July 31, 2011

Audiobooks 2

Heyyy! *jaunty wave* This spy has been scarce in the online world these past few days, due to a very intense and time-consuming project, namely the making of a short film that involves lots and lots of editing (ie, more than 10 hours. >_> Not to mention filming). Fun. But busymaking. Because it was for a film contest. And it had been going on for two months. But I only came up with an idea three days ago. And we had three days to do it. And I was working up 'till the last few hours of it. XD And we turned it in with an hour and twenty minutes to spare. :D That's what I call living summer on the edge.

Anyhow, on to business. I present to you an audiobook post!

For those among you who do not know, I have developed a habit of listening to audiobooks whilst executing my job: shelving books at my local library. Multitasking, you see. I am an avid multitasker.

In a previous post, I reviewed the audiotales I had recently heard. I do the same again. And once more, I have not one, not three, but


audiobooks to report.

Without further ado,

- - -

Animal Farm
George Orwell

I liked this book. I liked it much. It was a short and swiftly-paced story of a group of farm animals who overthrow their human masters and establish a government of their own.

The story is a simplified allegory of the Russian Revolution (and it can be applied to virutally any of the world's tyrannies), and so if you're a history nerd like me, you'll especially enjoy it. Even if you're not, it's still a good story. The animal farm is erected on the cheerful motto "All animals are equal," but subtly - oh, so subtly to the unsuspecting horses and chicken and sheep! - the pigs come to unjust power.

Read in dismay as the animals' slogan, "All animals are equal" is, over time, mysteriously replaced with the enigmatic and grim philosophy: "All animals are equal, only some animals are more equal than others."

Clean, short, excellent. High recommend.

Peter and the Starcatchers
Dave Barry

Peter and the Starcatchers is actually Book 1 of a four-book series chronicling the story before the story - explaining how Peter Pan came to be on the island of Neverland, how he could fly, how he lost his shadow, how Tinkerbell came into being, and other wonders. I liked this > the first one, best; afterwards they started to feel a bit more cliche and same-ish. Happily, the entire series was quite clean and appropriate for all ages. The author was very creative in inventing the backstory to the original Peter Pan story. Read this if you want an exciting, innocent story reveling in the classic villainousness of Captain Hook and the daring childishness of Peter Pan.

Cliche, lighthearted, classic. Mildly recommended.

George Orwell

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

Thus goes the misleading first line of the odd book 1984. I say that the line is misleading because it indicates an Alice-In-Wonderland-esqe, whimsical kind of story.

It is not so.

Much graver than Animal Farm (by the same author), it also presents, similarly, a political analogy. 1984 was written in 1948, and Orwell was predicting the future. He portrayed a bleak Communist world, all gray and brainwashed, peppered with security cameras everywhere that see all; inescapable propaganda; enthusiastic efforts to simplify and de-emotionalize language; thoughtcrime; doublethink; and Five-Minute Hates. While well written, I don't recommend it - for one matter, there's the protagonist's graphic adulterous affair. >_>

It's an eerie story that ends nontraditionally. It's a story of brainwashing, liberty, invasions, betrayal, and mistrust. It presented interesting philosophical questions. If I may trouble you with a thought-provoking quote, exemplifying the brain-washing philosophy of that era:

"Anything could be true. The so-called laws of Nature were nonsense. The law of gravity was nonsense. 'If I wished,' O'Brien had said, 'I could float off this floor like a soap bubble.' Winston worked it out. 'If he thinks he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously think I see him do it, then the thing happens.' Suddenly, like a lump of submerged wreckage breaking the surface of water, the thought burst into his mind: 'It doesn't really happen. We imagine it. It is hallucination.' He pushed the thought under instantly. The fallacy was obvious. It presupposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a 'real' world where 'real' things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens.

Grim, political, dystopian. Not recommended because of immorality.

The Good Thief

Hannah Tinti

This is a Dickenesque tale of an orphaned kid, but there's a significant difference between this orphan and most - he's missing a hand, and has no idea why. Fairly intriguing premise, so I tried it.

Rather a waste of my time, I think. The long plot rambled as the kid followed in the footsteps of theives and drunkards and impersonaters and grave robbers and hoodlums, eventually coming to a weird climax involving a murderous corrupt wealthy factory owner. >_> Didn't see that coming. Combined with some unpleasant weirdnesses, it was not worth the read.

