Showing posts from September, 2010

Book Review - Undead and Unwelcome

Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was like the bag of candy corn I bought this weekend. I opened it up and the next thing I knew I was done with it.

Another fun read in the series. Betsy is off to the East coast to deal with a potential vampire/werewolf war while her sister Laura, AKA The Devil's Daughter, runs amok at home. As usual, I think Betsy gets out of trouble a little too easily but I enjoy it nonetheless.

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Book Review - Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the not so distant future, two people fall into a not so healthy romantic relationship. Both Lenny (Russia) and Eunice (Korea) are children of immigrants who came for the American Dream. That dream is now an Orwellian nightmare where everyone is wired in, the economy is on the brink of collapse and the government asks you to confirm that you'll deny what you see.

Lenny's side of the story is told through his diary, Eunice's through her "teens" which appear to be email or really long text messages. There was certainly sadness and introspection and a lot of discourse on familial relationships and duties.

This is my first Shteyngart but I suspect I'll go back and read his first two books based on the favorable reviews they got and how much I liked this one.

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Bad Omen to Football Week 3

I've completely overscheduled myself (again!) and topped it off with a sick day on Thursday where I literally slept and laid on my couch so I got behind on putting in my football picks. I try to have them done by Friday.

I made sure I was up in what I thought was plenty of time to set my lineups for both Fantasy Leagues and get my Pick 'Em in. Fantasy got done (just one change needed) then I moved on to the Yahoo Pick 'Ems and finally went to my work (and money) Pick 'Em on CBS Sports and clicked on my winner pick for the first game but nothing happened. I reloaded the page, still couldn't click.

It finally occurred to me that I was locked out. Sure enough, I checked the rules and the games lock one hour before game time. I missed it by 6 minutes. We pay out weekly and my picks so far haven't been stellar so I don't know that I should have expected to win anyway. However, we have a bigger payout at the end of the year and I pretty much screwed myself …

Book Review - Sports from Hell

Sports from Hell by Rick Reilly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rick Reilly is funny. Funny when he's picking on himself and funny when he's picking on others. I literally LOLd with this book.

The premise is that Reilly heads around the globe to find, and most of the time participate in, the world's dumbest sports. Chess Boxing, Rock-Scissors-Paper Championship, Ferret Legging, Beer Pong, World Sauna Championships...even Jarts (remember metal lawn darts?) make the list.

Easy, fun read.

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Book Review - Nothing Happened and Then It Did

Nothing Happened and Then It Did by Jake Silverstein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting mishmash of fact and fiction (at least I think it was a mishmash - it sounded like it might have been more fact). Silverstein decides to be a journalist with the theory if he goes somewhere off the beaten path, he has a better chance of capturing the "big" story before he gets scooped. Turns out, not many big stories come his way but he does have some interesting adventures revolving around buried pirate treasure, a McDonalds in Mexico and a dangerous Mexican road race among other things.

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Football Week Two - It's Looking Up

Apparently, being on my Fantasy Football team is bad for Running Backs. I lost another one this weekend. Reggie Bush broke his leg and will be out at least six weeks. I wasn’t even starting him because his numbers haven’t been great. But, still...

For some reason, I only had one Tight End in that league and I need one to cover Jason Witten’s bye week (and maybe this week if his head is still hurt) so I dropped Bush and picked up Marcedes Lewis.

The good news is my overall winning percentage went up. I’m 2-0 in the Arizona PHC League and standing alone at the top of my division. The bad news is my winning percentage in my work league didn’t go up enough. I’m now 1-3 along with 2 other teams and, thankfully for my psyche, one dude is 0-4.

The best news is that my Packers are at 2-0. I’m looking forward to them smoking the Bears on Monday Night Football which I’ll be watching at home in hi-def for the first time. It will be pretty!

Arizona Restuarant Week - Cheuvront

There are two things we look for in Arizona Restaurant Week - the adventure of trying new places and the comfort of in knowing we’re going to get a great, unique meal at one of our favorite places. Last night, we went for comfort and had dinner at Cheuvront.

Cheuvront is one of my favorite places to go. I just wish it were closer to home but it’s really just a light rail trip away from home so that’s not bad. I have yet to be disappointed there whether in the wine, cheese, appetizers or entrees. Everything is pretty yummy. The service is always good and you can count on a James Bond film playing while you’re there.

Here’s their menu for Restaurant Week:

* First Course (choice of):
o Truffled Grilled Cheese : Rich Tangy Grafton Cheese drizzled in truffle oil and melted between Brioche toast
o Peach and Blue Salad : Arugula greens with sliced peach, crumbled blue cheese and candied pecans tossed in a champagne vinaigrette
o Shrimp Bisque: Intense Seafood Ba…

Arizona Restuarant Week - True Food

We voyaged out for our first Arizona Restaurant Week meal on Sunday night. The choice was True Food at Biltmore Fashion Park. I’d never been there but had heard good things about it. It’s a Sam Fox restaurant and all of his establishments have been notable.

