Monday, January 31, 2011

Book 7: On Edge

On Edge by Jon Jackson is my least favorite book of this year by far. This book went from a good insightful read about life as a figure skater to an incoherent rantings about the evils of the ISU (International Skating Union) and the US Figure Skating Federation.

I’m one of the first people to say that figure skating in the early 2000s was a very corrupt organization and it’s no wonder that there was a co-gold medals handed out at the Salt Lake Olympics. I was a figure skater (albeit a purely recreational skater who never did a competition), so I was naturally interested in a book that would detailed the backroom dealings, cocktail scheming, and other vices of judges as told by a former judge. I was sorely disappointed I this book that turned into little hard evidence and a pile of hatred towards the ruling federations of figure skating.

My biggest issue with this book is the fact there are few facts here. The backroom deals and the schemes that were rampant, were not anything of great value for the better part of the book. From what I could tell, many of the so-called backroom deals were his encouragement to get to know other judges and learn from them. Plus quite frankly, I don’t think Jon Jackson really understands the presentation side to figure skating. He is a judge who understands the technical side only but the sport is more complex then just the jumps.

The only deal that was truly discussed was the confession he overheard from the French judge that made the deal with the Russian block. Mr. Jackson made a huge deal over how overhearing the confession was proof of corruption and the screwing of all skaters. He kept saying over and over again how it was a slam-dunk case. But let’s be frank, while overhearing the confession is nothing more than hearsay. It’s not proof.

The book then continues to go into a deluge of how he tried to create the WSF (World Skating Federation) as way to compete against the ISU. He goes on and on about how the ISU is corrupt and there is duplicity and conflicts of interest by the ISU and members of the US Figure Skating yet the whole meanwhile, he is recruiting people to join his WSF when he’s suppose to be judging or acting as Team Leader. He made sure that everyone associated with the WSF signed confidentiality agreements yet when it became convenient for him, he used those confidentiality agreements to push his argument (if that’s what you could call that last 70 pages that were littered with his hate).

Quite frankly, I think James Pereira (the co-writer for Jon Jackson) did a disservice to Jon Jackson. This biography could have been so much better if he was allowed to edit out Jon Jackson’s hatred and get in more fact. There were simply too many snide comments and not enough fact in the last 100 pages. I want fact, not condescending remarks and innuendos. The book was so much fun in the first bit since he was quite likeable for the first part of the book.

There was one thing I do agree with Jon Jackson: figure skating sport is not in a good spot right now and needs to reform to survive. But I totally disagree why. He wants to hold onto the old judging system and have marks with 6.0 and wants the good old boy network gone. I like the new numbers where individual elements are ranked and scores are randomly selected from a panel of judges. But the sport has gone backwards. This past year’s Olympics was pitiful to watch. The artistry was simply not there and in the men’s sport, it’s downright a reversal of technical elements. I never thought I would see a men’s event where quads and connecting with an audience wasn’t rewarded justly. But that outcome came from the rules and the lack of artistry in the sport in general since the elimination of figures. As for the good old boy network, if you average out the scores after discarding the high and low marks the good old boys are pretty much nullified. A lot harder to low ball or high ball a competitor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book 6: Star Trek Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire

So I read another Star Trek book. This time I returned to the Typon Pact series. I read Star Trek Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire by David R George III. This book was great and a nice addition to the series but I would hardly call it a good fit for a Third Book in the series.

I have a habit of reading books that interest me or as they come available. Since I loved Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game it made me get both this book and the first two books of the Destiny Series (I am waiting for the third book of Destiny). But I’m surprised that Rough Beasts of Empire was a third book in the series since it helped to explain the Typhon Pact so well. Why the Romulans joined (well both empires of the Romulans) and even their progress since the death of Shinzon.

This book was an interesting mix of characters (at least in my eyes): Spock and Captain Sisko. I just wouldn’t have thought to put those two characters together in a storyline but it actually worked. Like the other Typhon Pact book: it was a split narrative although the transfer between perspectives was more even and more closer to every other chapter. I never wondered what was happening to Spock or Sisko since it was at most two chapters of a single perspective. I would haven’t thought that Sisko and Spock could relate so well together even though Spock is my second favorite TOS character and I love the DS9.

One of the things I really liked was how the stories started to mirror the research and intelligence that happened in the story. There was a murder of an attempted assassin so there was an attempt to find out why the murder happened. Spock and his group of rebels (the Reunification Movement of Vulcan and Romulan Empire) were investigating the murder of the Reman since the Reman attempted to kill Spock and they wanted to insure that they wouldn’t be accused of the action. The Federation was curious by the event since it involved Spok and at the time there were two Romulan Empires (one that was in the pact and one that was not) so they were hoping the events wouldn’t unite the empires and bring everyone into the Typhon Pact.

Now there was one thing I didn’t like about Rough Beasts of Empire and that was some of Sisko’s actions. He was so distant and isolating at times. But it made sense in the realm of the Emisary accepting a Prophet’s prophecy since that was Ben’s MO. He thought he had to do those things and it was about the prophecy of ending the sorrows that the prophets promised him if he married Cassidy.

