Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue One -- A Shakespearean Tragedy (SPOILER ALERT)

Today I went to see "Rogue One." I have come to the conclusion that the script is really a long-lost Shakespeare play -- because MORE FREAKIN' PEOPLE DIE IN THE MOVIE THAN IN HAMLET!!!! (In Hamlet, Horatio lives. Not gonna happen in this show.)
Holy crap!
If you haven't seen the movie yet, and if you tend to get emotionally involved in movies, this thing will wipe you out.
It's worse than Gandalf's dying (because we all knew he was coming back anyway), worse than Dumbledore's dying, worse than Han Solo's dying.
Important characters who die in Hamlet: (OH-- Uh, SPOILER ALERT, just in case you're not up on a 400-year-old play) King Hamlet, Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, Laertes, Gertrude, Rosenkrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet.
That's 9. Horatio lives.
Important characters who die in Romeo and Juliet (Sigh: SPOILER ALERT): Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, and Lady Montague.
That's 6. Benvolio lives.
Important Characters who die in MacBeth (yes, all right SPOILER ALERT):
MacBeth, Lady MacBeth, Lady MacDuff, Banquo, several unnamed MacDuff Children, at least 2 servants, and Duncan.
That's at least 10. But MacDuff, Fleance, and both princes live.

Important characters who die in Rogue One (SPOILER ALERT)
Saw Gerrera, Bodhi Rook, Jyn Erso, Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, General Merrick, Galen Erso, Lyra Erso, K-2SO, Cassian Andor, and Orson Krennic (but you want him to die).
That's 11. Nobody lives. Not unless you count the cameo of Princess Leia at the end, which is pretty gut-wrenching to see the day after Carrie Fisher died.
See? Rogue One could be a Shakespearean tragedy.

(By the way, I'd love it if someone could tell me how they did that. There's a clip of Leia that looks so much like 20-year-old Fisher that it's unbelievable. Was it really good CG? Was it an old, unused clip from 1977? Was it time travel? it was spiffy.)

I am now ready to huddle in a fetal position while I recover from this emotionally devastating movie.

UPDATE: at this source I found this interesting info about the Leia cameo: 

This is the big one, as it comes in the very last few shots of the film. The plans make it to the Tantive IV space-corvette and are delivered into the hands of a person wearing pristine white robes. The person turns around and, obviously, its Princess Leia Organa. And just like Tarkin, young Carrie Fisher has been recreated for her few seconds onscreen via CG. This shot is a big deal as it establishes even more about Leia Organa’s backstory; we now know that Leia was present during the entire battle over Scarif, and that she escaped on board the Tantive IV by the skin of her teeth. Even before we see Leia for the first time in “A New Hope” as she uploads the plans into Artoo, she’s already survived one harrowing space battle. We’ve always known that Leia’s tough as nails and a survivor, and this one scene in “Rogue One” just confirms that. And on top of all that, Leia gets the final line of the movie as she states, a smile on her face, that the rebels now have a new hope.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Thoughts On "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" (No Spoilers)

1. This is a LOT better than Cursed Child!  I think I'll have to nose about into some research and see if Rowling had a bigger hand in writing this script than she did Cursed Child.  Beasts does not have the plot holes or problems of breaking the rules of Rowling's magical world.
2. Love the 1920s setting!!  Fun!
3. There are very few children in this movie, and only one of them has even any significance.  Does this mean that the intended audience is adults?  Or that Rowling did not worry about having adults be the main characters in a show for children?
Newt is childlike enough, shy and unlikely to look people in the eye.  (That bothered me, incidentally.  I kept wanting him to look at people instead of past them!)  And, of course, there's no sex (a couple of kisses and one slightly sexual reference).  Still, it's weird to have a Harry Potter story without kids in it.
4. It was very interesting seeing a story from this world without knowing the plot first, and knowing that it was MADE to be a movie, not just a book ADAPTED (usually poorly) into a movie.  It will be interesting to read the script.
5. Rowling's distrust of government comes through in this tale again.  Was it her idea or someone else's to make the corrupt government official look like Mitt Romney?  I found that highly amusing. :D
6. There was no Easter egg at the end. :(
7. What happened to Modesty?  We last see her hiding in a corner, and then..... BIG CLIMAX SCENE.... and we never find out what happens to her. 
Unless, of course, her story continues in the next movie....... bump-bump-PAH!
8. Messages which were inserted into the film:
    A) Don't trust politicians.
    B) Beating kids is bad -- especially if they rebel and decide to get even.
    C) Religious extremists are evil cloaked in a facade of self-righteousness.
9. I liked how the wizarding world in America in the 1920s had women in powerful positions, which certainly was not true of the real world at the time.

Overall, it's a good show.  I will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out.

Friday, October 7, 2016

In Which I Rant Against Benevolent Patriarchy And Everyday Sexism

Warning: Rant Ahead. Do not read if you cannot handle feminism (i.e. the belief that women are people too).
Right now, I'm not disgusted with Trump after the leak of this video clip wherein he talks about married women as objects. After all, why is that really so much worse than all the rest of his talk about women? I think we all know what he thinks of women.
No, what's angering me right now is all these self-righteous men who've suddenly declared Trump over the line because of his comments about married women. Apparently, to them it was OK when he called other women bimbos and fatties and various other words that I think I won't type just now.
Get this tweet:

Mitt Romney Verified account
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world.

So lovely Mr. Morality Mittens is shocked... shocked! at Trump. But notice that Mitt uses POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES about women? "OUR wives and daughters." Obviously, he's talking to MEN in this tweet -- because it's the MEN who OWN these wives and daughters who should be shocked! Mittens Dearest doesn't actually acknowledge women in this tweet -- because they are objects and cannot feel.
Benevolent patriarchy is just as sickening as Trump's sexist remarks. I loathe Trump, but at least he admits he has no real respect for women; he's fairly up front about it. Mitt, however, clearly thinks he's on higher moral ground because he doesn't use "vile" words; he doesn't even realize that speaking about women as objects owned by men is sexist and repulsive.
Then there's wimpy Gov. Gary Herbert. He just tweeted that he is shocked... shocked!... by Trump. And he will not vote for him. But in the same tweet, he says he cannot vote for Hillary. Of course not. After all, she IS a woman! Gasp!
So, he'll vote for some libertarian wacko ... and the vote will help Trump. Disgusting. He can't bring himself to vote for the most qualified candidate we've had in ..... well, really EVER (who else has been a senator, Sec. of State, AND a President's wife to see the ups and downs of the office? NO ONE else who's ever run)... because she's a woman. Oh, and a Democrat. Her other sin.
Sexist crap.
I'd seriously rather listen to Trump's sick tape than listen to these hypocrites pretend they're better that Trump because they don't use ugly words against women, when if fact they are clearly putting themselves above women anyway.
End rant.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Sequel to Nerissa MacKay is ready for beta readers!

I just finished the last pre-beta reader edit of Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls!
As soon as I can make a decent cover (this is proving difficult; I've taken hundreds of pics, and I'm not happy with any of them), I'll have a proof made up and send it out to beta readers.

Here's the blurb for the back.  Comments/constructive criticism would be appreciated:

 Just hours after her discovery of an ancestor’s workshop, Nerissa sets the whole town on fire with gossip by using a refurbished automaton to announce some long-hidden secrets during opening weekend for her Auntie Jane’s Haunted Zoo.  When the automaton is stolen and the wife of the sheriff might know too much about the crime, Nerissa goes looking for justice on her own.

Keeping her dalliances with witchcraft to herself becomes harder when she must turn herself invisible more often.  Does Auntie Jane suspect anything?  And just how well can that strangely pale Eric see in the dark?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: My Thoughts As I Read It For the First Time

Before beginning: I can't wait!  After nine years, Rowling has given us MORE to the story, a part we never expected to get!
Oh wait. It says she didn't really write it; it's based on a STORY she wrote, so, probably one of those plot summaries she's been putting on pottermore.  Hmmm... That's not so exciting.
Also, is it "Curs├ęd Child" or "Cursed Child"?  No one seems to know.  I like the former better.
Act I:
First few scenes:
This is like a skimpy version of the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, only they're changing details.

