Friday, June 02, 2017

2017 Reading List

Night School - Lee Child
The Wrong Side of Goodbye - Michael Connelly
Home - Harlan Coben
The Whistler - John Grisham
Escape Clause - John Sanford
Rock Bottom - Erin Brokovich
Moving Target - JA Jance
Deliver us from Evil - David Baldacci
No Man's Land - David Baldacci
The Kept Woman - Karin Slaughter
Right Behind You - Lisa Gardner
Midnight Sun - Jo Nesbro
Blood on Snow - Jo Nesbro

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 Reading List

January


The Rogue Lawyer- John Grisham
Saturn Run - John Sanford
Make Me - Lee Child

February

Foreign Influence - Brad Thor
The Guilty - David Baldacci

March

The Crossing - Michael Connelly
Fear Nothing - Lisa Gardner
Catch Me - Lisa Gardner

April

Say Goodbye - Lisa Gardner
Shelter - Harlen Coben
Find Her - Lisa Gardner

May

Broken - Karin Slaughter
Fool Me Once - Harlan Coben
Criminal - Karin Slaughter
Of the two novels of Slaughters that I've read, this was the best.  Well executed story weaved through two time periods.

June

Extreme Prey - John Sandford
End of Watch - Stephen King

July

Found - Harlen Coben
Fade Away - Harlen Coben
Cross Justice - James Patterson
The Last Mile - David Baldacci

August

The Good Father - Noah Hawley
Not the normal type of book that I read but really well done.  The end was pretty emotional; I'm looking forward to reading additional Hawley novels.
Act of War - Brad Thor
The Appeal - John Gresham

September

Foreign Agent - Brad Thor
Seconds Away - Harlan Coben
Dance of the Bones - JA Jance

October

Fallen - Karin Slaughter
Dexter is Dead - Jeff Lindsay

November

Before the Fall - Noah Hawley
Certain Prey - John Sandford
Unseen - Karin Slaughter

December

Undone - Karin Slaughter
Sherlock Holmes and the Unholy Trinity - Paul Gilbert



Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 Reading List

January

Nightworld - F.P. Wilson
This is actually a re-read, something I rarely do, but this book was essentially re-written.  This book came out long ago and introduced a couple of characters, one of which, Jack, went on to become an entire series (Repairman Jack) that all took place before Nighworld.  So some of the original book didn't make sense anymore.  The new version is better since it flows with the other books better.  However, there is a reason I don't re-read books.  It is hard to enjoy them when you know what's coming and ultimately how it is going to end.

Zero Day - David Baldacci
If I was to describe a book whose main character was a tall, muscular Army investigator, who can fight, has excellent shooting skills, has a way with the ladies, has a strong sense of what's right and wrong but is just as quick to kill someone whose in the wrong or in the way, and has uncanny observational and investigative skills you'd quickly think that I was talking about a Jack Reacher novel.  And rightfully so.  But in this case I am actually talking about John Puller. Boy oh boy, are these two characters, and books in general, a lot a like.  If you like one you'll like the other.  So I can say that I enjoyed Zero Day, but most of the time when I saw the name Puller my mind read Reacher.  No joke.

February

The Forgotten - David Baldacci
The Innocent - David Baldacci
The Sixth Man - David Baldacci

March

The Target - David Baldacci
King and Maxwell - David Baldacci
The Hit - David Baldacci

April

The Whole Truth - David Baldacci
I got about 120 pages into this one and had to shelve it.  Not really the fault of the book, but I guess I hit the wall, Baldacci burnout of sorts.

Running Blind - Lee Child

May

The Hang Mans Song - John Sandford
The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins
There's been a decent amount of chatter about this book, and often that chatter includes discussions of Gone Girl.  I don't know too much about that comparison.  A pretty good book, but I think Gone Girl was probably a better read and kept you on your toes a bit more.
Hope To Die - James Patterson

June

Crash and Burn - Lisa Gardner
My first Gardner novel, she keeps the story unraveling at a good pace, just enough to keep you guessing, by the end you have most of it but she leaves a couple of surprises for the very end.
Sycamore Row - John Grisham
Somehow this is my first Grishham novel.  Not sure why it took so long to read one of his books.  It's good, even though I never read A Time to Kill having seen the movie still setup the background to this one enough.  I won't be shying away from his work in the future.
Gathering Prey - John Sandford
I find myself liking each Flowers novel more and more, but then this Davenport comes along and renews my interest.  However, after that way this one ends I am thinking more Flowers adventures may be in store.

July

The Stranger - Harlan Coben
Never disappoints.  Listening to Coben talk about suspense on the Freakonomics podcast was also entertaining.
Remains of Innocence - J.A. Jance
The Racketeer - John Grisham
Meh.

August

Cold Betrayal - JA Jance
Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King
Proving that when King writes a "straight-forward" thriller type novel he's one of the best.  Between this and 11/22/63 he's at the top of his game.
Gray Mountain - John Grisham
The Art Forger - B.A. Shapiro
Having just watched the documentary Tim's Vermeer this was kind of a timely read.  A good mix of actual history and fiction.  A little too wrapped up in a nice bow for me, but still a pretty good read.

