Friday, February 29, 2008

Answering an age old question...

Yes, that's right, I am using my blog to answer an age old question - if a Killer Whale and a T-Rex were to meet in a battle, who would win?

A few years ago (ok, it was in 2003) my friend Matt and I had this great debate. He was convinced that a T-Rex had powerful jaws that would be able to pick up a Killer Whale (much like a person bobs for apples) to kill it. I was convinced that a Killer Whale would be too large for the T-Rex and would get away no problem.

Fortunately, knew that we had this question, and quickly answered it for us**.
This is the T-Rex (that looks curiously like an alligator) approaching the tank of a killer whale (that looks curiously like a shark).
Oh no! And this is the alligator/t-rex picking up the shark/killer whale and devouring it! I would have never believed it to be true, if not for the logo on the image.

**Clearly, this is not from This is Matt's attempt to prove his point. But I have to admit, it was fricken hilarious to receive at the time. So I saved these ridiculous renderings for almost five years (sad...) until I wised up and decided to post them on the world wide web.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
240 pages
Finished 2/24/08

I found this book while browsing a local Goodwill for books. It caught my eye because it said on the cover that it was a "companion" to Lowry's book The Giver. The Giver is one of the best children's/young adult book ever, in my opinion. I had no idea that Lowry came out with a companion book - so it was even more interesting to learn after reading Gathering Blue that she had created a bit of a trilogy - The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger (which I've yet to read, but is added to my wishlist).

Gathering Blue is not nearly as good as The Giver was. Gathering Blue is set in the future - a future that is actually much like the distant past when everything was extremely basic. The men hunt for food, the women raise the children in their huts, and any person born with a defect is typically left out to die in the burial field.

I am interested to read Messenger now, because I really felt like Gathering Blue ended in an extremely abrupt way. There were so many things that were not explained, and it looks like Messenger follows some of the characters that were in Gathering Blue.

I still gave it three stars, because Lowry rocks. Mild bias, of course.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
311 pages
Finished 2/18/08

Ah, Flowers for Algernon. One of those books that it seems like everyone and their brother read in high school. Well, I didn't, so lay off! This is one of those books that I added to my wishlist years ago (fine, it was May 28, 2004, to be exact) and then promptly forgot about. I found it the other day while on my magical trip to Half Price Books (which, by the way, was followed up by an equally magical trip to Goodwill, where I found tons of Baby-Sitter Club books. Because I'm 12).

For those that don't know, Flowers for Algernon is basically about a man named Charlie with a low IQ (around 70) that has an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. The surgery has already been performed successfully on a mouse named Algernon. The story is written diary style by Charlie.

I really went back and forth with this novel. I loved it in the beginning - Charlie just seemed so sweet and delicate that I really cared about him, and how the surgery would go for him. Once the surgery happened, though, I got more and more annoyed with Charlie. He was so negative. During this period of the book, his high points are with Algernon (who is not mentioned nearly enough, in my opinion). It was the ending of the book that made me really love the novel in the end, though. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but in a way, it was the perfect ending to this book.

Flowers for Algernon brought up a lot of great questions for me. How do you relate to Charlie on any level, both pre- and post-surgery? What would this book be like if it was written today, in 2008? Has anyone read it and care to discuss? Anyone?

I give it Four Stars. There is so much to think about...

Nightshade by John Saul

Nightshade by John Saul

399 pages
Finished 2/18/08

So, you probably don't know this, but John Saul's Suffer the Children is one of my most favoritest (yeah, I said it) books of all time. I first read it when I was young - probably around 5th grade or so, and the only reason I really remember it is because it is one of the first books that truly terrified me (um, maybe because I was way to young to be reading this crap?). Anyway, since I adored that book so much, every once and awhile I'll pick up another John Saul book to see if it will get me the way that first one did.

The answer? Not so much. It's hard to describe what this book is about, so go to the amazon.c0m link above and read about it. Yes, I'm feeling lazy tonight. Especially because I have another book to talk about that is WAY more interesting than this one.

Bottom line - I skimmed most of this book, just to get to the ending and feel a little dirty for reading it. It was no Suffer the Children, that's for sure.

Two stars.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

Open House by Elizabeth Berg
241 pages
Finished 2/16/08

Open House is about a woman (Sam) who separates from her wealthy husband within the first few pages of the book. She has a preteen son to raise, and once her soon to be ex-husband cuts her off financially, Sam must find a way to be able to keep her house and maintain her sanity. She lets out rooms to a few characters who both help and hinder her growth as she comes to grips with being left after 15 years of marriage.

I thought the start of the book was awful. I think Sam was supposed to come across as a sympathetic character devastated by her separation, but she just came off as neurotic, needy, and pathetic. As the book wore on and Sam started to get a backbone and some independence, I started liking the book more and more. There were a few touching scenes, including Sam's Thanksgiving. I did think the ending of the book was a little abrupt - there were some things that could have been explored a little more, including a conversation that Sam has with her ex.

Overall, I thought it was an ok book - I liked it, but I didn't love it. And I don't really understand how this was an Oprah pick, but whatever.

Three stars.

Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King
736 pages
Finished 2/16/08

Needful Things is subtitled The Last Castle Rock Story. It's set in Castle Rock (clearly), the same town where a number of other Stephen King books have taken place - The Dead Zone, Cujo, The Tommyknockers, and The Dark Half. You don't absolutely have to read those books before reading this one, but Needful Things does give away the endings to a couple of those books (although you might not realize it at the time).

