Showing posts from 2016

Master of Environmental Science

There were so many days when I thought I couldn't finish. I suffered from Imposter Syndrome the whole time! There I was, in a Masters of Science program, with other scientists, with my teaching degree. I had to work hard to catch up. When my project exploded and I had to switch to non-thesis, I wondered if it was proof that I couldn't be a scientist. I still don't really know, but I know it didn't stop me from getting a masters degree. We took my photos in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which was the focus of my research.

20161112 FAU vs UTEP - Veterans Day Game

My husband and I were invited to attend the FAU vs UTEP football game, which  would honor veterans that attend the university. Neither of  us are big football fans, and neither of us have attended an FAU game before, but we accepted.  We were shown to an MVP box next to the Presidential Suite,  with other FAU vets (student and professor).

The food was complimentary and delicious. It's nice to have a tasty and filling vegetarian  option. The view was fantastic. The glass has a wall-sized sliding window, opened for perfect viewing. If games were like this all the time, I'd go more often.

2016 Halloween

I've allowed myself to get back into Halloween. For some reason, though it's my favorite holiday, for the past few years I haven't decorated or celebrated other than through our department group Halloween costume.This year I picked up some lights (half hung one of them) and bought a haunted gingerbread house kit (still unbuilt). I did put good work into the costume(s). The group theme was Superheroes/Villains. We get dressed up, take a group picture, and attend the university's Fall Family Festival as a group. They have free food, rides and games for kids, and usually stuff like face-painting, caricatures, and free university-themed swag. I'd originally planned on going as Kim Possible (from the cartoon of the same name)... but...

Always on the lookout for a good trenchcoat, I finally found an affordable ladies London Fog that fits (and even still has the flannel liner)! So, a pair of black-feathered wings from the Halloween store, and a bloodies up white-button-up…

Review: First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder Challenge: Read a book by a Southeast Asian author. Just looking for an author that satisfied that category, I learned I didn't even know what countries were considered "Southeast Asian".

This book is yet another example of a war I knew nothing about. I'd heard the name "Pol Pot" and heard he was "worse than Hitler*", but that's all. This first person account of the genocide of the Cambodian people was, skillfully written, beautifully narrated, and heartbreaking to read. What violence there is isn't any worse than any fiction novel I've read, but the true accounts of hunger, sadness, loneliness, helplessness... it's terrible. Loung Ung was five when the war started, and ten when it ended for her. Though she was so young, the author inserts history and fictionalized accoun…

Frankenstein, Nation Theatre Live

Frankenstein by the National Theatre Live,  starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (from Hackers!). Filmed live, the result is simulcast to movie theaters. I missed seeing it last year, since the closest theater showing it was 100 miles away. This year, the NTLive newsletter from June told me it would be playing at my local theater and I bought a ticket that day.
The play is based on the book, so many might not have really known what was going to be in it.  In fact, on the way oyt I heard an older man asked if it was bad on the book,  after an older woman said it wasn't what she expected and didn't like it. I assured him they did a very good job. It was condensed, as it would have to be, and done in such a way that the disjointed, jarring nature played well with the grotesque and tragic acting, set, and direction. It was fantastic.

Review: East To The Dawn: The Life Of Amelia Earhart

East To The Dawn: The Life Of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book two two reasons: Secondly, I was tasked with a biography for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder Challenge; Firstly, I own "The Sound of Wings" by Mary Lovell but haven't been able to convince myself to continue it, though I really liked it when I started it in May 2014.

"East to Dawn" is interesting, providing a wide view lens on Amelia and her life, motivations, and background. Some of the technical details made the reading dry at times, and I was thankful to be reading it by audiobook, though the calm and not-quite-monotone voice of the narrator didn't help in those dry spots. (She did have good enthusiasm at times, but what altogether reserved.)

This book has me curious to read Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography (due to their relationship in the book). I also wonder if the The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR)'s 20…

Review: Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I read this book for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder challenge, and I'm so glad I did. I never would have picked it up otherwise. "A FOOD memoir? Ugh." Honestly I had a moment where I wondered how to get around the requirement, but it stuck out at me from the "recommended books in this genre" list.

You can read the accolades and summary for yourself, but know I agree with them.

