books & writing

Lisa reads The Wicked by Douglas Nicholas

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I am not normally a big fantasy reader, but I enjoy a little something fanciful now and then. I enjoyed Douglas Nicholas’ previous novel, Something Red, and I was not disappointed in The Wicked. Thirteenth-century England is the perfect setting for this sort of adventure, with elements of historical fiction, mystery and magic.

Once again, exiled Irish queen Molly is traveling the countryside with her granddaughter, Nemain, her young apprentice, Hob, and her lover, Jack Brown. They have come to the castle of Sir Jehan, who they saved in Something Red, to discuss a creeping danger that is facing his long-time friend, Sir Odinell. Something is preying on the people in the surrounding lands – draining their life force, leaving wizened corpses. Knights sent out to battle this evil do not return or return in a daze, a shadow of their former selves. With good reason, Sir Odinell suspects Sir Tarquin and his wife; they have a malevolent air about them and their behavior is suspicious. But how does one battle an ancient evil?

Of course, Molly and Nemain recognize the evil and have a plan for fighting it. Their particular variety of Irish magic fits so beautifully into the Olde English setting. However, for me, the star of this series is Hob. He has grown so much – he started out as such an innocent, raised by a parish priest, and he has become a vital part of this traveling band. While he may not understand the magic that they practice, he is bright and observant, often noticing details the others have missed. He struggles with their practices – he was raised by a priest, after all, and he is traveling with pagans – but he clearly loves his new family and it is interesting to see them all through his eyes.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I enjoy the portrayal of life in that time period, the mysticism and the characters. Before writing novels, Nicholas was a poet and that shows in his writing. It’s a real pleasure to read.

My copy of The Wicked was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

the wicked

 

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Joseph Randle shoplifts, gets caught, and benefits from it

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Perhaps it’s just me, but I preferred the version of the world where people who did something bad did not immediately profit from it. In that world, Kim Kardashian would still be famous, but only in a negative way, and she would not have made untold sums of money and become a household name by appearing in a sex tape while displaying no other notable skill other than self-promotion. Paris Hilton would have been seen as a family embarrassment rather than a worldwide celebrity. We have had a good number of athletes become famous for bad things too, and the pace at which the bad turns to profit seems to have accelerated quite rapidly. The current case in point is Joseph Randle, running back for the Dallas Cowboys and shoplifter. [Read more →]

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that the phrase “you guys” is banned

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. YG100: Hey, you guys! Listen, guys… You guys have to stop opening your guys’s sentences with “you guys” and saying “you guys” every other word. You guys are, like driving the Emperor crazy, you guys. Don’t make the Emperor slap you guys in chains. Okay guys? I mean, like, some of you guys aren’t even guys, so “you guys” just doesn’t make sense, guys.

The Punishment: You guys who use “you guys” will have your guys’s butts thrown into the Imperial Dungeons where you guys will meet some other guys who will make your guys’s lives miserable.

Okay guys? See you guys later.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

A year (and counting) without cable

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So we got rid of cable about a year ago. The kids are not alright. Of course, they’re bitter about it, and maybe rightfully so, because I’m not convinced any of us are better off. You know, you get rid of cable to live a more intellectual life, to get more in touch with yourself, with your family. But is any of that happening? [Read more →]

art & entertainmentBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten one-liners

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10. I’m not a big fan of shopping centers because, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the mall.

9. I thought I’d found a mass grave for snowmen, but it turned out it was just a field of carrots.

8. I was so drunk last night that, when I walked across the dance floor to get to the bar, I won the dance contest.

7. Prison walls are never built to scale.

6. My memory is so good, I can’t remember the last time I forgot something.

5. My physics teacher told me I had a lot of potential, just before he pushed me off the roof.

4. After several karate lessons, I can now break a five-inch board with my cast.

3. I stayed up all last night, trying to remember if I had amnesia or insomnia.

2. Ebola has people so afraid of Liberians, they’ve completely stopped checking out books.

1. I’d have to say, looking over the past decade, this year would definitely be in my top ten.
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads Season of Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

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Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech was a great end-of-summer read. It leans more toward chick-lit than my usual choices. There are some interesting plot twists and a good build-up, but the big finish fell flat for me.