I was the first one there and the place was buzzing with patrons at 6 PM. The hostess promptly seated me and did a nice job of chatting. “Is this your first time here? You’re going to love it!” Our waiter was also Johnny on the spot and fetched me water and a glass of wine while I waited for my companions.

While I was waiting, I perused their regular menu. The concept is Globally Inspired Cuisine and the menu reflected that. I loved that the wine was coded Biodynamically Farmed, Certified Organically Farmed or Sustainably Farmed and Organic and Gluten Free food items were noted.

Here’s the menu they offered for Restaurant Week:

* First Course (choice of):
o Shrimp Dumplings, Shiitake Mushrooms, Ginger & Cilantro

Book Review - Brains: a Zombie Memoir

Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting, gross, funny and thoughtful read. A zombie virus has been released. If you get it, you turn into a zombie of the type we see in George Romero movies who sluggishly move and mindlessly seek out brains to eat. Humans are getting wiped out right and left because most of them are becoming zombie food.

A few zombies, however, still retain cognitive skills but with a zombie bent. Yes, they really, really, really want to eat brains but they're smart enough to go about it without getting killed themselves. Well, for the most part.

The book follows a group of these smart zombies as they form a very odd family unit and go in search of the man who created the virus. The question to be asked, is thought enough to be "human" or worthy of continued existence? Or, feelings and thoughts aside, do all zombies need to die?

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I'm against the death penalty but if you put a hacker or a spammer in front of a firing squad, I probably wouldn't stop anyone from shooting. Seriously. What incredible lowlifes.

My Yahoo account got hacked/spoofed/co-opted this morning. I woke up at 8 AM to the ping of text messages from my friends letting me know about it but the damage was done. I think everyone in my address book (which is probably close to 2,000 people), including this blog, got sent a link to what I imagine is an ad for male enhancements. I don't know because I didn't open the link.

I changed my password and ran a virus scan on my computer that came up negative so I'm not sure how it happened. I hope it stops but they have all the info now so I guess they could send it out again. A friend of mine ended up closing her Hotmail and Facebook accounts this past week because someone sent six mass emails and set up several bogus Facebook accounts as well. Again, bastages.

What's surprising t…

Book Review - Other People's Rejection Letters

Other People's Rejection Letters: 150 Letters You're Happy You Didn't Get by Bill Shapiro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an impulse pickup at the library and it was fun. An eclectic collection of rejections in the form of letters, emails, eHarmony messages, texts, etc. Some of them rejecting art or book, some rejecting romantic relationships and several parent/child rejections. There's even a death row clemency request. I liked the follow-up where Shapiro gave some back stories on a few entries.

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Book Review - The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With all the anti-Muslim rhetoric going around these days, it's easy to forget that there's still a lot of violence and ugliness associated with other religions. The Catholic and Protestant factions may have agreed on peace in Northern Ireland but they're still at each other in this first novel by Stuart Neville.

Gerry Fegan was a killer for the Protestant side, served time and is now trying to drink his guilt and his literal ghosts away. Haunted by the twelve people he killed, Gerry strikes a deal with them. If he kills the people who ordered or were complicit in their deaths, they will cease their haunting.

This was a wonderfully engrossing story with some very rich characters and a detailed view of the so-called peace where the thugs of yesterday are the politicians of today.

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It's a great time of year for foodies in Arizona. Restaurant week is a wonderful way for chefs to show off how great their food is and for patrons to get a taste at a fixed (reasonable even considering what you get) price. Check out all of the places and menus here.

My chick poker girls and I try to hit as many places as our schedules and eating loves permit. So far this year, we only have one place on the calendar. We're hitting up True Food on Sunday in lieu of actual chick poker.

I'm so good with that. A much less stressful evening although one without Morgan, our dealer. He's out on the dinner so I'll miss him. I won't miss waiting for the yappers to realize we're actually playing a card game and not just sitting around, well, yapping. In fairness, they'll probably be happier too since I won't be bitching at them.

Hopefully, I can get another couple of meals in. They extended the week to be from Saturday through the next Sunday this year …

Book Review - Waking The Witch

Waking The Witch by Kelley Armstrong

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book in the series revolves around Savannah Levine, the young (21) witch who's been raised by Paige and Lucas. Paige and Lucas go out of town and Savannah decides to take a case on her own involving the deaths of three young girls in what looks to be possibly occult related murders. She's soon in over her head but manages to keep afloat due to her own talents, intellect and a bit of help from Adam and the local townies who give her the scoop.

I had it figured out before the final reveal but it was still very enjoyable. I like the grown up (relatively) Savannah and I hope she gets featured again soon. Armstrong alternates the leads in her books amongst the supernaturals so it may be a while but the ending of the book made me think we'll see more of Savannah sooner rather than later.

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Love The Waldorf

When's the last time you had a Waldorf salad? If you're like me, you probably can't even recall. It's not something I've ever made and it's not very common to have on restaurant menus here in the Southwest.

I had some last night and the leftovers tonight and it was so good that I won't wait nearly as long between eatings.

The reason I had it is that I hosted book club last night and my original dinner plan was to get takeout salads from Acacia Cafe. Unfortunately, I forgot to check their hours of operation and they close at 3 PM. I called at 3:02 PM.

