July 3, 2014
by Meredith Bland
7 Comments

Blogging for Books: Why yes, I am that kind of whore

Let me tell you what I love: videos of dogs trying to talk like people.

Let me tell you what else I love: BOOKS.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS DO I LOVE BOOKS. Bookstores are dangerous places for me –I don’t know that I have ever set foot inside a bookstore and not bought a book. I read every single night before I fall asleep because it’s usually the only time I can fit it into my day. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I tell them, “sleeping and reading.”

What I’m saying is, I love books.

So when Crown Publishing e-mailed me about being a part of their Blogging for Books program, I was super excited. See, they give you BOOKS, for FREE, in exchange for a blog post about said book.

SOLD! That is my kind of pimp talk.

Shovel Ready

I decided that if I was going to review these books on my blog, I had to pick ones that had some humor in them. So for my first book, I picked Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh.. It’s about a garbageman who calls himself Spademan in the not-too-distant future who lives in New York after a dirty bomb has gone off in Times Square. And then he becomes a hit man. Here’s the rest from the jacket:

In a near-future New York City split between those wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality and those who are left behind to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets.

YES.

It’s post-apocalyptic, it’s got a sci-fi edge, and it is a tightly written book. Sternbergh (the Culture editor at the New York Times Magazine) uses a lot of short sentences and considers every word, but it doesn’t feel overused —  this may be partly because Shovel Ready is a quick read (I read it over the course of about five hours). And boy oh boy do I love me a book about the future after a large-scale disaster; I usually prefer zombies, but I’ll take a dirty bomb in a pinch.

Best of all, there are these hilarious sentences that just pop up and take you by surprise. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Come nuclear winter, Hacky Sacks will prevail. A lone sack, being hackyed, on some burnt-out horizon. We’ll know civilization, and jam bands, survived.”

And

“Ducks, plucked and bashful, hung on hooks in a windowpane, like a warning to other outlaw ducks.”

The only downside to this book is that Sternbergh doesn’t use quotation marks when his characters are speaking. I know it’s a stylistic thing, and I’m sure someone smarter than I am can tell me why it was important, but all it did was confuse me. There were a few times when I had to go back a few lines and say, “Wait, was that a thought or did someone say that?” (see how I used quotation marks there? I enjoy them.)

But this really is a good, fun, interesting book. I’d call it a beach read, but that might make me a weirdo. Can beach reads be all murdery? Well, mine can, and this is perfect. Best of all, the ending isn’t predictable, and when you find out the WHY behind everything it’s surprising and interesting. Not every book holds me till the last page, but this one did.

So tally ho! I give it four out of five nubs.

July 1, 2014
by Meredith Bland
8 Comments

A report, two weeks into summer vacation

Image via freeimages.com

Image via freeimages.com

I hate summer.

Hate hate hate it.

I have hated it for as long as I can remember for two reasons: first, I hate small clothes. And, I must add, the feeling is reciprocated. Second, I hate heat and humidity. In my opinion, it is way preferable to be freezing cold, when all I have to do is put on layers and jog in place to warm myself up, than to experience the kind of heat I did years ago during my one and only visit to Key West, Florida. That’s the kind of heat where you walk outside and soak through your clothes before the door has fully closed behind you. In that kind of heat, there are only so many layers you can take off before you are just sitting there sad and miserable in your own damp.

So you can imagine how shocked I am by the fact that I am LOVING this summer. LOVING. IT. Now, have we had any temperatures above 71 degrees so far? No, because Seattle is the finest city on the planet. Have my kids been out of school for less than two weeks? Why, yes…why do you ask?

But I am putting my cynicism aside for a bit and enjoying the hell out of how relaxing it is not to have my kids in school. If I heard myself say that sentence in August, right before my kids started full-day kindergarten, I would have turned the pointy side of my ring around and slapped myself across the face. I had NO IDEA how stressful it would be to keep kids moving through a school year. Not to mention that I had twins who were in separate classes and therefore had two different sets of expectations, schedules, and projects. There was a whole lot of, “Oh shit! Today is wacky hair day AND we were supposed to bring our library books?! FUUUUUUUUUUCK.”

So far I am finding the lack of schedules and lunches and share days way more relaxing than I ever could have dreamed. We have been having a blast so far…except for the part where two kids who have not spent all of their time together for nine months suddenly start spending all of their time together and discover that they cannot wait to learn all new ways to kill each other now that they have been reunited.

