Online Library Hours: 24/7

I’m going to pretend I’ve been blogging all along… consistent, riveting entries weekly… you do the same. Please. Thank you. However, while I may not have been blogging, I HAVE been reading. So here’s the latest and greatest Newbold library of reads and don’t reads:

MUST READ:

  • Gone — Cathi Hanauer (Interesting premise, quick read, easily relatable to all of us in our mid-life relationships and marriages)
  • Odd Interludes 1, 2 & 3 — Dean Koontz (Loved this “installment” approach; Odd is still my FAVORITE Dean Koontz character of all time; multi-dimensional, full of humor, and so loveable; how he mixes that into the horror/sci fi, well, that’s why he’s Dean Koontz)
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter — Seth Grahame-Smith (If you’re looking for a mix of Lincoln history with a wonderfully strange twist, this is your book)
  • The Kitchen House — Kathleen Grissom (Fictional, but based in history; slave/owner story lines interwoven with indentured servitude; well-developed characters)
  • A Discovery of Witches — Deborah Harkness (A new twist on the supernatural for me; this is the first in a new series, and I’m already looking forward to the next book)
  • The Lifeboat — Charlotte Rogan (Love any shipwreck/ship accident survival theme — and you all know why — but this takes place at the turn of the last century and deals solely in feminine power and survival among men; very interesting read)

READ IF YOU ARE BORED or ON A PLANE:

  • The Vampire King — Heather Killough-Walden (She’s good, but the story line is predictable)
  • The Phantom King — Heather Killough-Walden (She’s good,  but the story line is predictable)
  • The Killing Floor — Lee Child (fairly hard core on the gruesome side, even for Lee Child)
  • The Innocent — David Baldacci (just right, but just not enough to warrant a “must read”)
  • Cry Wolf — Patricia Briggs (If you need a quick shape-shifting fix, this may be it)
  • Fair Game — Patricia Briggs (If you need a quick shape-shifting fix, this may be it)
  • Hunting Ground — Patricia Briggs (If yo uneed a quick shape-shifting fix, this may be it)

DON’T READ:

  • Micro — Michael Crighton/Richard Preston (A post-humous dis-service; leave this one on the shelf; ludicrous)
  • Kiss The Dead — Laurell K. Hamilton (Boring, formulaic, nothing new, sleeper, why bother)
  • Deadlocked — Charlaine Harris (Boring, formulaic, nothing new, sleeper, why bother)

 

Turnbull Woods — The Only Place to Play!

Years ago, as a pre-teen living in Beavercreek, Ohio, summers went on forever and Turnbull Woods took up HOURS of my day. Jump on the bike, pedal helmet-free with energy I can only dream of having now, and end up at Turnbull Woods with John South and Ricky Dull. The woods were perfect for adolescent adrenaline — splashing across the creek, spinning out in the mud, barreling around tight trail corners, and catching some air on the occassional ditch jump! God, before we knew it, it was dinnertime, and we’d head for home smelling like… well… like only adolescent boys can smell. Beautiful!

Now, as I look back, I wonder if John and Ricky’s boys (if they have them) have had the same opportunities we did. The freedom. The time. The safe place to play. Never thought I’d be at the age where I reminisce, but when I bring it up with co-workers of my age, we all admit that it was just different. Simpler. Easier. So, that’s why I’m actually using this post to speak about a client initiative. I know — never done it. Hinted at a few, but really never plugged an inititative. But in this case? Thinking about how that freedom to play, and that safe place to play made a difference in my growing up years (and thanks, big bro Paul, for the use of your Stingray), I’m happy to plug it: Let’s Play. It’s all about saving play, taking a pledge to commit to spending 60 extra minutes a week in active play with your kid(s), and giving away all kinds of money to neighborhoods for playground builds and spruce-ups. And if any of those playgrounds remotely resemble Turnbull Woods? Success is in the bag. Play will live on forever!

Prescriptive Religion and Other Pain Remedies

Once a year, like clockwork, I can be guaranteed my share of lower back pain. I never know exactly when it will hit, but when it does? God help me. And by God, of course, I mean Percocet, Percodan, Xanax, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Wine, Spirits, or the occasional ice pack and dollop of Ben Gay… Or actually any combination of said deity will do. Restores my faith every time. So, what invoked my return to religion this time around? Changing the sheets. Yeah, you heard me. CHANGING THE SHEETS! I played volleyball for two days straight with no issue at all, but when I simply try to pull my weight around the house and get the bedroom in order before heading to work the following Monday morning? I take what felt like a baseball bat to the spine. Snap. Twang. Ouch. Damn fitted sheets.

