Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: Lexicon

Lexicon by Max Barry was a great book for me -- a smart, funny, philosophically-flavored SF/fantasy thriller that doesn't bog itself down.  It's always a good sign when I have to keep myself from basically reading the whole thing out loud to Robert.  I always felt very interested and highly motivated to keep reading.  I can readily recommend it to you all.  (I was unhappy that one guy has a history of hunting rabbits, but no bunnies are harmed -- or even appear -- in this book, even in the parts set in rural Australia.)

This book uses the "alternating chapters between current events and the backstory" structure.

In the current events storyline, scary thriller stuff immediately starts happening to a hapless guy who doesn't understand what's going on.  We don't either -- but if you can handle the ambiguity of, e.g., a William Gibson novel, you'll be more than fine -- and anyway, the basic situation (confused innocent, dangerous kidnapper, even more dangerous obvious bad guys) is very clear and easy to grasp.  These sections of the book have a Snow Crash-era Neal Stephenson feel to me.  The story is frenetic and action packed yet leaves plenty of time for (too much) squabbling between the characters.  There is also a sort of mild horror-movie-esque sequence that was really good and creepy and gave me goosebumps (literally).

The only disappointing thing about the "girl is recruited to take entrance exams to what is fundamentally a hyper-elite magic school" backstory is that it jumps ahead too quickly.  I loved The Magicians in part because of the pacing and the wonderfully detailed way the magic school universe and the protagonist's position within it is developed.  You really get the whole story in The Magicians in a way that doesn't happen here.  I kept wanting to know more about how things work, the experiences the girl has, how they learn to do what they do.  What we get of this is great, but I really needed an entire novel's worth of this story.  It also reminded me a bit of Divergent in that the underpinnings of the personality segmentation, and the overall psychological/sociological foundation, was under-developed.  For example, I would have liked to see a more coherent explanation around this magic of persuasion and how the linguistic elements and personality elements intersect.  But I recognize that I have a ridiculously high standard for this due to my own knowledge of and interest in the subject matter.  If you can get into it as a cool idea, and leave aside all details about how it works, the book is still a lot of fun despite not fully delivering on the premise.

Each story is very entertaining individually, but I felt that the shifts from one to another were a bit too abrupt.  It felt like jumping between two unrelated, very different books for a while.  It takes a long time for the two storylines to fit together, and by the time they do, it's kind of too obvious what is going on and going to happen in a general way.  I feel that this structure was not entirely successful and that the somewhat anti-climactic ending could have been better with a more effective integration of the backstory and the current events.  However, I'm not sure what that would look like.  Anyway, this in no way makes me hesitate in recommending the book.  It's not perfect -- and it's not perfectly suited to my idiosyncratic tastes -- but it's still a good ride.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Start of the School Year: Part 3

White After Labor Day - Friday, 9/5/14

Yes, I did it, I wore a summer white blazer after Labor Day, and the ghosts of 10,000 southern debutantes did not rise up to scold me while calling me "sugar."

I wore my fish scarf with a navy blue dress because, duh, fish and the navy -- both rely on water.

*Sleeveless navy blue knit dress (Target)
White blazer (thrifted, Liz Claiborne)
Blue striped shoes by Chinese Laundry (6pm)
Red fish scarf (Target)

Weekend Clothing Adjustments - Saturday, 9/6/14

I had expected the temperature in our apartment to warm up over the course of a sunny weekend day and planned my outfit accordingly.  One of the downsides to our stupid-ass A/C system is that we have no thermostat, another is that it warms up a lot faster than it cools down.  Taken together, this means that we have keep the air cranked up at a level that will be adequate for the warmest part of the day and deal with it being too cool for the rest of the day by taking a page from Jimmy Carter's book and eating peanut butter to keep warm.

Or we have to change our clothes during the day. Often this means putting a sweater/jacket on and off as needed, but sometimes it requires a bit more of a change.