September

The Escape - David Baldacci
Another John Puller novel, and given my earlier noted similarities to Jack Reacher another good read.  Having read enough Baldacci now I think I can say that this is his best series.  King and Maxwell are good, but Puller is better.  Maybe I just like the character more.
The Last Patriot - Brad Thor
First Brad Thor novel - the jacket says he's the next coming of Robert Ludlum.  Maybe, the characters, speed and international settings are similar, but I thought that historical fiction side of the novel reminded me more of Dan Brown.

October

The Phantom - Jo Nesbro
Full Black - Brad Thor - might be the best Thor I've read yet.
Black List - Brad Thor

November

Code of Conduct - Brad Thor
Finders Keepers - Stephen King
I'm not sure if this was quite as good as Mr. Mercedes.  However, as I mentioned before, when King writes this type of novel he's at his best.  There are moments that are so well written it makes you want to be a writer, or at the very least, yearn to have the skill to write the way he does.  I am now looking forward to the final book in this trilogy. He's really set it up for a great conclusion...although I fear it will be a little too much of a "normal" king sci-fi novel.  We'll see.
Red Sparrow - Jason Matthews

December

The Litigators - John Grisham
Tell No One - Harlen Coben
The Partner - John Grisham


Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Letter

Greetings Everyone -

I hope that everyone has had a great and fulfilling year.

As with every passing year, this one seems busier than the last. As the kids continue to grow and develop their interests there are more things that require our time and energy.  More and more of the individual personalities of our three kids are starting take shape and in many cases diverge from one another.  We are lucky that more often than not they are able to co-exist with one another in relative harmony.  Not every day is smooth, but we really can consider ourselves lucky on this front.

Anytime you write a retrospective letter like this it seems a near impossible task to avoid the standard cliches that seem to permeate everyone’s description of their lives.  With that said I can say we’ve had a pretty adventurous year.

In April, Christy and Ainsley took a trip to the East coast visiting Washington D.C. for a couple of days followed up by a whirlwind trip to New York City with Christy’s life long friend Janice and her daughter, Libby.  The trip included a visit to the U.S. Mint, the National Mall, a bike trip through Central Park and, of course, a sampling of New York pizza.  Upon arriving home Ainsley quickly proclaimed her intention to live in New York when she gets older, which means 18-19 years old to her. Her description of what she envisions this to look like is funny to listen to since, from what I can tell, aren’t based on any sense of reality.  But I don’t really recall having dreams of my ideal living destination when I was 13, so maybe her continued focus on these thoughts and dreams over the next few years will make it easier for her to realize.

She continues to volunteer at our local library which she enjoys quite a bit.  Sometimes I think it is hard for us to remember how old she is and let some of our protective tendencies subside.  When she comes home and tells us how she used the giant paper cutter we both shudder and cannot believe that she has all of her digits remaining.  Yet, admittedly, she’s a big, responsible kid capable of a lot more that we probably give her credit for. Something the aides at the library see in her more easily that we do. She is taking high school prep classes at ORLA this year and is doing really well.  She’s getting the chance to write a lot of argumentative essays which I’ve enjoyed witnessing - she’s got some skills and it won’t be long before I’ll be able to transfer this letter over to her.  She’s also continued to take piano lessons and earlier this year she participated in her first competition.  She didn’t win but she showed an amazing sense of confidence and ability to perform in a tense situation.  For me, the way she handled the prep and actual event impressed me more than her tickling of the ivories.  To have that skill at 13 is beautiful, I hope she never loses it and I also hope one day to have it myself.

Jade is also taking classes at ORLA this year, including a Latin America class, a cooking course and karate.  She seems to really be excelling at cooking.  Just the other night I was helping prep dinner and she offered to help; asking if I needed the pot on the stove stirred or whisked and then went on to explain the difference by way of example.  Being the novice I just deferred to her expertise. She’s continued with ballet this year which included a performance at the Washington Center for Performing Arts in spring.  She absolutely nailed it.  Just about anytime you watch a child production of anything there are always those kids who spend most of the time either 1.5 beats behind everyone else because the can’t quite remember everything and are looking at those around them for cues, or are just standing there awestruck.  Not Jade, she was in total command the whole time, confidently executing the whole routine, with the biggest smile on her face.  She was the one being watched.  The pure joy she felt just flowed from her, it was wonderful to watch. She moved up to the next level of classes this fall and is already annoyed that some of the girls aren’t taking it seriously enough.

Finn is also taking Latin America, P.E. and karate, which happen to be back-to-back, and yet he still comes home full of energy.  The good news he hasn’t learned enough in Karate to kick my butt yet, but I suspect my days of dominance are limited nonetheless.  He is also taking a class in cribbage and chess.  He was already pretty good at chess, but adding in some more skills isn’t good for either Christy or I.  Years ago I learned to play cribbage so I had a passing familiarity with it, but re-learning with him has been fun and it is just one more thing that he can enjoy beating his parents at, which I believe may be his greatest joy of all.  He’s developed a pretty strong interest in comics this year and I think he’s at this point checked out all of the comic collections from the library, some more than once.  We do have a little comic book store downtown that I’m guessing we’ll become regular patrons of soon enough.

Both Finn and Jade played baseball and soccer this year.  Baseball was a little funky this year as they had to combine two leagues in order to get enough teams, so a lot of the teams we played were filled with younger, less experienced kids, so that took away from the fun a little bit.  Soccer was interesting to watch.  Jade seemed to take a natural defensive position, hanging back towards the goal and setting up a last line of defense against the other team.  Whereas Finn would float around, seeing anytime that his foot touched the ball as an opportunity to score.

