May. 6th, 2017

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Art by ironychan, banner by me.  Comment to be added.

EDIT as of 8/5/2008: A public service announcement regarding commenting on my blog. Written by naamah_darling for her blog, but they are damn fine rules and they apply here as well.

Oct. 17th, 2011

We spent about a month before Adam's business trip with no clear date on when he was going to leave. Now I get to spent the next week (or more) with no clear date on when he's coming home. Wee....

Ask the Person Who: Grew Up in a Haunted House: This post has me thinking, and looking back, I've never actually written down my experiences with ghosts. So in the spirit of the month, here's some of my more obvious ghost encounters.

One Easter, my parents and I drove up to visit with some of my dad's extended family up in Oklahoma. One of my favorite cousins was there, and it was kind of fun to hang out with her, since I didn't get to see her that often. Jam was a few years younger than me, and we were both sort of Purple Sheep in the family. One day, Mom and Dad took the two of us out antiquing with them. Like many small towns, the antique stores were mostly in the old homes that used to be the heart of the town. One store in particular was a maze of shelves, display cases, and jumbled junk. It honestly looked like someone had inherited a house from a hoarder and decided that it would be easier to slap price tags on the whole mess, rather than trying to clean it out. The downstairs was one big open space, though there might have been other rooms that I couldn't see.

Upstairs, there were six rooms, with three rooms on each side of the building and a hallway in the middle. The first three rooms all had open doors leading into each other, with the doors to the hallway blocked by junk. All three were brightly lit by the street facing windows, and generally seemed no more or less weird than any other room in an old antique store. The hallway didn't have any lights but since the shop was on a corner, the two rooms facing the front of the building plus the window at the end of the hall gave enough light that you could see fairly well. I wandered through the first room but it was slightly darker than the rooms on the side of the building, so I didn't spend much time in there. The second room had no windows at all, and the light from the hallway didn't do much to illuminate the room. It was a little creepy so I just looked in the doorway and didn't bother going in.

I looked down the hall and noticed that light didn't reach all the way to the end, but there was one more room. I figured there probably wouldn't be much to see, but I was curious (this is usually the point where, if my life were a movie, the audience would be yelling at the screen). I felt the weird creepiness of the second room growing stronger, but I put it off as nerves about the darkness and kept going. There was a bunch of junk at the dark end of the hall, but it wasn't actually blocking the door to the last room. I looked inside.

In the space of a few seconds, I took in the almost completely dark room. It was crammed wall to wall with junk, the mass crowding up close to the door, and well above the height of my head. I looked up and back and there, behind the wall of stuff, was A Thing.

It was more of a darker shadow than an actual shape. A formless place where there was slightly less light than there should have been. Something which most people would not have seen, or ignored as a trick of the light. Hell, most people probably wouldn't have even come this far down the hallway, unless they were particularly brave or stupid (I'll let y'all hash out which one I was). But I had gone that far, and I had seen it. And It knew that I had seen It. And It was Not Happy.

The darker space spread out like a dark cloak and it lunged over the top of the pile at me. At the same time I felt a deep resonance inside telling me quite clearly to get the fuck out. I turned and got the fuck out.

I didn't really run. More like walked very briskly back through the maze and out of the shop. I remember passing my Dad on my way back out, and I know that Jam hadn't been far behind me, but I don't actually remember passing her. A few minutes later, though, she joined me out in front of the shop. We stood there for a little bit before she said "Ghost in the last room?"

"Yup."

She never actually said that she saw it. But knowing Jam, if she had seen me doing my very best to not look like I was running the fuck away from something, she would've have gone to see what it was. Which just goes to show that this particular brand of insanity clearly runs down my father's side.




Herman Cain to rape victims- Those instances are miniscule, No exceptions,: In other news, Michelle Bachmann is off celebrating her new Not The Craziest GOP Candidate status.

2011 Book Review

A18. Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Random point of interest: I actually started reading a physical copy of Spider Bones towards the start of the year, but had so much trouble finding time to sit down with a physical book that I took it back to the library. When I spotted the audio version on the shelf a month later, I snatched it up.

Spider Bones is probably one of the more complex plots that I have yet read from Kathy Reichs. And that's not necessarily a good thing. I can't really say that it's the most complex of all the books (having not yet read them all), but it has to be pretty high up there. Once again, Reichs managed to shoehorn Ryan into the story, though slightly more plausibly this time. And much like all of the other Bones books, there is a LOT of background information. Things about the Vietnam war, Hawaiian history and tourist destinations, complex analysis of everything from gang politics to unusual sexual practices. Sadly, I am beginning to get the feeling that underneath all of that interesting information is a collection of characters that I am either not particularly fond of or actively dislike.

