Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More Pencil Skirts: Part 2

Weather continued to be pleasant, with highs in the low 70s, appropriate for eking out some more skirts-without-tights outfits.

This post is brought to you by the color pink.

How Many Pink Knit Shirts Does One Woman Need? -- Wed., 9/17/14

At least this one has a (subtle floral) design and a couple rows of ruffling around the neckline rather than being plain.  It's from a brand I'm totally unfamiliar with -- the oddly named Fresh Produce.  For extra warmth, I wore this in the morning with my short sleeved white cardigan from Nordstrom that is turning out to be a real workhorse.  That was $20 or so well spent.

* Pink floral knit shirt (thrifted, Fresh Produce)
* Light grey pencil skirt (JCP)
Big grey ball necklace (Macy's)
Grey leopard flats by Fergilicious

Crazy About Dots -- Thurs., 9/18/14

This navy polka dot pencil skirt is one I keep seeing crop up on various blogs.  I love that it is so versatile.  And it totally works with yet another pink knit shirt I could not resist buying at Goodwill.  But this one is dark pink, 3/4 length sleeves, and boat neck.  That makes it completely different from the others ones, right?  Right????

* Pink 3/4 length sleeve boatneck knit top (thrifted, Talbots)
Navy polka dot pencil skirt (Target)
Light grey flats by BCBGeneration (Nordstrom)
Big silver necklace (Jones New York)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Pencil Skirts: Part 1

I started off the week with floral patterns.

Monday Tiers -- Mon., 9/15/14

Luckily, having to go back to work on Monday does not make me cry, but I decided to wear this skirt with tiers anyway.  I actually don't know how to describe it -- the name of the skirt had some term like shutterfold in it.  Anyway, it's folded so it looks like it is made of horizontal tiers, whatever that's called.  It's also insanely comfortable.

* Black knit "tiered" pencil skirt (JCP)
Black/yellow/blue floral knit top (thrifted, Kohls)
Mustard flats (6pm)
Green-blue scarf (Target?)

Tie a Green Ribbon Around That Cat -- Tues., 9/16/14

I would not normally have thought, Hey, I know what goes with a watermelon/floral skirt and a shirt with ribbons tied into fans!  A scarf with cats on it!  But I felt that the scoop neck was a little low for some combination of propriety and warmth, so I put on the scarf.  I ended up adding a short-sleeved black cardigan at the last minute for additional warmth and wore that in the morning -- the outfit actually looked a little more coherent that way, but who is going to fault me for random kitties?

* Green ribbon-front knit shirt (thrifted, Talbots)
Green/pink floral pencil skirt (thrifted, Talbots)
Black cat scarf (Nordstrom?)
Black pointy-toed flats (Nordstrom)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Attack of the Pencil Skirts: Part 2

A Substitute (Isn't it a Bit Early in the School Year For That?) - Wednesday, 9/10/14

I was going wear a pencil skirt on Wednesday, but after getting to work on Monday and looking at the calendar for the week, I realized I had an off-site meeting (at a high school) on Wed. and I prefer wearing pants in these situations.  So I put together several stand-by items Tuesday night and the resulting outfit was that mix of understated, professional-looking, yet comfortable that puts me in the right place for attending this kind of meeting.  Driving to an off-site meeting puts me at a level of anxiety such that worry about whether we'll be in a place that is too cold, or that my skirt will rise up too much when I sit down, or whatever, is enough to put me over the edge.

Black/grey floral blouse (Kohls)
Beige-grey ponte blazer (Target)
Black linen pants (thrifted)
Black wedges (thrifted)
Grey bead necklace by RB

What To Wear When Using a Ridiculous Manual Report Process Because the Entirety of the Technology Department Can't Run a SQL Query Right - Thursday, 9/11/14

Feeling catty about the collective incompetence of another unit at your workplace (whether fair or not)?  Then you'll feel right at home in a leopard print infinity scarf.  And if fall has fallen all over you, a long-sleeved dress is a nice choice, too.  (Welcome to highs in the 50s.)  I love, love this dress from Lands End -- the knit fabric is extremely thick, which makes it both warm and more professional looking than your typical knit dress.

