Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Teasers - June 30, 2009

  • MizB asks us to do the following:

    * Grab your current read.
  • * Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • * Share two teaser sentences from that page.

* Share the title of the book the teaser comes from.
* No spoilers.

Sashenka by Simon Montefiore

Natasha squeezed her hand as two guards waded through the sprawled bodies and
fished her out of the cell. They manhandled her through the grey corridors
and deposited her in an interrogation room with a plain desk, a metal chair and
walls peeling with damp.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Movie Meme - Hasta la Vista Baby!

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles is all about action heroes. Its summer, after all, and you know what that means! Big budget movies where you get a healthy dose of car chases, explosions and serious butt-kicking action. Here are some of the characters that do a fine job of representing their genre:

1. John McClane (Die Hard) - In my mind, John McClane is the epitome of the action hero. He's an everyman, tortured, struggles to keep his job and his marriage together, smokes and drinks past the healthy limit. And he kicks so much butt, it just gives me the chills and makes ME want to go out and beat up bad guys. John McClane is THE MAN.

2. Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon) - Riggs runs a pretty close second to McClane. He is tortured and more than a bit crazy, has a pretty hot mullet going on, but lacks the testosterone that McClane has.

3. Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry) - This role was originally slated for Frank Sinatra, then John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Audie Murphy, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman. But when Clint was left standing at the end of the line and nailed the part, it made our day.

4. Tony Stark (Iron Man) - Apparently resurrected from a dead career, Robert Downey Jr. donned his little powered suit of armor and blew this movie into the stratosphere. I liked this character because not only is he fearless and a dude, he's a brainiac.

5. Terminator - I'm not quite as emotionally invested in this series, but it had such a big impact on pop culture that it bears mentioning. You can't help but be impressed with Arnold and his imposing presence on the screen.

6. Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible) - I'll be the first one in line to join the "Tom Cruise annoys me" club. Begrudgingly, however, I will admit to enjoying this series. The action sequences are a rush, and I love the whole gig when they peel off those life-like masks.

7. Tom Stall (History of Violence) - Viggo. Need I say more?

So which characters are your favorite action heroes?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blogger hates me!

It seems that blogger has taken aim at me now. As you all know, I spent a bit of time creating posts for publication while I was away. Apparently, blogger has decided that those posts weren't worthy, because none of them are posting when they should. As the Internet is a precious and rare commodity here in the Polish Tatra mountains, I am sitting in the car "using" the Internet from a local hotel. I have manually posted everything intended for the last few days. My apologies...sorry for the barrage!

Guest Post from C.B. James @ Ready When You Are, C.B.: Winter's Tales - Isak Dinesen

I am so happy to offer you this special treat today. Today's guest post is by C.B. James of Ready When You Are, C.B.. Many of you already know C.B. James...daddy of Dakota, the book-eating Basset Hound, exceptional blogger, the coolest middle school teacher ever, and host of Short-Story Sundays. He was also one of the first official followers of my blog (I'm not counting relatives, for whom following my blog was compulsory). He graciously agreed to participate in a guest post while I am away, offering a review one of his amazing collection of short stories, which will be posted at his site on 6/28. So without further ado...

The low, undulating Danish landscape was silent and serene, mysteriously wide-awake in the hour before sunrise. There was not a cloud in the pale sky, not a shadow along the dim, pearly fields, hills and woods. The mist was lifting from the valleys and hollows, the air was cool, the grass and the foliage dripping wet with morning dew. Unwatched by the eyes of man, and undisturbed by his activity, the country breathed a timeless life, to which language was inadequate.

Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking Isak Dinesen was a 19th century writer. The opening passage from her short story "Sorrow-acre" quote above certainly sounds like 19th century writing to me, not something a mid-20th century author admired by Ernest Hemingway would produce. Isak Dinesen's writing seems world's away from the writing in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place," in fact, it seems a century away. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) did not become a writer until mid-life. Born in Denmark in 1885, she married, divorced and ran a coffee plantation in Kenya until the early 1930's when the depression brought it to an end. This experience was the basis for her memoir Out of Africa. She returned to Denmark where she lived until her death in 1962. While she is a 20th century writer, she is also a writer in love with the past. The stories in Winter's Tale are set in the previous century which suits her formal, elegant writing style.

"Sorrow-acre" is set in the Danish countryside during the closing days of the manor system. A young man, Adam, has returned to his family estate to visit his uncle, the lord of the manor, and his uncle's new, much younger wife. Adam's cousin has recently died, making Adam the next-in-line to inherit the estate unless the new wife can bear his uncle a son. Much is at stake for the current lord of the manor. Should Adam decide to remain in Denmark the situation could become very difficult.

"Sorrow-acre" takes place over a single day. In the early morning one of the local peasants, an old woman, comes to the lord of the manor to plead for her son who has been sentenced to ten years in prison for a crime she says he did not commit. The woman insists that this will be the death of her as she has no one but her son to take care of her in her old age. The lord agrees that he will pardon her son if she can harvest the grain on the plot of land in front of them. The woman agrees without hesitation, though everyone knows the plot is too big for a single person, let alone and old woman, to harvest in one day. The lord of the manor insists that no one help the woman and stations his men around the field to ensure that no one does. The woman works steadily throughout the morning without stopping and soon it becomes clear that she may actually complete the task before nightfall. Everyone from the surrounding area abandons their work to watch the old woman. Adam and his uncle watch as well. Once, Adam understands that while the old woman may earn her son's freedom, she is clearly working herself to death, he abandons his uncle and Denmark and heads back to his new home in England.

Dinesen creates a different kind of heroic female in "The Heroine." The main character in "The Heroine" is Frederick, an Englishman who is studying in Berlin in the 1870's. When the Franco-Prussian War breaks out he is forced to join a group of refugees fleeing for France. He is arrested by the Germans in a border town and faces execution for espionage along with the priest, two nuns, a commercial travelers and the beautiful young woman, Heloise, who shared the hotel he was staying in. A German officer offers them all their freedom if Heloise will come to his rooms in the nude. She replies:

"Why do you ask me? ....Ask those who are with me. These are poor people, hard-working, and used to hardships. Here is a French priest," she went on very slowly, "the consoler of many poor souls; here are two French sisters, who have nursed the sick and dying. The two others have children in France, who will fare ill without them. Their salvation is, to each one of them, more important than mine. Let them decide for themselves if they will buy it at your price. You will be answered by them in French."

