Thursday, May 24, 2007

Biz & Books

First, a bit of business…

There’ve been a couple of recent inquiries about pricing on my jewelry so I just thought I’d put up a reminder that everything is available for sale at the Silver Parrot Designs website. I accept credit cards and will ship anywhere in the United States.

Okay, on to the books.

It took me forever to find a copy of “ Crystal Dragon,” the second book of Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Great Migration Duology. None of the local bookstores carried it and even Amazon was sold out of it for a while. I learned recently it’s because their publisher, Meisha Merlin, has gone out of business. That’s a real shame because they were doing a great job bringing new talent into the field and they were also set to publish the long (and I mean long – like 20 years) awaited new addition to Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Sime/Gen series. I don’t think that book is EVER going to get published!

But anyway, back to Lee & Miller. I can’t say enough good things about the entire Liaden Universe series. Wonderful. Original. Action-packed. Romantic. Just plain good. The basic elements of the books speak for themselves, but I thought I’d point out that one of my personal favorite things about the way these authors write is their dialogue. There’s a certain cadence or rhythm to the way the characters (particularly the Liadens) speak that invokes a feeling of antiquity. There are always multiple unspoken levels of complexity for every word that IS spoken and the whole is infused with a very dry sense of wit. Altogether enjoyable!

I do think the Duology books are perhaps the weakest of the entire series, but this second book is definitely better than the first. The reader is given much more insight into the origin of the dramliza, the origin of Clan Korval, and the personalities and relationship of Cantra yos’Phelium and M. Jela. If you haven’t ventured into Liaden space yet, I probably would not start with the Duology (even though it is the “origin” story). It makes much more sense if one already has the background from the other books. I suppose with Meisha Merlin out of the picture, it will be a long time (if ever) before we get any more books in this series, but don’t despair, pilot! The adventuresome can find an on-line version of the latest Liaden story at the Korval website. The story is free, but if you are suitably impressed with the tale, you can make a donation to keep these wonderful authors afloat while they find a new publisher. I highly encourage everyone to do this as these two are the type of authors who should be supported. They’re turning out high quality, inventive, INTELLIGENT work as opposed another tired re-tread of Star Wars/vampire/werewolf novels.

Which is a wonderful segue into my review of Karen Chance’s two, um, well, vampire novels, “Touch the Dark” and “Claimed by Shadow.” Although, technically, they are really the story of Cassandra Palmer who is an oracle (and those of you who know your Greek mythology are now going “ooo…an oracle named Cassandra…how, er, daring). However, Cassandra has managed to deeply entangle herself into the affairs of vampires, weres and pretty much every other supernatural beastie around. Orphaned as a child when supernatural politic led to her parents’ death in a car bombing, Cassandra is raised at the vampire court of Antonio (sort of a combo of Tony Soprano and Dracula rolled into one neat package) who wants to control her in order to use her psychic gifts for his own material gains. Cassandra eventually escapes and teams up with the FBI for a little payback of the “even vampire gangsters have to pay their taxes” kind which eventually leads to her being in the witness protection program with a pack of vampires perennially trying to find her. One day, they do.

And that’s where our story begins. And, it’s actually a pretty good story, at that. Leaving aside some rookie author mistakes in the continuity department and the fact that Cassandra is not ALWAYS the brightest bulb in the room, these were an enjoyable read. The action is certainly non-stop. In fact, a few restful scenes here and there to allow the reader to recover would not go amiss in future installments. The vampires come in a variety of different flavors: creepy, evil, nice, sexy but dangerous and of course, just downright sexy. Which of course means that there are the de rigueur (apparently) sex scenes, but they are nowhere near as intense or as ubiquitous as those found in, oh, I don’t know, say, a Laurell K. Hamilton novel. I did find it a bit creepy that the one vampire Cassandra is most strongly attracted to is the guy who was kinda sorta her “guardian uncle” while she was growing up. But, given the essential immortality of vamps, I suppose it’s no creepier than say Harrison Ford and Callista Flockhart or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Then, I read the two remaining books in Diana Pharaoh Francis’s “Path” series: “Path of Honor” and “Path of Blood.”

The best thing I can say about this trilogy is that it is mediocre. After a promising, but somewhat juvenile, start in the first book, Francis meanders through a second book during which (as far as I can tell) nothing much happens except a lot of whining. Yes, the plague is terrible and yes, Reisil can’t seem to get her powers functioning to cure it, and that’s bad. But what I didn’t see in this book was Reisil really taking any ACTIONS to address this. There’s a lot of “poor me, nobody likes me” and “woe is me I can’t save everyone” moments, but is she running around looking up obscure magic texts, or spending hours on her knees in the temple praying or roaming the countryside trying to scare up the wizards so she can ask them questions? Nope.