Now if getting beaten up by 500 count Egyptian cotton wasn’t bad enough (okay, so they were Thomas O’Brien 300 thread count from Target… sue me), I had to add insult to injury with an episode of being taken down by ice cubes. I know, just how tragic am I? I start paying on my long term health care premiums, and suddenly my senior citizen body clock decides my time has come. Next stop the morgue. Anyway, back to the ice cubes episode… Chris is out running an errand, and I’m pathetically gimping around the kitchen trying to pack some zip lock baggies with ice so I can treat my back, when I trip on a Dachshund, grimace in pain, and dump ice all over the kitchen floor. The dogs look at me, I look at them, and we all realize that this is going to be interesting.

After some painful maneuvering, I find myself on the kitchen floor, slowing gathering ice cubes to me in small groups of 3 – 4, and then awkwardly raising myself up with my elbow on the counter to deposit them in the garbage can. It’s at this moment that Chris returns home, breezes into the kitchen, sees my predicament, tosses his head back with glee and let’s loose in a glorious guffaw and boisterous laughter! I mean, we’re talking some serious laughter. Unabashed, shameless, unadulterated and joyous. He hasn’t laughed that hard since he learned about the Mormon planet Kolob watching Stephen Colbert. (Google it. Trust me, it’s a must-see…) And that moment was priceless, too. So, as much as I wanted to be pissed and hurt about it, I had to admit I must have looked pretty pathetic, so gave in and started laughing, too. Unfortunately, that action set off a wave of lower back pain that about killed me, but it was worth it. That, and the fact that every time anything dropped to the floor the rest of the day, Chris would head toward it with a spring in his step, offer to pick it up for me, and proceed to grab the item in a series of squat thrusts (repeated over and over)  just to prove how easy it was for him, and how painful it would be for me. Ah, what a guy. That’s why I love him. And that’s also why I need the Xanax. Long live religion and lower back pain.

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck… NOT!

Photo courtesy thedirtreader.blogspot.com

Okay, one last visit to the hen house. Just one more. I promise. Trust me, with all this pink slime discussion, I’m already focused on the barn…

You know I’ve been ranting about happy chickens, happy eggs, happy, happy, happy… So, when I stumbled upon Mark Bittman’s column touting  the virtues of a “chicken substitute” that didn’t necessarily claim to taste like chicken… (But then, what really does, right? Can you even describe that chicken tastes like? Go ahead. Try. You get my point.)  As I was saying, so when I stumbled upon  A Chicken Without Guild, I was fascinated on many levels, and I felt the need to force-feed it to you. Better you than the chickens. They get force-fed all the time. I’ll give you two quick snippets, and then you can read the rest on your own.

Snippet 1: “Really: Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that’s nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no antibiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn’t it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?

Why, in other words, use the poor chicken as a machine to produce meat when you can use a machine to produce “meat” that seems like chicken?”

Snippet 2:  “Indeed. This country goes through a lot of chickens: We raise and kill nearly eight billion a year — about 40 percent of our meat consumption, compared with roughly 30 percent beef and 25 percent pork. Chickens are grown so quickly that The Veterinary Record has said that most have bone disease, and many live in chronic pain. (The University of Arkansas reports that if humans grew as fast as chickens, we’d weigh 349 pounds by our second birthday.)

I don’t believe chickens have souls, but it’s obvious they have real lives, consciousness and feeling, and they’re capable of suffering, so any reduction in the number killed each year would be good.

If that’s too touchy-feely for you, how’s this? Producers have difficulty efficiently dealing with the manure, wastewater and post-slaughter residue that result from raising animals industrially; chickens, for example, produce about as much waste as their intake of feed.”

I gotta tell you. It makes sense, whether I want it to or not. Whether you want it to or not. And my hens? They still get to happily graze in their pastures and lay pretty eggs. Life is good.

A Mix of the Old and New

Reading for me is a mixed pleasure. And I mean that in a good way. Discovering new authors brings me pleasure, but discovering new works by authors I’ve come to know and appreciate brings me equal pleasure. This post is about both.

Tana French — You remember my raves about “The Likeness” and “In the Woods,” right? Well, “Faithful Place” delivers just as the others did. Her character development and her ability to bring a location, environment and culture to life are simply wonderful. I also love the fact that she takes a supporting character from one novel, and catapults that individual to hero or heroine of another novel. I always feel like I already know someone in the story, am already connected, and immediately give over to where she wants to take me because I usually already care about them. Her latest, “Broken Harbor,” is next on my list.