Annia's form of storytelling is one of my favorites: a coherent timeline dotted with memories and stories and various interruptions. It sometimes can make things a little awkward to follow, especially in an audiobook, but I feel like more soul comes through that way. She tucks in little quotes from the people she met or other relevant sources. "What makes us civilized? .... We are the only creatures who share food with strangers, people not from our family or tribe... Cambridge Uni…

Review: Arab in America

Arab in America by Toufic El Rassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this weathered graphic novel sitting on the "New Books" rack at the library and picked it up. I'm currently reading Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo, and her experiences in the Middle East have made me curious about the experiences of Arabs and Muslims in regards to the last two decades of warfare. The graphic-novel-meets-memoir is well written and well drawn. This graphic novel presents an American view of Arabs and Muslims that surprises me at the same time that it doesn't. It isn't, because seeing it I realize it's always been there, and yet having it pointed out to me all at the same time makes me realize just how much of it there is.

I'm not a fan of war movies; my mom watched a lot of them when I was growing up, so I feel well-versed in the Anti-Asian sentiments of the older generations, and I took for granted that "the war" would cause a lot of my generation to hav…

Review: 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: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this. It's like a bit of Fan Fiction that let's us replay material from the originals, with a neat (but not hinted at) twist.

Some people had trouble reading the format of a script, but I read a lot of Shakespeare in my youth and found I could jump right into the style without issue. It's not a terribly DEEP book, but does touch on the troubles of parents (living vicariously and overprotection) while telling a good short story. A quick, nostalgic read.

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Review: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Note, I have not heard the podcast at the time of this reading.) I listened to the audiobook, which I've heard was easier to digest than the paperback. I think I'd prefer the audiobook too, because some eerie music and creative narration really lent depth to the story (and weirdness of Night Vale).

It was a WEIRD a heartwarming story that, while failing Beschdel, managed to present strong independent women at very different stages of their life, while being both amusing and a little creepy. Though this book was proposed to me as a Horror, I don't feel it really this that category. In fact, I read it to satisfy the Horror category in the 2016 Read Harder challenge and now need to decide if I should read another, scarier, horror novel.

I'm glad I read it, and might pop in to the podcast, but it's definitely not something for everyone.

Some nifty things I thought while reading it, t…

Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd been both interested and avoiding this series. Sounds like my sort of universe, but nervous about rooting for a villain. Irrational, probably, but we've all got lines. Read Harder 2016 pushed me to finally start it.

The smart-alecky voice of the narrator kept me grinning as I read the book. The characters are pretty well written, better than I expected, honestly. Perhaps I didn't have much faith in a Middle Grade book, but the author doesn't talk down to the Middle Grade reader. The tone certain things are moderated, and the narrator actually quips about it.. mentioning an "adult" version of the 'report' the story represents.

I liked the characters, I agreed with the plights and motivations of both sides. I adored the unique take on dwarves (I don't think I'll ever look at Gimli the same way again!). It's always nice to see a fresh perspective on 'age old' fairy lor…

Review: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth

Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like the art and colors. Harley's costume is a bit, well, impractical. Do you know how often you have to pull-up corsets if you do anything besides stand still? I can see wanting to update the harlequin suit, but this is a bit too far in the opposite direction for me.

I don't like that they changed her origin. Oh, every time they do it they change it just a little (it's been angling more in the Legitimate-Doctor direction, which I'm fine with) but Joker's new add-on takes away Harley's agency. Before she was batsh*t of her own accord, and though we see her a little batsh*t (a nice start, perhaps), I think Joker's push was unnecessary.

I like that the Squad dynamic gives the writers a way to cycle team members, so it gives them a nice way to keep the missions and team interactions fresh.

The last issue in this volume... is a nice cliffhanger, sorta, but I like clos…

Review: The Life List

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read the first half by paperback and the second by audiobook. I don't recommend the audiobook version; the narrator has a stilted and uneven cadence that made the novel sound less well written than it was.

The book WAS pretty well written. It wasn't my style of novel, I was asked to read it by a friend. It was like watching a lifetime movie, or a live-action Disney movie, where people keep telling the princess that she can't always get everything she wants, but she clearly is. I'm usually happy to have a character second guess themselves, but she dives between extreme self-doubt and this unwavering faith in her death mother that the mother is painted to be as omnipotent as a god. The mother might actually BE an analogy for God, and the Life List an analogy for the Ten Commandments. If you told me right now "that was the exact point" I would believe you.

The message of the book is a goo…

Review: Blood Bound

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The voice of this book, and the attitude of the main character, reminds me of why I loved the Kim Harrison Dead Witch Walking series. I do a little bit of eyerolling over the "all the males seems to love me" thread, but after reading Laurel K Hamilton for so long, it's tame by comparison.

I liked that the story had "two story villainy", where once the immediate threat was gone Mercy had to deal with the underlying cause. The first threat brings the action and intensity, and the second allows for non-boyfriend introspection and deliberate, planned, action that really builds character.