All three kids participated in Olympia Family Theatre's production of Pinocchio: Jade’s main role was Gepetto’s cat, Finn was a few different roles, and Ainsley was the Fox.  Finn and Jade also took part of a one week theater camp that ended in a showcase.  Once again Jade was on top of it, knowing all of the lines, cues and exuded happiness.  Finn was one of the watchers, but he said he had a good time.

In August we spent some time on Lopez Island with Christy’s family.  We had really nice weather and Jim brought along their boat, so the kids all got the chance to drive us around the San Juan Islands.  We explored a few different beaches, did a little line finishing and played frisbee.  The kids also spent a fair amount of time in the swimming pool, which allowed the adults time to sit around and relax.  In September the five of us, along with my parents, went to Maui for a week.  Again we had the good fortune of splendid weather and safe travels.  It was Finn and Jade’s first time on a plane, which is pretty brave of us really, we don’t know how that is going to go so we jump on a six hour flight.  It was like they’ve been doing it for years, handled it just great.  We snorkeled, attended a luau, got Hawaiian shirts, consumed a lot of shaved iced, and of course, spent a lot of time in the pool. Both Island trips were really nice and I cannot wait to do them again next year (hint…).

Christy continues to keep all this chaos in check with ease and elegance.  She’s been doing a lot more chauffeuring this year - she is looking forward to the next location of ORLA this coming spring as it will be within walking distance.  Despite how busy the kids keep her I think there is a small sense, from her perspective, that there is less to do.  The kids are able to get their own snacks and take care of each other a little more.  As a result she’s taken on the project of training Memphis.  She’s take about a dozen classes so far and continues to work with him.  There is some talk about eventually getting him to the point where he can do hospital visitations. He really likes people and loves getting loved up by others so there does seem to be a good fit there, but he’s got some work to do to get there.  I think Christy really likes the challenge.

I am getting ready to celebrate two years at Oracle, which is pretty hard to believe how quickly this time has gone by.  I still have a lot to learn but I’ve also been part of some pretty successful projects that have gained me some visibility.  Now that we are supporting global teams my meeting schedules are more complicated.  So far the craziest day was a meeting at 6AM and another at 8PM on the same day in order to accommodate all of the different time zones.  Luckily days like this are rare.  I’m challenged and have a sense of value, which might be the first time in my employment history.

I had a moment just a couple of weeks ago, when I was putting something away that one of the kids had left behind.  At first I was annoyed but then something clicked for me and I realized that the kids are really just masters of living in moment.  It isn’t that they are incapable of closing the drawer, putting the hair brush away, putting a lid back on the jar or making sure the q-tip (or all five q-tips) actually makes it into the garbage, they are just too consumed with the here and now, the current moment that they don’t think about and worry about all of the possible things that might happen in the future.  They don’t worry about *maybe* spilling the jar contents because the lid is loose, not being able to quickly find the brush the next time you need it or someone hitting their hip on the drawer left open.  That isn’t now, and those things might not happen.  No, they live right now, happy to be staring at their hairdo or enjoying the jelly sandwich.  When this finally occurred to me I became less annoyed and a little envious.  Their doing it right, I’m stuck in the future, the next, the “what ifs”.  Fretting over the state of my Roth IRA has its place, but it isn’t everyday, the worry about all of things that could happen robs me of the present and the inability to enjoy the jelly sandwhich.  I’ve missed moments, I can’t say which ones obviously but I know that I’ve missed them because I wasn’t present.  So with this new awareness I endeavor to learn from my kids and try to be more in the now and encourage everyone to do the same and savor the moment.

Best wishes for 2015, may your new year be full of peace, love and good happiness stuff.

Tony, Christy, Ainsley, Finley, and Jade

Thursday, January 30, 2014

2103 Letter

                                                                                                                             December 2013
Greetings One and All -

I hope that this letters finds everyone in good health and high spirits.

This year I’ve decided to try something a little bit different.  I’ve asked the kids to give me their thoughts on the past year.  I originally asked them to write their own section, but this didn’t quite work out the way it played out in my mind.  Nonetheless, once they started giving me ideas it was hard to turn the fountain off.  So most of what you are about to read is a re-write of what the kids dictated to me.

We had a pretty busy and productive year.  We once again added to our family.  In late spring we fulfilled a long time aspiration of Christy’s and became chicken farmers.  It might seem like a bit of an overstatement, but we like to consider it farming; there is daily maintenance and care of the animals, it requires their own building / yard space and provides a crop.  We had to do some  construction and yard renovation in preparation which was made dramatically easier thanks to a gift of a coop kit from my grandma.  We created the space next to our greenhouse under the shade of some neighboring trees and built a nice fenced area to keep them safe.  We have a couple of different varieties yielding mostly brown eggs and one green egg.  Given our current trajectory I cannot say what I’ll be writing about next year, a pig or a cow maybe.  I think I need a tractor.  Jade is a real animal lover and has a bit of a horse whisper effect on the birds.  At one point she was able to get them to roost on her head.  Not many others were really willing to even try.

