Category Archives: reviews

Pollyanna and the Lost Weekend

Lyda here.

I wasn’t actually lost this weekend, just… misplaced. But only slightly. (It was not at all like this Lost Weekend.)

I was in LA visiting friends. One of the things we did was go to a fabulous restaurant in Santa Monica called The Lobster. It’s right at the entrance to the pier, with an 180-degree view of the ocean and the pier. The whole evening was amazing – incredible food, excellent mixed drinks (I wasn’t driving), and an elegantly casual atmosphere. Elegantly casual is hard to pull off if you aren’t Audrey Hepburn, but they do it well.

If you go, ask if Patrick can be your waiter. He was terrific. Listen to his recommendations on the food and you can’t go wrong.

And also?  Best. Oysters. Ever.

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Pollyanna reads on Discworld, part 3

Lyda here.

I finally completed the seemingly-endless Reading on Discworld Challenge which was inspired by the books of Terry Pratchett. I wanted to read new books for the challenge, which is why it took me so long. Oh yeah, plus getting my masters. And life. I already reported here on the books I read for item #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 15, and here on the books I read for item #s 6, 8, 12 & 14.

These are the remaining parts of the challenge that I completed:

3. ‘Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?” Mort thought for a moment. “No,” he said eventually, “what?” There was silence. Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ‘em right.”’  Mort

Read a book about something you’ve always wondered about. What is string theory, really? Who was Deep Throat? And, now that we’re thinking about such things (y’all know you are)… How have attitudes and morals about sex varied and changed by country and era? (That book was my sister’s college graduation present to me – my first graduate course, she said.) Terry Pratchett book suggestions:  “Pyramids” (mathematics, philosophers, why camels look smug, and what really happens to mummies), “Monstrous Regiment” (why military intelligence isn’t always an oxymoron).

I read “The Walking Dead  – Compendium One” by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, and Cliff Rathburn.

What? I’ve always wondered about graphic novels – I had never really read any before – and specifically, I wondered about these graphic novels.

I love “The Walking Dead” TV series, and I knew from watching “The Talking Dead” that the graphic novels (on which the show is based) were different. Some of the characters and their character development are different, important plot points are completely different, and reading the graphic novels is a totally different experience from watching the show. They are both excellent, too.

7. ‘The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the date last shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.’  Guards! Guards!

Go to the library and wander into an aisle you do not usually frequent. Pick a book from the shelf  and read it. One way to do this is to look in the new books section, and pick something from a category you don’t usually read. Just don’t interfere with the nature of causality while you’re there. Terry Pratchett book suggestions:  “Good Omens”, “Nation”.

I read “The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size” by Julia Cameron. (I actually bought this book, so I can use it over and over like her other books.) Y’all, I never ever read diet books. But this one is different. For one thing, it is written by one of my favorite authors, who wrote “The Artist’s Way” and many other awesome books about which I

just (blog post link #1)

won’t (blog post link #2)

shut (blog post link #3)

up (blog post link #4).

This book is really about expanding one’s creativity and shrinking one’s use of food as a block to emotions and creativity. It does not contain a food plan or rules. Instead, it give tools to use to explore one’s relationship to food and get free of old patterns and unhealthy habits. Those familiar with Julia Cameron’s work will recognize some of the tools, like Morning Pages, and find new tools, like keeping a food journal.

I’ll let you know how it goes as I try out the program.

13. ‘It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.’  Equal Rites

Read a book about sex, sexuality, and/or sexual politics. I think y’all can find one of these on your own. Terry Pratchett book suggestion:  “Equal Rites”, “Sourcery”.

I read “Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide” by Maurine Dowd. I wasn’t crazy about this book. Some of the science is out of date, and I didn’t agree with a lot of her conclusions. For example, she quotes a survey that found that 86% of women would quit their jobs if they didn’t need the money. This supposedly shows that women are less invested in their jobs than men are. But I immediately wanted to know: what percentage of men in equivalent jobs would quit if they didn’t need the money? I’m guessing it would be neck-and-neck.

