald from the perspective of Jake. King does a good job with giving us lots of characterization for all the main characters, as well as for some of the minor ones (which makes it difficult to know who to remember and who you can forgot and so the names start to blur together).

Plot: The plot is simple – Jake needs to find out if Oswald acted alone (hello conspiracy theorists) and stop the assassination of JFK in order to make the world better. The idea being that things went bad from that point because his successor didn’t handle things well as president, and so forth. The catch is that he has to live in the 1960s for a few years and he can’t return once he goes back to his own time because when he does, everything resets to exactly how it was and he’d have to do it all again.

There are other subplots involving love and charity and gambling (he’s from the future after all – hello Back to the Future, part 2). I won’t go into detail on those in order to avoid spoilers, though.

Conflict: The first few times Jake goes through the time bubble, he tries to change a couple little events to see if he can do it and how to get things to come out the way he wants. The butterfly effect is front and center throughout the entire book. The conflicts come between him and “time” (or the past), which resists change). These show up as conflicts with nature or with inanimate objects as well as with people. And, of course, the conflict of finding out about Oswald and preventing JFKs assassination.

Text: The writing was extensive. I’m not sure King knows how to write a short novel 😉
Once I got to the part I was interested in, I was able to really fly through the pages, so that tells me that the dialog felt real and the connections from scene to scene were appropriate and useful. There was a lot of explanation in the beginning of the novel, which also helped me to breeze through the end of the book without needing more explanation. So, that worked out well for him.

All in all, I definitely recommend this book. If you are having trouble getting trouble getting through the beginning, as I did, just know that it will get easier and better.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, especially since it didn’t appear to have been written by Rowling herself, but I did enjoy it and was able to get into it after all.

First, anyone who picks this up should know that it is not a novel. It is a script for a stage production of a story. And the play has already been performed (some details are in the back of the book).

Setting: The story is set in modern-day England, with the addition of magic, of course. It is many years after Harry and his gang have defeated Voldemort. They’ve gotten married and had kids. This story involves a couple of those kids.

Plot: The main plot revolves around the relationship between 2 children (trying not to give anything away here) and the idea of time turners. There are a couple side plots involving parent-child relationships, as well as with Harry and his scar.

Characters: The new characters are defined a bit through dialogue and mainly through their actions (this is a play after all). Because of that, a lot of things that would have been internal dialogue in a novel are spoken out loud or to other people in a “I’m wondering about xyz” sort of way. It works for the medium.

Conflict: The main conflict is centered on living up to parental expectations and points to exactly who the “cursed child” is (audience awareness of this fact shifts dynamically throughout) or whether it is multiple people. The main point being to cure/lift the curse and ensure peace and happiness for all (or most).

Text: Since this is a script, it is difficult to evaluate the text in comparison to novel expectations. It would be easier if I had heard it aurally or seen it performed. The dialogue seemed to flow naturally and the scene breaks were appropriate. I’m not sure it followed a standard 3 Act format, but I wasn’t paying that close of attention to it.

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Review: The Martian

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The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually see the movie after reading the book, so this was an interesting experience.

I enjoyed the book even though I “knew” what was going to happen. I was pleased to get additional insight and watch the main character go through even more trials than I experienced in the movie (not that the movie was bad or should have included those things – different media formats have different requirements).

The writing was easy to follow and the ideas were easy for me to understand, despite being fairly well in the camp of hard sci-fi. So I appreciated that.

I wanted more when the book was done, which is usually a good thing. In this case, part of it stemmed from a very short denouement. But mostly, the characters and ideas were just so enjoyable that I wanted to keep reading.

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Review: Assisted

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Assisted by John Stockton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was very interesting to read about Stockton’s experiences and to get a little behind-the-scenes look at all the Jazz players I remember from the “good ol’ days.”

He didn’t really share a lot about his feelings or personal experiences, nor did he spend time explaining himself. So this is not that kind of autobiography. Instead, this autobiography is more about looking at the people and events that “assisted” him in living his dreams and becoming a basketball icon.

It is also a bit about his commitment and drive to be the best that he could be.

And, he includes some of his own ideas and opinions about various things from basketball rules and play to nature. And while I don’t necessarily agree on everything he says (for example, I disagree that flouride is a toxic chemical. It is not, except in very very very high concentrations, which is true for lots of things), I appreciated getting to delve a little into his mind and thoughts because he was so reserved and quiet and humble when he was in the spotlight.

At the end of the book, Stockton talks about how his purpose in writing this book was that he hoped it inspires or encourages someone to never give up. I imagine that many people will get that from reading it. Personally, it spoke more to me about the importance of hard work.

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Review: Writers of the Future Volume 30

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Writers of the Future Volume 30
Writers of the Future Volume 30 by Dave Wolverton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I purchased this volume because a friend of mine had a story in it!

Since this is a bunch of short stories, I won’t give the in-depth commenting and review that I normally give to novels.

I did really enjoy reading each story. They were all so different and interesting.

My ulterior motive in reading this volume was so that I could learn how to write better short stories. I still have much to learn. Perhaps my ideas are just to big and I can’t get them down to a “short” level. Or perhaps I just like to ramble and need to be more succinct.

I truly recommend this volume, and any other others, to those who are writers and who are trying to break in. These are new and upcoming writers who are being judged by professionals.

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Review: The Dragonriders of Pern

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The Dragonriders of Pern
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never even heard of the Pern books before last year, although I am not sure why. McCaffrey published these books in the 70s, and so I would have been able to find them when I started voraciously reading Fantasy around 1985. Perhaps it was because I mainly focused on Dragonlance at the time. In any event, this series of books sets up quite an intriguing world.

This volume is a compilation of the first 3 books in the series: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon.

Pern is a world where Dragons and humans work together to protect the land from what is called Thread, a burrowing silvery life form thing that seems to come from an orbiting celestial object. The technology is similar to what we think about as medieval, with some interesting additions that come from the “ancients” who seem to have known more about technology than the current inhabitants of Pern. However, I didn’t find that the setting felt medieval or a copy of what I read in dozens of other fantasy settings. The idea of a dragon home (weyr) and government system that supported them and the strange mating rituals of the dragons and riders, were quite interesting and provided plenty of conflict and tension. Since Pern is a whole world (although we only get to see the northern most part for most of the volume), there are lots of different regions and climates to experience so that it feels like there is always something more to see or learn.

The main characters threaded through most of the volume are F’Lar (a dragon rider), Lessa (a weyrwoman), Master Robinton (a Harper in the tradition of gypsy with a dash of court jester and a side of master manipulator), and (eventually) Jaxom (a future Lord of Ruatha Hold). I can’t say too much about them each without delving into spoilers, but I will say that they are each well developed and they grow and learn. It is nice to be able to follow their progress and cheer them on.

There are lots of mysteries and conflicts between Holds and Weyrs to keep things very interesting. I will say that it took me awhile to get into the last book in the set because it felt much slower and more focused on political issues rather than action and danger like the first two. But, I definitely felt myself looking for opportunities to read more and more as I neared the end of the book. I was fascinated by the planet and the discoveries they were making as I tried to anticipate what they might find or how it would impact the inhabitants of the planet.

I am curious about the rest of the series – I just don’t know if I am going to start adding them in now or wait until I’ve gotten my “To Read” pile a little smaller first.

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