Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: Secret Adversary

The Secret AdversaryThe Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful romp through post-war London, this book features two young people (Tommy and Tuppence) forced to live "below their means" who decide to form an adventurers' club--for hire, of course. A series of coincidences leads them into employ as secret agents (of the "if you or any of your team are caught, we will disavow any knowledge of you" variety). Can good British stoicism and practicality carry the day? Or will a man without a face prove more than a match for their wits?

There are portions of the plot that may make you say, "No way!" However, the characterizations are so much fun, you should just ignore that voice and go along for the ride. I giggled out loud several times during the exchanges, and nothing amuses me more than an "energetic" American as described by a British author.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Review: For the Win

For The WinFor The Win by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really enjoyed this book. It starts out as a "slice of life" of three different people living their everyday lives...of course, those people are either gold farmers in MMOs or somehow involved with gold farmers. At the beginning of each chapter is a mini-review of a bookstore that the author has visited (or spent substantial time in), from tiny niche comic book stores all the way up to It's clear from these chapter intros that the author not only loves to write, but loves to read, and can't live without books. His enthusiasm is infectious; I want to visit every one of these stores. It's also clear that he loves to teach; he inserts explanations of economic concepts that are very clearly explained...he almost sneaks them in so that you don't know you're learning until it's "too late". Let me say here--if you'd ever told me that I'd be writing a positive review about a book that included lessons on economics, I'd have laughed in your face.

His characterizations are wonderful, and the book is very easy to read. Its tone gradually increases in seriousness until the end. There are only two reasons this book gets four stars rather than five: One, it was shockingly poorly edited. Granted, it was a free copy he posted to his website, but the errors were gross--a character's name wrong for part of a conversation, pronouns switching from "he" to "she", words left out of sentences, "and" instead of "an", etc. The second criticism is more serious. The book reads like a dramatized non-fiction account of the state of the world, but unfortunately this leaves the author unable to bring about the life-changing conclusion you come to hope for as you read. He's painted himself into a corner; the world doesn't work the way it would if there's really a "win", and so the ending is a bit neutered. A few loose ends left dangling, one character disposed of unnecessarily and easily avoidably--but the book is so wonderful to read, don't miss it because of those small flaws.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

State of the Geek

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I had a crazy thought last week. It was, "Hey, since I've been neglecting my blog lately, what better way to jump-start it than to participate in NaBloPoMo!" I even figured out how to post to my blog via email! Well, it's the third, and clearly I've already failed (twice).

The first failure was set up on the 1st, when I realized, at 11:36PM, "Hey, it's the first of November! I was supposed to post today," while I was in the process of baking and freezing for my upcoming Harry Potter Extravaganza ("party" no longer quite covers the spectacle, which last movie release involved chopping, stewing and coloring about four dozen "potion ingredients" and figuring out the logistics of stuffing 20 people into a 400 sq. ft. living room to eat a sit-down dinner). "I could totally do it. It'd only take like 5 minutes. 10 tops."

"Screw that," I thought, "I'm playing Halo."

Last night, the thought didn't even enter my mind as I lay insensible on the sofa, my brain feeling like mush, and watched two episodes of Castle (which made me feel much, much better).

Why am I so tired?? It's the common scenario of personal stress plus work stress. And in my case, plus lack of sleep due to train noise. In July we went on our big yearly trip, to Europe, for 18 days. It was glorious! And someday I'll actually put up pictures! In August, I got a sinus infection...that wiped out two solid weeks. In September, we went to Orlando for Michael's birthday to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (ditto pictures!)...and I got another sinus infection. Two more weeks, gone. When I'm sick, literally nothing happens. There's no grocery shopping, no laundry, no nothing. There's cleaning, because I finally broke down and got a maid service (also glorious), but nothing else. The doc-in-a-box I started going to--because they actually believe me when I say I'm sick and give me antibiotics instead of just sneering at me like my "real" doc--told me I couldn't come back if I got another sinus infection in the next 5 months, because that would make 4 in a year.

October passed in a haze of work stress, with party-planning stress quickly ramping up (the EXPECTATIONS for this party, I tell you...). Work is stressful because I'm doing something I've never done before, and I won't get trained until after it has to be done, and there are so many moving pieces, and.... It's been a long time since I've had to do something where I'm so totally out of my element, and I don't have nice, specific requirements. (HA. I never have nice, specific requirements.) Anyway, most days, my mental state can be summed up in one word: PANIC.

On the geeky front, I've been playing Halo: Reach, tweeting, and loving the heck out of my Kindle (I may have to ask for a commission from Amazon, based on all the people who've bought one due to my vocal lovefests.)

On the fiber front, I've been knitting at stitching somewhat at random, although I do have a small happy dance I need to share at some point. Most recently I knit on a Cookie A sock and stitched on a Mirabilia reindeer (for which I changed ALL the colors, because, well...otherwise it would have been TOO EASY.)

I will continue to freak out (PANIC) and hopefully share some thoughts here more frequently!

I've been busy, stressed and sick...just like everyone else I know!

Old Geek-outs