Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown, is a charming children's book about a tiger who has grown tired of the very proper and conservative society in which he lives.  He looks very dapper in that top hat and bow tie, but Mr. Tiger just wants to be free.  When he finally starts acting on this desire, however, his friends and neighbors aren't so happy about it, and he has to leave the city.

Just from this, it sounds like kind of a sad story about intolerance, but Mr. Tiger Goes Wild has a nice ending.  The wild turns out not to be as great as Mr. Tiger expected, and he returns to the city, presumably resigned to resume his previous conformity to the society's rules about behavior and fancy dress.  To his surprise, though, all his friends and neighbors have apparently decided maybe Mr. Tiger had the right idea (to an extent) --- everyone seems to have found a nice balance between being proper and being wild, and they welcome Mr. Tiger back with open arms (open forelimbs?).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pyscho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of

Psycho USA by Harold Schechter is a non-fiction true crime ebook that I received through NetGalley.  In this book, Schechter has compiled short but gruesome accounts of several of the most shocking murderers in United States history.  These men and women were, in their respective times, considered to be the perpetrators of Crimes of the Century - the most vile and atrocious fiends this country had ever seen.  But they have since faded into obscurity.

Now, however, Schechter has brought them back.  Psycho USA is separated into seven sections, each representing different eras, and each chapter within those sections is devoted to one killer.  Section I, for example, covers the period from 1782-1826, and the last section covers from 1941-1961.  Within many of the chapters are also some side-note boxes, covering points of interest that are mentioned in the main text, such as murder ballads or a discussion on the history and/or psychology behind a particular style of murder.  I found these very interesting, and although I call them "side notes," they're really more like mini-chapters in some cases, since they're more than just little blurbs.  They're just not always specifically about the person who was discussed in that chapter.

Schechter also includes a fair few photos and a lot of quotes from the killers' confessions.  Some of these people just look so "normal," that it really makes me think more about how you really can never tell with anyone how flipping crazy they might be just from looking at them.  Reading the words of some of them, however, it kind of slaps you in the face with how obviously unbalanced they were, and you have to wonder how in the world the people who knew them didn't realize this before the person finally got found out and convicted.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock is the first book in the iconic Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, written by various authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.  Nancy Drew has been a favorite of girls for decades, and her popularity has remained strong to this day, as is evidenced by the many revivals of book series, film adaptations, and even video games.  I even just found out that there is an annual Nancy Drew convention!  You can bet your ass that is a convention I would cosplay at, like...24/7.

Anyway.  So the point here is that I'm sure Nancy Drew needs no introduction, and maybe it's as "pointless" to review books from this franchise as it is to review such modern-day classics as Harry Potter.  But here it is.

Nancy Drew is an 18-year-old  (or 16-year-old, depending on how old your edition is) girl in the midwestern USA and the only child of star lawyer, Carson Drew.  They live in the small-ish town of River Heights, with their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen.  Nancy's mother passed away when Nancy was still very young, and Hannah became like a mother to her.  I haven't read any of these books (except for The Secret of the Old Clock, of course) for years, but I seem to remember Hannah not doing much besides cook.  But that is beside the point.  Nancy is pretty and bright, with a strong sense of personal responsibility and an unswerving sense of right and wrong.  She is quick-thinking and a little sassy, but always friendly and willing to lend a hand wherever one might be needed.  Nancy might get herself into situations at times where you, the reader, are thinking to yourself "what in the hell were you thinking, Nancy Drew, don't you know any better???"  But she never panics - she talks herself calmly and rationally through any predicament, and finds a way out.  A stark contrast to many other female characters of her time, Nancy Drew does not need a man to save her.  HELL no.  She puts on her fabulous outfits and gets in her fancy convertible and she gets shit done.  I mean, in the first chapter of Secret of the Old Clock alone, Nancy SAVES A CHILD'S LIFE.

And the action and suspense just picks up momentum from there.  I mean, yeah, this book was written originally in 1930, then revamped in 1959, so it is a little tame and predictable, and Nancy has some very Mary Sue-like qualities about her, in that she is basically Perfection Incarnate.  She is caring and thoughtful and makes fast friends with everyone (except thieves and rude people, of course, in which case WATCH OUT because she will drive down the highway or across town to report you to the police or the state troopers, even if it means she might be a little late for dinner).  She is beautiful and always very fashionably dressed.  She always knows just what to do in any situation, and always comes out on top.  And even though she is so awesome and everyone always acknowledges how freaking awesome she is, she is always very modest about it.