None of her party agree to the German officer's demands so they are all taken into the courtyard to be shot. At the last minute, the officer relents and gives them all a pass to return to France. Years later, Frederick meets Heloise again when he finds her performing on stage and in the nude. His conversation with her after the show sheds a new light on everything that happened with the German officer. Like the last few lines in a Henry James story, the ending forces the reader to see that nothing was as it first seemed.

Now, tell me, honestly, does this sound like the work of a 20th century author to you?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday 13 - Poland Edition #2

13 Things that drive me crazy about Poland
Now, for the things that make me want to run screaming back home, after a couple of weeks...
1. Slow pace. I'm able to stop and smell the roses with the best of them. But when it takes two hours to walk two blocks down the street, I start to lose it.

2. Pollution in the cities. I'm hoping that visiting once every other year won't give us all lung cancer.

3. Inconsistent restaurant service. We are out of eggs today, and therefore cannot serve anything that requires them. Sorry.

4. If you don't eat enough food for four people, you are considered rude, or there is a concern that you are sick.

5. No air-conditioning.

6. No ice in drinks.

7. Old men in Speedos (I had small bathrooms here in this spot, until my friend Michelle reminded me about saggy butts showcased for all to see.)

8. No clothes dryers, anywhere. Your knickers are hung out to dry in front of God and country.

9. Driving conditions and detours. What would take 2 hours to drive in the US takes 6 hours in Poland. Detours can pop up out of nowhere, direct you into the wild blue yonder and leave you for dead. We brought GPS with us this time.

10. Paying to use the toilet. In some public places, they still have a little old lady that collects money for you to use the loo. Toilet paper is extra.

11. Parking. Space is limited, so parking is a challenge anywhere. Good thing they let you park on the sidewalk if you want.

12. Fear of the Russian mafia. My husband assures me that this is no longer an issue. But at one point, they would drive on the main highways, cause a fender-bender, then when you would pull over, they would rob you and gun you down. This is why I have my head between my knees for most road trips.

13. Rapid-fire language with very few consonants. True, if I would just become fluent, this would no longer be an issue. But by the end of a couple of weeks, my ears are ringing and my head hurts.

For more T13 participants, see the Bumbles comment below. Stay tuned for the third installment of our Poland Edition...sights we will see on our trip!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

The St. Marks Wildlife Preserve in the Florida Panhandle

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - June 23, 2009

  • I normally don't participate in this meme, but thought I would give it a go while I am away. Here are the rules:

    MizB, the host of this meme, asks you to:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page (going to have to punt a bit with this one, since my books are on Kindle)
  • Share two teaser sentences from that page.
  • Share the title of the book that the teaser comes from.
  • Please avoid spoilers

Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan

Our relatives talked in hushed voices about it, a big family secret.
However, by eavesdropping, I learned that my parents had AIDS, thought I
didn't know what it meant then.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Monday Movie Meme - I'd Rather Be Pretending

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles is all about the movies we'd most like to hang out in. Movies have a magical way of transporting us to a different time and place. Once the lights come back on and the movie is over, don't you ever heave a big sigh and try to wish yourself back into that alternate reality? Which movies have had this effect on you? Why? Here are a few of mine:

1. Baby Boom - I've watched this movie dozens of times, probably because it represents a fantasy of mine. Give up the high-powered job, move to the country to raise your baby, make organic baby food out of boredom during a snowstorm and grow it into a huge successful enterprise, getting the last laugh against the evil corporate boobs you used to work for. Make out with and fall in love with the handsome country vet. (No offense to my husband of course.)

2. Under the Tuscan Sun - This movie is permanently on my iPod. It will get me out of just about any funk I'm in. Another fantasy. Sell everything, move to Tuscany, buy a beautiful old villa, fix it up, make friends with the locals, cook for them, have a fling with some Italian dude. (No offense to my husband of course.)

3. Be Kind Rewind - A couple of numnuts accidentally erase all the VHS tapes in the rental store they are watching for a friend. So they try to reinact all of the messed up movies with lame props and a video camera. With Jack Black in the mix! How much fun would that be????

4. Harry Potter - I know, this one is predictable. But who wouldn't want to fly on brooms, ride hippogriffs, make potions and plot to kill Voldemort? We will get the chance next year when Universal opens their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guess I will be renewing my pass!

5. Sideways - A road trip through wine country, contemplating the meaning of life and the perfections of Pinot Noir. Need I say more? (Side note: I don't really need to see Thomas Haden Church's bare butt or his little tete-a-tete with the hefty waitress. I'd go to a wine bar around the corner while that was going on...)

6. Babette's Feast - A famous Chef de Cuisine (Babette) flees a wartorn Paris to seek refuge in a small Danish town that consists mostly of a strict Christian sect. When Babette wins the lottery, she spends her entire winnings to cook a luxurious french feast for the angry, fussy townsfolk, and heals their souls in the process. Get me my apron - I'm going to give Babs a hand!

7. The Secret Garden - This movie is pure magic, whether you are 7 or 70. I would love to have a secret garden with a swing, where you find love and friendship and friendly wildlife. In reality, I get weeds, vines, mosquitoes and the occasional snake.

Guest Post from The Bumbles: The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Please join me in welcoming Molly from The Bumbles. She has very graciously agreed to do this guest post for me while I am traveling. I've been reading and following Molly and Andy's blog for about six months now, and I can honestly say the day is not complete unless I have been entertained by them in some way. You may recognize their blog name because they are the host of the Monday Movie Meme that you see on my blog each week. They are also the world's biggest Red Sox fans, they are prolific readers, excellent photographers, music lovers, they love to travel (Molly writes for a travel blog)...Molly was even so kind to recommend the world's most comfortable shoe, which I promptly went out and purchased for my Poland trip. If you have not experienced their blog, please do so. Tell them I sent you! So on with the review...heeeeere's Molly!