Next idea was to hit up Costco. They had Caesar Salad, Spinach Salad and Waldorf Salad all ready for assembly so I snagged those and some nice bread, cheese and crackers. Dinner problem solved in one stop, sweet!

All of the salads were good but I was so excited about the Waldorf that I couldn't stop myself from sharing how long it had been for me and asking everyone else when was the last time they'd…

The Agony of Defeat

One week into the football season and I think I’m screwed in Fantasy Football in our work league. Oh, and I think my Packers are maybe not going to the Super Bowl this year as I’d hoped.

Why? Oh, just my number two pick, Ryan Grant, going out for the season with an ankle injury that’s going to require surgery. Not only my second pick, but the starting Running Back for the Pack. Sigh.

We were at the bar watching all the games when he got hurt. He hopped off the field which made it look not so bad. They put a boot on him but word was that it was just a sprain and that was a precautionary move. Woody has Grant in our club league and was bemoaning our mutual bad luck and I kept saying (praying?), “He’ll be back. It’s not that bad.”

On Monday, I saw that he’d be out for one week so I put him on Injured Reserve (we’re allowed to carry one player there in this league) and picked by his backup, Brandon Jackson. The Rocket Scientist sent me a link today that said Grant needs surgery and …

Book Review - The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hosted book club this month and picked this book based on some reviews I read. Consensus was they liked it except for one person who gave up on it halfway through.

The story jumps back and forth with tales of the Gardeners, a group of preaching about the end of the world survivalists and the stories of the few Gardeners who survived the Waterless Flood. The latter is a plague/virus that wipes out most humans.

Atwood does a great job of making her stories seem not that implausible. This one could take place 20 or 30 years from now (based on the technology, the environment and society) and be completely believable.

It took me a while (about a fourth of it) to get in to the story but then I was hooked. Not a perfect story, but one that kept me intrigued until the end.

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Book Review - Tell-All

Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first Palahniuk book. After seeing the movie version of Fight Club and reading some reviews of his other works, I was expecting something unusual. I wasn't disappointed.

The story is told by Hazie Coogan, assistant/maid/caretaker of an aging movie star, Katherine Kenton. The tale is of Kenton's historical love life and career and her current relationship with a young beau who apparently has a plan to capitalize on their relationship after ensuring it has a tragic ending.

It took me half way through the book to start enjoying it. The style was just not something I could instantly embrace. I ultimately enjoyed the cleverness of the story without fully enjoying the style.

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Book Review - Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was doing my usual perusal of the new book section in the library when I spotted this. Sweet! I love these books.

This one finds Monk fired by the SFPD again because of budget cuts but also completely broke as he invested everything in a failed pyramid scheme. While Monk tries to solve some impossible murders, Natalie tries to find places for them both to work. The latter results in some pretty funny Monk tales.

These are just plain fun.

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144 Books in 2010 Update

I caught up to my 12 month a book pace! I finished 96 books through the end of August thanks to the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris.

Of course, I immediately started September in the hole by having a big Parrot Head weekend over Labor Day. I've only got one book done so far. However, the two books I put on reserve at the library turned into six by the time I got out of there and I have an entirely free Saturday this weekend.

Time to get back to power reading.

Book Review - Killing Floor

Killing Floor by Lee Child

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My friend has been on me to read this series for quite a while. I finally requested this one from the library (actually had to wait for it which is surprising considering how old it is) and devoured it over two nights.

A digression: I think I like paranormal fiction so much because there's an element of "this can't really happen" no matter how violent it gets. "Real" fiction like this book disturbs me greatly because the violence is human to human and all too plausible. I actually had nightmares the first night I was reading this.

Jack Reacher is a loner who decides on a whim to visit a small town in Georgia where he's arrested for murder. Ex-military, ex-homicide investigator, Reacher is soon involved in solving the murder and the ensuing ones that very shortly come along.

Reacher's smartly developed, the other characters are pretty well drawn and the final mystery resolution was satisfactory and …

Football Draft #2

Man, I'm exhausted. I just did my second (and last) draft of the year but this one was online. Ten teams did 17 picks in 90 minutes. That's just dang fast.

I was a homer on this one, I freely admit. The good thing is my home team is pretty damn good.

Here's my full team:

QB - Aaron Rodgers
QB - Matt Cassel
RB - Ryan Grant
RB - Shonn Greene
RB - Knowshon Moreno
RB - Ahmad Bradshaw
RB - Jason Snelling
WR - Steve Smith (CAR)
WR - Steve Smith (NYG)
WR - Bernard Berrian
WR - Santonio Holmes
WR -Mario Manningham
TE - Brent Celek
TE -John Carson
K - Garrett Hartley
K - David Akers
DEF -Packers

I need all the injured dudes to get healthy and I need Green Bay to kick some ass but I feel good about my picks. It really went so fast that I didn't have a lot of time to think about my second options and my first ones got snagged right before me several times so it was stressful. This is the one I have money on and it's work buds so there's some extra pressure.