Jade’s been active all year.  She once again played T-Ball, this year graduating to coach pitch.  This is a combination of coach pitched baseball and in the second half of the season player pitched.  She got the opportunity to play many positions but her favorites were shortstop (like her big sister), catcher and pitcher.  She surprised us with how well she did pitching - having a natural motion.  We only had to work with her a couple of nights in the backyard and she was ready.  She got a couple of strikeouts and ground ball outs.  The highlight being the inning where she made all three outs herself.  In the spring she took a gymnastics class that was highlighted by her finally achieving the “pull over”, a move that requires her to pull herself over the uneven bars feet first.  She also mastered the rope climb (which as a parent was not fun to watch, it is very far off the floor).  She is currently taking ballet and tap and is really enjoying learning how to dance.  I must admit that the at-home tap practice isn’t my favorite, my ears can only take so much.

She is also having a good time learning Spanish, geography (especially learning about the Iditarod), going to the library, swimming, playing with barbies and tending to her new Betta fish, Rashina.

Finn was the ultimate hard swinging power hitter this year.  He didn’t always make contact, but when he did it was often for extra bases.  He liked playing second base except when the sun was in his eyes and doing the base races at the end of games.  Right now his favorite things are Spanish, math and learning to read.  His reading of Green and Eggs and Ham is fantastic and gets better everytime.  He’ll often add in some additional commentary that makes each reading unique, keeping the reader interested and laughing.  For him the best reading material is Spiderman and Superman comics.  He cannot get enough.  Luckily the library has a pretty solid selection.  He really liked learning about D.B. Cooper and getting the chance to go the special exhibit at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.  He keeps others in the family busy with his insatiable appetite for games: specifically Carcassonne, Monopoly (whew...that’s a long game), chess, checkers, and card games like gin, golf and war.  He likes to stay active riding his bike, swimming at the lake, throwing the ball to Memphis (especially when camping), playing with his pal, Zarin, doing Legos and attending ECOS (Environmental Connections Outdoor School).



Ainsley has been very busy this year.  In March she was in the musical Oliver! at the Capital Playhouse.  She played an orphan and the pickpocket named Charlie Bates.  Unlike the productions she normally does in the summer, this was a “normal” production that also included adult actors.  This summer she played a Puerto Rican gang member in West Side Story. She enjoyed camping at Lake Wenatchee and swimming at the pool at the Wenatchee hotel.  In early January she will be getting braces on for the second time, this time being for about a year.  This summer she found the best volunteering position possible:  at the library.  She was able to get second volunteer stint this fall and is really enjoying being part of the staff.   She loved attending Les Misérables at the Village Theater in Issaquah.  Thanks to Pandora she and her siblings are very well versed in all the songs.  The production was great and proved just how special live theater can be.

As you can guess by reading about the three kids’ year, Christy has been mighty busy.  I am so proud of her not just with the homeschooling but as a parent in general.  She is everything I would want my kids to have in a parent/teacher/mentor.  She finds creative and engaging ways to teach the kids things and focuses on keeping them involved in the process.  Just talk to the kids about the Iditarod and you’ll see what I mean.  We, along with another family, have a Spanish instructor come to the house an hour each week.  He’s great and all three kids (plus Christy) are getting a lot out of that.  I don’t know how she does it all:  between the chauffeuring, cheffing, cleaning, food shopping and budget tetrising, teaching, chicken farming, gardening.  She handles it all with grace and patience.  

In February I made my first career change in seven years, I left the State and joined the real world again taking a Database Developer job at Oracle.  What a difference.  While I would never claim to have fully acclimated to working at the State, I can say that I forgot what it was like to work in the private sector.  Obviously I haven’t worked with everyone at the company, but of those that I have worked with are impressive.  They all work hard, care about their work, are very helpful and respect everyones’ time.  In seven years at the State I attended zero meetings that started on time.  Now, you’re late if you get there on the hour.  The team I am on is pretty small, only eight people including myself and my manager.  We support the entire North and Latin American financial groups.  As of two weeks ago we are moving to support on a more global role which should be fun.  It has been a pretty big learning experience.  I still have a long way to go, but it has provided me with something I’ve never really had at a job; confidence that I can contribute and make an impact.  I work from home and am still adjusting to that - I find that having the work in front of me all the time makes it difficult to “turn off”.  I’ll eventually find that balance and hope that it is at least seven more years before I make any more changes.



Love,  Tony, Christy, Ainsley, Finn & Jade  

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014 Reading List

January

Never Go Back - Lee Child
Starting the year off right with a new Reacher novel. What more could I want.

Cruel Intent - JA Jance
An Ali Reynolds tale - my first.  Seemed like a little more action and maybe a little more of an edge than her other pieces.  Good stuff.

Shock Wave - John Sandford
Rough Country - John Sandford

My first Virgil Flowers novels, I like him as a character.  What I found interesting is the infusion of religion in these books which, to me, doesn't really show up at all in the Davenport books.  It isn't overwhelming by any stretch but does play a role in Virgil's day.  Maybe it is a bigger deal since I actually noticed it/


February


Taking the Fifth - JA Jance
Trial by Fury - JA Jance
Justice Denied - JA Jance

March

Red Mist - Patricia Cornwell

First Cornwell book. Ehh.  Spoiler alert, it was an unknown twin.  Really?  Seems a little soap opera-esque in the plot twist.  I thought it took a long time for this story to get going.  I only finished it because I'd already invested so much time.

11th Hour - James Patterson
Meh.  A little too paint by number for me.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
As advertised, a really great read.  Don't know if I've ever read a story with a more frustrating ending.  Not to say the ending was disappointing and a let down of the book, but just frustrating from a character stand point.