Needful Things is the name of a new store in Castle Rock that everyone checks out - and almost everyone purchases something. The store has something for everyone - baseball cards, vases, sunglasses. And the prices are pretty cheap - the proprietor will sell the items for a dollar amount that you can afford, plus he will require you to play a "prank" on someone else in town. However, these pranks aren't as innocent as they seem, and they set off a huge chain reaction in the town.

There isn't much that I can't say about this book that I don't say about King's other work - it's consistent, it's reliable, and it's so familiar it is comforting to read (at least for me).

Three stars.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
480 pages
Finished 2/9/08

I have read all but one of Jodi Picoult's novels - I think the only one I haven't read was her very first book. Since I've read all of her books, I've found that most of them follow the same formula, with a "surprise twist" at the end of the book. This formula obviously works for her, as she's sold a ton of books, but as a reader it gets a little annoying.

The story is about a pretty sensitive matter - a 17 year old boy brings a gun to school, and ends up shooting at killing 10 people. The story jumps back and forth after the shooting - it goes from 17 years before the shooting, to one month after the shooting, to 11 years before the shooting, etc. I like this way of telling the story - it interweaves the characters and the story and gives you a good feel for the characters.

I liked the book, although, as I mentioned before, Picoult's books all seem to follow the same formula. That said, I figured out what the surprise twist would be almost immediately - it was pretty obvious to me within the first couple of chapters. The ending also seemed a little off - the last paragraph seemed a little thrown together, with not enough detail about certain characters, and other characters seemed to have their story wrapped up with a little bow (a little too happy of an ending).

I did have a little bit of problem with some her her timelines - maybe I was reading too fast, but in one part of the book, the storyline said that two brothers were starting school a year apart - one was starting kindergarten when his older brother was in first grade. Later in the book, it was mentioned that they were two years apart (10 & 8), which still makes it possible to be a year school-wise apart. However, later on in the book, it talks about one year before the accident, and I understood it as the younger brother was in 9th grade, and the older brother was somehow a senior. Maybe I don't get it, but it was a little confusing.

One thing that I like about Picoult's books is how she uses some of the same characters - in this book, there are at least 3 people that have been the main characters in some of her other books (The Pact, Perfect Match, and Salem Falls). You don't have to read the other books before reading this one, but it is helpful, especially since this book gives away relationships that are in the other books.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good book.

Three stars.

Thinner by Stephen King

Thinner by Stephen King
318 pages
Finished 2/7/08

Still on my quest to read all Stephen King books. This book started out a little slow for me. The story is about an overweight lawyer that accidentally hits and kills a Gypsy that crosses the street in front of him while he's in his car. After getting off very lightly due to connections with the judge presiding over the case, Billy (the main character), runs into another Gypsy, who touches him on the cheek and says "Thinner." Billy is soon drastically losing weight.

The novel really gets going about a third of the way in, when Billy starts to look for the Gypsy that cursed him. It's a great story - face paced with a lot of things happening. The best part of the book was the ending - I didn't see it coming. There was a feeling of horror as I read the last few was sort-of like, "No way!" I was liking the book quite a bit, but the ending actually brought it up a notch for me.

Four stars.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tat Update #3

David went in yesterday for another round for his tattoo. I had thought they were going to finish it yesterday, but they did about 3 hours and he still needs one more session. Yikes! Yesterday they added some color - red, green, and orangish. I'm still not able to picture what the final product will be, but it's looking pretty cool.

Here's a pic from last night (taken with my brand new pink camera). There's a glare on the photo because I had just put tattoo goo all over David's back.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
537 pages
Finished 2/5/08

There is just something about Binchy's books that I love. They are all exactly the same - the books will center on a number of people that are linked by some random way, and there are always multiple storylines to follow, but it's always a nice read. You know what you are getting when you read her books.

This book revolves around a number of people that are taking an evening class that teaches Italian. It focuses on about 5 or 6 people actually taking the class, as well as a few people who are linked to the class in other ways.

I really liked this book, but then, I've liked all of Binchy's books. One thing that I really like is that you often see some familiar names pop up - names of people that are in other Binchy novels. It's nice - like visiting an old friend.

Three and a half stars.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Since I moved to Madison, I've really gotten to be a bit of a college hockey nut. David and I go to as many games as we can a year - this year we've gone to 5, which is about average for us. I finally took some pictures at the game we went to on Friday (the Badgers won!). Our seats were pretty good, but most of the pictures have the net in the way, which is a bit of a bummer. Of course, we could have moved to take the pictures, but we were a bit lazy.

Here are some shots of the players warming up before the game:
Of course, anyone who knows me knows that pretty much my favorite part of the game is Bucky. He's hilarious. Last week he pounded on the glass next to a lady who had her back to the rink, and she just about hit the roof. I was hoping to get a picture of Bucky doing a headstand, but the first time he did it, I was in the bathroom, and the second time I didn't have the camera ready. Instead, here is Buck using his stick as a guitar while sliding across the ice...

We have such a blast at the games! I am sad, because I don't think we are going to any more this year. Can't wait for next year!

Icebound by Dean Koontz

Icebound by Dean Koontz
408 pages
Finished 2/1/08

This book is quite different from typical Koontz books. There I think it was one of the first books he published (although I could be wrong). It was originally published in the '70s under a different title (and under a pen name), and was brought back in the '90s with some updates.

Icebound doesn't have the creepy, horror feeling that most Koontz books have. This book was about some scientists trapped on an iceberg that is set to explode in less than 12 hours. To be quite honest, I was pretty bored by the book, and skimmed most of it. This book is probably my least favorite out of all of his books.

Two stars.