Monday, February 27, 2006

Queen of Demons

Well past due, I’ve finally managed to power my way through the second book of David Drake’s Lord of the Isles series. The first book was really good. There were some flaws with the writing but I could get past those because it WAS a good book and a first book. The second book is much worse.

In the first book, they killed off the best character and everyone else fell into their predetermined roles, using no logical deduction but always coming to the right conclusions. The critics talked about how well Drake threaded multiple story-lines together and tied them at the end. Shouldn’t it matter that three of those four story lines didn’t matter? I mean, Garric, who is the main character, and his sister and two friends each have their own story arc but none but Garric’s (at least until the end) has anything to do with the rest of the story.

Granted, the scenes in and of themselves were largely entertaining. Like the one group of humans who were dumped into an alternate dimension and built a fort so that they could fight off a group of bad guys every night. That was kind of amusing. But it didn’t have anything to do with anything else.

It was kind of like reading a Conan book that just wouldn’t end.

But now I’m done it and I’m glad because if I stuck it on my bookshelf unfinished, I’d have to start all over again, again, and now I can put it away, knowing that it’s not in my queue. I hate giving up on things.

Minigoal #5

On to The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. Next Monday, I expect to have The Subtle Knife finished.

Oh, and by Friday, I’ll have another blog entry up.

Until later,

39 books to go!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Minigoal update or: As the Slacker Turns

I am very far behind in my minigoal of completing Queen of Demons right now. I went camping and got tired and never got back into reading after that. Hopefully, this weekend will settle that. I hope to finish Queen of Demons and The Subtle Knife by the end of the weekend. Not that this is very realistic but it will get me back on track.

How's that sound?

Talk to ya later

Valentine's Day

Well, another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, nobody got hurt and cards were exchanged.

I know that Valentine’s Day is probably the most harangued “holiday” that is celebrated in these parts. (I wonder if they think that Ramadan has become to commercialized in other parts of the world…) If you look at it, though, every celebration in our culture is inundated with advertising, commercialism and the imposed need to buy everything in sight to appease those we love.

It takes some work to fight through the hallmark commercials and the chocolate hearts but I’ve always thought of Valentine’s Day (even when I was single and bitter) as a time for couples to put aside everything else – work, the kids (without committing criminal negligence), friends, hockey games and everything else, and concentrate on the other member of the relationship. Granted, people say it would be nice to be treated like that the rest of the year, and it would. It would be nice to be the sole focus of someone’s life. However, this is not practical and not possible with the need to pay for heating, eating, treating and other things that just don’t rhyme.

It was nice to have an evening alone with my wife. We sat in front of the television and watched a good TV show. We exchanged our cards, re-learned that we are important to each other, and it may have only been an hour out of the evening but was nice nonetheless.

So, for all you Valentine’s Day haters out there:


Oh, but I have to say that despite her cynicism, Krista has the best Valentine's Day card ever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Winter Camp as seen by a Leader of Beavers

The weekend started with frustration. I was supposed to be leaving work at 3 pm. We had things to do and I’d cleared it with my boss. Unfortunately, 3 came and went and I was still slaving over the latest URGENT URGENT RUSH RUSH GOTTA GET THIS OUT THE DOOR OR THE COMPANY IS DOOOOOOOOOOOMED change that they waited until the very last minute to foist upon me. ‘Sokay, whatever. I was out of here at 3:30. Plenty of time to get the running around I needed done. Except that things kept creeping up. And then I forgot my shirt (which I ended up not *really* needing.) I’m not trying to set a frustrating tone for the entire weekend, I’m just saying that the time until we got to camp was, while not immersed, I’d say lightly dipped in frustration.

The second I stepped into the lodge where we would all be sleeping, all of that frustration was swept away and I was transported back into the heyday of my youth when I would be the one wearing the silly hat (as a Cub OR a Beaver – we had funny hats for both, back then) and I wanted nothing more than to go and play. And play I did. As soon as we were squared away (thanks, Rob, for the hand with the bags), we were off in the trailer, pulled by Akela’s RV. Around a couple corners and into the slightly-snowy tobogganing hill. That’s right, there was snow there. You know, white stuff, little chilly, good for throwing at Cubs… The first bunch of attempts to go down the hill were met with good-natured frustration and failure. Then Rob had the genius idea of turning the krazy karpet over and sliding on the dull side. Face first. I tried it. The bottom of the hill was lined with some shrubs which met my face.

Next it was off to camp opening and then bed for Beavers. I became acquainted with a swede-saw as I had to lop the front corners off a bunch of Kub Kars to turn them into something the Beavers could race the next day. Then I carved my own and it was off to bed.

The next morning started with a breakfast prepared (as I’m sure all of you know by now) by a professional chef. Scrambled eggs are amazing when you mix them with Cream of Mushroom soup. Who knew? Anyway, after that was a long hike down to the lake for a quick game of tag and a return trip to the lodge and mess hall for morning snack.

While the Beavers went off with Rob and Rainbow to make candles, I sanded down the Beaver Kars that I had cut the night before. Splinter + Beaver = tragedy. The cars were painted and the time after lunch was dedicated to Valentine’s craft, which I was once again not a part of, because I was helping to fix the Kub Kar track.