Damn you to hell, Spiderman.

Damn you to hell, Spiderman.

Also, I am already plotting a fire-filled act of vengeance against that goddamn ice cream truck that seems to follow us everywhere we go. Only a week into summer and it’s already got me saying “oh shit” when I hear it coming. Just you wait till the end of summer, Ice Cream Man. First I am going put you at a table with a dozen of those horrible spider man cones. Then, I will take away all of your napkins and wet wipes. Then, I will remove all of the ice cream sandwiches from your truck and put them in a cooler…as hostages, of course. THEN, I will set your truck on fire.

But till that time, this summer is going to be filled with some happy happy kick-ass times. Until, of course, we reach mid-August, when I will be handing my kids the remote and going back to bed.

June 24, 2014
by Meredith Bland
5 Comments

I get it, but no: Fourth grader sued for bullying

I’m talking current events today. Well, current events from last week. But still! I am culturally relevant a little bit!

There was a time during this past school year where I suspected one of my children was being bullied. Let me try to describe to you exactly where on the rage chart that put me: somewhere between “why didn’t you figure out your order before you got to the front of the line,” and the injustice of the Holocaust.

I have a large capacity for rage.

Luckily, it turned out that my child wasn’t being bullied and I could put the jack back in the trunk, but it made me understand how helpless and angry parents feel when their children are being hurt by another child. It’s hard to talk to the teacher without wondering if you’re overprotective, it’s hard to talk to the other parent without worrying that you’re insane, and you can’t talk to the other child because that’s usually frowned on. By the law.

So when I read this articlemedium_2500644518 about a fourth grade student who is being sued for bullying one of his classmates, I initially thought, “YES! Git ‘im, Pa!” Then I thought, “Wait. Hold on a second, Pa. Isn’t he nine?”

The victim’s parents are suing the nine-year-old bully, his parents, the school district, and the school principal, for $50,000. I’m not much into suing people, but I can see the reasoning behind naming the parents and the school in the suit. But the kid? That’s where you lose me. In fact, their attorney says that if they win the lawsuit they might be able to garnish the future wages of the fourth-grade defendant. Yeah. That’s right. All of that kid’s earnings from McDonald’s would go straight into this other kid’s piggy bank. And that kid is going to buy hundreds of cupcakes. And then he’s going to sit in front of the first kid’s house and eat them all. Slowly.

All in all, the victim’s parents haven’t been doing him a whole lot of favors, here, including releasing his name and photo to the press. I definitely don’t have all the answers, but let me tell you what isn’t going to help this boy – putting his picture on the news and telling everyone the details of his humiliations.

Here’s what I think helps: conversations with other parents that begin with “Ha ha ha I know that science project was nuts right so anyway about your boy Manson…I mean…Mason.” I believe in sideways stares at the offending child, stares that say, “I know what you’re doing you little f***er, and the only reason you’re getting away with this is that I value my freedom.”

But more than anything, I believe in fighting battles for our kids without making them front line casualties. I believe in not bringing a child into adult arguments and grievances. I believe in treating children as children and parents like the responsible, adult guardians they are supposed to be. That means holding them accountable separately, and preferably, privately.

 

June 19, 2014
by Meredith Bland
2 Comments

Thank you for your honesty, PLUS some awesome giveaway madness

I don’t cook very often. The reason for that is that I am a bad cook, My husband, however, is a good cook.

For example, here’s what happens when my husband and I go into the kitchen to make dinner for our family on any given night.

Mike: “Okay, we’ve got corn flakes, an artichoke, and some cool whip. I am going to make something amazing.”

Me: “Okay, we’ve got corn flakes, an artichoke, and some cool whip. Let’s order a pizza.”

So when I was making dinner the other night, my children were understandably confused. Luckily, my daughter was there to give me a pep talk.

Daughter: “Mom, you are not as good a cook as Dad.”

Me: “…Yes. Thank you. That is for sure true.”

Daughter: “But also…”

Me: (excited for a compliment) “Yes?”

Daughter: “Dad is not as bad a cook as you.”

Me: “Excellent. Thank you.”

***

Hey! It’s awesome giveaway time! A couple of weeks ago I started a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $50 gift card to the store of your choice, provided by the good people at Select Aware, where cheapos like me go for a good deal.

