Archives for April 2010

“Burned”

I’ve had a bit of a slump in my reading of late. Not that I’m slacking in my reading. Instead I just couldn’t find a book that was interesting to me. Either I’d get into a book and just find it was really not worth my time to read or, more often, that I was just not interested enough to want to read it. I find in the case of the latter that when I do finish the book, I have no strong feelings one way or the other and so have no review to write. So being that I have been incredibly quiet regarding the House of Night series, followers of my reading habits may find it odd that I’m writing a review. I certainly do since generally with a long-running series such as this, there would be much gushing.

House of Night is a series of young adult novels coauthored by P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast about, well, a vampire prep school. It’s set in an alternate reality of the modern world where vampires are known to exist and centers around Zoey, a vampire with some very unique and powerful abilities. Basically she’s going through normal teenage drama with a healthy dose of fighting the never ending good verses evil battle while incorporating ancient mythology from all over the globe. If you’re into that thing, which I am, it’s pretty intriguing. But I do have some issues and I find that I want to like these books more than I do. Thus I am left with not much to say on the subject. In fact, after reading Tempted1 last year I was pretty much giving up. So, no one’s more surprised than me that I read Burned and I actually have some thoughts to share about it.

Book cover

P.C. has said on her blog that there isn’t a set number of books and she’s telling the story as it goes along, but it seems more and more that the House of Night series is being dragged out. And this has been a growing disenchantment for me with the series. Burned is no real exception to this issue, though, it does have more plot progression than Tempted. But much of this doesn’t occur until late in the book and instead much of the time is spent expositing cryptic information.

Present also is my continued issue with language use in this series. While I’m quite removed from my teenage years, I do read a lot of young adult novels and the ever growing usage of slang in narrative never ceases to irk me. I don’t understand the reliance on such language, especially outside of dialogue. Particularly since the usage here seems far more juvenile than I’d ever expect for high school aged teenagers. I find this even more abundantly annoying given these later books have moved out of being solely first-person perspective. A fact that I also find somewhat of an annoyance given the constantly shifting perspectives the books are being told from. Burned switches perspective on nearly a chapter by chapter basis, which is very difficult to follow at times given the “voice” a character might have. Not to mention, not all of them are as interesting and are clearly being used for the sole purpose of exposition.

Yet, I do find this particular book to be an improvement over the last. The Casts are weaving a very intricate story with their ensemble cast. Stevie Rae and Rephaim have a very unique, almost fairytale-esque, arc that can certainly be interpreted in many different ways that go far beyond the common “forbidden love” idea. I’ve also been very happy with Aphrodite’s journey as it has been continually portrayed throughout the series; it’s not often that a character be given a real ability to evolve and it’s been an enjoyable ride especially since her more entertaining personality quirks are still very much present. And the fantasy lover in me can’t help but eat up the progression the mythology continues to take and what new elements are brought in from around the world.

However, I was sad that this book has the least focus on Zoey, who is the central character in this series and remains one of my personal favorites.2 Understandably this was due to her “shattered soul” situation, but it goes back to my issue with the dragging out of things. And also seems like a concentrated effort to set up proposed spin-off books/series. I’m very much in favor of exploring other parts of this world the Casts have created, but I feel that they are losing sight of what created interest in this particular series. And, I really despise having the main portion of a book I’m reading be an advertisement for another book. I expect a defined and contained story between the cover and I don’t feel these last few books have done that. It’s also very aggravating to constantly see this character backpedal regarding her love life. I fully embrace the idea the Casts have stated in interviews that she’s exploring her options and certainly not bound to finding her true love at seventeen, but the fact is she’s constantly portrayed as stringing along several guys. And the very idea that she would shirk all of her responsibilities and her friends over one and need someone else to finally knock some sense into her makes her seem far more weak than she’s generally shown to be.

While there are still elements of what drew me to this series present and I do think this particular book was an improvement over the last, I am finding the nearly stalled plot has begun to wear my patience thin. Coupled with my other long-standing issues with the series as a whole, I’m more and more reluctant to continue along. I’m sad to say I don’t see myself recommending this to others unless a marked improvement comes with the next book. And, frankly, I’ve no strong desire to even read Awakened at this point.

  1. The preceding book in the series, number six.
  2. That is when she isn’t making me want to slap her for being stupid.

Of Furloughs and Fairness

I just read this editorial about how a furlough is a reasonable concession to balance the budget and I’m so incredibly furious at the statements made I could spit nails.

Sure, I’m biased. I’m one of those “non-essential” state workers mentioned in the possible furlough. And I distinctly remember last year when the govenor’s proposed budget cuts called for five days of lost pay (to be repaid at the end of state service, which has been done in the past and is still on the books to this day), paying more into my retirement, a higher premium on my health insurance and on top of that, an increase in state tuition!