Wandering, depressing, bland. I don't recommend it.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
James Patterson

Enter Max, leader of her 'family' of six. They are brothers and sisters not by blood, but by friendship and common plight: all are escapees from a pack of vicious scientists who want them back. Because these kids are not ordinary. They're 98% human and 2% bird - and they have wings.

Rather cool premise, no? And it did prove to be respectably cool. An amusing 1rst person narration from the view of the sarcastic Max kept even the slow points entertaining. Often the narration sits on the knife edge between being hilarious and being cliche-corny. XD Pretty long tale, a bit rambling-feeling atimes. As I recall, it was clean... I cannot remember if there were swear words or not. If there were, they were few and mild.

This is book one of a series. I haven't read the following ones; while the first was enjoyable, I don't yet feel terribly inclined to read the others.

Exciting, action-ous, cool. Recommended, I suppose.

- - -

In order from most favorite to least, I hereby order this batch of books:

1. Animal Farm
2. Peter and the Starcatchers
3. Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
4. 1984
5. The Good Thief

Have you read any of these books? And if so, do you concur or disagree with my review of them?

Hoping for a book-chat,
And to all a good night,

July 18, 2011

The House of Shelves

There is a house in Japan.

And it is a house of shelves.


I read an article about an absolutely glorious structure comprised entirely of shelves. Thousands and thousands of wooden nooks to be filled with everything under the sun! It's... breathtaking in possibilities... gloriously wonderful.

The house of shelves.
^ more pictures!

The house of shelves II
^even MORE joysome pictures!

It's beautiful.

dying of envy,
- whisper

July 12, 2011

Summer Camp




Mail call.


Washington, DC.

A human-sized game of Dutch Blitz.

Lucky Charms.

The epic camaraderie that comes with trying to shoot basketballs through a hoop by bouncing them on a tarp with eighteen other teens.

All these epicnesses, and more, were experienced in five full days of summer camp.

As aforementioned, it was the Leadership and Vocation Camp at the excellent Patrick Henry College. The campus is small and well-kept and lovely. Though pictures don't do it justice, here's a few.

^This is Founders' Hall, I think.^

Here is a view of the infamous Lake Bob. It has become a sort of emblem at PHC; a symbolic symbol of... something. Significant, surely. Apparently there's a custom of chucking newly-engaged students into the lake... it's called being "Bobtized." :| However, under normal circumstances, swimming in Lake Bob is highly discouraged.

muck from the noble lake.

"Ladies and gentleman, this is why
we do not swim in Lake Bob."


Within the camp, each camper was assigned to a wing. Each wing had a theme and a name. I and eight or nine other girls had our own wing/hall of three rooms. Ours was entitled... *sigh* The Piggly Wigglies.

Yes. I know. We tried to make the most of it. We kept our chins up and resolved to be the classiest piggies the camps had ever seen.

Each girl wing was assigned to a brother wing; we were matched with The King's Men. Combined, the Piggly Wigglies and The King's Men were one team, to compete together against the other teams. Teams would earn points for doing things such as winning the evening games, keeping their rooms ruthlessly clean, and singing patriotic chants whilst coming into the cafeteria for breakfast. They'd lose points for breaking rules, being late for breakfast, or forgotting their nametag.

We had a fantastic team and all got along well. We selected a glorious name for our combined team, a name we shouted with pride and invented cheers to laud. We were The Royal Swine.

Good times. ^_^


The camp week was packed with many lectures. Sounds boring, right? They were actually quite good, ranging diversely from deep, philosophical thoughts to practical, everyday application. Very good stuff and quite entertaining (so far as lectures go). But, of course, after sitting in a hard wood chair for 3+ hours and running on little sleep, one starts to grow just a bit tired. >_> Nonetheless!! They were all excellent lectures from which I gained much and took copious notes.

^ At a break between lectures.

Studious student that I am, I took many notes. ^_^

This is David Aikman, one of my favorite speakers there.

He worked for Time magazine for 30 years.

He's written more than a dozen books.

