Friday, February 28, 2014

Science Fair

Lexi and Cami both competed in the Science Fair this year.  Each won Honorable Mention, which was pretty cool.  Lexi's experiment was determining under what condition did nail polish dry the fastest: hot air, room temperature, or in the refrigerator.  Cami used different sauces/condiments/etc. to clean pennies.  Check out the projects and the girls below.
Honorable Mention!
What makes the cleanest penny?

Honorable Mention!

I need my nails to dry, stat!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey - Book Review

From the publisher: When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

Honor Among Thieves, by James S.A. Corey, is the second book in the Empire and Rebellion series, which is loosely tied together and takes place between A New Hope (Star Wars) and The Empire Strikes Back.  I’ve read several of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels and had mixed results, but I really enjoyed this book.

The main reason I liked Honor Among Thieves is the time period it takes place in.  A New Hope was my first movie, and I have an affinity for the characters from the original trilogy.  While Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker have roles in this story, the point of view character is Han Solo.  Corey does a fantastic job of capturing Han’s voice and personality from the original Star Wars.  Han is still questioning his involvement with the Rebel Alliance, and is full of quick one-liners and sarcastic remarks.  Han’s relationship with Chewbacca is also on display, and it strikes the right chords as the two interact with each other.  There are several references to Han’s past, as well, further fleshing out his character.

As for the story itself, it was entertaining.  Han Solo and Chewbacca are on a mission to retrieve a Rebel spy, Scarlet Hark, and bring her and the sensitive information she has discovered back to the Rebel fleet.  Unfortunately, someone got to the data first and Hark refuses to leave without it.  Solo, Chewbacca, and Hark then begin the process of tracking down and uncovering the data.  Along the way, Han encounters an old colleague who is determined to take him to Jabba the Hutt and claim the bounty on Han’s head.  There is a rendezvous with Leia, several encounters with Star Destroyers, and a visit to an unexplored planet.  

New characters like Scarlet Hark and Baasen Ray only serve to add depth to the story.  Scarlet is a tough, resourceful, and attractive woman; she is also a top-notch spy for the Rebel Alliance.  Her interactions with Han lead to some interesting dynamics once Leia is thrown in the mix, particularly when the reader knows where that relationship will end up. Ray is a smuggler looking to make some extra money by bringing Solo to Jabba.

Since the setting is so vital to the original movies, I was interested to see how Corey would handle this aspect of the Star Wars universe.  He did a fine job, taking the reader to three different planets ranging from an Imperial center to a city carved in the mountains to an ancient and unknown jungle world.  It was majestic and wonderous without seeming to be repetive.

Corey did a great job capturing the spirit of the original trilogy, especially in the raw newness of the characters.  Han’s hard edges haven’t been worn off, Luke still has that shiny new smell, and Leia is young and in charge.   In addition, Corey placed a few easter eggs here and there for careful readers to pick up as the story of the rebels leads them to the events of The Empire Strikes Back.  With new movies on the horizon, Honor Among Thieves is a welcome addition and will definitely serve to fill that yearning for new stories that many Star Wars fans have.  I highly recommend this book.

I received a preview copy of this book from Del Ray Spectra in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Basketball Continues

Griffin finished his season today with a basket, some passes, and a medal for the season. It was fun watching his skill set develop and his interaction with his friends.

Lexi continued the offensive explosion by hitting another 6 baskets.  She had several steals and did a great job driving with her left hand when on the left side.  Dribbling with your off-hand is tough for a lot of people, so it was really cool seeing her do it well several times and getting to the basket to finish the play.

A medal for a successful season

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pirates, Mess Detectives, and a Superhero By Karen Poth - Book Review

From the publisher: In this 3 in 1 bind-up of VeggieTales I Can Reads, Junior learns that even pirates have to go to school, the town of Bumblyburg takes an angry mud bath, and Larry forgets to listen … again! Young readers follow their favorite Veggie friends in easy-to-read stories that help teach early reading skills as well as sound morals and Bible-based life lessons. Books included in this title include:

  • Pirate in Training
  • LarryBoy and the Mudslingers
  • Listen Up, Larry 
 Karen Poth's VeggieTales book, Pirates, Mess Detectives, and a Superhero is a fun collection of three I Can Read books rated Level 1 (Beginning Reading).  To get a true feel for the appropriateness of the entertainment and reading level, I drafted my two 1st Graders, Cami and Griffin.  We each took turns reading one of the stories.  Cami really enjoyed the Bible verse that accompanied each story, and was particularly entertained by Larry the Pirate.  Griffin thought it was cool that there was a lesson in each story.  They did a nice job reading; the word choice was just tough enough to force them to use their decoding skills, but not too tough where they were unprepared.

As a parent, I found the stories hitting my kids right in the sweet spot.  We enjoy VeggieTales and this book was a great way to practice reading skills with favorite characters.  I don't always agree with the rating put on different early reader books, but I found Pirates, Mess Detectives, and a Superhero to be right on the money.  In addition to the reading skills provided, I like the Biblical principles shared in each story as well.

Overall, this book is a great way for beginning readers to practice their skills, find some entertainment, and be exposed to valuable truths all at the same time.  I (and my kids) highly recommend this book.