*Green long-sleeved ponte knit dress (Lands End)
Green leopard scarf (thrifted)
Brown flats by Frye

Ending the Week With a Watercolor/Tie-Dye Extravaganza - Friday, 9/12/14

It was a crazy week at work (though, perhaps not surprisingly, it was actually sort of great, too), so this kind of crazy outfit felt apt.

*Blue "watercolor" knit top (thrifted, Kohls)
Blue Dockers
Blue pointy-toed flats (Nordstrom)
Blue tie-dye scarf (Kohls) -- I kept spelling this tie-"die" because I am clearly under the influence of Torchlight 2, as discussed below.

On Saturday, I wore a new short-sleeved knit polo shirt, a women's style with a v-neck, in a pretty shade of light blue that Robert brought home from work -- it fit like it was made for me.  His employer does a nice job picking clothes to put their logo on.  I don't mind advertising for Robert's employer, especially around the house, but in this case, I wore a grey open-front cardigan most of the day, so you couldn't see the logo anyway, just the blue shirt peeking out.

It was a nice comfy outfit for beating the main questline in Torchlight 2 with Robert/Barilla!  We have now moved to the "dungeon crawl" part of the game, which I actually am liking a lot so far.  There is a special map area (that has the main vendors that a city would have, and your loot chest) but also a map seller.  You can buy maps that give you access to different dungeons, and there are interesting modifiers that come with the maps.  For example, you might buy a map for the Gruesome Crypt that comes with a +15% to fire damage and +5% gold found for players/pets/minions and a +75% chance to haunt after death and a 10% damaged taken reduction for monsters.  It seems like a nice way to keep things interesting in a game that is kill, kill, kill (wait for Barilla to examine his equipment), kill, kill.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Attack of the Pencil Skirts: Part 1

Pencil skirts are very hard to fit if you have an unusually large hip-to-waist ratio unless you are willing to do alterations or pay someone to do alterations.  But I have found another way -- take advantage of a job that allows for more casual, relaxed dressing by wearing your tops untucked.  Buy the skirt in a bigger size that fits your hips and butt -- the loose waist means that the skirt will shift down on the body, making it effectively longer, too. 

Ever since finding a couple of pencil skirts at Goodwill and loving how much easier they are than full skirts to wear with untucked shirts (with full skirts, the length has to be just short enough), I've been wanting to get some more.  So I put in orders at 4 stores and actually found some that worked.  Sizing up makes a big difference.  But it was interesting how much the shape of the various pencil skirts differed.  This was mostly just different cuts for different brands/particular items -- some more straight from the waist to hips and others with a curvier cut.  But the worst offender was (perhaps not surprisingly) Old Navy, notorious for the amount of variability in their clothing sizes -- it's like they are so bad about cutting and sewing their clothes that you have to expect that a given item might be anywhere from one full size bigger to one full size smaller than the label.  Oh, and not consistently too big or too small.  It might be the right size everywhere except they cut the arms like it's a size smaller or the shoulder straps a size larger.  I guess that's how they sell stuff so cheap.  I know Walmart's clothes are the same way -- you might have to try on 3 red t-shirts in size L to find one that fits.

The Summer to Spring Transition - Monday, 9/8/14

So much is written about transitioning from summer to fall, as though this is at all difficult.  I mean, summer turns into fall all on its own.  The summer to spring transition is much more challenging because it is at odds with natural science.  It requires a kind of magic.  But here I am, bringing the magic to this pencil skirt ensemble.