Regardless, Nancy Drew is an excellent role model for young girls, because even though she does exhibit all these ideally feminine qualities, she has a brilliant and rational mind and is not afraid to speak her mind when necessary.  She has a lot of good sense, and is an overall genuinely nice person.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport

Rescuing the Children:  The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge is a non-fiction book about the Kindertransport movement; this was an heroic effort made to evacuate as many Jewish children as possible out of Nazi-controlled Europe just before World War II really started.  This is a part of (pre)-Holocaust history that, sadly, not many people are aware of.  In 1938, nine months before war was declared, things were getting more and more dangerous for European Jews.  Hitler had what seems like almost everyone convinced that the Jews were to blame for their hard times, and these people reacted with hatred and violence.   Many tried to escape as refugees to other countries, fearing the worst for themselves and their families if they stayed any longer in their native countries - but many were refused entry.  The Great Depression gave governments an excuse to bar these people from seeking a safe haven, by being concerned that what precious few jobs they had available would go to these new immigrants rather than to their own citizens.

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, was the real catalyst, though, for the birth of the Kindertransport movement.  Mobs of Hitler's followers destroyed Jewish-owned properties, including homes and places of worship.  Jews were killed, and many were arrested and sent to concentration camps.  Jewish parents were faced with what was probably the hardest decision they would ever have to make in their lives:  sending their children thousands of miles away to be taken in by strangers, not knowing when or if they would ever see them again.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Standing in the Light

Standing in the Light:  The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan is a fictional diary by Mary Pope Osborne, written for the Dear America series.  Caty Logan is a 13-year-old girl living with her family in the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania.  The Logans are Quakers - a pacifist religious group that began in England and spread to North America in the late 1600s, when some of them emigrated to escape religious persecution.  Quakers have been historically very politically active in the fight for universal civil rights and gender equality, although they also tend to practice modesty and humility in general behavior and appearance (at least during the time in which this book is set).

It is 1763, just after the French and Indian War, and Caty is worried because there have been reports of raids on farmers around the valley, in retaliation of the English government going back on their treaties with the local villages regarding land ownership.  Caty's father believes that their family will be safe if they show the Indians that they trust them, and has faith in the friendly relations the Quakers have had with the Delaware Indians in the past.  Despite this, however, Caty and her brother Thomas are taken captive on their way to school one winter morning; after hearing the rumors at school of people being scalped, Caty fears the worst.

After a while, Caty loses track of the days, though curiosity and what seems like admiration causes her captors to allow her to continue writing in her diary, and from the day she and Thomas are taken, the book becomes a letter to their father, in case it should ever find its way back to him.

Once the small party reaches a village, Thomas is taken away:  will she ever see him or the rest of their family again?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Confident Woman

The Confident Woman:  How to Boost Self-Esteem and Happiness for Everyday Women by Carolina Ordoñez is exactly what it sounds like:  a self-help book for women.  Ordoñez has taken her journey from being a meek and depressed young girl to a confident and successful woman, sharing anecdotes of her own experience while explaining what she did to improve herself.  Each chapter focuses on one particular aspect, and Ordoñez discusses why the issue is important to your self-esteem, what she did to change this aspect in her own life, and offers advice as to what she personally recommends to truly get the most out of improving yourself with regards to this aspect.  At the end of the book are lists of recommended reading and videos to watch, which are relevant to the bettering of oneself. 


The Confident Woman may be a quick read, but this is certainly not a book that guarantees a quick fix for your self-esteem issues.  To be completely honest, when I started it, I actually wondered a little whether such a short book could really even be all that helpful.  And now that I've finished reading?  My verdict is that The Confident Woman is absolutely a helpful book.  I tend to be fairly picky about the self-help books that I pick up, since most of them end up falling well short of their purpose for me.  Once in a while, though, I come a cross one, or one is brought to my attention, that shows a bit of promise, and this was one.