But agreeing with her is not the point. She made me think, and that is the point. Plus, she is a good and occasionally funny writer. While discussing the ‘war between the sexes’ she says, “Will there ever be peace? I doubt it. But there should always be laughter.” And I’ll drink to that.

16. ‘To Rincewind’s annoyance the Luggage barreled after her, cushioning its fall by dropping heavily onto a slaver, and adding to the sudden panic of the invaders because, while it was bad enough to be attacked with deadly and ferocious accuracy by a rather pretty girl in a white dress with flowers on it, it was even worse for the male ego to be tripped up and beaten by a travel accessory; it was pretty bad for all the rest of the male, too.’  Sourcery

Read a book with an inanimate object as a character and/or an important part of the plot. Terry Pratchett book suggestions: “Sourcery”, or any of the books with the Luggage in them.

I read “Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind. There is a sword that is essential to the plot, and is practically alive. Plus, there is a talking magical doll in it. I realize as I’m typing this that “talking magical doll” sounds really creepy, but in this story it actually isn’t. No, really.

17. ‘ “It would seem you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said.
“Have you thought about going into teaching?” ‘  Mort

Read a book that teaches you something. Something that will not come in handy in your everyday life. Learn something completely impractical.  Terry Pratchett book suggestion: “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents” (you will find out more about rats than you ever thought there was to know).

I read “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! I feel as if I found my homeland – it is a land of truly weird stuff and wonderful off-kilter people, and Jenny is our leader. Also, I learned quite a lot of very bizarre and not-useful stuff, including things about taxidermy. See this post for my full review.

18. ‘… human beings, little bags of thinking water held up briefly by fragile accumulations of calcium…’  Pyramids

.

‘It’s not for nothing that advanced mathematics tends to be invented in hot countries. It’s because of the morphic resonance of all the camels, who have that disdainful expression and famous curled lip as a natural result of an ability to do quadratic equations.’  Pyramids

.

‘It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong… It is used. And one of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual.

‘Because if this was not the case, then human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing big stupid grins, similar to those worn by certain remote tribesmen who occasionally get raided by the authorities and have the contents of their plastic greenhouses very seriously inspected.’  Small Gods

Read something spiritual, mystical, mathematical, or amazing. Something that will remind you of how magic and unbelievable the universe and everything in it really is. Terry Pratchett book suggestions: “Small Gods”, “Good Omens”, “Wee Free Men”… really, any of his books.

I read “River Flow: New & Selected Poems” by David Whyte. I love his writing. It feeds my soul. I discovered his work at school, where several of his books are required reading. Which shows you how awesome my school is.

19. ‘He [Vimes] wasn’t strictly aware of it, but he treated even geography as if he was investigating a crime (Did you see who carved out the valley? Would you recognize that glacier if you saw it again?)’  The Fifth Elephant

Read a detective novel, a crime story, a mystery, or a thriller. Terry Pratchett book suggestions: “The Fifth Elephant”, “Thud!”.

I read “Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson. It’s not a traditional mystery, but it definitely fits the bill. The plot twists like a corkscrew, the characters are unique, the ending is surprising, and the world is fascinating.

————————————————–

I post about this so I can keep it straight in my own head. Which is a rather chaotic place sometimes. Witness the digressions…

Pollyanna and the Game of Thrones, office version

Lyda here. I was going to call this post “Pollyanna gets PWNED“.

This post contains no spoilers, in case you haven’t read the books or watched the series yet. Which you totally should do.

Have you read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin? My Brother the Professor calls him “Railroad”. It’s the first book of the Song of Fire and Ice series, and it’s awesome. My son The Sith Master loaned me the books, and I devoured them and can’t wait for the next one to come out. Write faster, please, Mr. Martin!

Have you seen the HBO series “Game of Thrones” which is based on the books? A coworker loaned me his DVDs of seasons 1 and 2. The series is awesome, and faithful to the books. As it should be, as the author is involved.

