Monday, February 19, 2018


Today I thought I would tell you about a show I've been watching called Arrow. This show is into its 5th season so you may well have seen it. If so, I'd love to hear what you thought. I've only watched the first season so I have no idea whether the show will continue to hold my interest, but for now, I'm heading into Season Two.

The premise of the show is this: richy rich playboy Oliver Queen comes home to Starling City after being missing for five years following the sinking of his father's boat. All hands were lost, including his father and his girlfriend's sister who he was sleeping with on the sly. Before dying, his father tells him he has to right his wrongs. Oliver doesn't know what this means at first but then he finds a notebook with a list of names, people who his father did business with. When he arrives home, he discovers that a lot of the names don't belong to very nice people. Enter Arrow...

What I like about this show: Besides the obvious (I pretty much like all justice seeking comic book heroes), I liked the way Oliver's character develops. You know right away that he has been through hell on the island, and that it has changed him. But he can't share how, and at first tries to pretend he's the same old carefree rich boy. He has to figure out how to be the new version of himself as well as how to become Arrow. I also loved Diggle, the bodyguard he ditches too many times and then recruits to his cause and I especially loved the flashbacks to the island where we learn how it changed him. Where did he get these mad skills? What did he have to do to survive? I find this back story especially compelling and I like the way it's being doled out. Finally, there's Mrs. Queen, Oliver's mother, who is more layered than some of the other female characters, and the detective, played by Paul Blackthorn (who was once Harry Dresden on the Dresden Files - in case you wanted to know...), whose task it is to find and bring down the vigilante known as the hood.

What I don't like: every single woman seems to almost always be exceedingly well-dressed and made up. Lots of high heels, too much shiny red/hot pink lipstick. I like Felicity, but her character needs some deepening and less lipstick. I found Thea (Oliver's sister), to be a bit annoying at times, especially the way she was able to waltz into clubs and drink and drug even though she's still in high school, and Laurel, the girl he cheated on, her character also bothers me for some reason, besides the too much makeup thing.

Bonus: there's something about the show that's inspiring my writing,which makes it even more fun to watch.

Have you seen Arrow? Have a favorite comic book hero?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Prince of Thorns & Write Club

Well. I'm off to a much better start this month, having finished book number 2, leaving me only one more book to read this month in order comply with my resolution to read three books every month.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, is the first book in the Broken Empire Series and I chose it because I needed a good fantasy to read. I will say I was a little surprised by the main character, Jorg, who was decidedly unlikable, and yet...I kept rooting for him.

As the story begins, we are with Prince Jorg of Ancrath and his merry band of cut throats who have cut a swathe of destruction and death across the lands. Jorg is at first an unsympathetic character, too young to be so cruel, until we discover why. At the age of nine he witnessed the killing of his mother and younger brother by Count Renar's men. Now, five years later, he's ready to have his revenge.

What I liked about this book was the author's ability to make me root for Jorg, who went about killing without the least bit of remorse, even for the innocent. It helped that Jorg's father and his necromancer were worse though it takes a while before we meet them. Still, I liked the book a  lot and my only complaint would be that Jorg is a little too lucky sometimes. I would give this book four stars and I will probably read the next book in the series.

In other news, WriteClub is coming...

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Well. As you may (or not) have noticed, I failed to read three books in January per my New Years Resolution. So. Big fail for January. That does not, however, mean I'm giving up on my resolution to read 3 books every month and tell you about them, which brings us to Ready Player One.

You may have heard of this book because of the a movie coming out in March which was directed by Steven Spielberg. I had read Ernest Cline's other book, Armada, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and then happened to see the trailer for the movie, which prompted me to buy the book. A real hold in your hands book. Those are the best. Anyway. Holy Shite! I loved this book to death and as of now, it's my favorite of the year. Granted, it's only February, but it's going to be hard for another book to top this one. It has everything I love. Scifi, VR, gaming, and heroes who don't look like heroes, at least, not in RL.

