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Friday, February 27, 2009

Cry of Justice

Cry of Justice by Jason Pratt

I am Portunista, commander of troops, powerful mage and loyal only to myself. That is...until a stranger appears in my world of Mikon. The fair Jian makes me question everything--my motivations, my lifestyle and my legacy--and, surprisingly, I begin to wonder if my world is better with him in it. Nevertheless, I find myself unable to completely trust him. Who is he?

Meanwhile, I have left this legacy behind for others to read, so they will know my story. I am not the only one telling tales, however. One of my men--Seifas, a juacuara--is also recording his version. I've seen him writing it. That is good. It is important how history will remember us...especially after our battles with the others and my encounter with the girl. It is important that someone tells our story.

Someone does tell the story of Portunista, Seifas and their comrades, and that of the partially omniscient narrator is the first of several points-of-view we receive in Cry of Justice. Many of the initial narrator's facets are left mysterious, however, as Pratt plans to develop that character further in an upcoming trilogy. If you love Cry of Justice, don't worry when it's over--there's more to come!

Meanwhile, the different narrators and short chapters keep the pace fast, even though the book, at 400+ pages, is on the long side. Despite the fast pace, you will also need to pay attention as the plot jumps through time--pseudo-present, present-past and further past--kind of like this season of "Lost."

There are scenes that are quite frightening (the bird attack kept this ornithophobe up late one night), but he is quite effective at integrating comic relief, too. The characters also range from fierce to amusing to compelling to downright evil. And there is plenty of symbolism to unpack.

Pratt describes the novel as "epic fantasy," and I would primarily suggest it to those who are already fans of the genre and familiar with different worlds and species, battle scenes and somewhat academic language. For those newcomers to the fantasy arena, a glossary of terms might be helpful.

*Remember to check out the author interviews below!*

Author Interview with Jason Pratt

OK, now you've (probably) read the review and the review are my questions to author Jason Pratt about Cry of Justice.

I have to admit that Portunista was my favorite character (perhaps because she's a woman, but maybe not). :) Why did you choose a woman to fill what some might view as a traditionally male role--the commander of a group of men? Were you trying to address any other gender issues with her character?
I don’t really think in terms of “this person should be that gender for sake of shaking up the perceived status quo or whatever”. I do however recognize that realistically speaking, a woman will, on average (“on average” being the key qualifier here), have a more difficult time being involved in combat situations than men, partially due to physical characteristics and partially due to some common-sense cultural issues. (Both of which tend to center on the extreme importance of the role of childbearing--for better or for worse. One ‘worse’ aspect being that women are far more likely to be raped by victors in battle than men are.) So when the story seems to require that a woman be in a combat role, I do want to keep those issues in mind. At the same time, precisely _because_ of those issues, it seems to me that any woman involved in combat operations will probably have to excel more than could be expected on the average for any man, in order to be successful. And of course, even aside from personal reasons to be involved in combat operations, there are just times when women have to be present and active, particularly in the defense of home territory. (I plan to be playing around with expectations on this, pro and con, in regard to one of the so-called “demihuman” races later, by the way: the women are the ones with wings, and so would be a valuable necessity as part of any offensive operation, in cooperation with the men.) As to the question of command: I think even history shows that when a woman achieves the position of command, her subordinates are more likely than not to be far more devotedly loyal to her than the average expectation. Psychologically, I believe this represents the importance of protecting and serving our home and mother, without which there simply wouldn’t _be_ a human “society” to speak of. But of course there are many barriers (some fair, some not) that may hinder a woman from arriving at that rank within a group. As a character with a previous history before the main story begins, Portunista was able to trade on the expectations of her culture (bruised though those expectations were by that time) that someone with training as a mage would be better in command than not; even if that person was only an apprentice. This person can do things we cannot--and there’s a subconscious feeling of safety in having such a person ‘protecting’ us. Long before the main story begins, Portunista found, however, that she needed help in maintaining command over the scattered troops and vendors whom she was accumulating--a necessity of help that was based to a large degree on her own selfish personality! But then her personality would be coming into increasing conflict with the cooperative necessities of her position. And so on and so forth. By the time the main story begins, she’s gone about as far as she can feasibly go without either first becoming a better person and treating her subordinates better, or else becoming a much worse person and clamping down harder. So the character tensions ramp up even further: is she going to do something good or bad or what at any given time? Which way will she end up going? (The three main villains of CoJ, by the way, exemplify the chaotic, lawful or neutral extremes of evil that she herself might end up at.) None of which yet answers the question of why I chose a woman to fill the command role. {lopsided g} The shorter answer to this, is that the story is (and will be for a long time) _about_ Portunista, and the kind of person she currently is and may grow to be. Putting her in a command role was a way of helping to emphasize this character development. The fact that she was a woman was incidental to this plot-choice on my part; but then, once she was there, I didn’t want to ignore her womanhood as being part of her personhood and as being part of the larger-scale situation. So then I had to think in terms of the ideas I mentioned in those previous paragraphs up there. {g}(I will mention here that these themes sure don’t disappear in the next two books of the trilogy... {lol})