Clare Abshire has an interesting way of finding a husband. She meets him in a meadow at her childhood home when she is 6 years old….and he is 36. Except they are really only 8 years apart, so not as creepy as it sounds. This is all due to the wonders of time travel - something that Clare’s husband, Henry DeTamble, is afflicted with.

If you are willing to treat The Time Traveler’s Wife like an episode of Lost, where you suspend all disbelief, stop trying to make sense of time travel guidelines, and let author Audrey Niffenegger take you along for the ride, you will discover a very passionate tale about the destiny of these soul mates and the strength that love can provide through all kinds of obstacles.

Not being a big fan of romance, or fantasy, I was leery of this book. However, it is not a mushy love story hidden beneath some sci-fi jargon as I had feared. The introductions to Henry & Clare are a bit awkward, but once the book gets going Niffenegger engages the reader so strongly with each of them individually that you watch them grow into a unit you can’t bear to see divided.

The book is told entirely from Henry & Clare’s individual perspectives, alternating back and forth between them and giving us the date and their ages at each point along the way. They are told in short sections which makes it easy to read in brief intervals. Niffenegger writes the male perspective equally as well as the female which always makes it easier to relate to the characters on their own terms. The time travel storyline works creatively to move the plot along by weaving pieces into the overall picture to fill in the blanks. And the separation that Henry’s time traveling causes highlights the conviction of their relationship - which is the true message of the book.

Henry & Clare do their best to create a normal life with their friends, their careers, and their family as Henry is constantly disappearing from their present. Sometimes he is gone for a few moments. Other times he is gone for days. They never know where time will bring him or for how long. But often he is visiting Clare in the past - her past - for his presence in it only becomes known to him in his future. Knowing that Henry has left her as she is now to be with her as she remembers him from her childhood is of some comfort to her. But their relationship could give separation anxiety a whole new meaning.

Through all the challenges time presents them, they never lose their passion for each other to the core. They know each other’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and needs so seamlessly. In fact, comparing your own relationship to that of Henry & Clare’s could make you feel very inferior. But then again, you probably haven’t known your significant other in their past, their present and their future, all at the same time. Sometimes that knowledge is dangerous, but Clare & Henry do whatever they can to persevere. After all, it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday 13 - Poland Edition #1

13 Things I Love About Poland

This current trip to Poland will be my sixth. By now I am quite clear on what I look forward to and what I don't. Here are a few things that make the trip a joy, in no particular order.

1. They like Americans.

2. My mother-in-law's cooking. Everything by scratch - all traditional Polish food!

3. Polish chocolate (Wedel). We eat so much of it the kids usually get sick.

4. Stunning, majestic old churches. Pictures to come.

5. Home of Pope John Paul.

6. Huge vertical shopping malls in the middle of the city.

7. The Tatra mountain range. Pictures to come.

8. Polish vodka, cheap.

9. Rich in WWII history...a virtual treasure trove for anyone with an interest.

10. Amber, everywhere. Beautiful jewelry, rosaries, trinkets, even wine bottle stoppers.

11. Seeing my in-laws languish in their grandchildren.

12. Fresh, homemade smoked cheese (oscypka), for sale anywhere you can see a sheep. Preferably eaten when still warm.

13. Pierogies, filled with anything from meat, potatoes, cheese, fruit, and chocolate. Food of the Gods, man.

I'd add another number about Speedos if, in fact, good looking men wore them in Europe. I have yet to prove that this exists.

Please refer to The Bumbles comments below for the link to other T13 participants! Stay tuned next week for 13 things about Poland that drive me crazy...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child (audio)

I wasn't blogging last summer when I went on my Lee Child binge. I discovered this series, featuring ex-military policeman and overall badass Jack Reacher, and read them all, number one through number twelve. Now just for a little background on Mr. Reacher, a character who is larger than life. He's a big man...250 pounds of muscle mass. He doesn't have a home per se, he just travels around with some cash and a toothbrush in his back pocket, and lends his services to the downtrodden. Generally, his adversaries are involved, within a stone's throw, of something military. He likes his women (there are always one or two hotties in each story) and they like him, although he tends to be a bit of a commitment-phobe. And in a tussle, even if it is 1 against 10, you can bet on Reacher coming out on top. This is what Stephen King refers to as "man fiction". Which is a genre I happen to love, whatever that means.

The 13th book in the series starts out with Reacher on a subway in NYC at 2am. He is analyzing a woman across from him whose behavior indicators scream "suicide bomber". Before he can talk her down, she shoots herself. Anyone can see that there is a story here, and this is really all Reacher needs to get involved. He is soon involved up to his elbows, as usual. This round, he is face-to-face with tangled mess that involves a military hero running for the Senate, a hot female NY police officer, a dead Pentagon Human Resource clerk, an exotic and mysterious Ukrainian woman, some scary, hard-core terrorists, and even scarier FBI agents. It's one of those situations where you have a hard time separating the bad guys from the good guys.

I will take a Jack Reacher novel any day. It satisfies my need for some old-fashioned good over evil, a high body count, butt-kicking, head-bashing, clever clue-solving, steamy love-making, mystery thriller. A girl needs this now and again. I found this particular plot to be somewhat more complicated than the average book in this series...something about Russians and Afghanistan and stolen weapons. Never did completely figure it out. No matter, the ride is thrilling and good for the circulation.

Any of the Jack Reacher audios are an amazing treat, due to three-time Audie winner and narrator Dick Hill. He IS the voice of Jack Reacher, with his impeccable timing, deadpan delivery and mastery of accents. And did you know that most, if not all, of these books are going to be translated into film in the near future? Can we all say "heart palpitation"?

Wordless Wednesday

More fish lips at the Tampa Aquarium

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bon Voyage!