He saved Boris Yeltsin's life.
(Mr. Aikman told us the story of how he was one of a group accompanying the Russian president whilst he toured America and its capitalist markets. Yeltsin was about to saunter across a busy street as a huge truck was coming and Mr. Aikman grabbed Yeltsin's shoulders and held him back. Yeltsin turned around with an insincere smile and said reproachfully, "Oh, the KGB would be very disappointed in you!"
XD *shakes head* Communists.)

He interviewed Billy Graham and Mother Theresa in person.

He was in Tiananmen Square when the tanks rolled in.

And I got his signature. :)

Free Time

Each morning, once we were freed from the hard and frigid lecture hall, we migrated back into the warm sunlight and then dispersed (like so many rebels) to various activities.

^ many rounds of ninja. epicness.

^ I liked to hang out in the cafe.

After all, they had smoothies.

And Twix candy bars.

Thusly they won my heart forever.

The cafe was in this very cool lounge in which one could eat, drink, and write copiously in one's notebook. There were also pictures of camels on the walls. ^_^

You know its a cool lounge if it's got pictures of camels.

D. C.

On one of the days we all took a bus down to Washington DC, splitting into groups to work on various community service projects. I was in a group whose task was weeding the back garden of the office of a charitable organization - I believe it was called "So Others Might Eat" and provided food for the homeless. I have no pictures of the gardening, but I wish I'd thought to take before-and-afters. There was a very dramatic difference. o_O It started as an irregular pale green field of billions of weeds and branches and bricks. By the end we'd uprooted piles of grass, the flowers were contained in neat clusters, and green foliage jungle was uprooted and the ground turned, leaving nice dark earth paths. It looked very pretty. ^_^

Then all the groups gathered for a picnic lunch. Those were some good sandwiches. >_> I salivate thinking of them.

we all wore our ridiculously cool camp T-shirts. ^_^

we then went sightseeing. Lo, the pencil tower!
That is, the Washington Monument. >_>


Learned some good ones.

"The man who never reads will never be read;
he who never quotes will never be quoted.
He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains,
proves that he has no brains of his own."
- Charles Spurgeon

"We are distracted from distraction by distraction."
- T. S. Eliot

"We read books but books read us as well."
- C. S. Lewis

Butler: "You found God, Sir?"
Wilberforce: "I think He found me. You have any idea how inconvenient that is?"
- Amazing Grace

"Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much."
- Mark Twain

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
- Anonymous

"When everything is said and done more is said than done."
- Anonymous

"Unless you can show me wrong, I cannot take anything back. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God."
- Martin Luther


...were perhaps my most favoritist part of the whole camp. The counselors had arranged absolutely epic games, including:

  • campus-wide Counselor Clue (in which the teams had to travel the campus, asking counselors - disguised as outlandish characters, including a knight, a drill sargeant, a leprachaun, a scholar, and a telephone operator - questions about an attempted murder, trying to solve the who, the where, and the what-with.)
  • a massive game of rock-paper-scissors (that was loud. Picture forty kids in a walleyball room, their team chants filling the echoing, enclosed space...)
  • human-sized Dutch Blitz
  • counselor hide-and-seek

I took no pictures; I was too busy living life, savoring the moment, siezing the day. XD There are some epic memories I shall treasure from those days.

In Short

The teens I met in that camp were incredibly special. In that wondrous blend of personalities, accents, appearances, hometowns, beliefs, and interests there was one common theme. Every person had this unique quality - a blend of friendliness, outgoingness, and maturity. I was stunned. It was so wonderful and so different from the general mood of teens I'm used to back home.

Everyone, even the shy ones and the older ones, were mature and conversational. You could make a random comment to anyone, guy or girl, about the length of the line for the hamburgers and they would actually talk back. O_O Guys who looked like the kind who would only hang out with their friendswould plunk down in a random seat at lunch and chat cheerfully with whoever was around. Guys who looked like the "cool ones" who would only sullenly participate in games actually participated. They led the team cheers and even after one failed (and two, and three, and four...) they'd try again and start another. They remembered names and genuinely laughed and weren't afraid to do something embarassing, get back up, and try again. They didn't just chat polite, boring stuff; a random girl and I started quoting Tim Hawkins to each other and talking about colleges and coffee and laughing. In group discussions even the ones whom I judged as shy or bored would boldly add something useful to the discussion. They knew when to stop joking around and to listen up. They had good vocabularies and used them, too. They knew when to make suggestions and when to shut up.