Several scenes in:
What is it with Rowling at ages of characters?  Amos Diggory is an old man in a wheelchair?  Why?  Even if we assume he was 35 when Cedric was born, then add 18 years for Cedric's life and the 25 years since Cedric's death, that still only make s him 78.  Why is in he in a care center?  Why is he in a wheelchair?  He's not THAT old!  McGonagall's got to be pushing 90 -- at least!  And she's still teaching at Hogwarts!
This is like the whole "What happened to Harry's grandparents?" bit.  Both James and Lily were born in 1960 and had a child at age 20.  If their parents had them that young, then their parents should only be in their early 40s by the time James and Lily are killed in 1981, yet they are apparently ALL dead.  Even if their sets of parents were older -- let's say the parents were 35 when  they had kids -- that still means that all Harry's grandparents -- muggle and magical -- are only in their late 50s when he becomes an orphan.  Why are ALL of them dead so young?
And now Aunt Petunia has died.  Her age is never specified in the books, but she can't be more than a couple of years older than Lily, based on her naive reactions to Lily's abilities and her own jealousies.  So, if Petunia was born in 1958 and we've now got the Cursed Child script up to 2020 when her death is mentioned, then she's still only 62 at the time of her death.  Why so young?!

Still in Act I:
Wait.  Is Hermione the Minister of Magic?  Cool!  Or wait.  Maybe she isn't.  It's not very clear.

OK.  This is lame.  Some scripts are beautiful to read: Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde.  Some less so but still with great depth of character: Tennessee Williams.  This stuff, however, is like reading really bad fan fiction.  I've seen junior high kids who can write more engaging stuff than this.  It's positively sketchy, and there is ZERO characterization.
It's like a cartoon.  No wait.  I think Scooby Doo had more characterization going on than this script has.

The only reason for its existence is that everyone's desperate enough for more Harry that we're willing to stoop to this.  I certainly hope the actors are talented enough to bring life to this miserable script.

More to come........ (I WILL finish this!  I will!)

UPDATE: 8/14/16
I put off reading this because I was so disappointed, but I have now finished it.
It did get a bit better, but not much. It was like reading fan fiction.  And all the magic was dead.
I'm pretty sure I wish it had never been written.  Bleah.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


As the school where I have taught for the last 28 years prepared to be absorbed into the local high school, there was a great deal of moving, and we teachers stacked unwanted items into our Large Group Instruction Room (Note: if you're older than 35, it's what a multi-purpose room is now called.).  We were allowed to scavenge out anything we wanted before the rest was sent to the DI (Deseret Industries, the LDS thrift stores).   Mounds of books were there for the taking, and I took plenty!
Among the books were some from our teachers' library, and I grabbed a large pile of crime novels by Tony Hillerman.  With the help of the local public library's filling in the gaps for the novels missing in the stack, I've now read the nearly the first 10 in the series, so I've got a good feel for the recurring characters and the setting, as well as Hillerman's style.
Overall, it's a pretty good series -- obviously, or I wouldn't still be reading it ten books in and prepared to read the rest.  But Hillerman, in trying to make Navajos always the heroes, goes a little overboard with racial stereotyping of every non-Native American race.
Mostly, whites are stereotyped.  The white characters in the books are usually either portrayed as foolish for their wannabe Indian ways or else angry and unappreciative of the desert or of other cultures.  This is forgivable, I suppose, as the whole purpose of the series is to make readers more aware of Navajo life and culture, so I guess making whites the "Other" works.
But one of the main things of which Hillerman makes fun in nearly every book is that white folks can't tell one tribe from another, that "all Indians look the same."  (OK, fair enough.  I'm not sure I could tell a Cherokee from an Iroquois, but Navajos are usually pretty easy to spot.  One gets to be familiar with their genetic traits when one sees them around in Southern Utah enough.) He really pounds this theme.
This is why I found it hilarious that Hillerman totally and completely misses his own stereotyping -- probably actually racism at this point -- of Latinos in book 9, Talking God.
In the story, a middle-aged man has been murdered and his body has been left in the brush near a train track.  All identification has been removed from the body -- even his dentures have been taken -- so that the murderer cannot be traced through the victim.
Hillerman's two protagonists, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, are both working on the crime from separate angles.  Leaphorn learns from the Amtrack people that among the victim's possessions recovered from the sleeping compartment of the train were a couple of books in Spanish.  He also learns that the Amtrack employee who gathered up the victim's things is a man named Perez, who speaks Spanish and apparently had some conversation with the victim at a point or two before his murder.
Leaphorn, desperate for clues as to the victim's identity, grills Perez for two pages about everything the victim said or had in his room.  (Note: this book was written in the 1980s.  Apparently, it was not normal for people to have their names on their train tickets or to reserve sleeping compartments at the time, because Hillerman never has Leaphorn ask about that.)
Now, Leaphorn supposedly speaks some Spanish (later in the book he manages some fairly complex sentences, including the irregular formal command tense of the verb "to come"), but  he speaks only English to Perez.
Now, here's the irony: Hillerman, who for 9 novels has made fun of whites who think all Indians are the same, clearly thinks all Latinos (he calls them "Hispanos") are the same.  At no point does Hillerman have Leaphorn ask Perez or Perez volunteer his opinions as to where the murder victim is from.  Hillerman seems completely unaware that a Spaniard doesn't speak like a Mexican who doesn't speak like an Argentine who doesn't speak like a Cuban who doesn't speak like a Chilean (which is, incidentally, what the victim turns out to be, whereas Perez is likely to be Mexican if he's from the West or Puerto Rican or Cuban if he's from the East; either way, he'd have been able to tell by the victim's speech alone that the man was from Chile or Venezuela and from his looks that he was unlikely to be Peruvian -- as the victim was quite tall).  But Hillerman, he who makes fun of "all Indians are the same" clearly has "all 'Hispanos' are the same" in his own belief system.

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's Really Not All That Hard, Folks.

In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando (49 people killed by a gunman in a gay night club), the internet has been swamped with people talking about how to explain to their kids that gay people were killed -- presumably because they were gay or friends of gays.  This has also led to more discussion about whether or not schools should mention the existence of LGBTQ folks to children.
My thoughts?
Look, it's really not that hard to explain to kids, folks.  Let me give you an example:

It's 1995 and a gay couple in my dance group, Bart and Thom (both white), have just adopted an infant girl, Eliza (black).  Although I have been around gay men in various dance groups for years at this point, I have never heard of gay marriage before and have had no clue that a gay couple would even want to adopt a child.  (I will learn much in the years that follow.)  Nevertheless, I like Bart very much and try to like his (understandably, in retrospect) rather defensive partner, Thom, and I wish them happiness -- even as I wrap my mind around a new concept.
It's their 3rd time bringing their new daughter (some 5 or 6 weeks old at this point) to rehearsal, and I happen to be standing nearby as Thom is picking up her things, preparing to leave, when the 7-year-old son of a straight, white, Mormon man in the group stares at baby Eliza and says, "Where's her mom?  How come she doesn't have one?"
Thom looks up and our eyes meet.  He and I have never been super-friendly at this point (we will get over this in the future), never allies -- as he has too much resentment for Mormons and the Church's intolerance of gays.  However, I see he's a panicked new dad; he has not yet figured out how to answer this awkward question in the 1995 world of intolerance.  There is a split second of silence between us, during which I realize that my experience as a teacher needs to override his right as a father -- just this once, until his feet are more firmly planted in the role.
"Oh, she has a mom," I say confidently.  "Everybody has a mom.  But Eliza's birth mom knew that she would not be able to take care of her, give her a safe home and a good education.  So when her birth mom found out that Bart and Thom wanted a baby to love, she was very happy to know that her little girl would be going to a good home."
Immense relief floods Thom's face.  "Exactly!" he says, smiling.  (I can tell he plans to use my explanation the next time a child asks him.)
"Oh," says the boy, and he runs off to do something else.  He is satisfied.  He has no problem with the baby's having two fathers.  He has no problem with her being a black child of white parents.  He has ABSOLUTELY NO ADULT HATE OR HANG UPS over the situation at all.  That's it.