So – this co-worker and I decided we should play Game of Thrones in the office. Without the “cutting off body parts” component of the originals. Silly HR rules.

We named it “Game of Flags.” It’s basically Capture the Flag. We divided the office into four teams.  You have to get the other team’s flag to your workspace, take a picture of a teammate with it, and email it to the office.

The competition is getting brutal.

Friday I was guarding my team’s flag.

It was stolen twice.

Twice.

I only had to guard the thing for two hours. How hard could that be? Very hard, apparently.

So I learned some things about myself.

  • I am a very bad loser. When I discovered the first theft, I acted like a toddler whose been awake for a month, ate all the Frosted Flakes in the store, and lost her toy. I was just lucky that there weren’t any managers around to witness my meltdown, and that my coworkers accepted my profuse apologies for behaving like an ass. I was calmer for the second theft, at least on the outside, although inside I was cursing.
  • I am still capable of embarrassing myself so much that I want to run away and never come back. (See previous.) One might think that one would outgrow such things. One would be wrong.
  • I hate competing. I didn’t like it as a child, and it still sucks. Possibly because I’m such a bad loser. Possibly because I always seem to lose. I never liked sports, spelling bees, or anything else that pitted me against the other kids. Instead, I was always rooting for my friends to do well. I hated it when the teacher called on someone who didn’t know the answer. I didn’t like being graded on a curve. Not because it wasn’t fair, but because I was the one who aced the test and ruined the curve for everyone else. Yes. That was me. Sorry.
  • I am far too trusting to be let out on the streets. I never suspected my coworkers of trickery. I probably need a keeper. Hopefully my keeper would have an awesome sense of direction, which would also solve my getting-lost problem.
  • I’m a terrible guard. Don’t hire me for that. You’ll only have yourself to blame when the crown jewels go missing.

Pollyanna and the Laughter of Doom

Lyda here.

So, you know when you are reading a book in bed late at night and you worry that you are going to smother yourself with your pillow because you don’t want to wake up your roommates and have them call the men in white coats to drag you off because your constant hysterical laughter has convinced them that you have finally gone over the edge – which, let’s face it, you have been skirting for months – but you know it would be counter-productive, because wouldn’t it be better to end up in a nice padded room than dead from smothering yourself, plus you wouldn’t get to finish the book.

And then you are reading the book the next day at lunch time in your car and you laugh so hard that you are sure all your internal organs have been completely pulverized by the shaking, and also you have gotten a fabulous ab workout just by reading – take that, 24 Hour Fitness – but you know that if anyone from work sees you shaking so hard they will panic and call the paramedics and you won’t be able to talk to the cute paramedic because you will be so out of breath from laughing, so he will give you an oxygen mask, and then you won’t be able to flirt with him at all, because who looks appealing in an oxygen mask?

No?

Then you haven’t read “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess.

Buy it. Read it. Share it.

This is a book so awesomely twisted and so funny that you’ll hurt yourself laughing, and also feel a bit guilty because you are laughing at terrible things that you know you shouldn’t laugh at. But you will laugh anyway.

Y’all are going to snort sweet tea up your noses. Or the drink of your choice. So make sure it’s not too hot, and eschew ice cubes. Trust me.

Pollyanna meanders like a zombie

Lyda here.

Okay, y’all have to check out Les Chats Ninjas (Ninja Cats). Too funny!

And this post on The Blogess, about a very odd text message she received. Make zombies much?

And anyway, I am totally adding The Blogess to our blog roll. Because wine. And tons of funny stuff. Holy Taxidermy, Batman!     Also, her shop rocks. How did she know I heart zombies? And the Sith Master needs one of these. And I need this on a coffee cup. Or a wine glass… And OMG, check this one out. Is that one only funny if you’re from Texas? Nope, didn’t think so.

The Sith Master and I saw Man of Steel on the Saturday of the weekend it came out. We liked it a lot. Great cast, interesting storyline, lots of action. Scenes with the new Superman with his shirt off. I don’t care what my roommate says, I can enjoy looking at Henry Cavill if I want to.