In 2044 Wade is a senior living in the stacks (picture a bunch of trailers stacked on top of one another) with his not very nice aunt in a future that has none except for the exceedingly wealthy. The only thing it does have is OASIS, a virtual reality that acts both as an MMORPG and a virtual society, with its currency being the most stable in the real world. It was created by James Halliday who, when he died, announced that he'd left an Easter Egg* inside OASIS, and the first person who could find it would inherit his whole fortune and corporation.

The trick is, in order to win, you have to know Halliday, who was a massive fan of all things 1980s. Lucky for Wade, he's a huge fan of Halliday and the era the man loved which leads him to discover the first clue. After that, things get very interesting indeed because some people are willing to kill to win the contest, namely IOI, an evil corporation bent on finding the egg and controlling OASIS along with its creator's wealth.

I'll say no more except that I ripped through the second half of the book last Sunday and am now totally psyched to see the movie. This is a five star book all the way.  

* The use of the term "Easter egg" to describe secret features originates from the 1979 video game Adventure for the Atari 2600, programmed byWarren Robinett. At the time, Atari did not include programmers' names in the game credits, fearing that competitors would attempt to steal their employees. Robinett, who disagreed with his supervisor over this lack of acknowledgment, secretly inserted the message "Created by Warren Robinett". This message would only appear if a player moved their avatar over a specific pixel (the "Gray Dot") during a certain part of the game. As a side note, I played Adventure back in the day though I never did find that Easter Egg.

Speaking of Gaming...

Skyrim Log 01/27/2018 I completed a small quest to return an amulet to Ethnir at the Mages College in Winterhold. I tried again to find the place where Shalidor's writings are - to no avail. I then began the quest, "A Night to Remember" by engaging in a drinking contest at the Bannered Mare in Whiterun. Ended up in Markarth at the Temple of Dibella. The Priestess made me clean up the mess I'd made and apologize...

Oh, and Lydia (my other companion - I like Inigo better) finally found her way home from Kilkreath Ruins where I received Dawnstar in exchange for purifying (read: kill the bad guy) the temple.

Skyrim Log 01/28/2018 I completed the "A Night to Remember" Quest, which ended with my acquisition of Sanguine Rose, which summons a Dremora for 60 seconds. Very helpful in a fight!

I am now reading Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, which I'm liking even though the mc/narrator is not really a very good person at all. And yet, I'm rooting for him...

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Family Fang

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

This month I'm here to tell you about The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.

Per Amazon: The Family Fang tells the story of the Fang family (parents Caleb and Camille, children Annie and Buster, aka Child A and Child B)  who make 'art.' For example, in one piece, "The Portrait of a Lady, 1988," fragile nine-year-old Buster Fang dons a wig and sequined gown to undermine the Little Miss Crimson Clover beauty pageant, though he secretly desires the crown himself. In "A Modest Proposal, July 1988," Buster and his older sister, Annie, watch their father, Caleb, propose to mother, Camille, over an airliner's intercom and get turned down (" plane crash would have been welcomed to avoid the embarrassment of what had happened"). Over the years, more projects consume Child A and Child B—what art lovers (and their parents) call the children—but it is not until the parents disappear from an interstate rest stop that the lines separating art and life dissolve.

My thoughts: I liked this story, but didn't love it. I was invested in the characters, who were all superbly drawn, and the mystery of Caleb and Camille's disappearance, but I wanted a slightly different ending. I won't say what ending I wanted because that would spoil things and another reader might well feel quite differently. I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the movie The Royal Tenenbaums.

In other news, I am going to have to work hard to finish another book before the end of the month - per my new years resolution. In my defense, I was sick for most of the month (hence my absence), and lost almost a week to vertigo, which made reading impossible. But, I think I can do it, so hopefully I'll have one more book to tell you about this month.

I haven't played much Skyrim lately but I have attained the rank of Archmage of Winterhold,

and acquired Inigo, a companion. He's pretty funny and good in fight. I also have a horse to carry my loot,

and, oh yes, finally got the Gauldur amulet, which boosts your health, magic, and stamina by thirty points.

So. What's new in your life? Are you staying healthy? Read any good books? Played any fun games? 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Radium Girls

So. Ordinarily I don't make New Year's resolutions. But. I'm going to break with tradition and make one. Ready?