Drop Shot - Harlan Coben
Coben, probably more than any other author, surprises me the most.  Nice twists but nothing too hokey.

April

Chosen Prey - John Sandford

Hidden Prey - John Sandford

Left For Dead - JA Jance

May

Dead Wrong - JA Jance
Heat Lightning - John Sandford
A lot of times when I read books I try to picture a current actor that could play the book character.  I think I have settled on .  Maybe it is because I watched Mud not that long ago and the physical descriptions matched. 
The Martian - Any Weir
Christy got this from the library on my behalf and after about thirty pages I was hooked.  Somewhat technical and nerdy at times, but a good read. The last fifteen pages or so were quite good, I read those faster than the others.  I'd recommend it.  If you are adverse to crude language then it might not be for you though.

Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Recommended by both Ainsley and Christy.  It was good enough, probably not something I would have read on my own, but good enough to finish.

The Hard Way - Lee Child
Classic Reacher.

June

The Persuader - Lee Child
Mad River - John Sandford
Storm Front - John Sandford
As I've set before, the Flowers novels are a little more bent towards religion, this book seals that feeling in for me.  It took slightly too long to get to the end, but overall good.
Silken Prey - John Sandford

July

Judgement Call - JA Jance
The Brady series is about 95% as good as the JP Beaumont series. The missing 5% is the edge JP gets for being from Seattle.  Home town rules.
Cross My Heart - James Patterson
This is the best Patterson I've read, which I'll admit isn't a whole bunch, but this is a good one.
Missing You - Harlan Coben
Coben once again finds a way to make the last two or three pages stunning.  Once you think everything has been revealed you're hit with another blow.  He's so good at his craft.  I'd love to be around during his writing process and see exactly how tales like this are crafted.
Nine Inches - Tom Perrotta
Didn't read all of the short stories provided here, but they weren't bad.  I know that they were short stories but they still felt a little incomplete and the endings were a little rushed.
The System - I learned a few things here, 1) I really wish I had been an elite athlete in college (or any time for that matter).  Sounds like college life is pretty good for these guys.  There is a lot of bad stuff behind the scenes though.  This book, ultimately, was depressing.  Didn't bother finishing it, after cherry picking some of the chapters I am not sure there is anything positive to take away.

August

Queen of the Night - JA Jance
This is the first book by Jance that I didn't really enjoy.  I couldn't get into it at all, predictable and a little discombobulated in its delivery.  I won't complain too much since I've ready so many others by her that have been winners.
The Enemy - Lee Child
Another story from his days in the army.  His raise and fall in the army has been mentioned in other books, cool to read some of the background on this one.  Not the best overall Reacher novel, but probably one of the faster paced ones.
Sugar Pop Moon -John Florio
Bad Blood - John Sandford
There are certain story lines that, as a parent, just don't sit well anymore.  I am sure fourteen years ago I wouldn't have though twice and cared that much, but child sex abuse, kidnapping and the like are things that I just don't want in my head.  Lame...maybe, but I just don't need to think about that stuff.  That said, it is a decent book.  The story wasn't a surprise and probably isn't the best piece of work.

September

The Bourne Ascendency - Eric Van Lustbader
Of all the Lustbader Bourne novels this one was probably my favorite.  He writes pretty dense novels, lots of related story lines and lots of characters.  I thought that it was easier to keep it all together this time, more than some of the others.

Invisible Prey - John Sanford

October

Field of Prey - John Sandord
I don't know what to think, the story's good, typical Davenport novel.  But it seems to me that Sandfords novels are getting more graphic and more violent as he goes along. The last couple of books I've read, including Bad Blood and Field of Prey are a little much, maybe it's me.  But child sex, excessive rape and killing.  It is getting to be a little too much.

Personal - Lee Child
At this point there aren't many surprises in these novels, you know what you are going to get.  This isn't a knock really, still good.

Sharp Objects -  Gillian Flynn
Not too bad, compared to Gone Girl and can see that this book came first.

November

The Burning Room - Michael Connely
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
You can see the evolution of her writing style and their are components here that make their way into Gone Girl.  The different character perspectives, changing of time from past to present.  The story though is just a little too much.  It feel almost like she was trying to prove a point, that women can write dark, heavy material like men.  It was just a little too much.

December

Web of Evil - JA Jance
Part of the problem I have is that I don't read books/series in sequence.  I read whatever I can get at the time.  In this case I knew a fair amount of what was going to happen in this story based on other books I'd already read.  But it was still a good read and I still wanted to continue to read it, I think that is a statement on the quality of material Jance produces.
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
Ainsley read this as part of her book club, her first real suspense/mystery type book.  I haven't read anything Christie before so when Ainsley suggested that I read it, thinking I would like it, I thought it was good opportunity to maybe find a new author.  One thing that sticks out right away is the difference in the language, part of it is geographical (England) and part of it is temporal (originally produced in the 30's).  For me it makes it slightly harder to read, but a good story nonetheless.
Deadline - John Sandford
It might be that the Virgil novels are better than Davenport.  At least, for me, the investigation seems a little more complex.




Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Reading List


January

The Affair - Lee Child

A great look back to why Reacher left the army.  I'm finding that as the series progresses they are becoming a little more violent - or I am becoming a little more sensitive.  A solid read.