Similarly, were you addressing any racial issues with the Guacu-ara (juacuar) people?
Racial issues (for better or for worse--usually for worse) are a normal part of human life; so again, although I originally designed Seifas for overtly-coolness’ sake, I believed I had to be true to the situation I had created and begin factoring in some realistic tensions in his relationships with other people. And there was his back-history to consider: why was he so different? And when I came up with ideas about that, then those had to be realistically integrated into the history of the story, including in how that history affects what’s going on now in the main story. You may notice that the racial issues aren’t limited to the juacuara. The orc analogues of my story, the Ungulata, consider _themselves_ to be the _real_ humans, fearing and despising the main ‘human’ group of the story (but especially fearing the juacuara as the “old killers”.) One theme I did find the story building to, along the way, in regard to ‘racial superiority’, is that what we would call “social Darwinism” (or Darwinistic society) necessarily leads to justifications of racial supercessionism, in disregard of the person-ness of the persons involved. The Guacu-ara as a group were taught differently by appeal to the importance of personhood transcendently guaranteed in the acceptance of their religious beliefs; but once that is removed or undermined, then, well... it’s time for survival of the fittest. And clearly the juacuara are the fittest to survive. Therefore, etc. Bomas thus represents the antithesis of Seifas: he has gone through the same process of doubt in ultimate justice as Seifas has, but he has come out of it with a very different outlook on things. (I should add here that non-or-anti-theists aren’t always villains in CoJ; Gaekwar is an atheist, or as close to that as anyone could be in Mikon, and he’s a very admirable character--who gets lots of good lines, too. {g!} The main heroine planned for the end of the series will also live and die as a strong anti-theist; but she’s far from being a bad person. On the contrary, her true love of justice leads her into her anti-theism. That’s just how things are sometimes. {s})

Where do readers find justice (or the need for it) in the book? Is there a correlation with our world today?
Ow!--deep questions. One of the more interesting answers in the book (which I’ll try to describe without too many plot-spoilers) is that hope + power = justice. Without hope, the power cannot be just; without power, the hope will fail and never arrive. But the power being enacted is loving cooperation between persons. The Bible, in Greek, has a great word for this: dikaiosune. It means “fair-togetherness”, and it’s the word that is typically translated into English as “righteousness”.So there’s another theme involved: that of active fair-togetherness between persons. The villains, in various ways, are primarily concerned to be working against the fulfillment of this, particularly to their own advantage. (That includes Portunista when she’s doing less-than-reputable things!) The thing about fair-togetherness between persons as an ethical standard, is that it’s something typically agreed with by people who are concerned with promoting morality, regardless of whether they are religious or not; and that it’s something typically challenged by people who are concerned with denying or ‘transcending’ morality (also regardless of whether they are religious or not). As to how this is found, or not, in the real world--I hardly need to point this out to any reader, I think. {s}I will however point out in passing, that the doctrine of “orthodox” Christian theism puts this notion as centrally as conceivably possible: a real distinction of Persons Who are substantially, not only as some legal fiction, One single God. Or as the Hebrew Shema declaration puts it, YHWH our AeLoHYM (itself a plural term uniquely used for a singular entity in regard to God in pre-Christian Judaism) YHWH is AeCHaD: a compound unity. (Reverent Jews would not try to pronounce YHWH, of course, using ADNY instead: but Adonai is also a plural term being used of singular entity in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, Elohim or ‘gods’ and Adonai or ‘lords’ are the two most common name-titles for God Most High in the Jewish scriptures.) I am not trying to argue for the truth of that notion here (that’s a task for proper apologetics). I am only pointing out that no other theology or philosophy can put active cooperation between persons so fundamentally. (I will mention that this idea is foreign to the characters in CoJ, however. They do not consider the “Eye” to be a compound unity of persons. They have a rather typical distant-monotheistic “henotheism” where subordinate agents of God either work with human culture or else rebel against God and try to corrupt human culture. One incidental result of this is that they never use our word “God”, or “good”, when speaking of ultimate deity; because while they understand Him to be the final judge of ethics they don’t really think of God as being “good” and certainly not of being intrinsically “love”.)