And I do want to.

Favorite quote from the movie:

Lois Lane: They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.

Clark Kent/Superman: Only if you’re kissing a human.

That’s what he said.

But I digress…

Last weekend the Sith Master and I went to see World War Z. Of course we did.

Fast-paced action sequences, thought-provoking ideas, zombies that were different from normal (if there is a “normal zombie” – a contradiction in terms – these ain’t them; these zombies are fast and predatory). It’s pretty scary. Not for little kids, or even older kids. Not for adults who can’t handle the scary. It’s not too gory, though.

Yes, the “they’re coming to get you Barbara” zombie scenes are scary. But also, the plot is scary on an intellectual level, in a “is this how governments would react?” way.

And before the movie, I was telling him about people at work leaving food lying around to rot, and I said, “That’s how zombies are made.”

New catchphrase! Yes, another one. No, I don’t think I have too many already. Well, how many is too many?…

Look, go have some sweet tea and stop making me digress...

Power outage? That’s how zombies are made.

Killer stereo? That’s how zombies are made.

Texting while driving? That’s how zombies are made.

Late package delivery? That’s how zombies are made.

Lame party snacks? That’s how zombies are made. If it’s too late, the zombies prefer Doritos. Just a public service announcement.

Not getting your recommended weekly allowance of weirdness?

That’s how zombies are made.

I predict that this phrase will sweep across the world like, well, like a zombie plague.

But less bitey.

Pollyanna reads on Discworld, part two

Lyda here. The Reading on Discworld Challenge continues. I’ve read more books for the challenge.

I already wrote about completing some of the challenge and reported on the books I read for item #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 15. I am trying to read new books for most of the challenge. I want to discover some new books to love – which is really why I do these challenges. (I already re-read the Terry Pratchett books mentioned in the challenge. Of course.)

Now I have completed these parts of the challenge too.

6. Read a mythological book, or a book of myths, or a book about mythology.

I read “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin. Knights, kingdoms, strange creatures… definitely mythological! The Sith Master has been reading the whole series, and now he has me hooked too. I haven’t seen the HBO series, although I’ve heard good things about it. This is an exciting and fascinating story full of interesting, complex characters. The only problems are a) losing sleep because I’m reading these and I can’t put them down, and b) eventually getting to the end of the series. I’m already halfway through the second book…

8. Read a book about money. 

I read “The Prosperous Heart“. I love Julia Cameron’s books, so it went quickly. This is an excellent book, which gave me both small practical steps and big leaps of realization. I’ll be implementing this in my life, gently. Julia’s books are always gentle.

12. Read a book about a strange new land, or a travel book – fact or fiction.

I read “The Fine Color of Rust” by P.A. O’Reilly which is set in a little dusty town in Australia. A good funny “coming of middle-age” story that starts out lighthearted, touches deep, and ends up being hopeful.

14. Read a book that most people would be embarrassed to read in public, because of the title, the content, or the cover art. And then read it in public.

I read “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” by Mary Roach. The library copy I read had a white cover with the word BONK in very big letters on the front. Plus the book has illustrations that are… interesting. Mary Roach is a wicked funny writer, and she bravely asked scientists and others the questions we would have asked if we’d had the courage. I recommend it highly. There are definitely more Mary Roach books in my future. Reading the book was fun. Reading the book in public was hilarious.

I still have the following parts of the challenge to complete:

3. Read a book about something you’ve always wondered about.

7. Go to the library and wander into an aisle you do not usually frequent. Pick a book from the shelf and read it.

13. Read a book about sex, sexuality, and/or sexual politics.

16. Read a book with an inanimate object as a character and/or an important part of the plot.

17. Read a book that teaches you something. Something that will not come in handy in your everyday life. Learn something completely impractical.

18. Read something spiritual, mystical, mathematical, or amazing. Something that will remind you of how magic and unbelievable the universe and everything in it really is.