Ordoñez writes in a tone that is rather conversational, and I got the sense that I was being given advice by a friend or a trusted acquaintance.  I've read other books of this nature that try to achieve this same tone only to end up coming across as patronizing or condescending, but I got none of that sense from this book.  English is not Ordoñez's first language, and there were some instances where I picked up on that either from the grammar or the language used, and in general, the technical aspects of the book were kind of rough around the edges, so I'd probably send it to an editor for some tidying up, if it were me.  I don't feel that the content of the book suffered much because of this, though, and I think I got a lot out of reading it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Time to Kill

John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, is a courtroom drama set in 1980s Clanton, Mississippi.  A 10-year-old girl is raped and left for dead by two men, who are subsequently arrested for the crime.  The father, Vietnam veteran Carl Lee Hailey, acquires an M-16 and kills them both as they exit the courthouse after their hearing.  This seems pretty cut and dry:  except it becomes a huge controversy in the small town, because Carl Lee and his daughter are black, and the two men are white.  These days, most people I think would either think "so?" or else would not admit to having a prejudice, but this is a small Southern town with a mostly white population, and being that it is the 1980s, the Civil Rights Movement really wasn't all that long ago.  So there is a strong racial overtone to the issue, and this sets the stage for the rest of the book, especially when Carl Lee's trial makes national news, and the KKK gets involved.


I'll be honest with you guys.  Courtroom drama and legal thrillers are not really my thing.  Sure, I am studying criminal justice as a minor, but my concentration is in forensics:  I'm more interested in the investigation and laboratory analysis side of things, not so much the hanging-around-in-a-courthouse-and-meeting-with-lawyers side of things.  So if this book had not been assigned for the criminal justice class I've been taking this summer, I would probably not have ever bothered to pick this up.  It was my first time reading Grisham, and may well be the last.  I know he is a best-selling author, but this just was not for me.  I haven't seen the movie adaptation, so maybe adding a live-action element makes the story more compelling, but as far as the book goes, I was actually pretty bored through about 99% of it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Craving by Kristina Meister, the first in her Apocalyptic series, is a sort of urban fantasy detective novel with a heavy philosophical bent.  Lilith Pierce flies from her home in California to make her estranged sister Eva's final arrangements after getting the call that Eva has committed suicide.  When she goes back to the station the next day to collect Eva's body, however, it turns out the last few days were a vision --- they never actually happened.  Eva once told Lilith that "everything means something," and with that in mind, she is convinced that there is more to her sister's death than meets the eye.  With the help of her sister's shelves of handwritten journals and a soon-to-be-retired police detective, Lilith begins to investigate Eva's life, and with every step, she finds herself becoming more and more directly involved in the mysterious underworld Eva left behind.


Sorry for the crazy delay in getting this review up, everyone!  School and things have been keeping me occupied and blogging got a little shunted to the side for a while, but I am back!  This might be running a little more slowly for a while, but I hated being on my unexpected hiatus, and I hope to not be inactive for such a long time again.

Anyway, so I finished Craving quite a while ago, but sitting here and thinking about it to write this has brought the story and the character pretty easily to the front of my mind again.  The philosophy/spiritualism is a little on the heavy side for some, I think, so it would certainly not be everyone's cup of tea; it wasn't preachy exactly, but if you're looking for more of a "mindless" read to just kick back and get through, I don't think I'd recommend this one.

That being said, I rather enjoyed Craving, in part because it ended up being very different from what I'd expected.  Based on the sisters' names and on the title, I thought this would be a Judeo-Christian morals in disguise kind of thing - Eva and Lilith?  Yeah.  Not very subtle, or so I thought.  But most of the philosophy in the book centers around Buddhism, which is something I honestly don't know too much about, so if anything is inaccurate, I wouldn't know.  It all sounded very well-researched to me, so either way, it made for some fairly rich storytelling.  The vampire element was interesting and because of the nature of the rest of the plot, Meister has given the reader an "unconventional" take on that niche that might be at least a little more palatable to vampire "purists" than the sparkling variety presented by Meyers in the Twilight saga.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, as I am sure at least most of you know, is the final installment of the widely popular Hunger Games trilogy.  It picks up a little bit after the final events in Catching Fire, so we've got a little catching up to do with Katniss as to what the heck is going on.  Probably you already had a clue, though, because it's not entirely difficult to figure at least most of that business out.  She's managed to survive the arena again, but the reality of what is going on in the districts and in the Capitol is overwhelming at best.  The pattern continues that every decision she makes, thought-out or not, seems to result in torture or loss of life, but the rebels want her to become the public face and voice of the revolution.  Do the potential benefits of this outweigh the certain consequences it will have on the prisoners of the Capitol?  Or will she just end up doing more damage than actual good?  Will the districts succeed in overthrowing the Capitol, or will things just end up worse for everyone than before?