This is the story of the Lenore women – ever since their matriarch made a bold decision and ran off an amazing adventure, they have nurtured a secret business, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They cultivate a unique flower, a gardenia brought back from the Amazonian jungle, and turn it into the most expensive perfume on Earth. It is sold only to a carefully selected female clientele and it brings them wealth and power and success. Actresses, politicians, artists, CEOs – they have made their mark on the world with the help of the Lenore women and their secret elixir.

But now, their empire is in jeopardy. Youngest daughter Lucia is home from New York, mourning her failed marriage and failing career. Elder daughter Mya, groomed to take over the business, is plotting behind her mother’s back and making rash decisions. Their mother, Willow, can feel it all slipping away from her, and the news gets worse: the flowers are dying.

For me, the most interesting part of the story was the interaction with the two young actresses receiving the perfume. There’s real trouble brewing and the women are making some bad choices. The romances seem a little too convenient and the big climax a little contrived. While these women have managed their business for decades, suddenly things will grind to a halt without men in their lives – I really find that hard to swallow. I’m all in favor of romance, but this isn’t really what I was looking for.

My copy of Season of the Dragonflies was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

season of dragonflies

 

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Georgia running back suspended for selling autographs

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Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is worse, the players or the leagues. While the NFL and the NCAA find themselves in one bad situation after another, the players at both levels make it clear that many of them have little regard for rules or even for other human beings. At the college level, I think the good kids outnumber the bad kids by a lot, but there are still a number of them that clearly think the world revolves around them and the rules don’t apply. This week, Georgia’s star running back, Todd Gurley, was suspended indefinitely after it was alleged that he signed a whole lot of autographs while getting paid to do so, a clear violation of NCAA rules.

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythinghealth & medical

Now that five states have passed ‘Assisted Suicide’ measures (in part because they’d been rebranded ‘Aid in Dying’), top ten other euphemisms for ‘Assisted Suicide’

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10. Dirt-Nap Helper

9. One Ticket to Paradise

8. Help Making It Across

7. Subterranean Horizontal Retirement Village

6. Motel Deep 6

5. AARP AARGH!!

4. Club Mud

3. One-Way Travel Arrangement

2. Stairway to Heaven

1. The Hokey Croaky
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

diatribesfamily & parenting

Ten Things I Won’t Miss Hearing After I Have My Baby

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Being pregnant, in my experience, is kinda like being part of an extremely trippy science experiment for the better part of a year. Suddenly, the body with which you have been intimately familiar for thirty-some-odd years changes drastically, turning you into a pod person for an ever-growing alien life form. It’s terrifying. There is a lot of poking and prodding, and I’m not just talking about what happens in the doctor’s office. I’m getting advice bombs lobbed at me from all angles, usually from people I don’t know all that well. I love talking to friends and family about every aspect of my pregnancy but the comments and questions I get from co-workers or strangers on the train have ranged from mildly odd to just plain uncomfortable. Here are some of the many things I will NOT miss hearing once my baby is born. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Children Act by Ian McEwan

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I’ve read two novels by Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beachand Saturday and loved them both, so I was thrilled to get an early copy of The Children Act. Like the others I mentioned, it’s understated and quiet; much of the action in the book happens inside the main character’s head. However, I was so caught up in the story, so engaged by her struggle, that I read nearly straight through. Thank heavens McEwan doesn’t feel the need for 800 pages to tell a story.

Fiona Maye is 59, a High Court judge who presides over family court cases. She thought she was happily married until her husband came to her with a proposition: he wants to have an affair. He tells her that he loves her, but they have become more like brother and sister and he wants to have one final, grand, passionate affair before he moves into his later years. Fiona is horrified, deeply wounded, and eventually her husband packs a suitcase and leaves Fiona alone and betrayed.

In a way, the rest of the book is about their marriage and how/whether they will come back to each other. It’s also a window into how Fiona’s cases affect her: a case involving conjoined twins leaves her squeamish about touch and her body. The bitterness and acrimony of divorcing couples makes it difficult to see her own marriage in any other light. But it is the case of Adam Henry, a teenager suffering from leukemia and refusing treatment, that will have the greatest impact, spilling out of the courtroom and into her personal life.