More than 20 years later, it's easier, not harder, to explain this stuff to kids.  Not everybody has the same kind of family.  It's not that hard, folks.  Stop getting so worked up about it, and just tell kids the truth on a level that's right for their age.  The 7-year-old wasn't asking about gay sex; he just wanted to know where the mom of the baby was.  An 11-year-old would probably have more questions and need more explanation.
So, how do you explain to kids about the tragedy in Orlando?  Well, you tell them there are scary people in the world, people filled with hate of those who are different from themselves or different from what they think people should be like.  And sometimes these scary people set out to hurt and kill.  This time, gay people were the target.  Yes, it's scary.  And, yes, we do need to be careful.  But we don't need to hate; that will only make it worse.

Hiding stuff from kids will only make them suspicious and afraid.  Just tell them simply and truthfully, but not hatefully.

Oh, and just so you know, Bart and Thom are still together now.  They live in a different state, so I'm not sure if they're married or not, now that it's legal.  But they raised Eliza and Andy (adopted a year or so later) into great young adults.  Their family -- which worked just fine -- was the main reason I never picked up on the Mormon hatred of gay families.  By the time such stuff began to be preached in Church, I already knew that a gay family wasn't all that much different from any other family, and certainly was nothing to fear.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gosh, Do You Think They Copied Each Other???

I have the tedious chore tonight of grading Shakespeare packets.  The front page of these packets on which my 9th graders were to have taken notes for a whole term contains a timeline of 10 major events in the Bard's life.  One of the dates is 1592, which is the date I gave them as when we're sure he'd made it to London, as he was already being discussed critically.  I said -- but did not write on the board -- that critic Robert Greene had at that time referred to him as "an upstart crow."
I'm guessing that one kid in my 3B English 9 core class must have misheard that and copied it down wrong -- and then allowed at least one person to copy from her/him.
At any rate, nearly half the packets from that class period have labeled the timeline at 1592 as "Shakespeare writes 1st play, 'The Upset Crow.'"
Obviously, we will have a mini-lesson on the next B-day about how misinformation gets spread.  (I really don't want them all telling people, "But Ms. Shafer SAID that was his first play!")

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

I really liked Cat Winters' The Cure For Dreaming, so when I saw that The Steep and Thorny Way was a re-telling of Hamlet, done by an author I liked, well, I just HAD to read it.
My thoughts: meh.
It's very, very loosely tied to Hamlet. Very loosely.  Like, we get the dead father's ghost coming back and a few characters who have resemblances to Shakespeare's characters only in the most lax sense.  (Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern -- aka Robbie and Gil-- are treacherous, Laertes -- Laurie -- is hot-tempered, Ophelia -- Fleur -- grows flowers to remind us of the insanity scene and gets picked on by her brother.  But Greta -- Gertrude -- and Clyde -- Claudius -- don't follow the original much except that they marry, and the Horatio character -- Joe -- is so far removed from Shakespeare that his only resemblance to Horatio is that he is a confidant for Hannalee, who is Hamlet, of course.)  And no one dies except Hannalee's dad Hank.
The story itself works except that Winters made it so didactic that its MESSAGE is shoved right into the reader's face over and over and over.
Look, I agree that racism and homophobia are bad things, and I fight against them daily as a school teacher (along with sexism, which completes the Unholy Trinity of current political conservatism).  But this story reads like a white woman's penance for her racist ancestors.  There is no subtlety about the MESSAGE, no chance for the reader to discover lessons from history, no enlightenment.  It reads like a Sunday School story (except that Sunday School stories, at least Mormon ones, do not show homophobia and racism as evils).
The MESSAGE is good, but the book is so very much MESSAGE that it ceases to be a story.  Perhaps if the story had had some subplots so that there was more to the book than just the MESSAGE, I would have liked it better.

In response to a negative comment about this review on Amazon, I added the following response:

Yes, I prefer good writing as a method for making one's point.
May I suggest to you works that allow the reader to discover the point instead of preaching it to them in an off-putting way?  For works that show in a masterful way the ugliness of racism, try Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Scott's Ivanhoe, and Shakespeare's Othello and The Merchant of Venice.  Oh, and if you want YA that shows ugly, hateful racism and its consequences, try the Harry Potter series.  Other works which allow the reader to discover very powerful messages include Poe's "Ligea," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" (showing that psychotic murderers aren't always obvious to other people), Hawthorne's "The Birth Mark" (showing that domestic abuse is horrifying and deadly) and "Young Goodman Brown" (showing how life-ruining hypocritical religiosity can be), and O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation" (showing that sometimes rules need to be bent a little).
Winters did much better at subtlety in The Cure For Dreaming.  I expected the same of her in this book, but I was disappointed.  Had she taken the time to write Thorny more skillfully, it might have been a powerfully moving book for teen readers.  As it is, it's preachy.  Teens are turned off when someone preaches to them.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

(The cover glows in the dark!  I discovered this fact quite by accident.)

This is not a new book; it's from 2012.  But somehow I had never heard of it until I pulled a used copy out of a local neighborhood's little free library and took it home.  And it was fabulous!  Seriously, this is the BEST book I've read in quite some time.  It's just so layered and so clever that I had to keep re-reading parts to catch the subtleties.  (And I probably will read the whole thing again to catch even more.)
Basically, Sloan has taken the idea of an epic tale, removed the magic, and written a book set in a modern world but with an epic plot structure.  Mysterious group of people dating back hundreds of years? Check.  A quest?  Check. An old man/mentor who knows far more than he tells?  Check. An evil ruler with great power over many?  Check.  A journey to the Underworld? Check. A protagonist who does not realize his own abilities until they have been tested? Check.  Faithful companions who have their own reasons for the quest? Check.  A mysterious object?  Check.  It's all there, people.
Sloan took some real historical figures -- Aldus Manutius, a Venetian printer, and Francesco Griffo, whom Sloan recasts as Griffo Geritzoon, the actual inventor of the italic typefont -- and he creates a mystery surrounding what they did.  It's encoded in an ancient book, and Mr. Penumbra's bookstore holds a library of people's attempts to find the message, which supposedly holds the key to eternal life.
Since so many reviews have already been written about this book, I'm going to skip the plot summary and just dive straight into refuting the negative reviews.
Zip Dementia on Amazon claims the characters aren't developed.
"Dementia" may be correct for this reviewer.   Clay, Neel, Kat, Igor, Penumbra, Deckle, Corvina -- even the super-minor characters like Tabitha and Daphne -- all have wants, needs, and goals.  Each works perfectly into the plot.  Seriously, did this reviewer even bother to connect the name Penumbra with its meaning? 
Multiple reviewers claim that Clay, the protagonist, has no personality.
Of them I ask, "Did you finish reading the book?"  How did you not notice that Clay is humble and believes he's nothing special, even though everyone else can see it?  Are you too stupid to grasp a character's personality when the book is told in 1st person POV?  Or do you need a 3rd person narrator to tell you everything?  Have you ever heard of "show; don't tell"?
Multiple reviewers seem to think there's too much Google in the book.
OK.  But the internet takes the place of magic in this tale.  And Clay's visits to Google -- the place of wonder, where the employees are all treated incredibly well and where so many brilliant minds work together to do amazing things -- is much like Frodo's visit to Lothlorian, or Lancelot's trip to Camelot, or -- you get the picture. 
And Google is the perfect modern method for finding answers, the answers that are escaping the members of our quest.
Maria Korchagin on Amazon says the book is "unresearched."
Really?  I suspect it is she who hasn't done her research, especially since she gives not one example of a mistake supposedly made by Sloan.  Perhaps if she'd taken the time to look up a few names, she'd have learned how much Sloan put into this tale.
Numerous reviewers refer to this as a mystery.
Um, no. It's a fantasy tale minus the magic.  There's no crime.  It's a puzzle to solve.
One goodreads reviewer claimed the romance isn't romantic. 
Clay, the protagonist, treats his preferred lover Kat with respect, giving her choices and the space to put work first when she needs to do so.  Maybe that's not romantic, but it's decent and considerate and feminist.  I'll take it.
Several reviewers claim they don't know much about computers, so this book isn't "for" them.
Good heaven, people, I'm an English teacher, and yet I grasped the computer-ish parts of this book just fine!  You don't have to know how to code in order to understand what happens here.  And remember: the internet and Google are the "magic" in this book.  They are the awesome and profound powers that help to provide conflict and resolution in the plot.
This is a fantastic book.  It's one I intend to read over and over. Still, it's probably not for everyone.
If you like fantasy stories, this is your book.  If you loved role-playing games back in the day when they weren't online, if you know creative people who make things and have vivid imaginations, this is your book.
If you want a mystery, however, or a bodice-ripper, this is NOT your book.
That being said, I'd give it more than five stars if I could.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"But They Were CALLING To Me!"

