Friday, January 30, 2009

The Settlers of Catan

I've always been a big fan of board games.and When I was a little girl, I loved the Cabbage Patch Kids game, and yes, I played Girl Talk as a teen (talkin' bout Dateline!). Nowadays, I'm into Apples to Apples, because it's just awesome. You're having a game night? I'm there. And I'm bringing games.
We got a game this Christmas called The Settlers of Catan. I'd never heard of it, but I was assured it was incredibly cool. It's a little like Risk, which I never liked, and (so I'm told) a little like Civilization, which I've never heard of, so I was a little skeptical at first.
My first round changed all that. This game is OFF THE HOOK. The goal is to be the first to score ten victory points - but in order to get victory points, you have to build settlements, cities, and roads - but in order to do THAT, you have to have resource cards, which you acquire based on where your settlements are... I'm pretty bad at explaining it. Usually I let people who've never played before read the rule book. It's not complicated, just thoughtful. The only downside to Settlers of Catan is it's a 3 or 4 player game. Not two. Not five. If you want five people to play, you need to pick up an expansion pack at your friendly neighborhood board game shop. If you want two people to play... well, you better start looking for a friend to come over, 'cause it ain't happening with two.
In the photo above, Wash is surveying the game board, contemplating where to build his next road.
You can learn more about the Settlers of Catan here.

The Settlers of Catan - A

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cannonball Read, Book 8

I finished Melissa Bank's The Wonder Spot a couple days ago.  This is another collection of "short prose," same character throughout the collection of short stories... so it's not a short story collection, but it's not a novel (so it IS like Moral Disorder).  Are there lots of books like these?

'Cause I like 'em.

I've read Bank's The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing at least four times, so I knew what I was getting into.  I liked the stories quite a bit, but they all left me feeling unsettled - they all sort of veer away from a nice, neat ending.  That's OK, but sometimes I like nice & neat.  I wanted Sophie to get the guy and live happier ever after, and I'm not sure that she does... but maybe the whole point of the book is to leave you wondering.  Like the spot.

The Wonder Spot - B

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oscar Nomination Predictions

UPDATE: 74% accuracy without my runners-up, 80% with. Like I always do. Worst category? Best Original Screenplay - only one right guess. Best category? Best Adapted Screenplay - 100% accuracy!

I've been making Oscar predictions for the last eight years, but have only made nomination predictions for the last three. Here are my predictions from 2006, 2007, and 2008. I've never done better than about 80% accuracy in my nomination predictions - we'll see how I do this year.

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
runner-up: The Wrestler
I wish: Rachel Getting Married

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

runner-up: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
I wish: Colin Farrell, In Bruges

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road (note: Kate's nomination was for The Reader, so I got a half-point)
runner-up: Angelina Jolie, Changeling
I wish: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City... not really

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
runner-up: James Franco, Milk
I wish: Emile Hirsch, Milk

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Kate Winslet, The Reader
runners-up and I wish: Amy Adams, Doubt and Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married - I love them both

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk
runner-up: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
I wish: Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married

Best Original Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Joel and Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading
Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
Nick Schenk, Gran Torino
Robert D. Siegel, The Wrestler
runner-up: Andrew Stanton, Wall-E
I wish: Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married

Best Adapted Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
David Hare, The Reader
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

runner-up: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
I wish: who knows? these look good to me

For a complete list of Oscar nominees, click here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I need you to watch this.

I assure you you won't regret.

Working Together - A+

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cannonball Read - EXTREME EDITION!

Long distance flights are great. There's plenty of time for reading. There's also plenty of time for listening to Carmine from Laverne & Shirley tell stories about his newest project on Broadway, and how he played chess with Kiefer Sutherland when he appeared on 24. I, of course, had NO idea who he was. Sorry, Eddie.

But back to the reading: between my flight out to California on Thursday and my flight home today, I read THREE BOOKS! Hooray! First up: The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. Davies lives and works right here in my town - so I'm thinking local - and The Welsh Girl is his first novel, although he's written some acclaimed short stories and poems.  Well, I liked the meat of The Welsh Girl, but it had a prologue and an epilogue that I didn't really love.  They were completely necessary to tell the story, to provice nice bookends for the plot, but I don't know why they weren't included as chapters.  Be that as it may, The Welsh Girl was quite good - a story of war, Wales and love.  Or something passing for love.  Companionship?  Shared secrets?  But I kept superimposing it with this book. I think I would have liked The Welsh Girl a lot better if it had been book ten or twenty instead of book five. But I shouldn't really fault it for its placement.

Next up: Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. I'd never read any of his books before, although I love the movie version of Fight Club, and my husband really liked this when he listened to the audio book... which makes me wonder a little bit about him. Because this book was CRAZY. And I definitely shouldn't have read it on the plane, because I didn't want people reading the phrase "she was throttling my dog" over my shoulder. At any rate, this book is not for the faint of heart, but it is very clever and quite funny, although parts of it were heart-hurty. I don't think the character got a lot of love as child. And there's a nice twist, which I didn't see coming - which I always like.