My New Year's resolution is to read at least 3 books a month and post a review. I was going to do 4 a month, which would be a book a week, but since I want to be successful I reduced it to 3. Surely I can read 3 books a month, right?

Anyway. To start the year off, I'm reviewing The Radium Girls, which I read on my kindle.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and I can't say why I chose this out of all the other non-fiction books. Maybe it was on sale...But regardless of the reason, I'm glad I read it. I new nothing of these poor woman who suffered immeasurably due to the hazards at their work and (big surprise) the greed of their employers.

The Radium Girls is the story of these girls, most of them young, in their teens and early twenties. They worked at the Radium Dial Plant in Orange NJ painting the dials on clocks with luminous paint made with radium powder. As the girls painted these dials, they were taught to wet the brushes with their mouths in order to keep a fine point on the brush, ingesting radium every time they did. They didn't get sick right away; sometimes it would be years later, even after they'd stopped working for the company. And they didn't all get sick. But those that did were almost all doomed to die a very horrible death. The girl's teeth fell out and wouldn't heal, parts of their jaws fell into their mouth (can you imagine???!!!), they developed sarcomas, had miscarriages, and were in constant, awful pain. Because some of the girls became ill after leaving the plant, it took a long time to prove that the radium in the paint was the cause of the girls' illness. And even after it was shown that the radium was the cause, the company continued the same practice of having the girls dip the brushes into the paint and then smooth the brush tips with their mouths.

Many girls died young after long debilitating illnesses. Others were disfigured or lived in pain. One had her arm amputated which likely saved her. The suffering these girls endured was truly horrible. More horrible was the response of the plant and its owners. They lied to their employees even after it was shown that the radium paint was to blame for the girls' illnesses and deaths, they kept secret medical records they refused to share with the families or the girls themselves, and they continued to operate as they had before, with little to no regard for the safety of the girls in their employ.

I do recommend this book but be prepared for some pretty horrific descriptions of how the radium affected the different girls.

Meanwhile, here in Maine it is so bloody effing cold I could scream. Even my dog, who normally loves winter, does not enjoy going out into the sub-zero temps we're having here. And, to add to my already overabundant joy, a big snow is coming. Yay. Now mind you, I don't dislike snow, but this one is coming with winds which could cause power outages. I didn't like the power outage we had in the fall, and I liked even less the two hour outage we had the other night, coming right in the middle of watching Westworld. But if we lose power during the storm, it will not be coming back on right away and the temps are supposed to plunge back into the single digits so I am a little worried. I hate being cold. Just hate it.

There is, however, one saving grace, a very warm, bright spot on the horizon. In March I am going back to Sanibel Island, this time with my son for our first ever vaca together. Two months and ten days. Then I'll be warm again.

So. How's your winter so far? Is it horrifically cold where you are or do you live somewhere reasonable, like California (my personal favorite warm state)? Read any good books? Looking forward to something? Do tell. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Hate U Give and Year End Round Up

So. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well...not much, admittedly. I totally missed posting for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse on Friday for which I did have a book I was supposed to finish but didn't quite. Being annoyed with myself for not finishing the book I sat down on Friday night and did so.

The title of this book is a reference to Tupac who said that Thug Life stood for 'The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.' According to Khalil, what this means is that "what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out."

I really liked this book a lot and I recommend it to everyone, but especially to white people. In it you will meet Starr, the unlikely hero of the story, a black girl who lives in two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. Then Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer, and soon after his death is big news. Some call him a thug and a drug dealer. Others protest yet another case of an unarmed black man being gunned down by the police. But everyone wants to know what really happened that night and the only person who knows that is Starr. The problem is that telling the truth could endanger her life and the lives of her family.

I loved Starr and the way she tries to balance her two worlds. I adored her family, her two brothers Sekani and Seven, her most awesome parents, and Black Jesus. At the beginning of the book Starr's daddy, an ex-con gone good, says a morning prayer to Black Jesus, asking him to "watch over my babies today. Keep them safe, steer them from wrong, and help them recognize snakes from friends...Thank you for Sekani's miraculous, sudden healing that just so happened to come after he found out they're having pizza at school today..." Afterward, Sekani says, "Daddy, why you put me on the spot like that with Black Jesus?"