A few days ago I went to the local thrift shop and picked up a small armload of paperbacks for 50¢ each.
Yesterday, our librarian announced that, since our junior high is being absorbed into the local high school, there is no need for the teachers' library (of more "grown up" books) which has been located in the teachers' workroom for about 8 years.  He told us to take whatever we wanted.  I took about 8 thrillers and biographies.
And today I went to the local library in order to return some items -- and brought home a bag of things to read.
Also, my TBR stacks are teetering on the dresser and floor of the spare bedroom anyway, and all my bookshelves (in every room of the house except the bathroom) are STUFFED.
However, I did use self-restraint today.
You see, it's the public library's used book sale week.  And today was BAG DAY, wherein patrons could fill a large back of books for $5.00.
I held back and did not go.
You should be very proud of me.

But I could definitely relate to the teenage girl I saw exiting the local library as I was entering it.  She was holding a full-to-bursting tote bag of books and following her mother, who had a disgusted look on her face.  As I passed the pair, the girl whined loudly to her mother, "But they were CALLING to me!"
Oh my dear girl, I know EXACTLY how you feel!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mormons And Divorce: Debunking The Myth

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I've heard it said or implied in Church that LDS Temple marriages far less likely to end in divorce than what Mormons call "civil marriages" (which include any legal marriages -- even those performed by LDS bishops in LDS meetinghouses -- not performed in one of the LDS Church's 150-ish temples by those with special authority upon those who've -- theoretically -- met the highest standards of worthiness).
Many times, local leaders and/or teachers will flat-out state that God blesses those who marry in the Temple far more than those who don't, so that the marriages of the former have a God-given chance of lasting and all others take their chances with the US divorce rate of 50%.  Other Mormons have taken a more practical view, stating that it's simply that those who are willing to conduct their lives according to such high standards share common views and common goals, and thus they are likely more able to make their marriages work.
Yet, every time I'd hear this claim, I'd always remembered that I knew quite a few people who'd been divorced after marrying in the Temple and that most of the very best marriages I know are between people who never bothered with the Temple.
Thus, a few months ago, I started jotting down notes, adding to my lists as I went.  And I've come to the conclusion that, based on my own personal knowledge, there isn't a whole lot of difference in numbers of divorces from Temple marriages vs. civil marriages.
Let me give the specifics.
First of all, I determined the following: 1) These must be heterosexual marriages because gay marriage is too new and because it is not allowed in the Temple anyway. 2) I could only count people who lived in Utah or had been raised in Utah, LDS or not. 3) I could only count couples I knew personally or else knew their children very well and had heard in-depth stories concerning the demise of the marriages.
Then I listed the names of the couples, noting whether or not theirs had been a Temple marriage and indicating the reason for the divorce.
(One surprising find was that I could only list a couple of marriages wherein I knew that some kind of financial problem had been a part of the cause, and only a single instance wherein I knew that finances had been the main cause.  I have always heard that financial problems are the #1 cause of marriage break-up in the US, so this surprised me.  However, I do have a long list of people where I don't know the cause of their divorce, so perhaps this is where all the financial problems really are hiding.)
Here are the reasons for divorce and the numbers:

The man cheated on his wife: 8 Temple, 4 civil, (plus 2 more Temple marriages where the woman wanted to leave but had no way to support herself so she stayed)
The woman cheated: 1 Temple, 1 civil
The man wanted a new life or a new wife: 10 Temple, 4 civil
The woman wanted a new life or a new husband: 1 Temple
The man refused to get/keep a job: 1 Temple (plus 1 civil where this almost happened, but then the wife took him back for some unfathomable reason)
The woman was an idiot and the husband could stand it no longer: 3 Temple, 1 civil
The man was an arrogant jerk and the woman could stand it no longer: 7 Temple, 6 civil
The man was an idiot and the wife could stand it no longer: 1 Temple
The man had substance abuse problems: 2 civil
The woman had substance abuse problems: 1 civil
The man was gay but had hoped to be "cured" by marrying a woman: 1 Temple
The couple got married way too young and simply outgrew each other: 6 civil
The couple had not dated enough other people before marriage: 1 civil
The man had charmed the woman into marriage so he could get US citizenship: 1 civil
The man wanted access to the wife's bank account: 1 Temple
The man had mental health issues which the woman thought she could "cure": 1 Temple
The couple married too fast without getting to know each other first: 2 Temple, 2 civil
Unknown reasons: 6 Temple, 11 civil

Total number of Temple marriages ending in divorce: 43
Total number of civil marriages ending in divorce: 37
(I didn't count the "almost" divorces.)

Obviously, that's pretty close.  Based on my personal knowledge, I don't think I agree that Temple marriages are inherently more likely to last than civil marriages.
Other things that become apparent from my tallies:
Number of divorces where the man was to blame: 47
Number of divorces where the woman was to blame: 8
Number of divorces where both parties were to blame: 11
Number where the blame is unknown: 17
I'm going to state here that, based on my observations, it's more likely to be the guy who wrecks a marriage than the gal.

At any rate, I think I'm less likely than ever to believe that LDS Temple marriages are all that much less likely to end in divorce than other types are.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Story Starter?

Yesterday I needed to take some long-unused clothing to the DI (Deseret Industries. Whatever problems the LDS church has with other issues, it handles welfare and job training for its members and many others very well, hiring and training refugees, the physically and mentally handicapped, the recently homeless, etc. The DI is a chain of second-hand stores where many of these people get work experience.  It's also a great place to find craft items, costume pieces, and used books.), and naturally I wanted to go inside and hunt through their books as well. (Just because I have overflowing shelves and stacks of books doesn't mean that I don't want MORE books!)  So, after I unloaded my sacks of tee shirts unworn for a decade or so, I pulled the car around into the parking lot.
As I pulled into a space, I noticed a 20-something African-American boy (I'd say "man," but he was acting like an overgrown 8th grader, so "boy" seems more fitting.) tucking something under a red car parked on the other side of the grass divider from me.  He looked guilty as he saw me, then he scowled defiantly -- as if he knew this teacher would disapprove -- hitched up his saggy gangpants, and swaggered his way into the store.
"What a punk!" I thought.  "There's a trash can only 20 feet away!  He had to pass it to get to the door!"
When I got out of my car, I glanced toward the red car, expecting to find a fast-food sack, but it was a T-Mobile sack with an opened box poking out of it.
Weird.  Had he stolen a phone then tried to hide the evidence?  No, if he'd stolen it, he wouldn't have a sack.
I seriously considered  picking up the sack and taking it to the trash, but I didn't, for bending over at that angle would have hurt my back.
However, when I went inside the store --- which isn't all that huge, and which is nothing more than a big box, with no nooks in which to hide -- he was gone.  He must've gone out an employee exit.
I spent the next 20 minutes choosing Agatha Christie paperbacks.  But after I'd paid, I remembered the punk kid and the T-Mobile bag, so I looked for the trash.
The red car was gone, another was parked in its place, and the T-Mobile sack was gone -- although there were a few other garbage items left by other piglets kicking around within the surrounding 20 feet or so, which let me know that no custodial crew had come by to pick up.
Had some customer picked up his trash?  Or was it not trash?  Was he not really a punk kid, but perhaps a drug dealer leaving a stash for someone?  Or maybe he was a spy?
Yes, he was probably a punk kid, but there may be a story here in the making.  :D

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Teaching Is Exhausting

We have a new math teacher at our school, replacing one who is on a mysterious "leave of absence."
However, the new guy has been an instant hit at the school: all the girls thing he's hotter than Hades and all the boys think he's cool because he has so many tattoos.  The teachers feel confident that because the fellow only recently left the Marines, he is unlikely to be cowed by obnoxious teens.
He's doing well, even for taking over mid-year as he has.  Of course, he has plenty of support from the rest of the faculty, as we are a school which works together, not against one another.