I was originally reading something else for my non-school book, but I got kind of bored with that, what with its Wall Street-central plot, so when Mockingjay finally came in the mail, I decided to go ahead and read this one instead (although I did re-read the first two in the trilogy before starting on know you would have done the same).  Anyway, I got through this book very quickly, as I did the others.  Collins has a true talent for writing a hell of a page-turner, and I think it is to her credit that she manages to write a story that appeals so deeply to so many people, without having any sex in the plot.  I mean, okay, there is some pretty obvious sexual tension, but I'm talking about some sexytimes action scenes.  I'm pretty grateful for that, actually, because I'm sure that would have made Katniss about a million times more confused about her conflicted feelings for Gale and Peeta, and I had enough vicarious anxiety to deal with, without all that nonsense.

As for regular ol' action, though, there is plenty of that to go around, especially toward the end.  This kind of book is difficult to write a review of partly for that reason - I would hate to be less vague and inadvertently include spoilers, but trust me when I say that shit is going down all over the place here.  Having read the book finally, I'm more excited to see how they'll present it all in the film adaptation - it is sure to be pretty visually dynamic.  

I am also NOT looking forward to the film adaptation, though, because I spent the entire last third of the book yelling OHMYGOD and weeping like a small, emotionally disturbed child.  I finished the book late last night (early this morning?) and I am still not entirely sure how I feel about how it all ended.  I appreciate that Collins provided a more realistic end to things, since it is not what I'd call the Happiest Ever After, but it's still satisfying on some level, albeit a smidge unsettling in a way.  See?  Still not 100% how I feel about it all, except to say that it was a hell of a way to wrap things up.  

Mockingjay ended up being my least favorite of the trilogy, but that in no way means I didn't like it.  I still think they're all phenomenal, and a great contribution to the dystopian sub-genre.  Just, you know, if you're a total sap like me, maybe read it with a box of tissues handy or something, and not in the middle of the night if you live with someone who is a light sleeper, since you might wake them up with all the crying-out in shock and disbelief.



Scholastic Press

Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
The Hunger Games
- The Hunger Games (Book 1)
- Catching Fire (Book 2)
* Mockingjay (Book 3)
See what others are saying about it, or buy it now:
Better World Books


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Confessions of an Angry Girl

Confessions of an Angry Girl is a debut novel by Louise Rozett, and the first book in her Confessions series.  Rose Zarelli is starting her freshman year at Union High School, and if you thought your high school days sucked, there is a good chance Rose's freshman year tops that.  Practically the whole town is walking on eggshells and the faculty at school are treating her like she's fragile because her dad died over the summer; he was an engineer, and when he lost his job, he went to Iraq on a contract with the military.  He was riding in a convoy when they went over an IED.

Her mother has been in shock since she got the call, and is completely distant.  Her brother is off at college and he seems to have changed, too.  Rose is angry.  She's cynical, irritable, and everything seems to be going completely wrong this year.  It's not just her family, either - her best friend, Tracy, is a fashion-conscious cheerleader on a quest to be popular.  Rose doesn't really give a shit whether or not she's one of the "cool kids."  She doesn't understand Tracy's new obsessions with partying and losing her virginity to her jerk jock boyfriend, Matt.  She doesn't seem to understand anything that any of her classmates find interesting or cool or fun.  But whatever.

And then, there is Jamie Forta.  She used to have a crush on him, back when he played hockey with her brother.  Seeing him again, maybe she still likes him.  He seems interested in talking to her, maybe being friends, but there's no way he could be into her - she's not pretty, and she's pretty much his complete opposite.  I mean, she's an AP student, and he's in remedial English.  He got kicked out of hockey for high-sticking another kid, and he's still apparently kind of a badass.  Nope, no way a guy like that would be interested in a girl like her.  Oh, and there's also the fact that he's dating a cheerleader - Regina.  One of her ex-best-friend's new best friends.  Regina's psychotically jealous and kind of a bitch, and has convinced herself there is something going on between Rose and Jamie; so of course she makes it her singular ambition to make Rose's life hell.

Things kind of spiral way out of control, as you may have guessed.  So yeah, Rose is angry.  She's sorta pissed, actually.  How can you not become completely irate, enraged, furious...when your life is falling to pieces all around you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Innocent Mage

Karen Miller's fantasy duology, Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, begins with The Innocent Mage; Asher is a humble fisherman's son, the youngest of several, and the unspoken favorite.  His father is getting old, however, his health and spirits never quite the same since his wife's death.  Asher vowed to himself that he would leave their village of Restharven and make his way inland to the city; there, he would find a way to make a fortune.  The idea being that after one year, he would return home to purchase a new boat for himself and his father, and have enough left over for his father to live the rest of his days in comfort.