All in all a fun book. I loved all 383 pages. It was a good read that kept me inthralled. I’m glad I read it now. It’s helping me understand the history that has happened since I’ve things all out of order.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book 5: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky by Chris Greenhalgh was a strong narrative and had great dialogue but it was not my favorite book. There were times I wanted to edit the book especially the first time I saw the word tetchy. The first time he used that word, it really yanked me from the story and just didn’t fit the sentence structure and flow; plus it would have ended the repetition of a word. Plus there were times that the book seemed to lack true description of stuff, it was about driving the plot forward. It really read like a screenwriter’s first attempt to write a novel.

This review almost sounds like I hate the book and I don’t. I thought it was a great story. It was a great story and I can see why so many people loved the movie. It was so well research and the characters absolutely came to life. The dialogue was second to none.

This 326 page book was a fun, easy read. I would give it a low 4.0 star unlike most of the books I’ve reviewed so far which I put at a high 4 close to a 5 (or a perfect rating).

Letter 5: A Care Package Note

Letter 4: Thank you note

A homemade card.

Letter 3: Thank you note

Friday, January 21, 2011

Product 2: Thymes Body Lotion

I've been using samples of the Thymes body lotion of the agave nectar and the moonflower scents as a hand cream. Admittedly, my testing of this product is a bit faulty since a body lotion isn't as heavy as a hand cream so I'm not getting as much moisture as is possible.

What I like about these samples: the scents and the feeling to the cream. As I said in my last product blog, I love the fresh scent in the agave nectar. But I also love the scent profile of moonflower as well but it's completely different. The moonflower is more of an exotic scent with some night blooming jasmine in it. The scent actually stays on fairly well too. As I've been known to describe it at Schillers, it's a night time scent. I also love the non-greasy feeling.

Cons: It didn't provide as much moisture as I would like. But I'm sure the hand cream will provide more moisture but then it might be too greasy. I'm glad the lotion did provide enough moisture to prevent cracking in the winter but not much more.

It's definitely a lotion for when you skin is at healthy point or if you love a scented lotion.

Product 1: Thymes Agave Nectar Bodywash

This is one of my first treats of the new year from Schillers. I've been looking at it for months and debating it but kept deciding that I needed to wait until I used up my body wash supply. Let me tell you the body wash was worth the wait in the first bath alone. I just loved it.

I would recommend the body wash for both types of bathing: as a bubble bath and as a body wash. The scent is divine in my eyes; with a fresh citrus scent that can refresh a tried body without keeping you awake all night long. It suds up well in a bath sponge and creates some nice bubbles for a bath.

I will had to admit now I'm curious about the difference between the foaming bath and the body wash from Thymes. But part of me is thinking that there isn't much difference from the body wash. Maybe that will be another treat later on in the year.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Four: Star Trek Destiny: Mere Mortals

I just finished up Star Trek Destiny: Mere Mortals by David Mack. This book didn’t disappoint in the direction of the series. The book answered some questions but continued to open up even more questions.

The explanation of the time spend by Captain Hernandez from 1519 through the current timeline of 2381 was interesting and I’m sure it will lead to more answers in the next installment of the Destiny series.

The war preparations taken on by Dax and Picard make sense in some ways. You can’t always be fighting on the defensive and the moves towards a more offensive operation seemed like a good idea at the time.

I preferred this ending better then the last book. It was less “splat” the end. Instead it had a lot of pull to want to read the next book but at the same time, it completed Book Two. Now it will be interesting to see how the third book handles the new war dynamic. But I’m glad it was more complete of an ending and things seemed to be as they should be.

Now the book seemed to make no mention of the Caeliar city ship that was crashing and went into the past. I’m thinking this was done on purpose. For the ship to be crashing would be one thing. But it didn’t seem like everyone died.

This book also had the political set up that was interesting. It was nice to Garak again. Not surprising he would be wheeling and dealing for Cardassia. But the political moves makes some interesting set ups for the future. Now I’m understanding how the Typhon Pact was created to a certain degree.

It was a 433 page book completed on January 15, 2010

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Three: Star Trek Destiny Gods of Night

Star Trek Destiny: Gods of Night by David Mack. This book was so good. I couldn’t wait to see where things went next. There was so much to the book.

One of the things I loved most about the book was the fact that they merged together the casts from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Next Generation and even a Voyager character here and there. It was fantastic and made the most sense. Plus you had an whole new ship to learn about the Columbus. They had such a rich depth to it although you had to make sure you understood what ship you are dealing with (since you had the old timeline with the Columbus crew, the more current timeline with the Aventine, the Titan and the Enterprise).

Then the book dealt with something I could never get enough of in the series the mix of exploration to search out old mysteries while at the brink of war and the link to the Borg. It was fantastically done to see the torture that Picard goes under where he isn’t himself when dealing with the borg after becoming Locutus. Yet you have other characters to help balance out his character when he’s not being up to par.