A19. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

I picked this book up because hey, past lives! One True Pairing! History from a commoner's perspective! It hit a lot of my usual high points for good stories, so I figured it couldn't be truly terrible.

And it's not. For the most part, the book is actually quite good. There are several occasions where I wanted to smack the main male character, but that's fairly common for me with OTP style stories. It's not a terribly original premise, but Brashares' handling of the mechanics of it are well done. I was quite annoyed by the book's ending, but since it turns out that this is planned to be the first in a trilogy, I think I can hold off on my opinion of the annoying abrupt ending until I have a chance to read the next one.

A20-22. Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

When I first noted that I was reading Elantris, I had several people tell me that Mistborn was vastly superior, and that I should have read them first. I pointed out that the reason I tend to read books in the order that authors wrote them is that I enjoy seeing their progression from book to book. It also saves me the heartache of reading a vastly superior later book, and discovering that the earlier works aren't nearly as sophisticated. Which is why I'm glad I read Elantris first. I don't think I could have enjoyed it quite as much after having read Mistborn.

Mistborn is the sort of fantasy story that if you just accept the magic as it is explained to you, it works really well. If you examine it too much, you will spend more time trying to work out the mechanics of it than you will enjoying the books. The magic system is so unique and well developed that I have had to shut down the part of my brain that wants to analyze and pick at the threads of the magic until they make sense. Fortunately, the Mistborn series also contains a lot of great political intrigue, some really interesting alternate history, and a lot of quite funny dialog. Sanderson continues to suffer from a version of The Smurfette Principle (Warning: TV Tropes link) throughout the books, making any other supporting females evil, vapid, or love interests.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this series. Unlike many trilogies, each book is quite self contained and ends well enough that if the series had ended at one book, or even just two, it would still be a fully realized and resolved overarching plot. As it seems Sanderson plans to write a fourth Mistborn book, I hope he continues in that vein.

A23. Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay

I'd like to start by noting that there is an element to audiobooks that physical books can't provide, which doesn't make them superior, but does make for some wonderfully humorous moments that wouldn't come across the same in the physical book. In one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, it was the reader who actually spoke very rapidly while doing Diantha's voice, making the statement "Johan's an asshole" truly hilarious. In this book, the reader does an excellent job of portraying the cheerfully British voice of Doakes' communication device, making me giggle every time he said "motherfucker."

Dexter by Design does a decent job of picking up all the major threads of the previous Dexter books and running with them. Which is kind of the problem. The book contains some great moments of introspection (and cursing) by dear Deborah, but that's about all the character development we get. The same jokes (the traffic, the food, Angel "no relation" blahblahblah), the same character dynamics, the same shock value murder resolved by Dexter getting tangled up in a messily public way, the same rescue from the Big Bad by someone other than Dexter. Frankly, I'm beginning to think that the reason I like the kids so much in this series is that they're the only ones who seem to be making actual character progression over the course of the series. The Dexter books aren't bad, but I'm probably going to start having to view them as candy reading.

A24. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I am quite thrilled that Brandon Sanderson is a very prolific writer. Otherwise I might have to take my list of "Things to Make George R.R. Martin Write The Song of Ice and Fire Faster" and apply them to this series. Much like his previous books, the Way of Kings contains a fully realized, well developed, intricate and unique magic system. And damnit, I want to know more about it. Sanderson shows his progress as an author by having three (three!) major female characters who have important roles in the story. Sure, two of them are related to the king, but hey, at least they're not incidental characters. As a bonus, the dynamics of the gender roles make women very important to the smooth operation of the political system, which is always nice.

2011 Book Review

A1. Carrie by Stephen King

  I've decided I'm going to work my way through Stephen King's books in the order that he wrote them, starting with his debut novel, Carrie.

  One of my concerns upon starting this project is that I tend to use my audio books to help me fall asleep.  And since I once had a doctor suggest that reading Stephen King's books right before bed might be the cause of my nightmares, I was a little concerned.  I figured Carrie wouldn't be much of a problem, since most of the "horror" aspects don't show up until the very end.

  It has been several years since I last read Carrie.  The last time was for my Banned Book Review project, something I remember only because I was recently going back through those.  The review from there still stands.  Not nearly as polished as his later works, but still powerful.  The motivations of various characters seem a little odd thirty-five years later, something that should always be taken into account when reading older books.  Then again, there are some authors who need to spend more time reading older books to avoid the trap of applying modern attitudes to historical situations.