19. Read a detective novel, a crime story, a mystery, or a thriller.

So far, I’ve done 12 of the 19 parts of the challenge.

I post about this so I can keep it straight in my own head. Which is a rather chaotic place sometimes. I need to see it written down where I can find it again.

Which explains the digressions…

Pollyanna versus the Reading on Discworld Challenge

Lyda here. The Reading on Discworld Challenge continues for your enjoyment. And it’s about time I blogged about the books I’ve read for this challenge.

So far I have completed the following parts of the challenge. (I already re-read the Terry Pratchett books mentioned. Of course.)

1. Read an autobiography or biography of someone who is still alive.

I read “Thinking In Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin. It was like seeing the world through someone else’s mind.

2. Read a book about an animal, or with an animal as an important character or plot point.

I read “Modoc: the True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived” by Ralph Helfer, about an Indian elephant and his trainer. It’s an amazing  story of the friendship between a boy and an elephant, with lots of exciting twists and (I’ll just tell you now so you don’t worry) a happy ending. This one was given to me by a fellow book addict at work. I liked it a lot.

4. Read a book with an anti-hero or anti-heroine.

I read (re-read) “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Excellent, funny, insightful book – as one would expect from these authors.  A not-so-demonic demon, plus the Antichrist.

5. Read a book of poetry, or a book that contains poetry (the whole book doesn’t have to be poetry).

I read “Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation.”  It’s a collection of poems, and I have so many bookmarks in this book that it looks like a porcupine. Highly recommend this!

9. Read a book about politics. Or political history, or political theory, or political satire, or a biography or autobiography of a political figure.

 I read Barack Obama’s book “Dreams from My Father” which was terrific. It is well-written and deeply personal, and a great read. Highly recommended.

10. Read a book about a protagonist going through a mid-life (or later in life) upheaval. Or read, not an author’s first book, but one written later in their life.

I read “Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death to True Healing” – powerful!

11. Read a book about the truth – a non-fiction book, in fact. Alternatively, read a book about reporting on the news, or about something that was once believed true but has been proved not to be true.

I read “Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity” by David Whyte. Beautiful, inspirational, and unusual book.

I also read “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.” Fascinating look into how the brain works, and a compelling argument for “I feel emotion, therefore I am.”

15. Read a book about a strong female protagonist.

I read the “Mistborn” triology, at the insistence of the Sith Master. Awesome books, with a wonderful strong female protagonist. All of the characters are great – I highly recommend anything by Brandon Sanderson .

That’s 8 out of 19 done, if you are keeping score.

I want to read new books, not re-read ones I’ve already read umpteen times. Because the point of a reading challenge – for me anyway – is to move out of the comfortable reading rut, explore new territory,  and hopefully  discover some new books to love.

I still have the following parts of the challenge to complete:

3. Read a book about something you’ve always wondered about.

6. Read a mythological book, or a book of myths, or a book about mythology.

7. Go to the library and wander into an aisle you do not usually frequent. Pick a book from the shelf and read it.

8. Read a book about money. I just got “The Prosperous Heart“. I love Julia Cameron’s books, so this will go quickly.

12. Read a book about a strange new land, or a travel book – fact or fiction.

13. Read a book about sex, sexuality, and/or sexual politics.

14. Read a book that most people would be embarrassed to read in public, because of the title, the content, or the cover art. And then read it in public.

16. Read a book with an inanimate object as a character and/or an important part of the plot.

17. Read a book that teaches you something. Something that will not come in handy in your everyday life. Learn something completely impractical.

18. Read something spiritual, mystical, mathematical, or amazing. Something that will remind you of how magic and unbelievable the universe and everything in it really is.

19. Read a detective novel, a crime story, a mystery, or a thriller.

Not that y’all are really keeping score, but so that I can keep it straight in my own head. Which is a rather chaotic place sometimes, so I need to see it written down where I can find it again – hence posting it on the blog.

But I digress…