The idea of using the word "Eye" for God (or a godlike figure) is interesting. How much religious symbolism did you intend to convey in the book?
As much as seemed feasible given the cultural situation set up in the story. Humans, by and large, are naturally religious; but the “Agents” the Mikonese humans cooperate with don’t require worship, per se, so I had to actually hold back in some regards with what kind of religious expressions and symbolism could be expected. Still, solar imagery has always been connected with monotheism in human culture (including sometimes in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, by the way); so it makes sense that they would use solar imagery when thinking of the All-seeing ultimate authority, and star imagery when thinking of subordinates. Cursing is also important as a religious expression, though! (Which is extremely normal human behavior, too.) So I made a point of thinking out what ideas the various religious-themed curses represent. It may be noticed that I am avoiding talking about an important category of religious symbolism in the story... {g} Specifically, to what extent various nods to Christian imagery are to be identified with Christian doctrine within the story per se. I’m avoiding talking about this for now, because I would have to spoil some story details one way or another if I affirmed or denied them directly! (i.e., is someone supposed to be the “Christ”, or not?--and in what way if so? I promise to answer those questions later in the story; until then, I’ve left a lot of details to be debated. {g} Though I think I ended up giving enough details for a careful reader to put together about 80% of what’s going on in the first book already...)

I'm curious about the trilogy aspect of the overall story. Did you go into writing Cry of Justice intending for there to be two books following it, or did the story just develop that way and grow too large for one book?
To be honest, I did originally think of the first trilogy to be done in one book. But in order to get my characters to the first big climax of the story (at the end of what is now Book 3) I found I had to point them away from that goal for a while. Very important things are done in CoJ, though, not only leading to that finale of the trilogy but also in regard to the larger series as a whole. The same is true for the sequel, Edge of Justice.

Can you give us a clue about the direction the next books will take? What characters will remain....which ones the story will center around?
Without going into too many spoilers (including for people who haven’t read CoJ yet): EoJ still centers on Portunista and the development of her character and her relationships with people. Everyone who survives CoJ will continue to be involved in the story, although two villains are temporarily sidelined until Book 3. (I guess that’s a spoiler that at least two of the main villains survive CoJ... {g}) Having finished the book, you’ll know which two I’m talking about; they have some important chapters getting them back into the action for Book 3, and looking more into the past history of one of them, helping explain why he thinks and does what he does. But a wad of new villains are on the way for Book 2. (Including a new renegade juacuar, Isililo, whom I predict will become a fan favorite over the next few books.) EoJ will also introduce Gavoda, the Chancellor of Wye--the city where Seifas was recruited from by Qarfax (for those who’ve read Book 1), and so the closest major city to where the action is at the end of CoJ. She’s a little older than Portunista, and serves as a strong thematic foil for Portunista’s character. If there’s someone else EoJ is mainly the story of, it’s Gavoda. Broadly speaking, Edge of Justice (Book 2) is about what Portunista (in a couple of hindsight narrative places from Book 1) calls the “sharp cliff” incident: the main reason why she’s writing her Testimony, to remind her people of the kind of person she was in the time of the main story. So you can expect the angst to be ramping up considerably (along with the level of threat). Just as Book 1 leads to and then is centered around the Tower of Qarfax, Book 2 leads to and then is centered on the city of Wye. Song of Justice (Book 3), broadly speaking, is about the results of the “sharp cliff” incident and how the survivors of EoJ go about dealing with those results in their various ways. (You should be able to see why I eventually had to go with a three-act trilogy structure: leading to the sharp-cliff, during the sharp-cliff, after the sharp-cliff.) Let us say that the cast gets trimmed substantially by the end of Book 3. (Though I won’t say how, why or who... {g} Readers who absolutely want some hints on that can check my Author’s Journal on Amazon.) As with the Tower and Wye in the first two books, the narrative leads to and then centers on the city of Dichosa; although as it happens less time will be spent there in SoJ than at either of the other locations in the first two books. I know what happens after that already; but let’s get the first trilogy laid down first. {g} (I fully intend for readers to be satisfied enough with the first trilogy that they can stop there if they want or keep going for the next story arc if they want; and then for each arc afterward. That way if something happens to me, the series as a whole will still be satisfying even if the whole story hasn’t been finished yet.)