  • Today my family and I are leaving for our trip to Poland to see the in-laws. We'll be away for about two and half weeks, and will have very limited Internet access. This will be a true test of my stamina, and could determine whether the damn thing is a true addiction! Cold turkey, people!

    I guess I wouldn't expect our house-sitter to take care of our animals AND write my posts. That would probably be asking too much, don't you think? So I have scheduled all of my posts in advance, with the help of my blogsitter, The Bumbles, who are the greatest blog friends ever! Here is my game plan:

  • I will continue to participate in the Monday Movie Meme. Molly has kindly provided me the topics in advance! I will also continue my Wordless Wednesdays.

  • While I am away, I will participate in the Tuesday Teaser Meme, with teasers from the books I hope to read while I am away. I'll also participate in the Thursday 13 Meme - the Poland editions. Each Thursday I'm away, I will list 13 things I love about Poland, 13 things that drive me crazy about Poland, and 13 things we will see on our trip.

  • Molly will add the links for these memes in the comments section of these posts each week.

  • I will feature guest posts each Friday from bloggers in the community. This will be a great opportunity for you to get a sample of the talented, creative folks I follow on a daily basis.

With 17 hours of travel time coming and going, and lots of free time there, what ever will I read? Here is what I have loaded on my Kindle:

Free downloads:

  • Great Expectations
  • The Woman in White
  • Little Women
  • Jane Eyre
  • Anna Karenina


  • The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Problem with Murmur Lee - Connie May Fowler
  • When Katie Wakes - Connie May Fowler
  • The Mascot - Mark Kurzem (for WWII reading challenge)
  • Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl (for WWII reading challenge)
  • Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan (for TBR reading challenge)
  • Sashenka - Simon Montefiore (for TBR reading challenge)
  • Assegai - Wilbur Smith

Don't forget the iPod! Here is what I have loaded for my listening pleasure:

  • The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
  • Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child
  • The Given Day - Dennis Lehane
  • Wicked Prey - John Sandford
  • The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
  • The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell

I haven't made any final decisions on what I will dive into first. I will let inspiration and mood be my guide! This is a peek inside my psyche; this is really how I live my life. I am guilty of "stocking up" on things...food, makeup, shoes, just in case of an emergency. God forbid I should need something and not have it on hand. Books are no different.

I will miss you all! See you back on July 3rd!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Savvy - Ingrid Law

Not long ago, I won a copy of Savvy from Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza (thank you Bellezza!!!). This book was a popular one at our Scholastic Book Fair, and thought it would be the perfect type of book to read to my kids.

The Beaumont family is special. Upon each family member's 13th birthday, they receive their savvy...a special power that is as individual as the person who receives it. Mother is perfect. Fish controls water (could have used him here in Florida in 2004!). Rocket manipulates electricity (again, could have used him around a few times during hurricane season!). Grandpa can move large amounts of earth. Mibs is facing her 13th birthday, and wonders what her savvy will be. Will she be able to levitate? Will she have X-ray vision? But on Mibs' birthday, her Poppa is in a terrible accident, and everything goes wrong. Mibs, her brothers Fish and Samson, and her neighbors Will and Bobbi find themselves taking an almost surreal journey on a big pink Bible Supply bus. And what a journey it is. A journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of finding love and making friends.

When Mibs discovers her savvy, it is bizarre, to say the least. I was even a little disappointed. Fish can make or stop hurricanes, and Mibs gets this??? But as the story progresses, we see that the gift encompasses more than what our imagination could predict. While Mibs' brothers have savvies that are pumped full of testosterone, Mibs' savvy is more cerebral and spiritual, and ultimately brings peace to her life.

The story also suggests the existence of savvies among us common folk. You and I have them, although they may not be as considerable as Fish and Rocket's. It is an excellent conversation to have with our kids. What savvies do we possess? My daughter's is her way with animals. My son's is his gift of words (if he doesn't end up as a lawyer, I'll eat my hat). Our savvies are our God-given gifts, and is our responsibility to use them for the betterment of our lives and the lives of others.

This book was almost dream-like to read. Bellezza also posted the wonderful blurb on the back flap of the book about the author, Ingrid Law, here that gave me a greater appreciation for the spirit of the author. She paints on her ceilings, for crying out loud! Her prose is lyrical and fanciful, and makes you want to crawl into her mind and imagination just for one day. Perhaps, after a day, my walls would be some other color than ecru!

Sandy's and kids' rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday Movie Meme - Trauma

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles is all about those movies that traumatized us as children, and even those that left their mark on us as adults. How dare those directors steal our innocence!

Here are the movies that caused pain and suffering for me as a young 'un:

1. Jaws - I think this movie put the screws to 90% of people who saw it, kids and adults alike. I've been known occasionally to wander out a ways in the ocean if I have had a drink or two, but otherwise stay in ankle deep, thank you very much. It doesn't help that I live 45 minutes away from the shark bite capitol of the world, New Smyrna Beach.

2. Bambi - For most kids, this is their introduction to the death of a parent. As cute and cuddly as the movie appears to be, it manages to instill in our young minds that the world is not necessarily a safe place. (The modern offender would be The Lion King.)

3. The Wizard of Oz - Flying demonic monkeys, a wizard with an anger management problem, and witch feet that curled up under a house was all it took to scare the poop out of me.

4. Charlotte's Web - It is true movie magic when a bug-phobic kid like me would fall in love with a spider, weep for hours after the end of the movie, and name her first kitty cat Charlotte. The death of that damn spider haunted me for years.

5. The Blob (1958 version) - From the old man who pokes the goo with a stick and is quickly consumed, to the movie theater being attacked by the ever-growing blood-colored mass, what seems campy now caused me sleepless night as a kid. I had to line stuffed animals all around me at night to protect me from intruding globules.

6. The Exorcist - I don't remember at exactly what age I saw this movie for the first time, but I think that anything under the age of 30 is too young. Even as a teenager, I can remember my sister and I watching it upstairs in our lair, and the first time Miss Thing's head spins around we both scurried out of the room like cockroaches.

As an adult, now that I am scarred and cynical, two movies come to mind that caused me mental anguish:

The Deerhunter - the Russian roulet scene made me sick to my stomach. I've only watched this movie once. I don't think I could handle it again.