But, of course, the unions are the evil masterminds of all these issues. They won’t back down on anything because all of us are just greedy and want things whether the state can afford it or not. Or so the belief is. Except, the unions have tried to negotiate. Case in point: when Patterson called for a hold on the contracted raises being released, the unions did attempt to negotiate with him — citing the illegal nature of holding out on a contracted agreement for a 4% raise — and he “in essence, ignored them.” Oh, and if you think a 4% raise is splitting hairs, it should be noted that this equals roughly $1000 increase for most state workers yearly salary.

Anyway, my issue with this proposed furlough is that it is anything BUT reasonable. The plan is to make all “non-essential” state workers take one day for every WEEK the budget is late. Ignoring the fact that the author seems to equate non-essential with unimportant, how exactly is that fair? None of us have any impact on the budget and its standing at being late. And none of the lawmakers who are now working five days — rather than two or three — to finish the budget are loosing out on their pay. Granted it’s being held — like my piddly raise — but they’ll still be pocketing their $80,000+ salaries. Oh, and they get roughly $150 a day perdium pay for every day they do work on the budget.

Do you know how many of those 100,000 plus state workers take home $150 a day? Not many. Most state workers are under a grade 6, which even with the 4% raise is still a gross pay of under $30,000 a year. That’s about $750 every two weeks in take home pay.

Someone explain to me how living on 80% of that for a month and a half or longer is remotely reasonable.

April 26, 2010

So, I found out a few tidbits about the “Surprise Me” feature here at WP.com thanks to a post at United Tech Guys. Seems that checking that “this post is super-awesome” provides an encouraging animation of sorts when the post is published. I think AdAware is blocking this for me, though, as I’ve not seen it so far. But I’ll have to tweak my settings to determine if that’s the culprit. (I’m not posting from my computer presently and am not sure if this particular browser will display it either. [EDIT: It didn’t.]) I’d already found the “humanize” tab in Stats that’s mentioned in the linked post, but as yet am still clueless as to what surprising thing should happen when posting comments or doing other things around the site. Anyway, all of that is neither here nor there.

Currently I’m dealing with a bunch of things. For one, Yara’s just ending her antibiotic treatment for her ear infection. And then last night she had a rather messy EPI relapse. At least I’m assuming it is EPI-related. I spent a good hour cleaning up after her, since she managed to drag her mess through most of my bedroom, the front hall and the bathroom. In the end she had an emergency bath — and I think I’ve mentioned that my tub is not well-equipped for dog baths — and I ended up throwing away her bed and throw blankets because they were just disgusting with sick. Literally it soaked right through both the throw and her bed, which has three separate linings plus filling, straight to the floor underneath.

So, rather than get myself a new external hard drive for my birthday, I’ll be buying a bed for Yara. Oh, well.

There are some other sort of depressing things going on that I don’t feel are really worth mentioning, but I will say the mood at work seems to be in sync with my personal gloom at the moment.

Hunh.

Ok, I admit it, I’m mostly posting this because of the curiosity of testing out this new feature. (It put up a check box in the post screen that says: “This post is super-awesome.”) [EDIT: I still don’t get what the new feature does…]

Anyway, Yara and I are both suffering. She with her ear and the associated treatment for the infection. And I can’t breathe. I believe the culprit for this remains allergies of hellish proportion. I can’t decide which of us is more miserable.

A funny and unrelated thing happened last night, though. Ages ago Sarah had told me that she believed Fay had picked up a strange habit from Yara. See, Yara often will put her paw on you to get you to pet or play with her. She also likes to put her paw on me as a sign of possession, I think. Probably why she stands on me constantly. Anyway, she does this with other dogs sometimes too and Fay has taken this to another level by, apparently, smacking other dogs when she wants them to play with her. I find this hysterical. Until last night when Yara basically smacked me in the face with her paw while we were playing. And she gave me this look like I’d made her do it or something.

I texted Sarah with the news, to which she replied: “Haha.” My friends are so sympathetic, no?

Ear Infection

As per usual for me, stressful events never happen one at a time.

Yara has been having a bit of issue with her ears for a few weeks now. They don’t stink and only seem to bother her after I clean them. But she has been itching them a lot and when I clean them out they are disgustingly filthy. It seemed to kind of come and go so I figured not a big deal, especially since her annual is coming up. But after a third time of the itch, clean, and see mega-filth, I called the vet.

And she has a bacterial infection in her left ear. Interestingly, her right ear which was also on-and-off rather grossly dirty is totally fine if a bit red inside. But it surprised both the vet and I because there is no smell. We both suspected it might be a yeast thing. Anyhow, so she’s on this stinky ear medicine thing for a week. She hates it. I hate it. We’re the both of us miserable about it. And my wallet is weeping at the moment since we still have her annual at the end of the month.

On the plus side, she gained eight pounds since our last visit in December when she had hot spots. She was doing her semi-frequent no eating thing and so I wasn’t surprised when she’d dropped down. But was also happy to have that theory of her weight-loss confirmed by the scale yesterday. Her vet is “very pleased” with “how good her weight feels.”

Oh, regarding the current rent drama — I got my three-day present letter yesterday. It’s dated the 12th and postmarked the 14th (the day she called). Which means, I have until Tuesday before they can actually petition me. We’ll see if they actually bother to wait that long.