*Cream lace top (Target) -- I have owned this for over a year and never wore it until now.  It's so cute on its own, but it's hard to wear.  I wasn't super pleased by how the skirt shows through the lace on top (and the skirt is already lined, so I feel like wearing a camisole with it is just dumb).  I could tuck it in but the sort of boxy cut makes me look like Inspector Shelf-boob when I do.  So I don't know.  This one might end up in the Goodwill bag.
*Teal pencil skirt (JCP) -- woo, thank you JCP and your colorful line of Worthington pencil skirts sold in a wide range of sizes at good prices.  You rule the (start of the) school (year).
*Rose gold ballet flats (thrifted, Old Navy, new with tags) -- I probably don't need another pair of shiny nude flats but for $5, I wasn't letting these go.
Wild bead necklace (Macy's)

Expanding My Collection of Barbie Pink Work Clothes - Tuesday, 9/9/14

This is a great example of a skirt that would have been too short if I were wearing the waist up where it's intended to be but that hits at a nice just-above-the-knee length when worn lower. 

*Black/pink dot knit top (thrifted, Target; it's the sister of the blue dot top I wore recently with the jeans-then-blue-golf-skort outfit on the weekend)
*Bright pink pencil skirt (JCP)
Black short-sleeved cardigan (thrifted, The Limited)
Black Lifestriders flats
Black claw/tooth necklace (Outfit Additions)

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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Instead of Blogging

RUH-ROH.  I accidentally saved this post as draft on Monday evening instead of publishing it.  Silly me!

...I spent much of the weekend playing Torchlight 2 on multi-player mode with Robert.  It's another dungeon-crawler (like Fate), and it's mad fun.  Robert has played the game a bit before, but this weekend I bought a copy too and we started a game together.

I'm playing a berserker named Fur with a pet owl named Feather.  I have wolf-themed powers and use frost/ice as weapons, so I think of my entry into any situation in an ominous "winter is coming" way.  (I believe wolf is a pet choice but obviously I'm not going to have one of my own kind as a pet.  Ridiculous.)  True to my character's type, I get impatient easily and just want to start killing stuff.  Robert plays his engineer character Barilla much more methodically (esp. when it comes to making decisions about skills, equipment, etc.).  It seems like every time I turn around, he's switched out a gigantic wrench for a mace for a pair of pistols for a shotgonne for some other scary-looking steampunk weapon.  Meanwhile, I'm always dual-wielding claws like the beast I am.  It's lucky for him that friendly fire is not a possibility in Torchlight because even when I am not in a frenzy mode, my gameplay is pretty chaotic.  Click, click, click until everything is dead!  Why won't that skeleton die already?? Oh wait, that's the skeleton my owl Feather summoned (yes, we can give our pets spells, including summoning spells, that they will use autonomously -- Robert's pet is summoning some kind of silly purple imp thing these days).  At one point, I was super confused by this weird crab thing that was following us around until Robert told me he'd fed his honey badger a fish to change him into the crab.  Oh OK whatever, let's go kill more stuff now!

It's cool -- we can play it over our LAN instead of the Internet (though that's also an option), and there are no lag issues (yet).  We also use the Steam chat function to talk to each other through headsets, since he's playing on his computer upstairs and I'm down here in the office.  (Steam is the online gaming store/community we bought the game from.)

Also, I totally rock the fishing game (which I like a bit better than the one in Fate).  It is convenient because it gives me something to do in town while Robert systematically considers every piece of equipment in his inventory, tries out different combinations, examines the goods available in the shops, enchants/transforms/whatever all those merchants do.  Fishing soothes, or at least distracts, my savage inner beast, at least for a while.

Just don't ask me about the storyline -- I'm only sorta following it (and apparently it is "somehow even more nonsensical" than the one in Diablo 3, which I have not played BTW).  It's all just reasons to go kill everything, right?

In a few days, it will be the weekend again and more Torchlight 2 will be played! 