The Black Box - Michael Connelly

Classic Harry Bosch.  Starts off with the LA riots of the 90's and follows Bosch as he tries to solve a murder 20 years later.  Vintage Bosch tenacity.  As with the others, a really good read.

Wanted Man - Lee Child

Picks ups right where Worth Dying for left off...almost literally.  One thing that I appreciate is the attention to detail that Child puts into this series.  The fact that Reacher's arms where a mess through Worth Dying For as a result of the action in 61 hours, and again, in this novel how his broken nose continued to be an issue for him through Wanted Man.

The Innocent - Harlan Coben

This is the third or fourth Coben I've read - all good.  I can see why those who read Connelly and Child also read Coben.  He is "twistier" than the other two, whatever that is worth.  I am starting to see little things and figure things out a little faster now.  However, the very end was a bit of a surprise...

February 

Promise Me - Harlan Coben

My first Myron Bolitar novel.  This is the reason my former colleague recommended Coben to me in the first place, so it is exciting to finally get a chance to read a novel with him as a character.  As expected, at least now that I've read a few Coben novels, the twists that wrap up the book were good.  This set of twists were more unexpected than "The Innocent".  Given this was my introduction to this set of characters, I can say that I like Win already.

Echo Burning - Lee Child (In Progress)

Going back into the earlier days of Jack Reacher.  Good story, decent action and fun to see how, in some aspects, his characters has changed much from this earlier book to the current installments.  I think was draws me to him the most is the sense of right and wrong and sticking up for people.  This is similar to the Repairman Jack character as well which I've always enjoyed.

Tripwire - Lee Child

The is the first Reacher book that I didn't totally love.  It started out good and then kind of ground to a halt.  I thought the story was a little slow to develop, didn't have the same level of action as the others and ended with a little on the lame side.  Maybe if I had read these in order I wouldn't feel this way, but so far this is the weakest book in the series.

March

One Shot - Lee Child
It took me a while to come around to read this one because I'd already seen the movie and was sure that it was going to be different.  I thought the movie was alright on its own.  After reading the book there is the seemingly requisite disparity between the two. Why a movie cannot be a one to one representation of the book it is supposed to represent is a mystery.  A pretty good story, a little bit more of the investigative, analytic mind of Reacher.  I liked the book all the same.

Die Trying - Lee Child
Decent action, but there was a slightly higher requirement to suspend belief than I maybe cared for.  Some of the situations Reacher survives in this one were a little much.  Still a decent read.

April

Kill Alex Cross - James Patterson
This is my first James Patterson novel and, by default, my fist Alex Cross book.  This book, with its micro twitter-like chapters was a quick read.  It was pretty fast paced.  There are really two stories throughout the book and it doesn't take too long to determine that the story lines aren't really connected. All the same, the book does a nice job of keeping you interesting, providing just enough details to keep you reading.  Since Patterson apparently isn't the sole author of his books it is hard to determine if this is representative of his other works.  I might give another one a try though.

May

Hold Tight - Harlan Coben
I was able to figure most of this one out.  Not to say it wasn't good, but just didn't have my guessing as much.  The one exception is the final "medical" twist at the end, but otherwise a good story.

Live Wire - Harlan Coben
Another good Myron Bolitar novel.  Still think that Win is the best part.

Inferno - Dan Brown
I would say that this was just an OK book. I think the concept was interesting and as with the other Robert Langdon novels, the history and description of art really makes me want to travel.  In this case I wanted to go to Florence and see these things that were so well brought to life in the book.  While the political aspect of this story will never reach the pitch that the Da Vinci Code brought, it is in fact something that does need more attention.  I don't think this is Brown's strongest work, the pace was slower than the others and the story not quite a strong  But a fair read all the same.

June

Stay Close - Harlan Coben
Much like Hold Tight, I was able to decipher this one.  Given the surprises that the first books I read held this is a little disappointing and does take away from the joy a little bit.  Not much, I still enjoyed the story and one of the things that I like about Coben is how characters from each of the books show up all of the time (Muse, Flair, etc.).  Something about that I really like.

Long Lost - Harlan Coben
Classic Coben.  No complaints, solid read.

July

The Bat - Jo Nesbro
Read this because I saw somewhere that Michael Connely liked this author.  It was OK.  Did make me want to visit Australia though.

Until Proven Guilty - JA Jance
My first Jance novel.  Fun to read something set in Seattle.  Pretty good story.  I had started this once before quite a while ago and couldn't get into it.  Things went better this time.  Some decent twists and turns here.  I thought that JP Beaumont was a bit like Connelly's Bosch character which isn't a knock.  I'll probably read another which says something.

August

At Risk - Partricia Cornwell
Front - Patricia Cornwell

These two books go together with At Risk introducing the character Win Garano.  These are pretty quick reads and my first introduction to Cornwell's work.  I doubt these are representative of her work because I found both stories to be a bit rushed, a little underdeveloped and with a quick resolution at the end.

September

Betrayal of Trust - JA Jance
Takes place in Olympia, just another added bonus to a good story.

Fire and Ice - JA Jance
Another solid story, my first introduction to her Brady character.

Buried Prey - John Sandford
Based on a half-assed recommendation from a book store employee I took a chance.  Sandford delivers a great character in Davenport.  I think this is one of the later books in the long running series, but it is a really good one to start as there is a good portion of the book that takes place in the past and provides a good history of the main character and how he got to where he is today.