Friday we celebrated Pi Day with pie before beginning our afternoon meetings, and the following conversation occurred:

New Math Teacher: *enters room and drops onto a chair* I am EXHAUSTED!
All More Experienced Teachers In Room: *knowing laughter*
New:  No, really!  Six months ago, I'd put a 40 lb pack on, hike 10 miles, come home and drink a 6-pack.  I'd be FINE.  Now, I go home after school, drink a glass of milk, and collapse for a nap!  It's UNREAL!
All: *loud laughter*
Science Teacher: It'll get better.
Me: No, it won't, but you'll get used to it!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Book Review: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

There was some steampunk.  There were some paranormal creatures.  There was a lot of guilt about how whites treated native tribes in the Old West.  There was blood -- and gore and cannibalism.
The plot worked OK.  The pacing was OK.
The characters were cartoonish.  Seriously, I felt like this was some kind of steampunk melodrama and that Dudley Doright would soon appear on the scene to save the day.
I had to force myself to finish the book because I didn't care about any of the characters or their fates or motivations.  They were all potentially interesting, but this whole book seemed to be the work of someone who'd gotten lucky with their first book; the writing was immature, with no depth.

However, there were no major errors.  So, if you feel like a steampunk/old west/paranormal beach read, this might be for you.  If you can make yourself finish it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

This book is a true alternate history book: no magic, no paranormal, just what would be historical fiction except that a huge change has been made.  In this case, the huge change to history is that the Supreme Court has allowed women to be enlist/ be drafted into WWII.
I found this change to be a very timely thing, as the actual possibility of women's registering for the draft sometime in the near future has recently been suggested (and thrown conservative news comments sections into a tizzy).  I really liked how Grant presented the obvious but often overlooked fact that many girls/women simply wouldn't have the physical strength necessary to make it into combat anyway.  In Front Lines, this is made very clear.
The book has three main protagonists whose stories weave together.  Each girl is very well drawn out as a character, as are the personalities of the supporting characters.  I felt this was a real strong point in the book.
I also loved how the main military conflicts followed were all set in Tunisia.  It's easy to find historical fiction set in Europe during the War, not so much so with the Pacific Theatre, but Africa?  I'd never heard of a book's covering that part of the War before.
Grant seems to have done quite a bit of research.  True, I'm no expert, but I was delighted to read a supporting character's description of the Pacific war hero, General Douglas MacArthur.  On page 231, Grant has a character say, "The general... well, I shouldn't say it, but he's a pompous ass and a showboat...."  I've never read such a thing in print --ever!  But my father, who fought with the unit temporarily assigned to protect MacArthur, has spent 70 years making fun of the general for staging photo shoots in perfectly pressed trousers weeks after the battles were over.  (In those days, there was no instant sharing of pics, so the public was more easily fooled.)
I really liked this book, and I would have given it five stars, but the end is ... lame.
Grant gets us through the battle, lets us know who made it out alive, and then he just stops.  Not even one of the numerous subplots is resolved.  The narrator never identifies herself (or possibly himself), which is even more aggravating that the protagonists with no names in The Invisible Man and Rebecca.  I'm guessing this is a set up for a sequel, but since the book begins and ends with teasers at the end of the war, it all just feels wrong.  And cheap.  It's as if Grant thought, "Oh, the book's getting too long; I'll just stop here."  Boo! Hiss!
Other irritating things include: 1) the book is written in present tense, which is SO ANNOYING, 2) Grant uses "fug" for the F-word throughout the book and "Nigra" for the N-word -- which makes his tone condescending (there are other ways to let readers know what's been said without actually printing the words, if he's concerned about losing his YA readers or making their mommies mad), and 3) in spite of Grant's attempt to be all trendy and cool by writing female protagonists, it's clear he's Mr. Macho Male and too squeamish to deal with the major problem a girl in fighting situations would have: menstruation.  (Kotex and Tampax would have been wondrous and new to country girls entering the army, but pads were held in place with garter-like belts.  Girls would worry about rashes, smells, disposal, leaks, cramps, etc.  This would have been huge!  Grant's characters appear not to menstruate so that he doesn't have to mention "icky" things in a book which includes headless corpses and intestines spilling out. *rolls eyes*)
On the whole, however, this is a very good read, and I enjoyed it.


Yes, it's been awhile.  Sorry.
Three of my immediate family members have had some serious health problems.  Then my own body decided it was feeling left out and developed a few new weirdnesses requiring multiple doctor visits (during which time, two of my favorite doctors decided to relocate, forcing me to find new ones).
 And school is .... well, in a unique situation.
You see, I've taught at a traditional junior high (grades 7-9) for many years.  And, at the end of this year, our school will be absorbed into the nearby high school, becoming a second campus as the high school shifts from 10-12 to 9-12.   There has been a good deal more durm and strang than usual with registering the 7th graders for a different junior high for 8th grade, registering both 8th and 9th graders at least a month earlier than usual for high school, and the interviewing of teachers for different job placements (as we cannot continue to teach at a school which no longer exists).  As I have not yet been placed, I live in limbo, not even yet able to pack up my numerous files and such in order to move... somewhere.
All this means I haven't done one speck of writing or editing since last autumn.  I've done a good deal of reading, though, so I'm going to try to post some book reviews and not let this blog die. :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Just Added A Retro-Look 50s Shower Curtain To My Zazzle Store

Yeah, it's a shower curtain.  Isn't it quirky?  I love it.  I may have to buy one for myself.
I took vintage 50s commercial art that Dad drew for a hardware company ad and had it scanned at the highest resolution the camera store offered.  Dad thinks it's fun that we're using his old artwork on Zazzle, so I have his full permission to do this. :)
Thus, if you have a hankering for a unique touch for your mid-century modern look bathroom -- or if you just like the lovely lady with the dangling earrings -- you can zip over to my Zazzle store and buy one of these.
Just click here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What Happens When Voters Become Educated On The Issues

Every year, I take my 9th grade core classes through two essay-writing experiences, one each semester.
This year, our district provided Chromebooks for each English class, so researching had to include using the new devices.
As we have an election coming up, I decided to have their 1st semester essay topic be "Who would make the best US President in 2016?"  Now that the semester is drawing to a close and the assignment is all but over (although I will still be accepting late essays until this Friday), I thought I'd blog about some surprises I got along the way.
I teach in a working class area.  Most such areas in Utah are highly conservative and highly Republican.  I really and truly expected to have to grade a whole bunch of essays extolling the virtues of Donald Trump.
I set up the assignment by explaining to the kids that in 2012, a lot of people voted for or against Obama or Romney based on skin color or religion.  I told them I hoped they would learn how foolish that was as they researched for their own essays.  I also reminded them that, while they cannot vote in 2016, they will be old enough for the 2020 election.
The kids were assigned to choose three "hot topics" they considered important: education, immigration, women's rights, gun rights/gun control, taxes, transportation, military issues.  I modeled for them how to begin at a given neutral website listing all candidates from all parties, instructing them that they must research four candidates from at least two parties.  Each day, I chose a different candidate's website and a different hot topic to model.  Other than telling the kids that I didn't think Trump's ideas were very practical, I was very careful not to let my own political preferences show; I merely showed the kids how to find information, how to take notes, how to construct the essay.
The results were almost entirely surprising.
I assumed they'd mostly write about Trump, as he was the only candidate of whom they'd heard, and it was clear that many of their parents were impressed by Trump.  I assumed no one would write about taxes (that turned out to be right), I assumed the Republican essays would "win" by a landslide, I assumed a sizable percentage of the kids would opt not to "vote" by not doing their essays (that was correct), I assumed no boys would write about women's rights and that no one would touch the abortion issue, I assumed many girls would go for Fiorina, as the Republican female choice, I assumed their would be much verbal abuse of Hillary.
My first surprise came when kids began to discover that Fiorina's website was useless.  They got mad that it said nothing about her positions on the issues.  Kids resented that she had nothing to say.
Not a single student in either class wrote about Fiorina.
My next surprise was how mad kids got when a few candidates dropped out; kids were miffed when they'd liked what the candidates said and then couldn't use it.
But the biggest surprise of all came when kids finished the research and began to write their essays.  Let me show you the results:
As of this writing, only 31 essays I have been handed in.  That's less than half of the students, although I expect at least five or six more kids will hand things in this week.  This part is no surprise; many kids are just plain lazy.
Of the 31, the "votes" were as follows:

Chris Christie: 1
Ben Carson: 2
Marco Rubio: 1
Bernie Sanders: 4
Hillary Clinton: 23

I was stunned.  As the kids researched, I thought Carson would be the favorite, as he's conservative, Republican, and has an easy-to-use website.  But it was Clinton by a landslide.
Most of the kids chose gun issues, healthcare, immigration, and either women's rights or education as their hot topics.  Hillary has a lot to say on those issues, and the kids -- even though most of them are very pro-gun rights -- thought she made sense.
And not a single kid who did the assignment even took notes on Trump.  One look at his website, and they saw how silly his ideas were.
Also, I tallied up women's issues:

Kids who wrote about women's rights:
Girls: 11
Boys: 4
Kids who wrote about abortion rights:
Girls: 3
Boys: 2
Kids who were anti-abortion:
Girls: 0
Boys: 0

(Keep in mind that I only helped kids understand what they were reading.  I helped them pick out things like women's pay, healthcare, etc.  If a candidate was indeed talking about abortion, it was often hard for the kids to grasp it through the rhetoric, so I would indicate what it really meant, and then tell the kids they could choose to agree or not.  I never told them what I thought about the issue.)

Things that did not surprise me: I had only 48% "voter" turn out and guns and immigration were of big interest to my students.
Things that did surprise me: Kids who had been pre-disposed toward ultra-conservatism and Republicans, once they actually researched the issues, found the less-extreme Democrat candidate to be the most appealing.

I thought I'd be reading about Trump.  I ended up reading about Hillary Clinton.
I could not be more pleased -- unless more kids had actually done the work.  :D

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review & Rant: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom (Or What Happens When Authors Haven't Been In A School In A Decade)

Because I got it in my December Uppercasebox subscription, the first book I read in 2016 was Eric Lindstrom's Not If I See You First, a YA romance with a blind protagonist named Parker.

I was excited to read it, but I ended up rather disappointed.  It's filled with stereotypes of what men think teenage girls are like and want guys to be like and how adults picture teen bullies.  It's also clear that while Lindstrom "researched" by talking to adults at the Braille society, he never bothered to talk to real teenagers who are blind -- or their friends or their public school teachers.
In 2011, I ranted about authors who assume high school is like it was when they attended.
I did it again in 2015,  with further comments here and here.
Now it's time to do it again.
Authors, if you're going to write about teenagers and school, you need to know what school is like in the contemporary world.
Mr. Lindstrom, if you're going to write about a blind teenager in 2015, you should talk to a few.
At our school, we've had a blind wrestling coach for years.  We've had 3 blind students during the years that I've taught at the school, all boys.  The first one also had developmental problems and was never in regular classes.  But last year we had 2 boys in almost entirely regular classes; one of them was my student.  And I can promise you, Mr. Lindstrom, that boy would laugh at some of the stuff you created -- because it's so wrong.
Let me go back to addressing the readers rather than the writers.
Lindstrom has 16-year-old Parker assigned a student buddy ALL DAY LONG, even though she's attended the school for two years and is fiercely independent.  No way.  No administration would put that kind of burden on a kid.  Parents would sue.  It's absurd.
What really happens is that a paraprofessional is hired -- if needed; every kid is different -- but teachers and students work it out in their own classrooms.  My blind student last year had two seeing students with whom he preferred to work in my class when possible.  During tests and for homework, however, the paraprofessional took over.
Also, Lindstrom seems to be unaware of technology.  Parker uses text-to-speech on her phone, but she does not have a Braille writer for taking notes in class nor any kind of recording device.  Again, this forces other kids to have to tutor her.  This is not reality.
Lindstrom does not have any counselor or special ed teacher or administrator ever checking up on Parker.  No adult seems to know that her father has died.  No meetings are held planning her education and modifications.  No teacher seems to modify anything for her.  No teacher notices when Parker has a meltdown in the commons area and then she and her friends sluff school all day in a massive drama queen party.  No one notifies Parker's aunt (her legal guardian).   This is beyond absurd.
Special needs students have files and are assigned SPED teachers as file holders.  Their progress is monitored; teachers are contacted as often as necessary and parents meet with them at least quarterly.  A student who has a major meltdown would be emailed news to all concerned teachers within minutes.  That student -- special needs or not -- would be with her/his counselor, the parent or guardian contacted, and friends calmed within a few minutes of the meltdown.  Students who bolted from school in emotional crises would be located by the school police and their parents contacted.  All teachers of a student who had lost a parent just before school started would be notified and asked to watch out for emotional needs.  (Yes, I've had several students lose parents over the years.)
Also, Lindstrom has the jock bullies pick on Parker so her love interests can rescue her.  It happens right by her locker.  This is unbelievable.
First of all, it has been uncool for years to pick on the physically handicapped.  Only once in my long years of teaching have I seen a physically handicapped kid get picked on (a wheelchair user -- and every other kid present came to his defense within seconds).  Bullies pick on the emotionally sensitive or mentally slower rather than the physically challenged.  And schools in the post-millenium world have security cameras.  No bully is going to go on camera doing stuff as obvious as what happens in this book.
Do I recommend this book?  Sort of.  It's mostly a romance; if you enjoy high school romances, this might be for you.  (Note: there's no sex or violence, but there's a lot of swearing, if that offends you.)  The characters are fairly stereotyped, although Parker herself has a bit more depth.  The pacing is good. And the book has been edited, which is always a plus.
If you're not a school teacher or a student yourself, the Hollywood version of high school might not bother you as much as it did me.
Give the book a try.  You might like it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

"Professional" Editing

There are SO many books out there that haven't been edited!  The problem is that most of these published first drafts are self-published, and that makes it hard for us other self-published writers to lure potential readers; discriminating readers want edited books, so they avoid ones they believe will be unedited.
As an English teacher who writes, I am extremely picky about editing my own work.  I re-read, revise, edit, and copy edit my manuscripts numerous times before they go out to beta readers.  Then I do it again before they go to my alpha reader/editor, who is another English teacher.  She rips the manuscripts apart and gleefully pens comments everywhere.  I love getting my stuff back from her; she's amazingly thorough and merciless. :D  Then I edit/revise AGAIN.  This means that by the time I release my self-published books out to the world, they've been edited at least a dozen times.
This is why it irks me when traditionally published books which have been "professionally edited and copy edited" are released with glaring errors.  I'm not talking about the occasional typo; I'm talking about "editors" who never passed 7th grade English.
For example, I love Paige Shelton's books, but her editors and copy editors have no freakin' clue what pronouns come after "than" used as a subordinating conjunction, and half the time, they think "alright" is a word.  (It isn't.  Neither is "alot.")
Of course, that's copy editing, which is essentially checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.  But what happens when you get a "professional" editor who's useless?  You get a confused reader; that's what.
Recently, I read Andrew Hunt's City of Saints, which is an LDS historical mystery.  I really liked the book, but I had to laugh at how profusely in the acknowledgement section Hunt thanked the editing team at St. Martin's Press, saying how much care they'd put into editing.  No, they didn't.  Let me explain.
In the opening paragraph of chapter 2 on page 10, Hunt gives some backstory about his protagonist in 1st person POV, claiming that in 1904, "Dad" purchased land and "just days before my birth, moved the family" into the home described.  At the end of the same paragraph, however, the protagonist says, "I was weeks away from turning thirteen when an unknown assailant.... killed him .... in 1914."
If the kid was born in 1904, how did he get to be 12 -- almost 13 -- in 1914?
Very early in chapter 7, on pages 59-60, the protagonist has a nightmare.  Hunt has him say, "I am twelve years old, about to turn thirteen.  It is 1914 again."  But six sentences later, Hunt has the protagonist wake, saying, "I am no longer eleven.  I am twenty-nine and it is 1930."
If he's 29 in 1930, then he was born in 1901, not 1904, and he was therefore not 11 in 1914.
Elsewhere in the book, Hunt has the protagonist's mother always serve Sunday dinner at 6:00 -- except in the one scene where she serves it at 6:30 for no apparent reason.
Also, in City of Saints, the protagonist's wife is an English teacher.  In the sequel, a Killing in Zion, she's a music teacher.
For this crappy editing, someone got PAID?  Seriously?
This makes me mad as an English teacher, but it makes me doubly mad as a self-published writer whose works are often ignored for fear they haven't been edited.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What I Read And What I Rejected In 2015

Once again, mysteries are my favorite genre, coming in at 66/129 or 51%.  No surprises there.
My goal was to read 130 books this year.  If you just look at the main list, then I didn't quite make it.  But if you count my re-readings/revisions of my own manuscripts, then I passed my goal.