A2-5. The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

  The inspiration for the True Blood series, the Southern Vampire Mysteries are nonetheless not quite the same as the TV series.  True, the first three books roughly follow the plots of the first three seasons, and the characters are similar in both, but there are several pretty significant differences.  Without getting into too many spoilers, let's just say that the TV show takes several liberties with the character relationships.  I thought this was actually a logical change in the case of Season 1's Big Bad, since it seemed awfully weird to me that Sookie had apparently known Big Bad for quite a long time and just never noticed that the Big Bad was Fucking Evil.

  I do wonder how season three is going to handle the events of Dead to the World, considering some of the things which happened to Important Character X on the TV show.

A6. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

  Back to the Stephen King novels.  Unlike Carrie, 'Salem's Lot hits you up with the horror right off the bat.  No pun intended.  At first I tried to avoid listening to the book at night before bed, but then figured what the hell, it's not like my nightmares are all that predictable anyways.  Also unlike Carrie, 'Salem's lot doesn't suffer as much from the "moral motivation" tarnish.  I had several "Thank Bob for feminism" moments while listening to Carrie, and only one or two while listening to 'Salem's Lot.  I think because Carrie focuses mostly on high school age girls, whereas 'Salem's Lot is mostly men.  I do appreciate King's classic take on the vampire genre, though I did wonder at the exponential growth of vampires.  It seemed like everyone who was bitten turned, which should make for a lot more vampires in the world.

A7. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

  Joke's on my doctor, y'all.  After getting through two Stephen King novels nightmare free, I get halfway through the fluffy vampire novel and have a nightmare.  After listening to Dead to the World, I was beginning to wonder if Sookie Stackhouse was going to become Anita Blake and sleep with every man who crossed her path.  So it was nice to have a whole book where Sookie sleeps with absolutely no one, though she does suffer from "Everyone thinks I'm sexy" Mary-Sueism.  This, incidentally, is lampshaded in Dead to the World rather well.  Warning: Link goes to TV Tropes.  And since this book deals mostly with the shifter side of things, it did answer a question I'd been pondering about Harris' assertion that only the first born is a shifter.  As it turns out, only the first born of any *pairing* is a shifter.  There's still the question of whether or not it's only the woman's first born and how exactly that effects the gene pool.  Given how Definitely Dead is heading, it may answer that question eventually.

Feb. 1st, 2011

2010 Book Review (at last)

24. Harvard's Secret Court by William Wright

  A non-fiction account of a 1920's hunt for homosexuals at Harvard.  Wright does an amazing job of personalizing the plight of the young men who were caught up by the Secret Court, as well as putting the culture and norms of the time into terms that are easy for the reader to understand.  Wright clearly did a lot of research looking to discover everything possible about the Secret Court, and even went so far as to interview the families of some of the young men who had been ostracized by the school officials who carried it out.  Wright also explores some of the possible motivations for homophobia in society, presenting his analysis in a thoughtful and non-judgmental manner.

25 and 26.  Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger

  I pick these two up as part of my honeymoon reading and started in on Changeless a couple of days before the wedding.  I should know better than to do things like that with books I like.  I wound up polishing them both off much too quickly.  One of the reasons I would like an electronic reader: The ability to pack more than two books.

  Much like Soulless, I adored both of these books for their wit, subtle commentary on Victorian social norms, and naturally, the supernatural elements.  I do find the exploration of the Soulless to be very interesting, as well as the "science" of the supernaturals.  And of course, I love any book with phrases such as "There are knees positively everywhere!"

27. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

  The Queen's Fool is told from the point of view of the fictional character of Hannah, a Jewish girl who is posing as Christian in Mary Tudor's England.  I liked the extra element of danger in this one, where Hannah is threatened no matter which Queen wins out in the plotting, being neither Catholic nor Protestant.  I found Hannah's gift of foresight a little off putting, though.  None of Gregory's other novels have a supernatural element, and while I can accept the addition of a fictional character into a historical novel, I'm not willing to accept that fictional character having the true gift of foretelling.  I also found Gregory's portrayal of the Queens somewhat off-putting.  Elizabeth often came across as grasping, greedy, and deliberately malicious.  Mary often came across as weak willed, desperate, and something of a pious twit.  The history was good, and mostly accurate.  But after The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, The Queen's Fool is quite disappointing.