Robert Crais — I jumped right from “Taken” into “The Two Minute Rule” — both of similar genres (crime solving with a federal/local investigative twist, legal or not), but, unlike Tana French, no characters crossed over into the new novel. But the characters he developed in “The Two Minute Rule” were beautifully, if not tragically, written. I’m looking forward to discovering more from him.

 

 

Anne Rice — I know, I know. Really? But, yes! Really! Years ago, her Vampire Lestat series were mesmerizing. I mean, come on, she brought the genre to the mainstream years ago. Tom Cruise wanted the lead role in her movie, for gods’ sake. And that was BEFORE he want insane on Oprah… But, I digress. Her latest, “The Wolf Gift,” (yes, you guessed it, a werewolf tale) takes her back to her super natural roots and away from the Christian fare she was delivering for the last decade or so. While this novel was a bit tedious, self-righteous, and tethered to a moral discussion on evolution, free agency, and good versus evil, the actual werewolf bits reminded me that she still has it. This book clearly set her up for additional story lines, so I’ll be curious to see how quickly she delivers. Not sure I’ll be so quick to make the purchase…

Jodi Picoult — Now this is an author who is so mainstream that I have avoided her. (And yes, I see the irony in that statement, given my other choices… shut up.) Blame it on Oprah. I saw a segment on Oprah where she had this group of people around a table with glasses of wine and candles and they were discussing one of her book recommendations, and it was all so pretentious and nauseating that I swore off ANY book Oprah recommended for literally 7 years. Now that she’s off the air? I’m free to read authors she liked. Thus, Jodi Picoult. I chose the book because of my love of wolves, but the irony here is that “Lone Wolf” tells the story of a family torn apart by an unyielding father so rigid in his devotion to studying and living with wolves that his ability to communicate at a base level with his family was obstructed. Enough said. I loved the book.

Heather Killough-Walden — I admit it. The fact that her book only cost me $2.99 on NOOK was the reason I chose her. But I wasn’t disappointed. I was looking for an author who could deliver another sci-fi/fantasy series that would deliver the escape and quick read I was looking for, and this woman may be it. The fact that her entire “Big Bad Wolf” werewolf series was available for $3.99 cinched it.  I downloaded it immediately. Books 1 – 4 at that price? Come on. Wouldn’t you?

 

Stef Penney — His novel, “The Invisible Ones,” was challenging but rewarding. Based on Gypsy lore and history, it’s  a crime mystery told through the eyes of 4 – 6 different characters. Tracking through each of the characters was a bit tough, but the story-telling was beautiful. It’s a book that you need to be able to spend solid chunks of time with to absorb and appreciate. Given I was reading it on my iPhone during my 15 minute commute to work and back, I probably didn’t give it its due. But I still recommend it, and the author. I’m waiting for his previous novel, “The Tenderness of Wolves,” a murder mystery set in the late 1800’s in the Northern Territory, to become available for download. Yeah, I’m stubborn, but I refuse to go buy the paperback or hard cover of a novel published in 2008 when his 2012 novel is already available online. See what I’ve become?

Parrot Talk

Geronimo

Entertaining a parrot is definitely a reciprocal activity. This morning’s example between Chris and Geronimo:

Setting: Morning in the Newbold/Douglas kitchen, Alan making coffee and feeding the dogs, Chris at the counter with Geronimo perched on his finger, peacefully grooming his feathers while Chris speaks to him…

Chris: Once upon a time there was a dashing, handsome, silver-haired prince. (Yes, self-description)

Geronimo: Happy, short warbles and tweets, mimicking Chris’ intonation

Chris: And he found himself trapped, high in a NY tower by an evil, ugly, bad, mean old crone. (Guess who?)

Geronimo: Deep, guttural, elongated trill, mimicking Chris’ intonation

Chris: But luckily, the handsome prince was kept company by a beautiful Falcon.

Geronimo: Turns his head to the side and gleefully shrieks and trills at full volume

Chris: How does he do that? How does he know?

Alan: I have no idea, but he knows it every time.

Geronimo: Heh, heh, heh, heh

Chris: Unbelievable.

Alan: Frightening.

Geronimo: I’m a good boy.

… And so the day begins, once again proving that I have no idea who is smarter — me or my animals…