Adam and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and are refusing blood transfusions for religious reasons. He is seventeen, nearly an adult, but without treatment he won’t see his eighteenth birthday. Fiona’s decision changes everything in his life and leaves him without an anchor, a little lost and at odds with everything he has known. He looks to Fiona, hoping for a touchstone, some guidance, but she pulls away from him.

The Children Act refers to British legislation that makes the welfare and well-being of children ”the paramount concern to the courts.” On the bench, Fiona can apply that standard easily; she can cut through the warring concerns of parents, social workers, and doctors, focusing on the child at the center of the conflict. Off the bench, she falters. Although Adam reaches out to her, she can’t take action to help him and her inaction will also have a price.

Adam’s story is heartbreaking and Fiona’s is frustrating. Over and over I wanted to shake her, or I wanted something to jolt her out of her structured, restrictive view of the world. I could easily imagine her losing everything in her life that was important to her because she couldn’t do something. Then, once Adam’s story started, I found the book impossible to put down and finished up about 2 am, both relieved and troubled. It was a fabulous read and I am already imagining the movie that someone is sure to make of it.

My copy of The Children Act was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

children act

 

educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

School ratings: Your experience will be a 7.2

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Part 9 (of 874) in an occasional series about how standardized tests are destroying education.

Perhaps it’s surprising considering the U.S.’s supposed death spiral in mathematics, but we like numbers. We like the idea of pinning exactitude on things, on, you know, the right answer. And numbers lend themselves to lists and rankings. We like lists and rankings, particularly school rankings. From magazine stories about colleges to Websites about grammar schools, school lists abound. But what those lists and numbers don’t tell you at all is what kind of experience your individual kid will have at a school. Along the way, they may be committing serious, mean-spirited damage to lots of communities where real kids are trying to learn. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Feel free to pray after a touchdown, but don’t slide into it

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It’s really amazing how much of the talk around the NFL this season has centered on non-football issues. It is more than I can ever remember, and that is saying something, as there is always a fair amount of that stuff going on. The early part of this past week included a lot of discussion of religious touchdown celebrations. Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs was penalized after sliding to the ground and praying in Muslim fashion after he returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter of his team’s win over New England on Monday Night Football.

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingtelevision

Top ten new shows on the Paula Deen Network

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10. Cooking with Lard

9. The Amazing Racist: Ferguson, Missouri

8. The Better Butter Batter Broadcast

7. Chunky Brewster

6. Intolerant Cruelty

5. The Lards of Fatbush

4. Calling a Spade a Spade

3. Waiting for Hefty

2. Tales from the Darky Side

1. Cooking with More Lard
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads The Drop by Dennis Lehane

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I am fast becoming a big Dennis Lehane fan. I read Shutter Island and loved it. I recently reviewed Live By Night and loved it. Even more recently, I devoured The Drop in one bite (on a flight between Cleveland and New York/JFK) and loved it. That’s a pretty good track record!

Bob is a loner, a bit of a social misfit, a man with secrets that come between him and the world — and Bob is desperately lonely. When he finds a battered puppy stuffed in a garbage can, he seems to have finally found a friend – not only the puppy, but a woman he meets nearby who encourages him to take in the dog. It would not be wise to step between the man and his new friends.

That’s only part of the story. Bob works for his Cousin Marv at the bar everyone thinks Marv owns, but is really a front for the Chechen mob. Cousin Marv used to be somebody, be a tough guy, but in the end, he wasn’t tough enough. The Chechens treat him like an errand boy and it galls him, maybe enough to do something stupid.

I think everyone reading The Drop sees the end coming. Cousin Marv’s bar is going to be “the drop” on one of the biggest nights of the year and that makes them a target. We all know that something bad is going to happen – the question is who will it happen to and how will they react. You can’t help but root for Bob, I think, and his poor puppy and his friend, Nadia. You want things to work out for them and there are so many ways this could all go wrong. I kept expecting one more twist, one more complication, and that’s the tension that kept me turning pages, rushing towards the end.

I am looking forward to seeing the movie, although I had a hard time imagining Tom Hardy as a misfit loner…until I saw the stills from the movie. You can see it in the hunch of his shoulders and the set of his mouth. It’s going to be interesting to watch. In the meantime, I strongly recommend the book. It’s a quick read and very enjoyable. It looks like I’ll be working my way through Lehane’s back catalog, while I wait for the next novel.