You use a lot of humor, which, to me, makes this fantasy more accessible to readers who might not normally choose a book of this genre. Were you intentionally trying to attract a wider audience, or was that more a reflection of your personality and/or writing style?
You raise an interesting question about what genre this is supposed to be; but “epic fantasy” makes the most sense (so that’s how I registered it for sorting in bookstores). I fuse in a lot of genre elements, though. The humor was certainly a reflection of my personality, but mainly in the sense that real people in real life tend to find things funny, even in the middle of hardship. There comes a point when it’s harder and harder to have a good humor about the situation, of course; and so while there’s still some humor in the next two books... well, a lot of things happen that just aren’t amusing (to put it vaguely). I expect Book 4, incidentally, to be more humorous again. That’s just a factor of the plot situation at any given time.Putting it another way, in non-spoilery terms that people who have already read the book will recognize: remember that character who seems to get through a lot of hardship in CoJ without much damage? He-or-she doesn’t get out of EoJ so easily; and the end of CoJ is directly pointing that way, setting up for it. I could yammer on for hours and days more about things going on in CoJ and the rest of the series, but I’ll stop here. {g}

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review Preview

I'll be posting a review and author interview tomorrow discussing Cry of Justice by Jason Pratt. I thought I'd give you a taste of his work and personality before then, however, with this "Part 2 of his epic look-he's-not-a-stereotypical-fantasy-novelist-answers-to-questionnaire-exam!"

You can find the first part of the q-and-a at Cafe of Dreams. And the next part will be posted soon at the Amazon Fantasy forum (I'll supply that link when I receive it). Incidentally, all of these questions come from Parker and Stoddard's "Fantasy Novelist's Exam."


Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you've read the entire book, if even then?
On this I have to honestly answer: worse. Some things in the prologue (or preface rather) won’t be understood until the end of the whole series. (But the preface is only one page.)

Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
Yep. I guess I fail, then, huh? {wry g} Thank God the authors didn't ask if it's the first in a

How about a quintet or a decalogue?
...sigh. It's an initial trilogy, but not of a quintet or decalogue. {failing to legalese my way around this 'fail'} {lopsided g}

Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
444 pages, and less than 154 K-words. Substantially smaller than most “epic fantasy” novels. (The sequel is smaller still, currently around 136 K-words, and not likely to get bigger in editing.)

Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you're still many sequels away from finishing your ‘story’?
Plenty happens in CoJ. No previous books. (Yet! {g} Prequels after the series, maybe later.)

Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
I said MAYBE LATER!!! (phew, glad I didn't look ahead or anything on that last question... {g}) Absolutely not until the series is done. (In fact I was requested and even advised by a friend to write a prequel before trying to publish CoJ, and I refused to do so. She had a good rationale, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so and then feasibly introduce the Preface Author later.)

Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?

Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
Leaving open the debating possibility that this explains some of the mysterious things going on, I’ll answer, “not obviously so”. (Whatever inferences readers draw from this answer are theirs to make, from which I divorce myself from responsibility thereof... Ditto for this disclaimer.)

Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
I can’t even think of secondary or tertiary characters with apostrophes or dashes in their names. Portunista’s name is sometimes abbreviated by some characters in dialogue as ‘ista, but if that counts then I give up... {rolling eyes}

Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
Well, there you go! Can’t win for losing! {lol!} Two of the main villains for CoJ also have four syllable names (Praxiteles and Artabanus). A minor character who is never even shown onscreen has the four-syllable name "Lestestauros". Can’t think of any others, and in my defense those are realworld names as well. (I actually lopped _off_ a syllable from a realworld word for Portunista’s name!)

Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named ‘Tim Umber’ and ‘Belthusalanthalus al'Grinsok’?
Heh, one of my favorite questions... No, there's no one in the novel like that; and I wouldn’t do that unless one or the other guy came from a different culture and/or social standing originally. (In which case he’d probably have a different popular name in his new setting.)

Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
Orcs sort of. (I think of them as the orc-analogues anyway, and I fully expect readers to do the same.)

How about ‘orken’ or ‘dwerrows’?
They're called the “Ungulata” (or more popularly “grunts” or “unks”). In Book 2 the older racial name is “Pecari”, with an important mystical meaning behind that at several levels. (None of which meanings have anything to do with ‘pecari’ being a realworld word for swine. As is ‘ungulat’ for that matter. {g})

Do you have a race prefixed by ‘half-‘?
The northern races are called “demimen” by the main southern race (which I guess counts in a way); but the Ungulata consider themselves to be the _real_ humans compared to those clay-hearted murderers and old killers down south!

At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
No dwarves, no mines. No shortcuts that I can think of offhand, either.

Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?

Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
Nope; although I do sometimes name computer game characters after plot characters. (To give the most recent example, the character I just created for the Playstation 2 strategy game _Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII_is called Jian Smith. This is an in-joke from the series, by the way.)

Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
Nope! (Heck, in some ways I wish I was... {wry g})

Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
No inns in CoJ. (I mean in the story; there are inns in Mikon, duh.)

Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don't?
Actually, I’ve found it difficult to avoid feudalism tropes in the culture. There are good practical reasons why it was so popular throughout human history all over the world. {shrug} I haven’t dwelt on it yet much, and larger scale political issues don’t factor into CoJ anyway.

Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
The one journey in the book happens offscreen, and is briefly described in retrospect.

Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won't break the plot?

Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as ‘fireball’ or ‘lightning bolt’?
Heck, I have magi killing things with a spell that I would consider to be easily identified as Silence X-foot Radius! (Plus Magic Missile, Earth To Mud, and a few other D&D staples, including something I name straight out as a “fireball” if I recall correctly.) The fact that I just wrote that I have magi _killing_ things with a Silence spell (of all things), ought to assuage some worries though. (Several reviewers have praised me for my approach to magic use, actually.)

Do you ever use the term ‘mana’ in your novel?
No, but I do use the term “materia”, which probably counts just as badly.

Do you ever use the term "plate mail" in your novel?
Nope; but I did go back and do a search to make sure, because I couldn’t recall for sure that I hadn’t, to be honest. {g!} (For those who don't know why this question would be asked, "plate mail" is a contradictory term made popular by Dungeons and Dragons.)

Heaven help you, do you ever use the term "hit points" in your novel?
No, duh. (And if I did, I’d keep them in a cultural context similar to where realworld ‘hitpoints’ came from: European sport-fencing scoring, where duelists started off with so many points and had them deducted for every valid hit against them.)

Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
Yes, and this is given a minor mention in CoJ in passing.

Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
No, and no horses are on-screen in CoJ anyway. (Horses are relatively rare in Mikon.)

Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
I can’t think of a fight in CoJ that lasts (in novel time) much more than half an hour; though I have to admit that many of the surviving participants (including the troops who wore the heavy armor) do spend the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon afterward digging on a pile of rubble. (Not in armor, though; and they’re relieved at various intervals. In fact, one officer makes them go eat lunch so they won’t wear out and become useless.) Not sure how many of them made love afterward (one couple does, who by the way weren’t digging on the rubble pile), but it would have been later that night after resting and eating (including that couple).

Tiff here...Again, review and after-the-fact author interview coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Keeping Austin Weird

Our first Texas road trip! My brother was in Austin last weekend, so Jason and I seized the opportunity to get in a little quality family time and see a little more of the state while we were at it.

What a cool place! Austin often describes itself as "weird," but "quirky" was the word that kept coming to our minds. (Somewhat more positive connotation, I think.) Anyway, we headed down on Friday after work, thinking we'd hit downtown (where he was staying) with no problem. Not so. Traffic at a standstill, roads closed, people everywhere at 10 p.m. Their downtown is like Tuscaloosa's Strip...on steroids. After asking the guy in the parking garage if there was some special event ("Naw, it's just Austin."), we finally got there, and here are a few shots of the Friday night lights (we had some trouble figuring out the camera settings)...