United 93 - The last scene of the movie, taken from the vantage point of the cockpit, with the ground coming at them at 200mph, is one that is difficult to forget. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

What were the most damaging movies you saw as a kid? Are you over them yet? Have you been affected by anything as an adult?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Awards and an opportunities to read more books

I was recently awarded the Literary Blogger Award from Iliana at a Bookgirl's Nightstand. Iliana reads all types of books, but she is a specialist in mystery/thrillers.

This beautiful award was sent to me by Desert Rose. Desert Rose is the premier authority on all things vampire, but isn't limited to this genre. She reads just about everything. She is also one of the most generous bloggers out there. I have her to thank for probably 75% of my awards.

I received this award from Carrie at Books and Movies. Carrie's reputation precedes her. She not only is a prolific reader, she reviews movies for us too! She also homeschools her four children while doing all of this blogging and reading and movie watching...she has always had my admiration, but it grows by the day since my kids have been out of school. I'm just saying.

If you haven't already, you should definitely check out these bloggers. They are a part of my daily addictions!

Speaking of addictions, we will be leaving for our two and a half week trip to Poland on Tuesday. The good news is that this will be a hardcore 17 day read-a-thon! The bad news is that I will leave behind our housesitter and our animals, and my COMPUTER! I will have virtually no Internet access while I am gone. While I know this is a healthy exercise for me, my stomach hurts thinking about it. Never fear though...this girl has a plan. Stay tuned for my "Bon Voyage" post on Tuesday for more details.

The kids were out of school for a week and two days before I was tempted into a mom's playdate. Three of us gathered our kids at one mom's home, we sent the kids off to swim, play videogames and destroy each other, and we drank sangria, ate munchies and yakked. It was good for the soul. The bonus from this gathering, though, is that I discovered that one mom belonged to a book club. I've been searching for a "real" book club forever, but most of them are light on book talk and heavy on bitching about husbands and gossiping about their neighbors, so I've declined. This one, I am assured, is the real deal. When I get back from my summer activities, I'm going to give it a go. Updates to come!

I hope everyone has a peaceful Sunday!

Friday, June 12, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (audio)

Don't you just love it when you read something that changes you forever? I knew in my heart that this would be the case when I picked up the audio of To Kill a Mockingbird. It did not escape my attention that almost without exception, this book was on everyone's BTT "Sticky 15" a couple of weeks ago. I know it is my mom's favorite book, and have been hearing her talk about it forever. Why I waited 42 years to experience this classic is beyond me.

But the downside of reading such a novel is facing the daunting task of reviewing it. What on earth can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times? Does it make any sense to run through the plot? Even before I read the book, I knew the plot. It is a permanent part of pop culture. I knew something of Harper Lee from my interest in Truman Capote, my love for the book "In Cold Blood", and the movie "Capote". Then there's the movie of TKAM (which I haven't seen either) that has been sound-byted and clipped to death, primarily as a result of Peck's Oscar-winning role as Atticus. Is there anyone on earth that hasn't stumbled across snippets of the courtroom scene?

In general, the story touches on many emotionally-charged issues. Racism and bigotry, intolerance, social status, hypocrisy, and unwritten laws that often govern over the written ones. Tough stuff. But at the same time, the story is about innocence, the basic goodness of some people, and the importance of doing the right thing. As tough as some of the story's themes are, they are told through the eyes of a precocious child. A child that is full of innocence and wonder, a keen interest in life, and won't take guff from anyone. I so loved Scout! On one hand, it almost softens the heartache of the harsh inequities we see in all of its ugliness, but on the other hand, I just wanted to cry as I could almost visually see Scout's innocence slipping away.

I've always found Harper Lee to be an enigma. With the exception of some short stories and such, she never published another novel. The book TKAM is very close to autobiographical, although Lee has always downplayed this. Her father was a lawyer, her mother wasn't present in her formative years and died at a young age, she had an older brother, and the family had a black housekeeper. She lived in the South and was witness, via her father's newspapers, to a particular case of a white girl accusing a black man of rape. The character of Dill was based on Lee's childhood friend, Truman Capote, who lived next door with his aunt while his mother was traveling. Since the publication of TKAM, she grants almost no requests for interviews and public appearances and lives a fairly solitary life. It makes me wonder why she has chosen this path.

Some may say that experiencing this classic via audio is a travesty, but I would firmly argue that it is not. The story is narrated by Sissy Spacek, who embodies Scout. It was magical to listen to this story unfold through Spacek's southern, childlike voice. I would imagine I will one day read this book in the written form, but would encourage everyone to give this form of media a try. You will lose yourself in it!
5 out of 5 stars

Great Dream of Heaven - Sam Shepard

Did I have room in my huge stack of TBR books to squeeze in one more? Nah. Probably not, but when I read Beth Fish's review of this one a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist. I don't have much experience with short stories, but this one seemed like a perfect one to start with. The tipping point with me was when I learned it was written by Sam Shepard. Yes, THAT Sam Shepard. You mean Dolly Parton's adorable husband in Steel Magnolias? The cute country vet that swept Diane Keaton off her feet in my fantasy movie Baby Boom? That would have been all the arm-twisting I needed. But what I didn't appreciate is that this man is an accomplished Pulitzer Prize winner and author of more than 45 plays and story collections. After reading this collection of short stories, now I understand that he is so much more than a handsome actor.
The book consists of 18 stories - some one page in length and others longer - that give us tiny snapshots of people's lives. Poignant, touching, disturbing, or just entertaining, the stories document a conversation, an event, a pivotal moment in an everyman's life. The common thread through all of them is the examination of the complicated and fragile interrelationships between fathers and sons, mother and daughter, man and wife, friends, and even between humans and their own selves.