I received a preview copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another Great Game

With Griffin's game being canceled, Lexi was the only Knight competing yesterday.  And boy did she ever compete! She scored 12 points again, ran around on offense, and was a nuisance to the girls she was defending.  Her first basket was a sweet steal, fast break, and lay-up off the glass.  It's clear that things are starting to click for her, which is really cool.  We are all looking forward to next week (which may be Griffin's last week) and will be another opportunity for Lexi to display her growing skills.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bosch (TV Pilot) - TV Review

From Amazon:  An Amazon Original Pilot: Based on Michael Connelly's best-selling book series, Bosch (Titus Welliver), an LAPD homicide detective works to solve the murder of a 13-year-old boy while standing trial in federal court for the murder of a serial killer.

I love Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books. The pilot for the show Bosch looks to be a good start to adapting what is quite possibly the most well-written and interesting mystery series of the last 20 years (at least). Based on the novel City of Bones, the pilot gets off to a nice start. Several reviewers complained of the slow pacing; however, anyone familiar with the novels would tell you that they generally move along at a very consistent pace, not rushing the action and letting the mystery play out at the proper speed. This also allows for tremendous character development, which Connelly excels at in his novels and I'm hopeful will be displayed in the tv series. Having often tried to picture an actor playing Bosch, I think Titus Welliver fits the bill pretty well. It's also fun to see Bosch's Los Angeles, particularly his home on the hillside. The jazz soundtrack is a nice touch and fits with the character as well. I have high hopes for this series, as Harry Bosch is a favorite of mine.

For a short time (only February, I believe), this episode is free on Amazon Instant Video.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Saturday, Lexi's team won their game. Lexi scored another basket and had several other shots.  She was also awarded a white star for her outstanding effort and hustle.

Griffin had two more baskets, multiple passes, a steal, and did a great job bringing the ball up the court.  His dribbling skills are improving tremendously.

Next week is Griffin's last game.  Lexi has a few more weeks to go. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Snow Slide (of DOOM!)

So what do you do when you are out of school again because of snow?  Why, you build a snow slide, so your kids will have SOME reason to leave the cozy indoors of tv and video games.  Eight-ish inches allows for a nice slide.  Check out the pictures and stay for the videos of the girls going down the slide (frontward and backward) (Griffin came out late and went in early).  Not bad for an English teacher.

P.S. The videos only show up if you visit the blog, not in the updates.
The Snow Slide (of DOOM!) because adding "of DOOM" to anything makes it cooler!

Another view of the approximately 3 ft. high Snow Slide (of DOOM!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Unwritten Vol. 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds by Mike Carey - Book Review

From the publisher: In this eighth volume of the critically-acclaimed new series from the Eisner-nominated creative team, Mike Carey and Peter Gross, Tommy ventures into the land of the dead to find and rescue Lizzie. But the journey through Hades pits Tommy against all kinds of enemies of undead. But none of these encounters prepare him for his meeting with the king -- or for the responsibilities he has to take on for some very familiar damned souls.

Collects #42-49 of The Unwritten.
Once again, Mike Carey has worked his magic with The Unwritten.  The latest volume has a couple of storylines running through it.  The first arc is a story with Tommy, Richie, Didge, and Danny trying to help Tommy find a way to the Underworld in the Austrailian outback.

The second arc concerns Didge and Richie trying to solve a case where zombies keep killing people.  It seems the imminent death of Leviathan is leaving a void and various powers are rushing to fill it.  Madame Rausch also shows up again, and is seeming to be ready to assume a larger role in Tommy’s story.

The main story concerns Tommy Taylor and his quest to rescue Lizzy Hexam from the Underworld.  Carey takes this opportunity to give his spin on the Orpheus myth.  Along the way, Tommy comes face-to-face with harpies, Baron von Munchausen, two murdered children, Elizabeth Bennett, and  Pauly the rabbit, who wants revenge on both Tommy and his dad.  He also encounters the evil Pullman again.  As Tommy, Lizzy, and Pauly make their way through Hades, they find a larger revelation about Leviathan.  This volume ends with a wonderful cliffhanger that left me anxious for the next volume in the series.

This was not the best volume in The Unwritten series.  In fact, it seemed to be a transitional story, setting future events up and starting them in motion.  Still, Carey’s not-quite-perfect is still fun to read, and better than most other writers at their best.  Gross’s art, as usual, adds to the mood of the story. 

I would recommend this volume to fans of The Unwritten, but it is definitely not a good starting place for new readers.  If you find yourself in that group, then find the first volume and settle in for a great ride.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Best Basketball Day Yet!

So after a week of games canceled due to weather, Griffin and Lexi were back at it today.  Griffin's team played a pretty even game with their opponents.  Griffin had two assists and two baskets.  He and a couple of the other boys were being very intentional about passing, also.

The big performance of the day came from Lexi.  She had 6, count'em, SIX baskets.  She made the first basket of the game, I watched but didn't quite process who had scored.  Then she scored again right after that.  The offensive barrage was on, as she hit bank shots, short swishes, and, according to another parent, kind of a baby hook shot.  She easily could have made another six or seven as well, as she had multiple good shooting opportunities where the ball just didn't go in.  It was pretty cool and Lexi was grinning from ear to ear afterward.  This one game may have equaled her total offensive output from the rest of her career.  We were very proud.