Note:  And if you're wondering, yes, Robert's character Barilla was 100% named after the brand of pasta sauce because he was looking around himself when thinking of a name and saw a jar of it on our shelves next to his computer. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Overlapping Temperatures

Today Tam and I were texting about the weather (hot there, pleasant here and turning cool) and she posed an idle question about how often high and low temperatures in Snow City (where I live) and Warmopolis (where she lives) overlap. 

When I got home, I put Robert on the job to figure this out.

What do you think?  What percentage of days over the course of a year do the temperatures in our towns overlap?  Consider, generate a guesstimate, then scroll down for the results Robert got when he analyzed weather data for the two cities from 2010 to 2014 (through mid-August).  (Just to be clear, he used data for Snow City and the big metro she lives about an hour from.)

He reports:

Overall, on 46% of days, temperatures overlapped (i.e., the low temperature in Warmopolis was lower than the high temperature in Snow City).  This ranged from 12% in January to 83% in July.

Results by Month

When I first read it, I had trouble getting my mind around the statement "the low temperature in Warmopolis was lower than the high temperature in Snow City."   This just means situations like a summer day where it's from 65 to 85 in Snow City and from 80 to 105 in Warmopolis.  The low in Warmopolis (80) is lower than the high in Snow City (85). 

It seems more natural to me to think of it as "the high temperature in Snow City was higher [warmer] than the low temperature in Warmopolis" but these statements are equivalent (right...right???).  (All that stuff with the greedy alligators is so confusing.)

Winter has too many days with temps like: Warmopolis, 30 to 45 degrees, Snow City, -1 zillion degrees to -1 zillion degrees + 20.  We only have overlap about 12% of days, but that's actually more than I would have thought.  The overall number of 46% is higher than I would have thought.

How close was your guess?  You did guess, right?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Novels with Footnotes Plus The Book of Life: A Labor Day Twofer Post

Novels with Footnotes

After reading two novels with footnotes back to back, I realized that this is a technique that I generally like (that is, all other things equal, the presence of the narrative footnote increases my enjoyment of a novel).  Some novels with footnotes you might already be familiar with include Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Pale Fire, Infinite Jest, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and books by Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde.  (If you're not familiar with these books, I can recommend all of them...though I find that Terry Pratchett is best experienced sparingly and in small doses.)

The books I just read, listed with some half-assed comments because if I wait to be motivated to write the absolute full ass, I will never do it:

(1)  The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud

This is the first book of a children's modern fantasy trilogy (already published, no waiting!) about a precocious 12-year-old apprentice magician and the demon he summons.  The kid character is rather blah, though he is not uniformly awesome or anything, which I like -- he's arrogant, naive, pushy, and (erroneously) convinced of his virtue both individually and as a member of the magician class.  The kid and his point-of-view narrative is essential to the story, but man, the demon Bartimaeus is a show stealer.  He's the Tyrion Lannister of this universe in a way: intelligent, wry, morally skewed, but hugely likeable.

The footnotes appear in the chapters in which Bartimaeus is narrating -- he uses footnotes to attempt to approximate for us lowly humans how he is able to think on multiple levels simultaneously.  They are generally hilarious.

(2)  The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara

This is a book I would never have picked up on the basis of its cover.  It is hideous.

But I read a positive review of it somewhere and ordered it from the library sight unseen.  It sat in my stack of books for a while because...ugh, that cover. 

Eventually, it was the only book I had left from the library.  I waited long enough that the combination of waiting my turn to get it from the library and waiting to be sufficiently desperate to pick it up meant I had absolutely no idea what it was about.  But I gave it a shot.

Awesomeness ensued.

The novel is presented as the memoir of a decidedly unpleasant doctor who became famous after his discovery of a way to greatly extend human life on an isolated Micronesian island and who became infamous after being convicted of doing bad stuff and going to prison.  The footnotes are written by the doctor's editor/ex-colleague/confidante/generalized cheerleader/#1 Fan/BFF.