October


Wicked Prey - John Sandford
Storm Prey - John Sandford

Although I am once again joining an existing series and reading them out of order I am finding each one to be a great read.  Again, he develops the story and release the details and clues evenly throughout, not leaving all of the discovery and "aha" moments to the last few pages.  Recommended reading.

November

Bad Luck and Trouble - Lee Child
Phantom Prey - John Sandford
Justice Denied - JA Jance


December

Mortal Prey - John Sandford
It was nice to see a Davenport foe with some intelligence.  As usual, solid.
Naked Prey - John Sandford
Gods of Guilt - Michael Connelly
Reading a new Connelly novel is like a good comfort food.  Felt good to come "home".  As expected, a great read with some great back and forth within the courtroom.  Micky is having a tough time but that just makes his character more realistic and human.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Letter

Greetings One and All -

I hope that this letters finds everyone in good heath and high spirits.

The biggest news of the year is the growth of our family. On March 31st we adopted. It was something that has been in the works for quite some time really, dating back to 2003. Our new little guy is one year old and when we met him for the first time we knew in about five nanoseconds that this was a perfect match. He'd been abandoned and was in foster care for about two weeks before we brought him home.

It has been an adjustment to say the least. It has taken some time to re-adjust to having a new young one in the house. The interrupted sleep, the constant need for attention, feeding schedules and of course cleaning up his messes. He isn't all that big but his energy takes up a lot of space in our house. The one good thing is that all of the other kids are old enough to help. It isn't always as much as Christy and I would like, but it is better than being on our own. After a little deliberation, which occurred in the car on the way home, we decided on the name Memphis.

Back in 2003 when I was starting a new job in Tacoma, we moved in with our friend, Carol, until we could find a place of our own. Carol had a roommate named Sophie and Ainsley quickly fell in love with her. Ainsley's attachment to Sophie lasted long after we moved out and started the obsession that led us to getting Memphis. You see Sophie is an English Springer Spaniel and Memphis is a Black Lab. Ainsley begged us for years for a dog which was something that we were just not ready for. So a little bit ago I explained that getting a dog requires a lot of work and money. So I set a goal of $400 for all three kids to raise. This, in my mind, was the amount that would be needed for adoption, getting supplies and having a little left over for upcoming vet visits. It was also a number that I thought would take years to accomplish and therefore postpone this from becoming a reality anytime soon. Turns out it took about six months. My Grandma Virginia donated a fairly large amount, others chipped in, couch cushions were mined, savings accounts raided, purses emptied, and mounds of coins pooled. All of sudden they'd amassed $407 dollars. Damn it. Let the dog hunting begin.

Here are a few things that I have learned about owning a dog. First, it really is like having a new baby in the house, at least for the first couple of months. Dog poop has a Velcro like relationship with grass. You simply cannot get all of it off. So we have a policy of throwing some dirt on the left-overs to reduce the chance of someone stepping in it and bringing it into the house. By the way, asking our kids to wear shoes in the backyard is a senseless task, it just doesn't happen and they are pretty good at finding the spots that haven't been covered in dirt. So now our back yard is full of mini mounds of dirt - kind of like the mima mounds without the mystery and intrigue. The absolute best way to find undiscovered piles of poop is to mow or weed whack the yard - you are guaranteed to run into or step in a pile. Young dogs listen and obey about as well as a one year old child.

On the whole Memphis has acclimated pretty well. The first camping trip was a little rough, but the second was a vast improvement. I don't think he has taken to Ainsley as much as should was hoping, but I do believe that she is happy. That part helps with the other issues.

Ainsley continues to participate in the Kids as Play theater program. This year she was in Annie, playing one of the orphans. She has such a good time performing that she had a hard time not smiling during "It's a hard knock life". The play turned out great - the stage version is a little different than the movie. She also continues to take piano lessons - the pieces are becoming more complex as she works her way through the different periods of classical music. She is talented and it is enjoyable to watch her grow. She participated in an acting class this fall that focused on developing characters and writing scenes and dialogue. She decided to end her Irish dancing career but replaced it this spring with softball. Aside from being cold and little wet sometimes, this was a good time. Her team participated in a weekend tournament. They lost their first game and then came back to win every other game to play for the championship. She made a great catch while playing left field to help seal one of the victories. She also played second base and quite a few games as catcher (Christy's position). She is maintaining a few different pen pals and continues to read a ton of books. She found a cool little book club at the library that meets once a month and gives the kids their own copy of the book.

We did discover that there is one thing that she needs to work on: hair cutting. This summer she decided to give Jade a small trim. Turns out the left was uneven compared to the right, so started the back and forth effort of getting the two sides to match. The longer she cut the shorter it got. Yikes! The look on her face when she came to ask Christy for help was something else. "Her bangs are longer than the back". Huh? It all worked out though, a trip to a professional was able to set us straight and it turns about Jade looks pretty darn cute.

Ainsley is really growing up, she's almost as tall as Christy and has developed a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not ready for this.