The whole story really falls apart in the last book where a whole new character from another world is suddenly introduced and then Reisil has to go to his world and then she comes back and blah, blah, blah. THEN, the author skips over the actual RESOLUTION of everything and just gives us a synopsis of it in a flashback that occurs two years later. GRRR! And that’s not even what I hated the most (although it was pretty bad). I hated, hated, HATED the way the author chose to resolve Reisil’s romance with Yohuac. I suppose I won’t reveal that here in case anyone is actually tempted to read these books, but man, was it frustrating! The sad thing is that these books contained some nuggets of really quality stuff – too bad they didn’t come to fruition.

Which leaves me with the last thing I read this month – Jim Butcher’s second “Alera” book: “Academ’s Fury.” This book has been out for a while. In fact, it’s been out long enough that it’s now in paperback (originally released in hardback) and I waited to pick it up because I had mixed feelings about the first book in the series. It was well-written in true Jim Butcher style, but it just didn’t have quite the same “oomph” for me as the Dresden books do. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison because of course the true, high fantasy, Alera books won’t have the same snappy, pop culture references and humor as the Dresden books. I also felt like the teenage character of Tavi not having any furycrafting ability in a world where everyone else DOES was so very reminiscent of the plot of the original installment of Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series. Of course, the two series could not possibly be more different in every other respect. I’m just saying I felt I’d seen this device before.

But, there it was in paperback and I was having a hard time finding anything else decent to read so I thought I’d give the series another chance. I knew it would at least be intelligent and tightly crafted if nothing else.

Wow. Am I glad I picked this book up. It completely blows the first book away! Non-stop action (in fact, this book could’ve used a couple of “respite” moments, too), non-stop plots, and danger, danger, danger Will Robinson. Thoroughly entertaining from cover to cover. In fact, I ran out as soon as I’d finished it to pick up the third book in the series (which is out only in hardcover thus far) only to have to throw a fit in the bookstore because they were out of stock! If I have one critique (other than the request for a breather from the action) it would be that while the use of overwhelming odds is a tried-and-true device, I found the odds against Tavi, Isana, Bernard and Amara in this book to be SO overwhelming as to be unbelievable that they accomplished what they did. This is exacerbated by the fact that they all survived a “battle of overwhelming odds” in the first book of the series already. Still, there are hints that perhaps Tavi is more than what he seems and that this may account for some of his “luck” despite his apparent lack of furycrafting ability. I’m headed to a different bookstore at lunch today in the hopes of picking up the next installment so I’ll have to let you know how it all turns out.

That’s it for now.

Take care all and have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!


P.S. Dratted Barnes & Nobel didn't have "Cursor's Fury" so off to I go!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You have got to be freakin' kidding me!!

Well, if I ever needed any (additional) proof that TV execs are idiots, this is it. And look at the absolute DREK! they are going to replace it with.

I am now officially boycotting all CW shows. Except for the remaining episodes of the last season of "Veronica Mars."

RIP, girlfriend.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Saying "65% off retail"... a bead addict is like saying "free crack" to a drug addict. Which is why it was so hard to restrain myself at the Rings & Things trunk show this weekend. Amazing prices and probably every type, color and cut of every stone you've ever heard of (and a few you haven't).


Mais, bien sur!

These amethysts were my big splurge for the day. But, thanks to the aforementioned 65% off, they were actually affordable. And sooooo cute!

Now, if I could just get some time to actually do some beading...sigh.

Hope everyone had a happy Mother's Day!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thou shalt not covet...

...but if thou do, thou shalt covet the GOOD stuff!

To wit:

Are these the cutest or what? Perfect for summer earrings!

I just love this new CZ shape, but wish they had more colors available.

And for these I just have one word: DROOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sadly, way out of my budget realm right now.

And yet more pictures of beads I covet but cannot afford:

There's no real point to this other than that I figured eveyone was getting tired of my diet ranting so it seemed like a good time for some eye candy. Except now I am depressed and must go in search of REAL candy.

Poorness sucks!


Pick, pick, pick

Okayyyy…so just when I think I’ve run out of topics to discuss under the Step 1 – No More Denial part of the plan, I run across this article. And yep, there it is, one of my big issues staring me in the face.

Hi. My name is KJ and I’m a picky eater.

Always have been. Always will be.

I would say this article describes me to a “T.” I was picky as a kid. I have an overly developed gag reflex. I once threw up at the dinner table at the mere mention that I’d have to eat squash. My sense of smell is so sensitive it’s been described as almost “psychic.” If my sense of smell were an animal, it’d be a shark – able to detect the tiniest scent traces in the vast distances of the open ocean.