Next up: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I've read this before, but just once, so I was read it again. If you want to know more, read this. Just as good the second time around.

Four days. Three books. Seven down, 93 to go. I can make it!

The Welsh Girl - B
Choke - A-
The Glass Castle - A

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 4

I think might love Margaret Atwood.  I seem to recall really liking Alias Grace, and I KNOW I loved The Handmaid's Tale... and Moral Disorder, a collection of short stories, was completely brilliant.  As soon as I was finished reading it, I wanted to immediately start it again (but that's foolish).  While it's short stories, they all feature the same female character - but it's not a novel.  It's better than a novel.  It was so DENSE, and rich, and... haunting.  The first story, "The Bad News," sucked me in; when I finished it, I actually said "wow."  Out loud.  Then I just kept reading.  And shaking my head - because it's that good.

Moral Disorder - A

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Edies Are At It Again

Drew Barrymore. Some people love her. Some people hate her. I fall smack in the middle - but right now, I want to help her. I'm afraid that Drew is back on the sauce. Did you see her last night at the Golden Globes? Here's a review:
Beautiful dress? Check.
Phenomenal purse? Check.
Gorgeous cocktail ring? Check.

Crazy hair? CHECK.

Seriously, honey, what is this?  Are you back on the crazy train?  Please don't be on the crazy train.

And then there's THIS one:

Too whack for words.

Drew and Jessica, besties for life - D+

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 3

Success!  I feel caught up!  Book 3 is Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance by Lloyd Jones.  First good thing about it: it's SHORT - 275 pages.  I need more books this length.  Any suggestions?

Next best thing about this book: everything else.  It was outstanding.  And so, so sad.  Not crying on the couch sad, but when I closed the book, I felt a heaviness in my heart, and I said, "Wow."  So it's THAT kind of sad.  I cared about the characters and the changing geography and timeline... and it really made me want to learn to tango.

Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance - A-

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 2

My second book of the year is Empress Orchid by Anchee Min, an historical novel about Tzu Hsi, concubine-turned-empress of China.  It's "an epic of a country girl who seized power through seduction, murder and endless intrigue... she alone seems campable of holding the country together" (thanks, book jacket).

I think I'm going to look back on the year and not rank Empress Orchd in the top ten.  It was very good, and definitely one of those books that, while I was reading, I was completely engrossed, but with just a little time away from it, it feels like the poor man's Memoirs of a Geisha - not quite as rich, the characters not quite as likeable, and long.  It seemed to go on forever.  Of course, that could just be because I'm ten days into the year and have only read two books.  Must.  Read.  Faster!

I would certainly recommend this book to all fans of historical - but if you haven't read Memoirs of a Geisha, what are you waiting for!?  Read it first!

Empress Orchid - B

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Year, New Look

Check out my fancy new rotating blog headers. They were created and added to my blog by my good buddy Jenny (you can read her blogs here and here). She also made this sweet January calendar. She's very talented, I tell you.

a new look - A

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Time Marches On

Since my 30th birthday last year, I have been more acutely aware of the passage of time. Seasons still move at the same perceived pace, I don't feel myself aging (although I do have some seriously creaky joints), but what I notice is how things that happened a long time ago seem to have just taken place yesterday.

Example: it was FIFTEEN YEARS AGO TODAY that little Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed by that big meanie Tonya Harding. OK, Tonya didn't actually club Nancy... and what did Nancy ever do to her except have big teeth and skate well in a pretty dress? Nothing, I tell you. And Nancy still won a silver medal and Tonya broke a skate lace and cried to the judges and left in disgrace. And then became a boxer. Way to come out on top, Harding.

growing old - B- (why? why?)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 1

Happy New Year.

I kicked off my Cannonball Read endeavor with Pirates!, a young adult novel on girl pirates in the 18th century.  It was a solid way to start the project - relatively short, somewhat frivolous, lesbian overtones, and only a couple mentions of scurvy (but no scurvy dogs).  Nancy is fleeing an arranged marriage; Minerva, a life of slavery.  They join up with a band of pirates, and yes, blood is shed, but hearts are also led to love.  Like I said, girl pirates.  They don't make out or anything, but they do bathe each other a couple times.  It was fun, not too brain-taxing, and I enjoyed it.

I wonder why Celia Rees felt the need to put an exclamation point in the title of her book.  Is Pirates! any better than Pirates?  Would readers not understand that book is in fact about pirates if the exclamation point were not presents?  Then I got to wondering: what would the titles of other solid literary works be like if they too were punctuated so emphatically?
Jane! (take your pick)

Pirates! - B+