Finn's creativity continues to grow. The old joke about kids liking the cardboard box more than the contents is pretty true for him. More than once we've had to canvas both the East and West side of Olympia looking for boxes for him to play with. A few weeks ago we were at the Dollar Store and walked past the door that leads to their storage area. An employee was there standing next to a large stack of broken down boxes and was in the process of tearing down some more. Finn turned to me in horror and asked "Why are they ruining all of those boxes?". It was like learning how hotdogs are made. He couldn't imagine anything worse. Finn has also become a big fan of chess and checkers. It didn't take too long for him to develop the skill of looking forward and understanding how his move will affect his opponents moves. There was a time that playing with him lacked excitement and fun - there are only so many times that you can maneuver your pieces in a way to set-up of triple jump for him. This time has passed - he gets it now. You can actually play him straight up and there's a chance you'll lose. He really likes winning, maybe a little too much. Aside from cardboard, he uses a lot of scotch tape (I mean a lot). He also paints and draws quite a bit and seems to really like make the ideas in his head come alive.

Jade finished up her first year of ballet with a recital in May at the Washington Center for Performing Arts. She did a great job and looked adorable. She is developing a love of cooking often jumping at the chance to help Christy in the kitchen. She is also a natural caregiver, when someone isn't feeling well she'll fetch them water, set-up their bed for sleeping and offer up one of her famous massages. When Ainsley was three she used to develop performances for us and Grandpa Jim once stated that "you better get her on stage someday". This was true, but it is even more true for Jade. We listen to a lot of music of differing genres throughout the day. Her ability to pick up the rhythm and create a dance to anything that is playing is really impressive. She has a natural sense of the mood and can find ways to move and make her body flow that matches the music so well. There is a joy to her dance that you can sense when you watch - there isn't really any thought involved, it just happens for her. She loves musicals and picks up on lyrics pretty quickly (well mostly). The more times she sings a song the further the words meander from the original. It can often create a funny lyric, but the laughter isn't always well received.

Both Finn and Jade had a pretty busy summer. They took two sets of swimming lessons and played T-Ball for the first time. Jade was able to progress through the different levels of swimming a little faster than Finn...she's apparently part mermaid. After the first week they went to the lake to cool down and she told Christy that she didn't need her arm floats anymore. Seems she doesn't suffer a confidence problem. Finn is a talented baseball player. He has a really strong and accurate throwing arm and has great power at the plate. His very first at bat of the season was a bases clearing home run. He hits well into the outfield grass. His base running is an all or nothing effort - long strides, arms pumping with eyes focused. Getting him to slow down and stop at first base is a bit of a chore. As the only girl on the team, the Black Jaguars, Jade showed the boys that girls can play and look fashionable at the same time.

Christy continues to be the family teacher. While Jade told her once this year that she was "just pretending to be a teacher," the reality couldn't be further from the truth. She is a great educator. One of the tools she uses with great efficiency is re-framing a situation. When Edison was working on the lightbulb he tried 1000 different elements before coming up with the final solution. When asked what it was like to fail so many times he replied, "I didn't fail, I found 1000 things that didn't work". We were at a park earlier in the year and the kids and I were playing tag. After a few rounds of working hard to not be "it" and working even harder to tag one of the kids, I decided that I needed a break. More accurately, I needed an oxygen tank. Soon after sitting down, Finn and Jade started whining and telling me that they wanted to play some more. I quickly became frustrated and tersely asked the kids why they couldn't be happy with what I was able to do and to appreciate the time I had already given. This didn't work. The kids were still sad. Christy quickly re-framed their bemoaning to "you were having fun and just like playing with your Dad and would like to do it some more". They shook their heads in agreement. Oh man, when you put it that way I'm a jerk - who can be frustrated that your kids like playing with you? She wasn't really teaching me that I am an A-hole (even though I felt like one), but about hearing what the kids are actually saying. She is much better at this than I am. I just wish she was always around to translate for me.

She is getting a little help "pretending" this year by taking the kids to Olympia Regional Learning Academy one day a week. All three kids are taking classes on Tuesdays. She is living the Rockwell-esque version of a stay-at-home mom , making lunches, driving the kids to school, sitting down and doing homework, etc. She is really doing a fantastic job managing it all and this is evidenced by how well the kids are doing and how much they are enjoying their time there.
We are all so lucky to have her. She takes such great care of all of us and provides us all with an abundance of love and support that we couldn't possible show our appreciation for.

Years ago when I got my first DBA job it was really a training position. I had no background in Oracle and near zero experience. At the same time another guy was hired too. The manager at the time tried to create a small bit of competitive environment between us, trying to force us into these situations where we would try to “out do” eachother. I decided that I wasn't really that competitive and the situation turned me off and in my mind didn't work. Somewhere in my head it was "cooler" to be less competitive and more relaxed. Turns out I'm a fraud - I am competitive. I'll stop pretending now. Attending all of Ainsley's softball games taught me this - pretty quickly. Sometimes discussing (a little loudly) my disagreement with the umpire's inconsistent strike zone or calls at first base. And providing loud cheers of "run hard", "good eye", "nice throw" and "great catch". At the same time it is this machismo that makes me a good employee and push myself to be better. Maybe the State needs to hire more competitive people so that there can be a small game of one upness that will progress our ability to serve. I am not talking about the level of competitiveness that leads to a ridiculous habanero eating contest, but the kind that results in pride. "Look at this great product they've made, let's try to make one better". Dare to dream I guess.

I hope that 2013 proves to be everyone's finest and is filled with peace, love and good happiness stuff.

Best Wishes,


Tony, Christy, Ainsley, Finley, Jade and Memphis