Here's the main list:

  1. Armoires and Arsenic by Cassie Page **** cozy 1/3/15
  2. In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor ** prejudiced, condescending non-fiction 1/4/15
  3. 1603 by Christopher Lee *** non-fiction 1/12/15
  4. As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley **** cozy 1/14/15
  5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie **** mystery 1/16/15
  6. Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills **** MG realistic fiction 1/27/15
  7. The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp *** YA historical paranormal 1/30/15
  8. Crafting a Meaningful Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco *** non-fiction, crafts 1/31/15
  9. Crafty Chica’s Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano Murillo *** non-fiction, crafts 1/31/15
  10. The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur *****MG mystery 2/6/15
  11. Dorm Room Decor by Smith and Gonzalez ** non-fiction, crafts 2/6/15
  12. The Christmas Book by Council Oak Books ** non-fiction, crafts 2/7/15
  13. Recreative by Steve Dodds ** non-fiction, crafts 2/7/15
  14. Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton *** cozy mystery 2/8/15
  15. Fabric Memory Books by Lesley Riley **** non-fiction, crafts 2/9/15
  16. The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot by Robert Arthur *****MG mystery 2/10/15
  17. The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 2/11/15
  18. The Mystery of the Green Ghost by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 2/12/15
  19. The Case of the Vanishing Treasure by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 2/12/15
  20. Prophet’s Prey by Sam Brower ***** non-fiction (FLDS) 2/13/15
  21. The Secret of Phantom Lake by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 2/13/15
  22. No Mallets Intended by Victoria Hamilton *** cozy mystery 2/15/15
  23. Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton *** cozy mystery 2/17/15
  24. Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton *** cozy mystery 2/18/15
  25. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison ***** mystery 2/21/15
  26. Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith ***** paranormal A/A 3/2/15
  27. Stitching Snow by RC Lewis *** YA sci-fi 3/8/15
  28. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black **** YA fantasy 3/9/15
  29. A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas *** YA fantasy 3/11/15
  30. Charisma by Jeanne Ryan *** sort of sci-fi YA romance 3/12/15
  31. The Secret of Skull Island by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 3/12/15
  32. Prudence by Gail Carriger more or less YA steampunk paranormal 3/21/15
  33. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur *****MG mystery 3/23/15
  34. A Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina **** self-pub YA steampunk 3/25/15
  35. The Victorian Home by Judith Flanders ***** non-fiction 3/28/15
  36. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Pamela Hill Smith, ed) **** non-fiction 4/4/15
  37. The Secret of the Silver Spider by Robert Arthur ***** MG mystery 4/8/15
  38. The Mystery of the Purple Pirate by ?? ***** MG mystery 4/9/15
  39. The Polygamous Wives Writing Club by Paula Kelly Harline *** non-fiction 4/11/15
  40. The Secret of the Crooked Cat by ?? ***** MG mystery 4/12/15
  41. The Mystery of the Magic Circle by Arden ***** MG mystery 4/14/15
  42. The Mystery of the Shrinking House by William Arden ***** MG mystery 4/14/15
  43. The Mystery of Monster Mountain by ***** MG mystery 4/16/15
  44. The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints by MV Carey *****MG mystery 4/18/15
  45. The Taking by Kimberly Derting *** YA sci-fi 4/20/15
  46. The Mystery of the Dead Man’s Riddle by William Arden ***** MG mystery 4/20/15
  47. The  Mystery of the Rogues’ Reunion by Marc Brandel ***** MG mystery 4/21/15
  48. The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid by MV Carey ***** MG mystery 4/22/15
  49. The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon by Nick West ***** MG mystery 4/23/15
  50. The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur ***** MGmystery 4/26/15
  51. The Mystery of Death Trap Mine by MV Carey ***** MG Mystery 4/27/15
  52. The Mystery of the Blazing Cliffs by   ***** MG mystery 4/27/15
  53. The Mystery of the Two Toed Pigeon by Marc Brandel ***** MG mystery 4/28/15
  54. The Mystery of the Smashing Glass by William Arden ***** MG mystery 4/29/15
  55. The Mystery of the Scar Faced Beggar by MV Carey ***** MG mystery 4/30/15
  56. The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow by MV Carey ***** MG mystery 5/1/15
  57. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman ***** MG realistic 5/3/15
  58. The Mystery of the Headless Horse by W. Arden ***** 5/5/15
  59. The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale by Marc Brandel ***** 5/6/15
  60. The Mystery of the Moaning Cave by Willaim Ardn ***** 5/9/15
  61. The Mystery of the Creep Show Crooks by MV Carey ***** 5/9/15
  62. The Secret of Shark Reef by William Arden ***** 5/10/15
  63. Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare ***** (1st period) drama 5/11/15
  64. The Mystery of the Deadly Double by William Arden ***** 5/11/15
  65. The Mystery of the Dancing Devil by William Arden 5/12/15
  66. Time Travel Trailer by Karen Nortman *** chicklit 5/12/15
  67. Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare ***** (3rd period) drama 5/13/14
  68. The Mystery of Wreckers’ Rock by William Arden MG mystery ***** 5/14/15
  69. Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare ***** (5th period) drama 5/14/15
  70. Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare ***** (8th period) drama 5/14/15
  71. The Mystery of the Wandering Caveman ***** by MV Carey MG mystery 5/15/15
  72. The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo **** non-fiction 5/18/15
  73. The Mystery of the Trail of Terror by MV Carey *** MG mystery 5/19/15
  74. The Mystery of the Nervous Lion by Nick West ***** MG mystery 5/21/15
  75. The Mystery of the Cranky Collector by MV Carey ***** MG mystery 5/23/15
  76. A Dollhouse To Die For by Cate Price *** cozy mystery 5/24/15
  77. Green Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlin *** 5/26/15
  78. The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret Sullivan ***** non-fiction, humor 5/28/15
  79. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason *** YA steampunk paranormal time-travel 6/1/15
  80. A Bushel Full of Murder by Paige Shelton ***** cozy 6/4/15
  81. Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay *** cozy 6/6/15
  82. Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly **** cozy 6/8/15
  83. Fire Engine Dead by Sheila Connolly **** cozy 6/11/15
  84. Let’s Play Dead by Sheila Connolly **** cozy 6/13/15
  85. The Vampire Book: the legends, the lore, the allure. *** non-fiction 6/15/15
  86. How To Be A Vampire by Amy Gray *** non-fiction 6/16/15
  87. Monument to the Dead by Sheila Connolly *** cozy 6/18/15
  88. Razing the Dead by Sheila Connolly *** cozy 6/19/15
  89. Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock ***** non-fiction 6/20/15
  90. Thor Heyerdahl In Brief by ? ***** non-fiction 6/29/15
  91. Bryggen Guide Book by ? ***** non-fiction 7/3/15
  92. Santa Cruise by Mary Higgens Clark *** cozy 7/5/15
  93. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee ***** (3rd? time -- at least) historical fiction 7/9/15
  94. The Mystery of the Singing Serpent by MV Carey ***** MG mystery 7/17/15
  95. The Mystery of the Invisible Dog by MV Carey *** MG mystery 7/19/15
  96. How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Steven Marche *** non-fiction 7/15/15
  97. Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudson **** YA paranormal 7/29/15
  98. A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil McGregor non-fiction ***** 8/8/15
  99. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee ***** historical 8/10/15
  100. Uprooted by Naomi Novik ***** YA Fantasy 8/15/15
  101. The Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman ***** MG realistic 8/21/15
  102. Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George ***** YA paranormal 8/24/15
  103. The Agency: Rivals in the City by YS Lee MG/YA mystery **** 9/2/15
  104. The Cracked Spine (ARC) by Paige Shelton **** cozy mystery 9/15/15
  105. Emma by Jane Austen ***** romance 9/20/15
  106. Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell ***** YA steampunk fantasy (fairytale retelling) 9/25/15
  107. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy **** YA realistic 9/27/15
  108. The Poe Estate by Polly Shuman *** MG Horror/Paranormal. 10/3/15
  109. The Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis *** YA A/A 10/6/15
  110. Into the Stone Circle by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel ***** YA ghost story 10/11/15
  111. Generic Vampire Novel #937 Part 1: American Sexy *** action/adv/paranormal 10/28/15
  112. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis **** YA historical thriller 10/29/15
  113. Jackaby by William Ritter **** humorous YA paranormal mystery 11/3/15
  114. Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann **** YA 14+ steampunk A/A 11/6/15
  115. Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger ***** YA steampunk 11/8/15
  116. When Books Went To War by Molly Guptill Manning 11/14/15
  117. Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin ***** YA paranormal alt. history 11/19/15
  118. Soundless by Rachel Mead ***** YA fantasy 11/29/15
  119. A Killing In Zion by Andrew Hunt ***** historical mystery (LDS) 12/5/15
  120. His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison ***** mystery (LDS) 12/6/15
  121. Lethal Letters by Ellery Adams **** mystery 12/13/15
  122. The Last Word by Ellery Adams **** mystery 12/14/15
  123. To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton ***** cozy mystery 12/21/15
  124. The Humbug Murders by LJ Oliver **** crime 12/22/15
  125. Christmas Cottage by Samantha Chase ** romance 12/23/15
  126. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan ***** non-fiction 12/27/15
  127. City of Saints by Andrew Hunt **** historical (LDS) mystery 12/28/15
  128. Da Vinci’s Tiger by LM Elliot ***** YA historical fiction 12/30/15
  129. Lord James Harrington and the Winter Mystery ***** cozy mystery 12/31/15