^ And what we didn't know at first, we learned. The games taught us these things, how to practically be a leader and when to be a leader. When to take the lead and when to sit in the back and be a minor player. We couldn't all be heroes all of the time. But everyone had a small moment of glory, a time of usefulness.

It was a remarkable time with remarkable people. I miss them much. I learned a lot - and not just from the lectures. Learned a lot about team dynamics and leadership and teens and friends. It was a very, very good time, and I'd like to go back next year. :)

Oh. And one more thing. My primitive phone came to the brink of giving up the ghost.

It's lived through much. It's seen a lot. It's been through creeks and mud and rain. But finally it hit the carpet at camp one day and a cracked hinge broke open and now it dangles by a wire.

Still works. ^_^


July 6, 2011

Giveaway - Beyond the Dead Forest

The honorable book reviewer Michelle Archer is hosting a giveaway! On her blog Arrowhead Reviews she's offering a copy of the book Beyond the Dead Forest, by Steve Groll. The entry deadline has been extended until July 16.

From the review Michelle gave of it, it sounds like quite an intriguing tale. The basic premise:

Partners looking for adventure, that is what Kat and Carter’s relationship is like. When a mysterious forest shows up that only they can see, they know a real adventure just might have arrived. On one of their excursions to learn what lies within the woods they meet a man who will send them on a mission that might kill them. But if they survive the challenges the Dead Forest has for them they will end
up with some of the greatest treasures known to man.

Good stuff, right? Add to that that she compares it to a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth and The Pilgrim's Progress, and it sounds like quite the book. o_O

Go! Join!

Oh. And note the creepy red dragon on the book's cover. ^_^ Epic.


July 5, 2011

Soliloquy to My Laptop

The following is something I typed at summer camp whilst running on little sleep and full of random creativity. Please humor me and recognize that this is the result of an overstimulated mind and is hardly proofread.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

- - - - -

*slides laptop from its plush sheath*

Why, hello, old friend. It's been a long time.

The curtain just slid down, as it does in Lord of the Flies over Ralph's dying mind. Speaking of curtains, maybe this is a sign that I need the sleep I was craving so badly this morning. My sleep-starved mind did not then even dream I could live through the morning. If I'd known I'd be running 2 hours and fifteen minutes all over the hot PHC campus in the afternoon in jeans and tennis shoes, I would have cried. See? Evidence that He provides unexpected grace.

But I digress. It's good to see you again, mon ami. It's good to feel your black keys under me.

What? What's this you say? You didn't miss me? “Enjoyed the vacation??” You worm-ridden hunk of data! Vacation from I, your very own User, the one who packed you so lovingly in that expensive blue sheath and put you so carefully in my bag and -


Well, I was running out of time. And surely you were just as safe there at the top of my mound of shorts and tops as you would have been tucked to the side. And, see, you got here all in one piece! The only thing that seems to have changed is your attitude. >_>

Don't give me that look. I'm tired of your insolence. I'm tired of a lot of things, and I don't need you to cube them.

Your screen is so blue. I could stare at you a long time, and maybe fall asleep into you. Wouldn't that be exciting? What wonders you could show me, if you'd only wipe that stupid grin off your face and pull me into your world.

Hm. On second thought, maybe I've had a taste of too many worlds today. I'd hoped that returning to my fantasy world of my writings might be refreshing, but perhaps it would not be the solace that I seek. Perhaps adding just one more set of personalities and demands and challenges to my remaining 26 minutes of pre-curfew time would be unwise.

Oh, that's what YOU think, you you red-coated turn-coat! I've almost had enough of you. I'm almost sick of you. I'm just not sick of you enough to slam this sleek lid closed, burying these splendid clicking keys. Ah, my fickle friend, I must confess that I need you for one more task.

Ten minutes, one scene. What to say?

- - -

I then wrote a brief scene consisting of two fantasy warriors arguing. I shall not share aforementioned scene here for a multiplicity of reasons, chief among them that I do not think their discourse worth your precious time, which could be spent reading something far more worthwhile, like Lord of the Flies, for instance.

An account of my summer camp experience is to follow. Suffice to say that it involved much activity and little sleep and was immensely enjoyable.