It is hard to describe how strangely compelling the story was for me from the beginning, even the banal background of the doctor's upbringing and so forth, because of the narrator's powerful voice and increasingly-obviously loathsome yet complex personality.  There is no Tyrion/Bartimaeus charm at play here, but he is a very interesting and well-realized character.  The pacing at the start is pretty slow (probably too slow), but then the plot itself picks up and there's all kinds of reasons to be engrossed in the tale.

However, be warned that the narrator has done some bad shit that is uncomfortable to think about -- but there are no graphic descriptions of any of it, so it's not so difficult to read about, if that distinction makes sense.

This is the rare book that I really, really enjoyed reading and really, really wanted to keep reading.  It's an example of what I think of as a 5 1/2 star book.  Other recent 5 1/2 star books: The Goldfinch, The Silkworm.  READ THESE BOOKS.  They are 5 1/2 star books without disturbing content.  I mean, unless, you know, murder and silly shit like that bothers you.  Actually, before you read The Silkworm, you need to read the first in the series, Cuckoo's Calling.  That J. K. Rowling is a really good author when she pretends to be someone else!

The Book of Life

The A/C in our apartment complex isn't working right (the air is coming out of the vent tepid at best) so it's up to 82 degrees in here today.  Bah!  This afternoon, I changed into a golf skort and a sleeveless exercise top because I was sweating in my t-shirt and jeans from all this strenuous blog writing, Ocean Express playing, cole slaw eating, and book reading. 

My current book is The Book of Life, the last book in a modern fantasy trilogy (the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness).  I'm about a third of the way through it [correction: over half way through it], and seriously, I am not feeling it.  At all.  I enjoyed the first and second books in this series quite a bit (not 5 1/2 star enjoyed, but definitely 4+ stars) but this one is not doing it for me.

I can't tell how much of this is the laborious pacing, how much is the plot itself (which seems to be going nowhere -- tedium interrupted by pointless feeling emergencies, the reintroduction of characters from the first two books for no apparent reason, and abrupt unacknowledged about-faces from the earlier books), and how much is that I am just DONE with these characters.  No more dull vampire family drama, please, Jesus have mercy!  It's weird how these boring details re: this person's "sire" and this person's "grandson" and the proper way to address this person (in French) is X not Y ... how all this takes up so much space in the story.  I mean, I don't doubt that an interesting comedy of manners could be written about the blending of a vampire and witch family, but this is not that book.  For one, the humor is almost completely non-existent.  (I almost wept with relief when one of the very few human characters name checked Spike from Buffy -- it wasn't even that funny.)  And this story is supposed to be about what the hell is up with the magical tome found in the library in like the first chapter of the first book.  I want to know -- get one with it!

But....well, if the 2 star reviews I just now read at Amazon are accurate, we don't really ever find out in any satisfying way what is up with that alchemical manuscript.  So you know what?  Fuck it.  I'm not putting any more time into that damn book.

You know, maybe all that sweating while reading this book wasn't quite as ludicrous as I originally thought.  Getting through those pages was major heavy lifting.  (Hah, this reminds me: one pointless thing in the book is there is a page from the magical manuscript that is extra heavy and changes weight over time -- another thing that is not explained/wrapped up in any way, according to the reviews at Amazon.  In the case of The Book of Life, perhaps the book gets heavier the more boring the story is at the point the reader has reached.)

This is far from the first time that I have been disappointed by the third book in a trilogy.  Sometimes the writer seems to not really have a way to finish off their story (which may or may not be the case here) but often these last books seem to suffer from mission drift and generalized bloat (definitely the case here).  Is it some kind of rule that when people write trilogies, they think this gives them the freedom to expand a 1 1/2 to 2 book plot (come on, sometimes a 1 book plot) into 3 (sometimes mind-numbingly long) books?   (Neal Stephenson and the Baroque Cycle, I'm looking at you!  Your trilogy was a bloated slog from Book 1.)

So I stipulate:  Third books of trilogies suck.  Please offer evidence/opinions in the comments about series you've read that conform to or contradict this premise.