Certain tales stuck with me in my dreams. In "Blinking Eye", a young woman is making a cross-country trip to deliver her mother's ashes to the family, and attempts to rescue a beautiful, wounded hawk. In "Living the Sign", a wing shack displays a sign that reads "Life is what's happening to you while you're making plans for something else", and a customer seeks out the individual that thoughtfully hung the sign. In "Great Dream of Heaven", two widowers and roommates take pleasure in their daily visit to a local Denny's to see the lovely waitress Faye, until one day one of the men dares to visit Faye on his own and destroys the delicate balance of their lives.

Shepard's prose is spare, but flexible with many voices and variations. He captures the essence of human interaction, and of Americana, and was a pleasure to read.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gauntlet - Richard Aaron

Thanks to Jaime and Dorothy Thompson at "Pump Up Your Book Promotion", I was offered an opportunity to participate in the blog tour of this novel. After a long line of classics, WWII dramas and YA novels, I was ready for a little action, and this one promised it in spades.

An accomplished Afghan businessman and drug smuggler has received orders to facilitate a terrorist attack on the US. While this individual has his reservations in taking his game to a new level, he is primarily motivated by power and the challenge. With the assistance of an international network of associates, he hijacks a large shipment of explosives in Libya, and sets into motion a highly technical plan to bring the US to its knees in a way that has never been seen before. The potential results are terrifying, and could cripple the American economy and claim thousands of lives.

We are introduced to an interesting cast of characters that have the intelligence and skills to stop the attack. There is a drug-addicted Navy pilot. An undercover agent captured and held in an Afghan prison by a sadist with a penchant for amputating body parts. A couple of Canadian drug enforcement agents just doing their job. A newly-established Terrorism Agency run by a pompous yet ignorant rich boy. And at the heart of the story, a young, functional, autistic man that works for the Terrorism Agency. To his boss and co-workers, he is an eccentric flake, but is soon appreciated as a wunderkind. The chase is on to track down the missing explosives and determine the ultimate target. The question is...can they work together to figure it out in time?

This story is intense and gripping from the very start. It's one of those books where you have to remember to breathe, it is so fast-paced and edge-of-your-seat. Uniquely, unlike many other thrillers I've read, this one includes very satisfying character development of the primary personalities. You understand why the pilot is struggling to maintain balance. You flashback into the terrorist's childhood to understand how far he has come, his intelligence, his charisma and surprisingly, his humanity. You walk in the shoes of the autistic prodigy, and your heart breaks for his pain in never fitting in or being understood. The book has a tremendous amount of technical detail that must have required hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of research. The detail makes the story seem very authentic, but is not something that bogged me down. My only struggle was acquainting myself with the players in the first half dozen chapters...there are well over a dozen of them that required a bit of note-taking. When this happens, I just raise my level of reading a notch or two, and ride it out. It all falls into place pretty easily after that.

The ending doesn't tie up all loose ends, but wraps up enough of them to allow me to sleep at night. But best part of all? The sequel is almost completed. Bring it on! (Soon, please.)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A guest post with Richard Aaron, author of "Gauntlet"

I am quite excited to introduce to you Richard Aaron, author of "Gauntlet". I am participating in his Pump Up Your Book Promotion blog tour, and tomorrow will be reviewing his action-packed debut novel.

To give us a peek into his thought process on writing an action thriller, Richard is going to explain how he keeps the reader engaged from the first sentence to the very last page. (Trust me, it works.)

It’s like fishing. You need to get the reader’s interest, have him nibble about a bit, and then reel him in. I’ve stood back in bookstores and watched the process when I’m doing a signing. The first thing you need is a good cover – anything that will make the customer pick up the book. Once they have the book in hand, you need a back cover that is loaded with quotes from critics as to how good it is. If you don’t have good quotes, you’re in trouble. The next thing is the front inside jacket fold, summarizing the book. You need to get the customer to read that. It should be full of hooks. THEN you get to the first line, or the first paragraph. It must engage the reader. Here is the first line of Gauntlet: “’So just how big a crater will it make if we blow up 660 tons of Semtex?’ Richard Lawrence asked Sergeant Jason McMurray.”

Here is the opening paragraph of the sequel (Counterplay): “Zak Goldberg was running for his life.”

You need something that will hit hard, and fast. I never even realized that this was a requirement until I found the first line I was going to use for Gauntlet. Then it all made sense.

You must also have, in the first few pages, an exciting event. It’s got to be BIG, or you’ll lose your reader (I’m told you have about 30 seconds to grab an agent’s attention, three pages to grab a reader’s). From there, quickly introduce other intertwining plot lines – I usually play with three or four. As the one story reaches a strategic or dramatic point, cut it off and move to another plot line. This keeps the reader on the hook. They desperately want to know what is happening to Turbee, or Richard, or whoever. But you’ve started talking instead about smuggling drugs across borders.

You have to give the protagonist a long and winding road. If he’s been given a whole novel to tell about his life, make sure it’s an interesting one! Don’t give him the easy way out, and throw a hard situation his way every couple chapters to keep him (or her) guessing. Theirs should not be an easy path to the climax.

Finally, the end should be as big as the beginning. I like to say that Gauntlet starts and ends with a bang, and I think the second novel is going to go the same way. It’s satisfying to the reader, and it appeases my very structured mind.

Thanks so much Richard! Everyone stay tuned for tomorrow's review!

Wordless Wednesday

Big fish lips at the Tampa Aquarium

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pendragon - Book One: The Merchant of Death - D.J. MacHale (audio)

A few weeks back, I had to make an emergency stop at the library for more audio books, and I picked this one up for the kids and I. I knew nothing about it, except that the school library carries it, and it has a whole string of installments. Ten, as it turns out.

Bobby Pendragon is a normal 14-year-old. He loves to hang with his best friend Mark, he has a passion for basketball, and he has had a crush on Courtney Chetwynde (he's even kissed her once!). But when his Uncle Press whisks him off suddenly, explaining that a group of people desperately need their help, and they time-travel through a "flume" to the planet Denduron, things are no longer run-of-the-mill. Through a series of journals transported back to Mark and Courtney, Bobby recounts his unsolicited new life as a "traveler" and the apparent savior of not only the planet Denduron, but of all times and places that ever existed, called Halla.