Bright and early Saturday morning we headed to the UT campus, where we watched them film College GameDay...

Then we headed to get BBQ for lunch at Stubb's. We had about 10 different BBQ restaurant recommendations but settled on this one...yum...

Did a speedy quick tour of campus...only managed to get one shot of the clock tower...Everything there was quite large--buildings, statues, parks...

Then we headed to Mt. Bonnell, Austin's highest peak. Gorgeous view...and the one-and-only picture of us together...

Saturday night took us to Mangia's for pizza...which was also the most "runner-friendly" pizza restaurant in Austin. Quirky, see?

Then on to Mozart's for coffee and music...

(I love how puppy-friendly this place is, even though Fred stayed at camp for the weekend.)

Sunday morning we tried yet another restaurant that had been recommended--Kerbey Lane. Great food. Really cool coffee cups, too...

Another speedy quick touristy tour, this time of the capitol...

Then home. Whew! Whirlwind weekend, but it was great seeing a little more of Texas and my brother, of course. Also nice to know that Austin is just a quick little road trip away.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jeopardy Envy and Shout Outs

To the left is my latest project/tribute to Garrison Keillor. These are hanging on the wall behind my desk at work, and the quote makes me smile (and often provokes questions from non-Prairie Home fans).

One seminary switches from books to the Kindle. Wonder if Southwestern would consider this?

America's Star Libraries! (Shout out to those from Texas and Alabama!)

And shout out to the UGA librarian turned Jeopardy champ. I have to admit here...I would LOVE to be a Jeopardy champ. There's a guy in our Sunday school class who is, and I'm tempted to throw random answers at him to see if he can guess the questions.

Moving on...

Young librarians discuss the future of the profession. (Am I still considered a young librarian? Hmm. Something to ponder.)

And...check out the Library Web Site of the Future
Thanks for stopping by! Review coming soon!

Dawn to Dusk and In Between

There's a gorgeous church about a block from our house. We would totally go there if it wasn't Presbyterian (no offense to the Pressies, but Baptist seminary=Baptist church). Anyway, I run by it and drive by it every day, and I started noticing how cool the light is around it depending on what time of day it was. So here are the results of my curiosity...




Monday, February 16, 2009

Squirreling Around

Caught this little guy watching me while I was lunching on campus last week. I was reading, listening to KERA's Think Podcast (great stuff there), and munching away on my tuna-carrot salad when I realized how close he had gotten to me.

Wonder if the carrot crunching attracted him? :)

Meanwhile...check this out if you're attracted to digital archiving.

And what about the future of library schools? Will "library" remain in their names? Not at Rutgers. This troubles me for some reason, and now I think I better understand why some churches fuss about dropping denomination labels from their names. (I still think that's not a bad idea, though...albeit for different reasons.)

Also, a few articles continuing the discussion on the future of libraries, librarians and books...

And, finally, need further convincing before joining the blogging world? Here's a bit.

Hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day!

Fun Times at the Krystal

Jason and I have gotten to be big fans of Krystal lately. It's tasty, cheap and just far enough away from our place that we don't go often--making it seem a little special when we do venture out there. Plus, free Wi-Fi. Nice.

So, last time we were there, I did a mini photo shoot. hehheh (And, no, we didn't go for Valentine's Day.) Anyway, here you go. Good times.

Our spicy chiks, chiks and cheese krystals all in a row...

Jason enjoying the free wi-fi...

Friday, February 13, 2009

This One's for the Kiddos

Baron Thinks Dogs Are People Too! by Laurie Dean, illustrated by Kevin Collier


Too Tall Alice by Barbara Worton, illustrated by Dom Rodi

The illustrations in both books are just great and are probably my favorite parts about each. In Baron, you'll find more traditional colors and faces, but the layout is still creative. Also, since this one appears geared toward younger children (I would suggest five years and younger), the illustrations are appropriate.

The designs in Alice, on the other hand, feel a bit more eclectic and slightly chaotic, which fits nicely with the sequence of events in the book. I could see children between ages 8 and 11 being the best audience.