After lunch it was back down to the lake (on the trailer) for some Mega-boggan fun. It was a little disconcerting to hear the ice cracking underneath and I had a couple of Dead Zone moments, but nothing went wrong (aside from the boggan breaking and requiring a little fixey-fixey) and a good time was had by all.

It was during this sojourn that I decided my time of throwing snowballs was done. Three snowballs left my hands and three Cub/Beavers ended up in tears, the results of my missile-projection dripping down their faces. I’m such a jerk. Ah well, I paid for it the next day when one of the cubs walked right up to me and threw a snowball right in my junk – three times. I guess it’s a little more physically demanding than a “Hail Mary” but it gets the point across.

Supper that night was smoked pork loin and spaghetti with the now-infamous salmon sauce. I passed on the salmon and went for the meat sauce. I’ve never been much for fish.

The Scouting-Car rally came next and I was allowed to do the announcing. The kids were pretty excited. I made them all name their cars and the tournament was underway. Beavers fell by the wayside until one stood victorious. It was Spider-Car.

Next, the Cubs had their tournament. Again, I was announcing. Finally, Baby-Blue Crew won the Cub tournament.

In the end, it was a grudge match between Beavers and Cubs. This had transcended mere racing. The battle was on between the younger beavers and the Cubs who could throw farther, run faster and do more. None of that matters on the race-track, though, and that was apparent at the finish line where Spider-Car made a mockery of Baby-Blue Crew and there was much celebration among the Beavers at the expense of the Cubs.

Campfire was fun. There was the usual assortment of skits and songs and I even got up in front of everyone to do a rousing round of “Down by the bay” (not to be confused with “Sitting on the dock of the bay” – that wouldn’t have won many Cubs or Beavers over). Big thanks to Nicholas for the first “Did you ever see a” because his was the only hand in the air when I asked for a line. That opened things up and it seemed like everyone had a line. Even with the last one: “Did you ever see a cub… um… doing that thing like this!”

Sunday saw another fantastic breakfast, a trip to the lake, cleanup and the long drive home. There were a few frustrations on Sunday and all of us (Lillian aside – she’s a real champ) felt the effects of a weekend of cramming too much stuff into too little time. Still, I was glad to be a part of it and I’ll definitely get out for Spring camp at Evansburg, which I thought was in Pennsylvania but is apparently in Alberta.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Shaman's Crossing

I always feel a little trepidation when I start to read a new series. Especially when it’s written by an author I’ve previously enjoyed. It’s probably because the probability for disappointment is so high. Regardless, I kept my head and my hopes up when I started Shaman’s Crossing, Book 1 of the Soldier’s Son series by Robin Hobb. I thought that her Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies had some of the best characterization I’ve ever read. I just didn’t want to be disappointed.

Once again, I was treated to a good, solid story with characters I could like, even with their shortcomings -- maybe because of their shortcomings. The characters, even the main character, have their moments of pettiness, of weakness, hesitation where the classic hero-type would save the world without self-doubt, conflict or delay.

Though there’s never any fear of the death of the protagonist – it’s a 1st-person narrative – the bumps and bruises, and worse, make you wince in sympathetic pain for his troubles. And even though you know that the hero will somehow win the day, Hobb does an incredible job of keeping suspense, with failure just within reach at every turn.

The setting was basically at the height of North American colonization and the sympathy that the main character is forced to feel for his enemies can be seen as an indictment of our forefathers and the building of the railroads, or of Brazil’s continued woes with the rain forest, without being heavy-handed or preachy.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series, even if this one isn’t as good as Hobb’s previous works.

Minigoal #4

Due to my forgetting The Subtle Knife at my parents’ house during Saturday lunch, my order has changed somewhat, with Queen of Demons moving up and the two final His Dark Materials books moving down. I’m currently 237 pages into the 662-page Queen of Demons which leave me about 6 days worth of reading left. Discounting the weekend, when I’ll be on Beaver Camp, that makes next Wednesday as the day for me to be finished.

Until more later on,

40 books to go!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Anansi Boys

Wow. It’s hard to peg Neil Gaiman’s writing down into a genre. Is it Fantasy? Well, there are fantastical elements in there. Is it Science Fiction? Sometimes, I guess, but not really. I guess it’s more Alternate Reality type stuff. Does that fall under Fantasy?

Anyway, Anansi Boys was more of the same stuff that was in American Gods. One thing that I was disappointed in: It didn’t have the epic feeling that the first one did. I didn’t really care about Fat Charlie or Spider as much as I did Shadow.

Then again, maybe that’s just my love of Viking gods. Or George Guidall. Lenny Henry did a great job, reading the book. After Eragon, I was afraid that Britain was the country where voice actors went if they sucked. Looks like I was wrong.

I’m sure that there was plenty that I missed in Anansi Boys, themes that either went over my head, or I just failed to hear, but it was pretty quick, both because of how short the book was, and because of the pacing of the story. There wasn’t much time for waiting.

The resolution was a little hurried - it tried to be relaxed and I thought it didn't work out well with the rest of the story, but that's just me.

Minigoal Update:

I’m looking pretty good for finishing Shaman’s Crossing by tomorrow. I’ve got around 150 pages left and since Kim’s leaving me for tonight and tomorrow night, there should be more than ample time.

41 books to go!