Here's the manuscript list:

  1. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 2/15/15
  2. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 4/12/15
  3. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 4/26/15
  4. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 7/11/15
  5. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 7/23/15
  6. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 8/31/15
  7. Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls 9/12/15
  8. The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay 10/4/15
  9. Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls 10/26/15

And, what usually ends up being people's favorite thing to read each year, here's the list of what I began but did not finish.  It's not a completely coherent list, as I just scribble down notes, either in anger or disgust, but here 'tis anyway:

  1. The Invention of Murder by Judith Flander.   Too slow moving.  I got bogged down about 100 pages in. early April
  2. The Victorian City by Judith Flanders.  Again, I expected this to move like Victorian Home did, but it was just too much Dickens and not enough of non-fiction sources.  Parts were interesting, but parts were too preachy about the poor (just like Dickens).  I kept drifting off to read other things.  After about 250 pages, I just gave up.  4/26/15
  3. The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy. Three plots in about 10 pages.  Forget it.  4/18/15
  4. Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries by Mary Osborne.  It sounded so promising, but the pace is so slow!  And the protagonist is dumb and lacking personality!  Ugh.  50 pages. 5/7/15
  5. Skeleton Crew by Halber.  about a chapter in.  It’s interesting, but far too gruesome for my mood. 5/15/15
  6. Scrapped by Mollie Cox Bryan.  After 4 chapters of reading, I could not stand it anymore. The author tried to use 3rd person omniscient by switching the focus every chapter -- and it was a mess!
  7. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu.  1st chapter.  Quite well-written, but life’s too short to waste it reading Ender’s Game spin-off set in claustrophobia-inducing space ships. 7/24/15
  8. I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest.
I should have known better.  I threw aside her Boneshaker in disgust a couple of years ago when she tried to write for YA but focused all her attention on the mother in the story.  This is truly bad form.  I don't understand why her books are so popular when she has no clue who her audience is.  Of course, she's probably writing for adults who read YA and not for actual kids, but I still loathe it when authors say they've got a certain audience and then write for another.
X has the same problem from a different angle.  In this one, Priest talks to the reader as if s/he is a 9-year-old.  It's condescending.  I could not stand it after a couple of chapters.
This one's going back to the library unfinished. 7/28/15
9. The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson.
This one sounded really good, but it's so cliche that it's boring.  Also, the protagonist is exactly that sort of silly airhead that makes a terrific foil for a likable female protagonist but who makes a lousy protagonist.  I do not like dumb protagonists; I cannot relate to them and I have no patience with them.  This protagonist is a sweet, charming, stupid girl.  After 92 pages of this and a predictable plot, I gave up. 7/28/15
10. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie.
Remember what I just said about hating stupid protagonists?  Well, this book is infinitely worse than Princess Spy.  This protagonist gives his passport and travel documents to a pretty girl who claims to be in danger.
Nope.  I do not waste my time with protagonists that dumb.
When I grabbed the book, I thought it would be a detective solving a mystery about an exceptionally dumb person, but no, the main character is the idiot.
I'm not wasting my time. 7/30/15
11. Tales of the South Pacific by James Mitchener. It’s actually pretty decent; I just don’t have the time right now. 7/31/15
12. The Watchmaker of Filigree St. by Natasha Pulley.  Great characterization, but it’s mixing the Irish Troubles of the 1980s with Victorian England, which I don’t like, and I read in a review that the action will move to Japan. Japan doesn’t interest me.  about 40 pages 8/3/15
13. Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke. This is clearly a book later on in a series and the author does NOTHING to explain to the reader who’s who among the NUMEROUS side characters and backstories.  So very confusing. four chapters 8/10/15
14. Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas. This is a fairytale dystopia which is not a particularly good mix.  It’s told in 1st person POV -- except when it switches to 3rd person limited to focus on the male love interest.  This is highly annoying.  Also, it’s told in present tense, which is always annoying.  I stopped reading when the characters were so incredibly stupid as not to realize they might be chased if they were to escape a locked compound wherein other people had been killed for even attempting to escape.  Stupid protagonist + 1st person POV is a recipe for nothing but anger on my part, so I quit reading.  9/26/15
15. Reawakened by Colleen Houck YA paranormal. I must say that a YA mummy book sounded good, as that’s the only traditional monster unexplored in the last few years.  But the characterization in this was so pathetic that I gave up in 24 pages. 10/2/15
16. Sherlock, Lupin, and Me: the soprano’s last song. by “Irene Adler” I like some Holmes adaptations, but this one took way too many liberties with Holmes’ basic personality.  Five chapters. October, 2015
17. Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.  This is another book which everyone claims is good just because it has a non-white protagonist.  It does take more than that to make a book good, you know.  This book tries to be a Dan Brown novel for kids, but it just doesn’t work; it’s too unbelievable to have a girl watch her dad get shot and not freak out, to have her friend just happen to know a bunch of secret passages in Italy.  Nope.  This doesn’t work with kids.  four chapters. October, 2015
18. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. I guess I just don’t care about Venice that much. 17 pages. October, 2015
19. Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson.  I didn’t like the premise after just a few pages, which is weird, because I love her other books. October, 2015
20. The Story Spinner by Becky Wallace.  I’ve tried and tried to read this, but it jumps around so much that I can’t make myself care about any of the characters. October, 2015
21. Six of Crows by Leigh Barduga. I really, really wanted to like this, but it’s depressing and violent, and I don’t like the world.  134 pages. October, 2015
22. Lockwood & Co: the Screaming Staircase by Johnathan Stroud. 27 pages of silliness were all I could stomach. 11/13/15
23. Robbie Forester & the Outlaws of Sherwood Street by Peter Abrahams.  I guess I should’ve expected as much from a Robin Hood story, but the whole successful-business-people-are-evil/homeless-people-are-good thing was a bit too Socialist for me.  Gag. 45 pages. Nov. 2015.
24. Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch.  I guess it’s been too long since I read the first book in the series.  I’d totally lost the story and it was not worth the effort to find it again.  After 22 pages, I found I didn’t care at all about the characters anymore. Nove. 2015.
25. Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher.  It sounded great, but the fantasy world made no sense and had way too much chasing arround with no plot.  52 pages. November, 2015