Both have great messages as well. Baron deals with companionship, friendship and just his miscellaneous adventures. This all doesn't quite fit with the title, but it's still a fun read. You can find more information at the author's website.

Alice, meanwhile, has a stronger message about appearance and self-esteem. This one would be a great introduction of those themes for girls who are about to hit the critical pre-teen years. Adults might learn a few lessons, too.

So, if you have kids or if you just need a break from some heavier reading, I highly recommend both Baron and Alice. Happy weekend!

Not-So-Flat Pooh...Pt. 2

Remember the Not-So-Flat Pooh project? It's still going on, so more fun with Pooh at the library! He's been and there...started in Circulation and went a few other he's made his way up to my other department--the Audio-Visual Learning Center.

Happy weekend!
Listening and learning...

Close-up of Pooh with the headphones...

Learning to roll the rolling shelves...

On my desk...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Choose to be Happy

I Choose to be Happy by Missy Jenkins with William Croyle

Missy Jenkins thought she was heading into another typical day at her small high school in Paducah, Kentucky. She had no idea that someone she considered a friend, a fellow band member and the class clown, would also walk into school that day and inexplicably start shooting other students.

In one of the country's earlier school shootings in 1997, Michael Carneal killed three of Missy's friends and injured five, including Missy herself, who was left paralyzed below the chest. Her dreams of dancing, soccer and band were suddenly gone, and any expectation of a normal life was shattered.

Michael ripped all of that away from me in a matter of seconds...Everything that I'd worked for and strived for was suddenly gone.

But even while she was still in the hospital, Missy found strength in her faith and kept a positive attitude.

I had already accepted God's plan for the next stage of my life. He was with me. This may sound crazy to some, but I don't know how else to explain it.

Her sunny disposition came across as unbelievable at first. She quickly forgave Michael and never wavered in her belief that God would use her injuries for a purpose. I found myself saying, "For real?" But as the book continues, Missy proves herself authentic. She has difficult times and moments of doubt, but they do not prevail. She also opens herself to almost any new experience that comes along, including speaking at the Democratic National Convention, letting Good Morning America be present at her high school graduation and going to a camp to learn how to better use her wheelchair.

I tried more new things in a wheelchair that week than I had tried my entire life before the shooting...The camp brought so much out of me that I never knew I had: the courage to take risks, the willingness to try new things, and the confidence that I could do anything.

Missy went on to college, marriage and parenthood, and she is now a counselor, trying to help others like Michael.

As tough as the job can be at times, I do what I do because of the shooting. Before that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. The shooting and aftermath made me realize that I could use my experiences to help kids. When I have a child I'm struggling with, I sometimes think of Michael and how he felt that he had nobody he could turn to. I think about how I need to keep reaching out, keep trying, and keep focused on the child until I've gotten through to him or her, or until I've exhausted every possible option.

Missy didn't choose to be shot or to live life in a wheelchair, but she has made good choices with the things she can control--her career, her actions and, most importantly, her attitude. She is definitely an inspiration. You can find out more about Missy and her book by visiting her website.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Celebrating Celaborelle!

So, my pal Debra (hi Debra!) and I had a women's thang to attend on Thursday night, so we decided to grab some supper beforehand. Both being somewhat adventurous and enthusiastic diners, we headed over to Celaborelle Phoenician Buffet.

Debra had been before and highly recommended it, but we wondered what was up when we arrived to food on the buffet.

"No problem," the owner tells us. "I've been short-handed today, so no time for the buffet. Instead, I'll just bring you a little of everything I have."

Sounds OK to us. :)

Turns out "a little of everything" is not at all little. Here's the cold stuff...appetizers...fava beans, hummus, yogurt, cheese, tabulleh, olives, potatoes...

Here are the FOUR tables full of food by the end of the evening...

As my dad says, "We ate until we got full. Then we ate until we got tired." Here I am getting tired...

My favorites? The lentil soup and rice pudding. To. die. for. Even the cat agreed...

We had four boxes of leftovers, which we brought to our book club and shared amongst our fellow librarians. After further eating and tiring...we're down to three boxes of leftovers.

Yeah, it's like a Phort Worth Phoenician Phood explosion. (Like what I did there?) ;)

At least we'll have something to munch on this weekend.

Read from the beginning...