A10-20. The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan

  Part of the reason that the physical books side of this list is a lot shorter than I anticipated upon starting this project is that I listened to the Wheel of Time audio books at every chance.  So where I would normally read books while walking to work, on my lunch break, or before bed, I instead listened to these books.  And now, after three months of nothing but Wheel of Time, they've kind of blurred together.  I do recall, however, that right around the end of September, whichever book I was listening to was up to EIGHT Instances of Naked, where a woman was stripped naked for torture, humiliation, punishment, or tillilation.  After that, I just stopped counting in the other books.  Listening to all of them in a row like that was very useful in that I didn't have any difficulties following the various story lines as they jumped from character to character.  I am also probably going to piss off a lot of Robert Jordan fans with this admission, but I have to say it: I rather prefer Brandon Sanderson's take on the world.  Gathering Storm was so much better than all of the other books.  I think that part of it is that Sanderson has his end goal and is trying to pack a hell of a lot of story into just three more books.  Jordan seemed to be intending to write forever.  Sanderson's portrayal of women is a lot better, making me suddenly understand why everyone loves Egwene, why people respect Nynaeve despite her faults, and why people are willing to support Elaine as queen.

  Brandon Sanderson is going to be at ConDFW, by the way.  I am very tempted to go simply so I can thank him for reducing the Instances of Naked in the Wheel of Time series.

So!  That's 2010!  I'm going to try to be better about posting 2011, though I'm not off to the greatest of starts.

This entry has been cross posted to my Wordpress account. You can comment here, or there.

Dec. 2nd, 2010

How To Make a Renaissance Tube Dress (AKA, a simple chemise)

The instructions listed below make for a very full chemise that falls about mid calf on a woman of average height.  So it's One Size Fits Most.  If you are much smaller or much larger than "average," the advice in the Taking Your Measure section will help you work out how much fabric and elastic you need for your own chemise.

You will need:

2 2/3 yards 45 inch[1] cotton[2] fabric
1 1/3 yards 1/4" Elastic
1 yard 1/2" Elastic
Matching thread

Instructions Back HereCollapse )

Photobucket

The finished chemise for my wedding dress! The dress part is just one piece, since I didn't want to add too much bulk under the corset, and made of cotton flannel, since we're going to be outside for the ceremony.

Sep. 9th, 2010

Wee, it's been a while...  Not that I've stopped reading.

22.  Changes by Jim Butcher

  This book hits the ground running on page one and never lets up.  Even down to the very last page it is full of twists, turns, life changeling revelations, and the ever popular "oh holy fuck" explosions.  If you have never read any of the previous Dresden Files books, this is not the place to start.  If there is a single book in the previous 12 which is not called out somehow in this one, I can't think of it.  Sadly, there is no necromancied dinosaur.  It's hard to top that, admittedly, but Jim Butcher sure as hell throws everything else at you in the attempt.  An excellent book, and if the next book doesn't come out on the promised release date, I may hurt someone.

23.  Mission of Honor by David Weber

  Part of my delay in updating this list is that it took me so damn long to get through this book.  I love the mythos, I love the characters, I love the political wrangling and the battles.  But there have been a lot of strategy heavy books this year, and I'm getting a little burned out.

  In discussing this book with a friend, he asked if it included more battles than the previous few novels.  And I am sad to say that I think it actually has fewer.  Which helped with the strategy burnout, but I really wanted to see a confrontation between the two groups that Weber was leading up to at the end, and was really disappointed to not get it.  It ended at a good place, but it felt as if the Big Climactic Event happened in the middle of the book, and everything else was just one long drawn out dénouement.

A7 and A8.  The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn, by Robert Jordan

  Instead of reading about Honor Harrington, I spent a lot of time listening to the Wheel of Time books instead.  I probably look less weird walking across campus, since I'm listening to my phone instead of reading a book.

  Based on the book I'm currently listening to, these are probably the last books in which the female main characters do mostly sensible things for mostly sensible reasons.  Also, I am tempted to go back through and count the instances of "naked female" verses the instances of "naked male."  Thus far the instances of naked female mostly involve trials of worth or offers of sex, while instances of naked male involve men startled out of their beds for battle.

A9. The Narrows, by Michael Connelly

  I'm pretty sure I've read this book before, but unfortunately, while I enjoy Michael Connelly's books in reading them, I tend to blank them out when I'm done.