Denduron is a planet in turmoil, a caste society of the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots are poverty-stricken and oppressed. Working conditions are horrific, and those that get out of line are killed without remorse. The planet is overrun with huge, man-eating bear-like creatures. When the have-nots discover a natural explosive material, they begin to organize a resistance that threatens to not only destroy their oppressors, but themselves as well. Another traveler, the evil Saint Dane, would like to encourage the self-destruction and ultimately take over Halla. This is where Bobby, his uncle, and the lovely, hard bodied Lohr (another traveler) come into the picture. Bobby, who considers himself a bit of a chicken, rises to the challenge and proves to himself that there's more courage and leadership in his wimpy body that he ever thought.

This audio was entertaining to listen to, probably more for the kids than myself. It was vaguely reminiscent of other YA fantasy stories (Chronicles of Narnia? Harry Potter? Artemis Fowl?), and once the story got rolling, was fairly predictable. There were a few words uttered that aren't allowed in our house, but the kids have heard them before and know not to repeat them. I think what made this story stand out in my mind was the narrator, William Dufris. His voice is incredibly animated and his inflections are the perfect imitation of a 14 year old boy, a wizened old peddler, a narcissistic, childlike leader. It was a treat to listen to him. Will we continue to pursue the series? The kids have voted "yes". We'll see how far we get into the 10 book series before one of us loses interest!

Sandy's rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Kids' rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Movie Meme - Awesome dude!

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles is all about that unforgettable decade of the '80's. Perhaps some would rather forget this period of time ever existed, but for me, this was what defined my youth! I had the big hair, the skin tight Jordache jeans, and a pair of jelly shoes in every color.

When it comes to the movies from this decade, there were plenty of respectable films...Ordinary People, Out of Africa, Platoon, Driving Miss Daisy. But in my mind, this is not the spirit of this week's topic. What we need to talk about are the movies that DEFINED the 80's...the attitudes, the fashion, the sound bytes. Interestingly, once my husband and I started talking about these movies, we quickly determined a common theme...these movies must have kept plenty of parents up at night. My list is the perfect example of teenagers behaving badly. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The Breakfast Club - The "Brat Pack" at its finest. The soundtrack was pretty cool, too.

2. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Oooooh yeaaaaah!

3. Risky Business - Sunglasses and underwear has never looked so good. Tom Cruise had it all going on back then, before he lost his mojo.

4. Flashdance - My recent attempt at recreating this look for an '80's party was pretty pathetic. My one lingering question is, did Jennifer Beals have a bun-double for that dancing scene? Whose buns really look like that anyway?

5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Sean Penn must be horrified at his break-through role at this stage in his career.

6. Footloose - I remember I originally saw this movie with my friends in my business class AND with our teacher Ms. Bantz, who was pretty cool. We were so jacked up after the movie, we went out in search of a high school dance where we could blow off steam. We never found one...

7. Dirty Dancing - Is there any girl on earth that didn't want to be Baby?

8. St. Elmo's Fire - More Brat Pack running amuck.

9. An Officer and a Gentleman - No this didn't necessarily define the decade, and the characters in the movie are consenting adults, but I would be negligent if I didn't list one of the few movies I've seen several dozen times and can recite most of the lines by heart.

10. When Harry Met Sally - This is the other movie I've seen more times than I care to admit, and possibly has one of the best lines from a movie, ever. You know which one I'm talking about!

There are several dozen more, I know. But these were the ones that rushed immediately to mind? What were some of the '80's movies that were your favorites? Don't be shy. We won't judge!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sticky Business

I almost never participate in the Booking Through Thursday meme, mainly because you get very similar answers to questions, and after awhile they all sound alike. Not this one. It was just too good to pass up. So we have to name 15 books that have stuck with us over the years, for good or bad. Don't overthink it...just throw them down in 15 minutes or less! Here are mine:

1. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen. It just pisses me off that I only started reading Austen this year...
2. The Bible. I nearly read the entire thing when I converted to Catholiciscm in '96. It was very hard to put down once I'd started...lots of lessons, lots of action, lots of bad guys!
3. Into That Darkness - Gitta Sereny. One of the most terrifying, thought-provoking books about the Holocaust. Hard to get through, but should be required reading for mankind.
4. The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson. My love for architecture, Chicago and serial killers were nourished all at once with this amazing true story.
5. The Post-Birthday World - Lionel Shriver. The perfect novel about the fork in the road, and what the consequences of our choices.
6. Are You There God, It's Me Margaret - Judy Blume. This was the book of my pre-pubescent youth. Bras, boob exercises, boys, periods, we've got it all covered. I still own my original copy by the way, the back cover ripped off as a result of all my friends passing it around.
7. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet. A behemoth of a book about generations of families that struggled to build a cathedral in medieval England. Wonderful, especially when its read while in England! Close second and sequel - World Without End.
8. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote. True crime in its most brilliant form. Capote was a genius.
9. Beach Music - Pat Conroy. The hypnotizing beauty and enchantment of the Outer Banks perfectly translated to the written word, as well the horror of the Holocaust, all in one book. I didn't want it to end. Close second - Prince of Tides.
10. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice. This book started by decade-long obsession with all things Anne Rice. I'd never read anything like this prior to discovering her. Close second and end of Lestat series - Memnoch the Devil.
11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Annie Barrows. The most delightful story, told through a series of letters, that makes you fall madly in love the characters and want to move to Guernsey.
12. The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister. This book would fall into the same feel-good category as Guernsey. About how a talented chef heals wounded souls in her cooking classes.
13. The Stand - Stephen King. I believe this was my introduction to horror. Good versus evil, pure and simple. Epic in nature, over a thousand pages long, and in-depth character development, this was an admirable feat for an 8th grader.
14. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon. The first in a series of books about a nurse in the '60's that traveled back to the mid 1700's and fell in love with a very dude-ish Scottish Highlander. I can't imagine my life without having read this series.
15. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee. I don't know if this counts, because I'm only halfway through the book, but I can pretty much guarantee this one will be on my list. I am mesmerized.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Sunset in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon (audio)

Drums of Autumn is the fourth installment, out of six, of the Outlander journey. I've now logged in a total of 146 discs so far, and have another 92 to go! The series is compelling as ever. I can't even remember life before Outlander, the story has become a part of my daily routine and unfortunately, my iPod has become a new appendage. It makes showering complicated. If you are new to the series, you can read my reviews of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager. Now, my sincere apologies, but I can't keep all of the spoilers to myself. In order to continue reviewing the next two books, I have to give away a few important tidbits.