Yep. There's a lot of humor like that, and a lot of wisdom that comes from both Starr's parents, her Uncle Carlos, and her boyfriend, Chris, who happens to be white. This makes for lots of good conversations, like at the end when Starr and Chris and her brother Seven and friend DeVante are hanging out and Chris says "Okay. Why do some black people give their kids odd names? I mean look at you guys' names. They're not normal."

"My name normal," DeVante says, all puffed-up sounding. "I don't know what you talking about."

"Man, you named after some dude from Jodeci," Seven says.

"And you named after a number! What's your middle name? Eight?"

"Anyway, Chris," Seven says, "DeVante's got a point. What makes his name or our names any less normal than yours? Who or what defines 'normal' to you? If my pops were here, he'd say you've fallen into the trap of the white standard."

I believe I've fallen into that trap myself. But now that I know about it, be sure I'll be avoiding that shit, as Starr might say.

I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Now for my year end stats.

This year I doubled the number of books I read. I still didn't read a lot, but it was waay better than 2016

Books read in 2017

  1. We were Liars by E. Lockhart
  2. Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  3. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  4. Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  5. Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson
  6. Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter
  7. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
  8. Armada by Ernest Cline
  9. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
  10. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  11. The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August by Claire North
  12. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  13. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
  14. Seed by Ania Ahlborn
  15. Meddling Kids by Edgar Canter
  16. The Kept Woman by Karen Slaughter
  17. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  18. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

If I had to pick a favorite it would be #11 but I also have to give a shout out to #18. You will never think of Christmas quite the same.

Next year I hope to get into the 20s, and here are The Books on my TBR list:

The Immortality Game by Ted Cross
The Raven Cycle #3 Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The First Salute by Barbara Tuchman
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Book of Dust Volume One La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
After Life by Marcus Sakey
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

I've also watched a few Season Two of Stranger Things (awesome), Dark (also awesome), Jessica Jones (wicked awesome, especially David Tenant as the villain. He's sooo good), Criminal Minds, Longmire, and, just started Westworld. Desperately awaiting the next season of Supernatural to come to Netflix.

Lastly, I leave you with a pic of some of my stocking stuffers.

Note the Buffy Mad Libs? I might've squealed a little when I pulled that out of my stocking...

Happy New Year all!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's good to be Skyrim

Some of you might remember me posting about my adventures in Skyrim (the most awesome game ever courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios who also brought us the other Elder Scroll games as well as Fallout). I had gained the title of Archmage of Winterhold, possessed the Guldar Amulet, and attained level 24. That was when I used to go over my brother's house and play. But. He kept modding (mods/modifications are programs fans of the game make which add content to the game like livelier inns, additional companions, prettier towns, etc), forcing me to start over numerous times and eventually I gave up.

Fast forward to last summer when I finally bought an Alienware Laptop capable of playing Skyrim and then ahead to a week ago when said brother helped me finish installing the mods I wanted for my game. That was last Saturday and to show you just how beautiful Skyrim is modded out a bit (and I do mean a bit; my brother has a ridiculous number of mods on his game), I took some screen shots to share. You can click on them to get the full effect.

This is Whiterun at night, often the second large town you come to. My house is just up the street...

This is Breezehome. The place cost 5000 gold pieces and the furnishings are extra. I had to kill a lot of bandits to get the place looking so nice ; )

Bleak Falls Barrow in the distance.This is one of the first quests you get, and let me tell you it's cold up there. You can freeze before you arrive, especially if you have the Frostfall mod. Thankfully, I also have the Campfire mod.

A view from the road outside Riverwood (which I often want to call Rivendell even though the two places look nothing alike).

Approaching Riverwood late in the day.

And finally, the bridge at Riverwood, watching the sun come up. Yes. I do that.

As of last night, I've reached level 10 and just enrolled in the college at Winterhold. I have a companion, Lydia, given to me by the Jarl of Whiterun after I helped kill a dragon, I've met with the Greybeards (another cold place), been attacked by Cultists, and got my ass kicked by a Hagraven. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I've been having, and how good it is, to be back, in Skyrim.