This morning Rafflecopter randomly selected a winner, which is rad, except that I need a final email confirmation from Select Aware before I can move forward. That should come today. I will email the winner when it comes in.

Huzzah! It’s a cliff hanger!

***

Holy cow! It’s one more giveaway! I only do giveaways when I am contacted about something awesome, so I couldn’t resist this one:

Do you like wood? (that’s what she said)

Do you enjoy interesting things made out of wood?

I do.

So when the fine folks at Jord watches contacted me about their wood watches, I said, “What the heck yeah?! IT’S A WOOD WATCH!!” And, ps, they are gorgeous. I was sent the Ely in maple to review.

IMG_1474

Is that a good-looking watch, or what? I LURVES IT.  I haven’t worn a watch for many years because I used to have a “thing” about having stuff around my wrist (it’s a delicate area, you know…there are vessels and stuff there). But I put on this watch and forgot I even had it on — that’s how comfy it is. Now, watches are a little high-maintenance for someone as lazy as yours truly (you have to wind them and all), but I love it as an accessory. I feel like a real live grown up when I wear it with my college t-shirt and Nike sneakers.


Now, here’s where you guys come in: Jord is offering a free Ely watch (in maple) to one of my readers! Please enter below and I will announce the winner on Tuesday the 24th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 17, 2014
by Meredith Bland
9 Comments

Lice: Letters from the front.

Image via archives.gov

Image via archives.gov

My dearest Agatha,

I miss you terribly, but I assure you that all continues to be well here on the battlefront. Thus far, skirmishes have been limited to soldiers in camp whom I am not familiar with, having never once had them to my side of the camp for a pre-arranged hour of rambunctiousness (with snacks). Almost weekly I receive anonymous notes that someone, somewhere in our camp, has been afflicted, and I am warned that I must remain vigilant. Happily, I continue to be pest-free.

I admit it sometimes frightens me. Oh Agatha, the stories I hear from the medical tents…stories of the stricken weeping and obsessively combing their hair. There are some old soldiers who wander around camp, muttering about their time in the war. They speak of weeks and weeks of washing, drying, and then washing again. They talk of vacuuming mattresses and throwing beloved stuffies in airtight bags where they languish, lonely and without hugs. But my men and I are trying to live courageously, ignoring the possibility that we could be called into battle at any time. We recklessly share hats and hugs, testing fate and laughing in the face of God.

Do not worry about me, and please wash your hair with gasoline. I understand that it works.

Yours always,

Philbert

***

My dearest Agatha,

Thank you for your quick reply. I appreciate your suggestion that I use tea tree oil and mayonnaise as gentler, and more natural modes of defense. However, I have found that there are few things in life that cannot be solved by some gasoline and a match. I shall continue with this treatment though it means I shall miss many nights of delicious ‘Smores at the campfire.

I do have some bad news. I’m afraid that one of my men, Captain Riley (that’s Riley S. not Riley N.) has been stricken. He claims not to know how it happened, but we believe he was drawn into the fight whilst playing “head butt” with the other soldiers.

My darling, please know that I am keeping myself safe. Not one of us sits next to Riley anymore for fear that we may be the next to be targeted by those tiny and contagious assassins. I regard all the men with suspicion, and keep my eyes peeled for scratching.

For now, I shall relish my good health and eat another cupcake (it’s Stewart’s birthday!).

Yours always,

Philbert

***

Barnaby has already begun to itch. (image via historytoday.com)

Barnaby has already begun to itch. (image via historytoday.com)

My dearest Agatha,

The worst has happened. Yesterday evening after my bath, I discovered that I have been overcome by our adversary. Apparently they have been camped out for weeks…oh Agatha, what a fool I have been.

I have decided to contact a team of snipers who claim to be able to remove the entire scourge in a single day. In preparation, I am selling most of my worldly belongings to pay their fee. It shall be dirty, back-breaking work, but I must endure it for the sake of my magnificent hair.

Yours always,

Philbert

***

My dearest Agatha,

I received the treatment this morning. It was highly ouchy and greasy, but appears to have been effective. I am now in bed, having washed or vacuumed every single thing I own.

I am tried, Agatha. So very tired.

I look at the faces of those around me and wonder — who will be next? Will they be infested tomorrow, or next week? The very thought makes me itch. And while the uncertainty about our collective fate is torture, I can only douse my hair in gasoline, light it on fire, and hope that I will not become reinfected.

I am positive that it will work.

Yours forever,

Philbert

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