*Blue/white dotted knit top (Target)
Blue jeans (Kohls) / *Light blue golf skort (thrifted, Izod)
Blue/white striped sneakers by Rocket Dog
Aqua blue and silver necklace (Kohls)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Start of the School Year: Part 2

More Summer Ann Taylor Goodness - Wednesday, 9/3/14

I did not intend to have an Ann Taylor theme going, but once I picked out the linen skirt (are you noticing a theme here? it's subtle), the shirt jumped out of the closet at me.  Luckily, cotton shirts are very soft and I was not injured by it.  

*Green/white knit top (thrifted, Ann Taylor)
Brown linen skirt (thrifted, Ann Taylor)
Green belt (Target)
Brown wedges (thrifted, American Eagle)
Green/brown necklace by RB

A Better Way to Beige - Thursday, 9/4/14

I'm thinking that I really can only do beige if I mix it with black or a bright color.  Here coral gets the job done.  You know, I should wear the coral shirt and the fish necklace together some time because, duh, fish and coral.  

By the way, I was recently reading the extremely silly caper novel The Way of All Fish (by Martha Grimes), of which the haphazard treatment of saltwater fish, freshwater fish, coral, etc., is by no means any more ludicrous than anything else about the story.  Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it somewhat, but I didn't finish it and it's not a book I can recommend.  I thought the first caper book Foul Matter was quite a bit better, perhaps through the sheer novelty of it.  Overall, I think I'm just not a fan of the madcap caper genre.  I couldn't even get into the caper novels by Donald Westlake, author of two of the funniest books I've ever read -- Humans (written from an angel's point of view; I reread this book with great pleasure every few years) and The Ax (if you have ever been laid off from a job, this is the book for you).

Note that I was ridiculously pleased by the fact that the shoes have a small pinkish orange line (between the cream and the gold toe) that basically perfectly echoes the small pinkish orange lines against the cream/beige background of the skirt.

Coral knit top (thrifted, Talbots)
Beige/coral full skirt (thrifted, Target)
Cream captoe flats (Anne Klein)
Coral swag necklace (Kohls)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Start of the School Year: Part 1

Loving My Striped Rocket Dog Sneaks - Saturday, 8/30/14

Even though the weather cooled down enough to pull out a long-sleeved shirt (part wool, no less) and a lightweight scarf, at least for wearing indoors, I had to keep the official sneakers of my summer in rotation.  Just the thing for a lunch outing to eat a gigantic chicken salad at Outback Steakhouse, where there was an older guy with (presumably) a couple of his daughters who...Jesus, this dude had an extremely loud voice.  Even after moving several booths away from him, it was still almost impossible not to follow his, well, I hesitate to call it conversation...let's say, lengthy oratory on subjects which I (thank god) no longer remember.  Girls, it's time to have the hearing aid discussion with your dad.

Blue long-sleeved knit top (Lands End)
Blue jeans (Kohls)
Blue tie-die scarf (Kohls)
Blue/white striped sneakers by Rocket Dog

Bright Colors For the First Day of School - Tuesday, 9/2/14

I definitely did not go for a traditional first day of school outfit here, but when I'd been thinking I wanted to wear this striped linen skirt again, I immediately thought of this t-shirt, and I was happy it was something of a match.  Yep, there is a lot going on here.  I expected that people would be blinded by this shirt, but two of my co-workers mentioned liking my fish necklace.  Of course, it could be that they noticed it because of the sound.  It makes a very realistic fish sound.  Like, "...".

Brown/pink floral t-shirt (Eddie Bauer)
Brown/pink striped linen skirt (thrifted, Target)
Radiant orchid flats by Born
Fish charm necklace (Ann Taylor)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reaching Back Before Labor Day: Part 2

Why Yes I DO Think Stripes & Florals are the Perfect Match, Thank You -
Wednesday, 8/27/14

Also, wearing this knit blazer means that somebody seeing me sitting down, from the back, could mistake me for the Hamburglar who has lost his cape...or had it stolen.  Now that's a nice bit of irony to get one through a hump day certainly.