  The Narrows is not a mystery novel with any real surprises.  Connelly tends to bring the antagonist's view point into the story early on in order to create tension, and while that makes for some interesting storytelling, it doesn't make for a real page turner.  This book is especially guilty of this, as Connelly makes it quite clear right from the start exactly who the antagonist is, leaving most of the "mystery" in what really should have been a minor subplot.  It also occasionally frustrated me that while I could picture the locations the characters were moving through quite easily, it was as if the characters themselves were hard angled silhouettes moving through the set dressing.  All outlines, but little detail.  Not a bad book, but Connelly has certainly done better.

Aug. 27th, 2010

  To many people, I don't exist.  It's okay, I'm used to it.  But sometimes I wonder if the list is ever going to get long enough that I'll disappear completely.  Like that scene in Back to the Future, where Marty is about to fade away because his parents haven't met, I wonder if someday enough people will declare that I don't exist to cause me to actually fade from existence.

  I do not exist as a bisexual woman.  Now that I am engaged to a man, I'm declared heterosexual.  If I had fallen in love with a woman, I would be declared homosexual.  And all that stuff before?  Never mind that.  Clearly, it was just youthful experimenting.

  I do not exist as a fan of video games, comic books, or other traditionally geeky pursuits.  I am only allowed to enjoy "girly" games, read manga, and I must make my choice about what laptop to buy based on the colors it comes in.

  And now, I do not exist as a young feminist.

  I have never stood for another woman's right to choose.  Never mind all those hours escorting at the local Planned Parenthood.  I have never worked to ensure women's voices are heard.  Never mind the work I've done helping young women register to vote.  I have never spoken up to point out a friend's sexism.  Never mind the people in my life who have come to rethink their privileges and have stood to declare themselves feminist, too.  My work as an abuse survival counselor, an advocate for accurate sexual education, a participant in charity fund raising?  All that is worthless, because I am not really a young feminist.

  Anyone who claims that young feminist don't exist clearly hasn't bothered going out to look for young feminists.  We're out here.  We may not be shouting in the streets, but my generation doesn't need to be.  We can make our voices heard online just as loudly, and often more clearly than any protest rally ever did.  The online communities that some older feminists have dismissed as unproductive has spread word of women in need, shed light on injustices, and caused major corporations to rethink the way they present their products to women.

  It seems to me that what the previous generation of feminists wants to see from the younger generation is the sort of grand gestures and great strides that they themselves made.  But young feminists don't need to fight those battles.  They have been fought, and won.  Right now, what I see young feminists focusing on is taking that hard won ground and pushing it just a little further forward.  Just a little further out.  The previous generation made great leaps and bounds of progress.  My generation is all about holding the very long line in this battle for equality, and pushing it forward a little at a time.

  I am a young feminist.  I am here, even if some people refuse to believe in me.  I believe in myself, and the feminists of my generation.  And I am not going to fade away.

Jul. 15th, 2010

21.  Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

  When I first picked up this book, for some strange reason, I thought it was a fictional murder mystery.  As it turns out, Bourdain has written a couple of murder mysteries, but this was not one of them.  It was an interesting read, and it really made me want to read Kitchen Confidential.  I was aware of Bourdain as a chef who went to weird places and ate weird foods for the joy of eating them, but I never really understood what Kitchen Confidential was about until now.  There is a chapter in here on the sorts of things that every person should know how to do in the kitchen, and why he feels that it's important that our society move towards not just viewing cooking as cool, but viewing not being able to cook as not cool.  If it weren't such a long section, I would quote the whole thing for truth.  In fact, after I read it, I made Adam listen to me read it aloud.

A6.  The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

  One of my major complaints about this series is how Jordan has some pretty sensible characters do some pretty stupid things later on in the books.  Adam thinks that part of my problem is that I sort of skimmed over the fact that the characters are so young.  But really, I think my problem lies in how Jordan has taken the attitudes and habits of *modern* teenagers and plopped them down into a quasi medieval society, where 17 means that you are an adult, and you survival depends on you acting like one.  I also probably approached the books with the mental expectation that hey, these kids were about my age, and therefore should be mentally and emotionally as mature as me.  Seen from this end of the "mostly adult" spectrum, I can step away from that somewhat.  I still think that the characters occasionally act like twits for no reason, but it's less annoying.

  All of the above to say this: I didn't absolutely hate this book when I first read it, and I still don't absolutely hate it now.  I realized while listening that there were several things I missed the first time around, and it helped to fill in those blanks.  Hopefully listening to them back to back will give me a better perspective on the actions of characters in later books, and it will make more sense.  Jordan does do an admirable job of establishing early on where some of the later plots come from, and his ability to talk about the politics and history of his world without coming across as lecturing is admirable. 

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