Not very useful in modern day life although I’m sure it saved some of my ancestresses from accidentally eating a deadly mushroom or something because I’m assuming it is some sort of evolutionary ability (my mom has it, too).

Then there’s the whole texture issue. I love that the article talks about tomatoes because I can’t think of a better example of something that is SO icky in its raw form. I just can’t even go there. Yet, I have no problem whatsoever with tomato sauce (as long as it’s not “chunky” style) or ketchup and I love cream of tomato soup. I remember my mom telling me that no boy would ever want to date me after he saw me pick the tomato off my hamburger. She was wrong, by the way. I just have to find boys who also do not like tomatoes.

And yeah, I might be a bit OCD about a few things. And yeah, my parents were overly concerned with forcing me to eat stuff and making me sit at the table until I’d cleaned my plate.

I did find it interesting to note that in the study mentioned in the article, picky eaters rated certain flavors (sweet and bitter) as more intense than non-picky eaters. Since taste is largely influenced by sense of smell, I wonder if my sense of smell could be part of the problem. I definitely find a lot of fruits almost too sweet to tolerate and most vegetables taste too bitter.

I’m working on it, though. I don’t think I’ll ever really make friends with vegetables, but since I started cleaning up the rest of my diet, I’ve found a couple of ways to add fruit in that I can tolerate (and even enjoy in some cases). I make smoothies in the morning for breakfast quite frequently. It gets me around the whole “texture” issue and I cut the sweetness by adding vanilla-flavored soy powder and using non-fat milk instead of juice as the liquid. When I get to the eating section of the plan, I’ll post my recipe.
I’ve also learned to do a better job picking out apples and keeping them in the fridge so they are nice and crisp because I can’t stand it when they are mealy. Gross! Spreading peanut butter on them helps considerably and again, cuts any amount of over-sweetness. I’m very careful to measure out only 2 tbsp. of the peanut butter, though. It has a lot of calories and fat. That’s okay in small amounts but I could eat half a jar in one sitting if I’m not careful.

I don’t really have a final point to make. I just thought the article was interesting and if there are any other picky eaters out there, you are not alone!


Sound familiar?

I'm just sayin' is all...


Monday, May 07, 2007

Former fat girls unite!

I thought this article had some interesting things to say - a lot of them parallel what I've been trying to communicate albeit in a more precise, articulate way.

What can I say, I'm all about the verbal ramblings, people.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

E-mails. I get e-mails

Okay, so no one posts comments but boy do I get the e-mails. People, the song from yesterday was NOT me endorsing this type of destructive, revenge-seeking behavior. I like the song because it's a good way to VICARIOUSLY fulfill all those destructive urges that we all have when we've been hurt by someone we thought cared about us. I like the IDEA of occsionally IMAGINING that I am not bound by laws/religious beliefs/guilt, etc. and can therefore freely pursue the whole revenge thing.

But, in the end, I AM bound by all those things as well as an underlying logical voice that tells me behavior like this may possibly buy me a nanosecond of relief while I'm engaging in it, but it will never make the pain go away long-term. Therefore, it's not really of any actual use to me.

I hate logic. It's a pain in the butt. It does, however, keep me out of jail. Which is a good thing.

Oh, and the other reason I like the song is that Carrie Underwood just sings the ever-lovin' daylights out of it. Now that IS empowering!

KJ - who suddenly feels like belting out a few choruses of Aretha's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" C'mon, who's with me?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sing it, sister!

So, as is my usual habit when the writer’s block kicks in and I don’t have anything especially brilliant or witty to write about, I turn to my current favorite song lyrics for inspiration. I’m really enjoying Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” and without further ado, here are the lyrics:

Right now he's probably slow dancing with a bleached-blond tramp,
and she's probably getting frisky.
Right now he's probably buying her some fruity little drink
cause she can't shoot whiskey.
Right now, he's probably up behind her with a pool-stick,
showing her how to shoot a combo and he don't know...

I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats.
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires.

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Right now, she's probably up singing
some white-trash version of Shania karaoke..
Right now, she's probably saying "I'm drunk"
and he's thinking that he's gonna lucky.
Right now, he's probably dabbing on 3 dollars worth of that bathroom cologne...
and he don't know...

I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive.
Carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

I might've saved a little trouble for the next girl,
cause the next time that he cheats...
Oh you know it won't be on me!
No.. not on me..

I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.
Ohh.. maybe next time he'll think.. before he cheats...
Ohh... before he cheats...ohhhh.

This may be a new ringtone choice for my phone ;-)