My copy of The Drop was an advanced reader copy, provided free of charge.

the drop

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that the word “too” will no longer be mutilated into a ridiculous affectation

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. .002: The Emperor has become painfully aware that people have been stretching and twisting the word “too” like a verbal taffy and transforming it into the word “teal;” or, more accurately, “teeeeuwl.” Ths abominable distortion is often found in close proximity to the work “omigod,” as in, “Omigod, me teeeeuwl!” This affectation has been creeping up toward “maximum Emperor annoyance” since the late nineties and it shall end, today.

The Punishment: Those who distort this short, sweet, effective word shall, likewise, be distorted on a little device the Imperial Dungeon Keeper likes to call “The Taffy Machine.” Is such a little word worth so much…um…mutilation?

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Phil Hughes misses a large bonus due to rain and a false sense of propriety

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There are multiple sides to most stories, right? That’s what people say, anyway. Here at BSGS, despite the fact that most of our stories fall pretty firmly on one side or the other, I guess an argument could be made that many stories could be placed on the opposite side of the ledger if you just looked at them from a different perspective. I am a person of strong opinions, so I would likely tell you that you were wrong if you told me that you disagreed with the side on which I placed one of these incidents of wrongdoing or heroism, but it’s my column so I am allowed to do that. Some things, though, really can reasonably be seen from both perspectives, and this week’s lead story is one of them. In fact, I started this out as a Good Sports story. That did not last. The subject is Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes, who missed out on a significant bonus this week due to bad luck and then a bad choice. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingtravel & foreign lands

Top ten signs you had a bad summer

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10. The only ‘action’ you got all summer was inadvertent, and on a crowded moving subway car

9. All your dreams of an early retirement only served to prove you can’t always trust a Nigerian prince

8. You’re the Commissioner of the National Football League

7. You got confused, and thought it was now perfectly legal to smoke recreational marijuana in Washington, the city

6. That giant mouse you saw wasn’t at Disneyland

5. The Mid-East hotel you stayed in had a lower Michelin rating than Abu Ghraib

4. You got in trouble because you were lying naked on your hotel bed when the maid walked in…finally!

3. Your sunburn was so red, cars stopped at you and waited for you to change

2. Your Carnival Cruise cruise made the news

1. At the company picnic, you really ticked off the boss by drinking too much beer and then peeing in the swimming pool — from the diving board
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Jameis Winston is a moron

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It’s been a few months, so I guess it’s time for another column about how big an idiot Jameis Winston is. The Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner continues to prove that he just doesn’t get it. This time, he was suspended for Saturday night’s game against Clemson after making a public ass of himself on campus last week.
[Read more →]

The Emperor decreestrusted media & news

The Emperor decrees a ban on “click-bait” headlines that are not 100% true

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree 55C: Henceforth, there shall be no more click-bait headlines, unless the content of the connected article proves the headline to be indisputably true. For instance: “This pit bull tried to eat this kitten; what happens next will blow your mind…” If readers do not actually experience aneurisms as a result of reading, the headline is false and punishment will ensue. Consider, as well, “This article will change your life…” Well, it had better, is all I can say.  And if a headline claims that “This is the best post game speech, ever,” it bloody well had better be. Or else.  Because if it turns into some prancing, weak-bearded, self-centered, mediocre little high school spud spouting every coaching cliché he’s ever heard as he trumpets about “attitude” (albeit  with jauntiness and pluck), there will be Hades to pay. All we are asking is that the authors deliver on their promises. This is all within authorial control; therefore, the Emperor will feel no guilt in doling out punishment.

The Punishment: Violators will be thrown into a special dungeon. The sign on the entrance door reads “Most comfortable dungeon ever where you will never, ever be eviscerated, emasculated or masticated!” What happens next will blow up your mind.

Now. go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Maybe not hit your kid with a stick?

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You’ve likely heard a lot about the Adrian Peterson debacle (including a good piece on this site), but I’m not weighing in here on abuse, or whether he’s justifiably doing what was done to him, or even on the various dummies who’ve gotten some press time because of this. I’m not writing about all that. [Read more →]