*Red t-shirt (thrifted, JCP)
Black/white striped knit jacket (Nordstrom)
Black embroidered flower skirt (thrifted, Torrid)
Red buckle flats by Me Too (Zappos)
Red bubble necklace (Outfit Additions)

Synonyms For Beige - Thursday, 8/28/14

This outfit was not a complete success for me (though it looks less bizarre without my arms up at my face).  I'm just not feeling the beige-o-riffic-ness of it.  But I did want to wear both this linen skirt again and new-to-me 3/4 length sleeve jacket before summer was over, so I accomplished that goal at least.

*Beige/light blue checked jacket (thrifted, Ann Taylor)
Beige linen skirt (thrifted, J. Jill)
Beige t-shirt (Kohls)
Beige wedges by Cole Haan
Pastel bead necklace (Kohls)

In the Navy (and White) Now - Friday, 8/29/14

After a day of blah beige, it was good to be back to my comfort zone of contrasting stripes.  Although this sweater is not reminiscent of any characters from the McDonald's universe of creepy dudes you would really not feel happy about having within a mile of an actual child, it was just right for taking this very white, very summery skirt to the tail end of the sartorial summer season.

The no-white-after-Labor-Day rule is kind of a bummer for people in the warm southern 2/3 of the country, I'm sure, where summer weather lasts somewhere into late September or (in central Texas) mid October.  Even here, fall weather doesn't start on September 2.  This year, it only waited a week or so later than that, though.

Navy/white/aqua cardigan (Target)
White pleated skirt (thrifted)
Navy t-shirt (Walmart)
Pointy-toed blue flats (Nordstrom)
Light blue/silver necklace (Jones New York)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reaching Back Before Labor Day: Part 1

Stripes & Flowers & More Stripes - Sunday, 8/24/14

Yep, even the shoes are striped.  These are my favorite pair of summer sneakers, so I've been wearing them on the weekends while I still can.

Blue floral tank top (Kohls)
Denim skort (thrifted)
Blue-green striped knit cardigan (Coldwater Creek)
Blue striped sneakers by Rocket Dog

Purple and Green Revisited - Monday, 8/25/14

The loss of my skirt with the purple and green floral pattern on white (due to the busted zipper) was not much of a problem because I knew I had this fun dress with a similar pattern. 

*Purple/green/white sleeveless dress (thrifted, Kohls)
White short-sleeved cardigan (Old Navy)
Radiant orchid flats by Born

Feeling Peachy - Tuesday, 8/26/14

OK, I've probably used that title before.  It's Friday evening so give me a break here.

This is one of those outfits that looks particularly weird in my awkwardly-posed selfies.  But all that awkwardness distracts the eye from the weird pink tights I'm wearing, right?  Oh, OK, the color is giving my skin a very awkward color as well.  Perhaps I should have titled this, In the Pink.

*Peach/beige short-sleeved cardigan (thrifted, Kohls)
White camisole (Walmart)
Beige pleated skirt (thrifted, Old Navy)
Gold captoe flats by Anne Klein
Coral swag necklace (Kohls)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Inadvertent Song Quotes

This week has been a bit crazy at work because this month is when we finalize the distribution of our "customers" to the various sites.  But our group was down to me, my office mate, and our admin this week because the rest of the team is at a conference in Seattle -- we've been pushing hard on the distribution project as well as covering for our absent team mates on a variety of other projects.

This afternoon, my office mate told me, "I'm going to a meeting unrelated [to the distribution issue we'd been working on all day].  I'm standing in for Joe."

I was barely able to contain a gleeful laugh and immediately started singing in my head: 

"Joe called round to ask me, Would I do a favor
While he's gonna be out of town..."

I feel confident that my office mate conducted herself with her usual levelheadedness and professional ethics and that the meeting did not end anything like the meeting in the XTC song.