But one of the aspects that seemed to not answer any questions was the Caeliar. They had an interesting culture that was pacifist but yet they would let the Columbus crew stay as guests with restrictions: one of which was them never leaving the planet again. Plus I question the focus on them when it’s intertwined with the Borg attacks. It makes me wonder if the Caeliar is related to the Borg yet that’s something that will come in the later books I fear.

Great action through the all 427 pages. I was reading 50 pages in quick spurts. So that was excellent. It was like eating candy.

Only thing that had me upset was the way the book ended. I hate cliffhangers. I especially hate when the biggest tease of the story happens by making the two timelines meet and that’s it. I just ate up 100 pages in a half hour and then it ended. I said “grrr” and “uggh” so many times with the ending. I just wanted more. I knew that it would leave me with the desire for more but I was expecting somethings more tied up with the ending. Thank God I had the second book in my collection. If my friends are right, I need to go to Borders quick for Book Three since I’m already midway through book two.

Completed: January 14, 2011

Letter Two: Get Well

Letter One: Saying Hello

Book Two: Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game by David Mack was the perfect book to start off the new year. While I wrote the book review for the fairy tale collection, I read this book first. It was a great fun book that got me back into some of the realms of Star Trek that I let go for a while.

I will admit the cover got me to pick up the book and get it. I tend to be kinda of skeptical of Star Trek books since they are either awesome or the stink. No inbetween but something told me to trust this one. Plus the idea of Bashir playing spy and Ezri Dax as a captain just had me sold. So I tried it out and I’m so glad I did.

I was surprised to read how much Dax seemed to grow into her own. She’s closer to Jadzia now but still Ezri at the core. I liked that balance. She needed that growth. But the character that had some great growth as well was Julian. He was someone who you could love but wanted to slap for being too smug. Instead in this book he was much more humble and you could love.

Plus the actual spy aspect was well done. It seemed to really include some solid spycraft without going into the realm of James Bond and crazy. Plus there was good defenses of the actions and how those actions could have some high costs to them.
But a great thing for David Mack and the book makers: this book not only got me to buy this one, it got me to buy another book in the series (and I have plans to get the other ones) AND to purchase the Destiny series (since that series seemed to set up a lot of the ideas and it was also written by David Mack).

This book is also interesting that I’ve seen my trek friends start to really talk and read this series. This is the first time in a while when multiple friends are all reading the same series although we are all at different spots but it seems to be really a series that is uniting some of fans which is nice as Star Trek goes into their 45th Anniversary.

Book Completed on January 1, 2011. A fun 336 page read.

Book one: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer was a neat collection of fairytales that have been played with. I wouldn’t call them new fairy tales since each fairy tale was truly inspired by another fairy tale. I’ve always been someone who loved fairy tales and taking a classic story and spinning it around so this book was right up my alley.

Most of the 542 pages, I just giggled and truly relished. I loved learning about some fairy tales that I wasn’t familiar with and seeing the inspiration to the different tales.

My favorite tale in the collection was probably “Snow-White and Rose-Red” or the “Erlking”. Both were some great tales that really just captured you in the moment and then released you. I really liked the Erlking since it was the perfect tale of caution and love.

I also loved the exposure I had to some tales I’ve never seen before. More then ever, I want to read tales from France, Russia and Italy.

But there were some stories at the end of the collection that I disliked immensely. They didn’t have the same care taken with the other stories. It was like they needed the two stories even though I just hated reading them. These two stories were: “Tales from Jalisco” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. They really weren’t good stories. There was more times I was trying to figure out what was going on in the “Tales from Jalisco” while the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” had way too much superfluous cursing to make me enjoy it at all.”

All in all a fun collection and I’m glad I got to read it.

This book was finished on January 10,2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

The rules

But there will be a few rules as all good endeavors should. So here are my rules. Everything is started at the beginning of the month

For the books: it will be a hundred books goal just like the Philadelphia School District and the Boy Scouts push for as an annual goal and increase reading. After each book I read, I will write a brief review. Plus I will be tracking how many pages I read since all books are not created equal. These will be new books that I’ve read in the year. I will count books I’ve previously read if I’ve reread them as a whole since if I get a new book in a series, I will occasionally reread a series. Short-stories will only be counted if they are part of a collection that I read the whole thing of.

For the letters: I will show the stationery that I use and I will state the general purpose of the letter. That’s it. Photos of stationery will be more the way to count the letters and how my goal to stay in better contact with friends is working out.

For products: Now this is probably the biggest set of rules. Each thing will be tried for at least two weeks or more. That way I can get a real idea of how it works long-term. It’s easy to fall in love with a product for the first couple days and then the buildup starts or it just doesn’t work long-term. I’m going to put some things into a clumped together into one number- mainly scented lotions and the kind. That’s because more often then not the scent change but the overall formulation to the lotion doesn’t change. Now things like shampoos will be counted as different items since the formulations do change between the different types of shampoos.