I borrowed the next audiobook from the library just 20 minutes after finishing this one, and am trying to convince myself to finish my other book before I start this one. I think, Mercy is going to win.

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Review: Career of Evil

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the tone of this series. The characters always seem so real. I used to have a problem with the way Robin was written, feeling her to be too weak. I realized, in this book, that she isn't weak, she's just normal. She does what a normal person would do. I get so used to reading characters doing what I WANT them to do, what a person with little responsibility to the real world, would do... She stays in a relationship she's unsure of because it's what a real person does. She continues to plan to marry this person because she's written so much like a real person.

I like that the story is less gory this time around. I'm fine with gore and odd serial killer displays, really, but I'm glad that the books aren't Only that style of killer. Having a range of deviants feels more genuine and can ward off boredom or that "rinse repeat" feeling you sometimes get with long detective …

Review: Game of Thrones Season 6

I caught up to the rest of the world and finished Game of Thrones Season 6. (I try to keep spoilers out of the entry, but things that are obvious are mentioned).

Though I presumed Snow would be coming back to life, I misjudged how they'd do it. My husband (who doesn't follow GoT at all) thinks it's basically fan service. Season 6 isn't a book yet, so Martin would be free to consider fan service (though really he and the show's writers could anyway, and clearly have made departures from the books before). I'd hoped for Jon to come back in a Lady Stoneheart fashion (since I'll always be upset that's been scrapped).

It was kind of annoying to have Hodor's episode sort of spoiled by an Internet full of people screaming "HOLD THE DOOR!" but the story around it was still nicely stunning.

I like where Sansa's story has gone. I was worried with the diversion from the books, but it did make the story more manageable. I like finally coming ba…

Review: The Batman Adventures: Mad Love

The Batman Adventures: Mad Love by Paul Dini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story was entertaining, but depressing.I've heard this is Harley's very first appearance, and it was the basis for the B:TAS episode that came later. It doesn't really read that way though, since half the issue is Harley reminiscing. If this is her first appearance, it's more like they want us to believe she's always been around and we only just notice her (except Batman just noticed her too). So, poorly done, on that point. They would have done better to just use that Backstory as the story. Put it all in present time (like B:TAS did) and the whole thing would make more sense.

The art was reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series, which I liked. Except... Commissioner Gordon seemed somehow extra cartoony.

Commentary on the storyline follows, if you don't want spoilers.
(Spoiler beyong the break)

Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this collection; it had the character development and well-written battles of the longer books, without room for rape! I look forward to reading more about Dunk and Egg.

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Review: The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book might be... the best book I ever read. The writing was beautiful. The characters were deep and felt real. The world was vast. The LORE was vast. I adored everything about this book. The battle of the betrayed tower... was better than the battle of the blackwater (and I CRIED during that battle).

I can't vouch for the narrators, as I listened to it on 1.5x speed, so it would be closer to the speed people might actually speak, but in their high pitched tones they did fantastic. There was a tiny slip near the end, where the narrators hadn't agreed to use the same pronunciation of a character's name, but it doesn't detract from the telling.

I wanted to start the book over, immediately, and listen to it again. The last time I recall doing that was Stephen King's Dark Tower (Gunslinger #7), when I wanted to start the whole series over.

I hear there's a sequel to this book, and and a t…

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three Annual #1

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three Annual #1 by Ray Fawkes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, I never know which people exist in which universes. I honestly didn't know Teen Titans were a thing in this arc, and I'd never really paid attention to them before. (Note, for those that don't know who Con El is, they do explain it in Year Four.) As with some of the other annual stories, it was a bit light and hollow, but added an interesting Dimension *hyuk hyuk*).
I liked the Constantine story. I don't have the best memory (I had to remind myself why Diana was napping in the last volume) but this have a nice "A HA!" to the ordeal. Pity I don't know who those other characters are. Hm.

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Review: Allegiant

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like the story, the characters, the setting, and I finally figured out what was driving me nuts about the book: the narrator of my audiobook. READ THE PAPERBACKS, avoid the audiobooks! I like the inner conflicts of the characters, and that the new boss is the same as the old boss, so to speak. I'm not sure I agree with how they handle it in the end, but it did stop a lot of bloodshed, granted. I'm glad I read the trilogy, but wish I'd made the time to read it on paper.

I couldn't put my finger on it, for two books. Allegiant has two narrators (they brought in a male for the Tobias point of view) and he wasn't a great narrator either, but it gave me contrast. The female narrator of the books doesn't change her voice for other characters. There are times that I can't tell Tris stopped talking and someone else started talking! She doesn't breathe between sentences, often she breathes in…