When we left Claire and Jamie in Voyager, they had been sailing near the West Indies, and had become shipwrecked on the coast of the Carolinas as a result of a hurricane with a few friends and Jamie's nephew Ian. No surprise to us, they have a few misadventures with pirates as a little welcome-to-America celebration, that results in the loss of Claire's wedding ring and all of their wealth (jewels). They look up Jamie's long lost Aunt Jocasta, who is a wealthy land owner, gain their footing, and are witness to the hard cold reality of slavery and the inequity between blacks and whites. They strike a deal with the governor, and establish a plot of land for themselves in the mountains, along with their Scottish entourage, and call it Frasier's Ridge. With the exception of a couple of insanely predictable mishaps (which must have consumed most of their remaining nine lives at this point), they live sedate lives with a semblance of a routine. They make friends with the local Indians, learning their customs, they build homes, they plant some crops. Life is good.

Meanwhile, fast forwarding to the late sixties, Brianna, Jamie and Claire's grown up girl, is playing cat and mouse with the ever-eager Roger Wakefield. They both care for each other deeply, but Bri's got some other fish to fry. At Bri's request, she has asked Roger to do a little research to make sure mummy and da are still alive and well. During Roger's search, he finds a death notice for Claire and Jamie in 1776 (about seven years from their current position) and Bri bravely enters the circle of stones to 1769 to save them. Roger follows (its like the passage back through time is like the London underground, for Pete's sake), they meet up and decide their love is the real deal. They seal this deal, quite explicitly, in a pile of hay in a barn. Just a little soft porn for those of you getting bored. They separate, Brianna to find her parents, Roger to illegally "secure" some gems to ensure a safe passage back home. Predictably at this point, danger, harm and misunderstandings abound, and the two are separated. Brianna does meet her paternal father for the first time, and emotions run high as they do with these red-headed Scots. Bri soon discovers she is pregnant, and realizes that if she doesn't go back through the stones before the baby is born, she is destined to stay in the past forever. She can't take a baby through the stones, after all. So where the hell is Roger? Will he get back in time, and what will he say when he discovers the baby might not be his? I will leave you with these mysteries until you read about them, or until I review the next book "The Fiery Cross", whichever comes first.

Of course, there are side plots that entertain. Claire discovers the bones of a man, probably Native American, in a cave, that came from the future. Another circle of stones is also found, which is conveniently located not far from Frasier's Ridge. We get a couple more glimpses of the gay British officer, John Grey, one of my favorite characters. We get an in-depth view of slavery, Native American customs, life on a cross-Atlantic sea voyage, threats and consequences of measles, small pox and other virulent diseases, and life as an unwed pregnant woman. There has to be enough material to fill 39 discs, after all.

Of the four books I've read in this series so far, I would rank this one third. Not my favorite, and was pretty slow for the first half, honestly. But once Bri and Roger make their journey back in time, things get exciting. Their sex scene had me sweating (I was driving in a torrential rainstorm at the time, and nearly had to pull off the road). The reunion between Jamie and Brianna was touching. And the little nugget, dropped like a forgotten crumb at the end...the little secret of Frank Randal's that changed the course for everyone? Well, it throws just enough intrigue into the end to keep me close by for installment number five. I won't be gone long, but I need some short audios...anything under 20 discs will do...

4 out of 5

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Movie Meme - Show Us Your...Collection

Our hosts of the Monday Movie Meme, the Bumbles, are coming up with some different ways for us to share a little of our movie selves with each other. Last week, we talked about how we watch movies. This week, we get to give everyone a glimpse of our personal movie collections through some very creative categories. Our collection not only consists of DVD's, but also a lovely array of laser discs and VHS tapes. Disclaimer: In my answers below, I am not taking into account the obsessive viewing habits of my children!

MOST VIEWED - Fatal Attraction. We seem to gravitate towards this movie any time we are looking for a little excitement. We've seen this one at least a dozen times and it just keeps getting better and better. I especially love the alternate ending.

NEVER VIEWED - Dances With Wolves. We did see this movie at the theater, but have never thought it compelling enough to pull out the laser disc and see it again.

AFRAID TO ADMIT YOU OWN - Buns of Steel. Well, what can I say? It was the thing to do back in the '80's!

GUILTY PLEASURE - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. We have a boxed set of the all of the Vacations, and this is our favorite. We quote lines from this movie (the shitter was full). This movie could possibly be tied with Fatal Attraction for Most Viewed...it comes out every Christmas.

MOST SHARED - Downfall. We are not stingy people, but don't find ourselves swapping movies all that much. Most of our friends have Netflix, so if we like something, we just recommend it and they order it on Netflix. This movie, however, made a small tour around town lately. It is about the last days of the Third Reich. Its dark, its hard to watch and hard to turn away.

WHY DID WE BUY THIS? - Dumb and Dumber. OK I admit, I laughed pretty hard when I saw this in the theaters. But it is really really moronic. Even worse, my husband and my son watched it recently, and now my son wants to watch it repeatedly. I DON'T need my 9 year old learning how to light his farts on fire in front of company, thanks.

MOST TREASURED - Casablanca. We have a boxed set of the 50th Anniversary version of this movie in laser disc format. There is a large booklet included, with beautiful pictures from the film, and a history of the actors and the filming of the movie. I like to just sit and admire it!

WILD CARD - Triumph of the Will. If you are interested in WWII, this one is a must. It is the famous propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl commissioned by Hitler. It amazes us when we see the effort that was put into making this film, and trying to hoodwink the world.