What Asher doesn't know is that someone is expecting him.

Asher is Olken, the native race of Lur.  Simple country folk, who became peasants and servants to the kingdom that was established with the arrival of the refugee Doranen people.  The Doranen are a race of powerful magicians who fled their home on the other side of the mountains and their leader, Barl, created a magical wall along the mountains and along a newly created reef along the coast, a ward surrounding the new kingdom from the outside world and the danger of her former beloved, Morgan.  The wall is held firmly in place by the subtle, natural magic of the Olken people, along with the fabrication of inland weather patterns by herself.  The creation of the wall is her undoing, however, and the task of maintaining the protection of the wall falls to her successors; ever since those times, each king's heir has had the additional title of Weather-Worker.  And as the centuries went by, the Doranen magic being blatant and strong, it became forgotten that the Olken possessed a magic of their own.

Forgotten by all, except for those members of a small secret society, and the seer, Jervale's Heir.  It is this seer who has had visions of Asher in connection with the prophecy of the Innocent Mage and the Final Days.   It becomes even more clear to her that he is the one they've been waiting for, when by chance, Asher is offered a position at the palace stables by Prince Gar.  All the signs seem to be falling into place.

Asher is surly and more than a little rough around the edges, though, and while his unapologetic honesty earns him the respect of the prince, it also may earn him some enemies.  As the year passes, Dathne becomes uncertain with the waiting whether she was correct in interpreting her visions of him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Breed by Chase Novak (pseudonym for Scott Spencer) starts out with the reader meeting Alex and Leslie Twisden, a wealthy Manhattan couple, madly in a very Happily Ever After, devil-may-care kind of love.  They live on the Upper East Side, in a beautiful town house that has been in Alex's family for generations.  Alex is a well-known, highly successful lawyer, and Leslie has a respected position as an editor of children's books.  Their life together is perfect, except for one thing:  they want a child.  They want a child badly, especially Alex; he is a bit older than Leslie and considers adoption a very last resort, if it's to be an option at all.  He's old-fashioned and wants a proper heir; he wants to continue the Twisden line, and that means leaving a genetic legacy.  Money is no object, but while it can purchase every known treatment at every possible clinic with every fertility specialist they can find, no amount can guarantee that Leslie will conceive.  

Just when they're about ready to give up on trying to get pregnant, they hear about a doctor in Slovenia who has nearly a 100% success rate with his fertility treatment.  They've never heard of this man before, and they know nothing about what the actual treatment entails, but they are desperate.  When they get to the doctor's office, the place is questionable and the doctor himself seems like a madman, but they go through with the painful procedure anyway, and sure enough, it works.  It works so well, in fact, that Leslie becomes pregnant with twins.

Ten years later, the side effects of the treatment have taken a tremendous toll on both Alex and Leslie, and they've closed themselves off from the outside world, for the most part.  They take turns walking the children to and from school each day, but beyond that, life is spent in secret.  So secret, in fact, that much of what goes on in their once-luxurious home is a mystery even to the twins.  Adam and Alice are smart, though, and have long since realized that there is something very "off" about the way they live and the way their parents behave.  For one thing, they don't quite understand why they need to be locked in their rooms at night.

Adam's been spying on his parents, though, by listening to them at night through their old baby monitor, and what he hears makes him more and more uneasy.  Slowly, he begins to fear for both his and his sister's lives, and one night, they run away.  Finally out in the world, the twins begin to learn the very terrifying answers to both the questions they've asked and those they've been afraid to ask.  Their situation, they find, is worse than they could ever have imagined, and the most horrifying truth of all is that there may not be anything they can do to escape it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic

Okay, so I was about to start reading something else entirely, but I had ordered Voice-Over Voice Actor, and when UPS brought it, I couldn't resist diving into it right away.  And I'm not one of those people who can read multiple books at once (not counting textbooks for school).  Anyway.  I was not familiar with either Yuri Lowenthal or Tara Platt until I saw them as guests on an episode of Tabletop, a gaming show on the web channel Geek & Sundry (which I highly recommend you check out, if you aren't familiar with the site already).  I became immediately enamored of them both because they are absolutely awesome and adorable, and I sincerely hope they have babies, because if anyone in the world should reproduce, it is them.

But I'm getting a little off topic here.  If you don't know who they are, or haven't clicked over to either of their websites, or haven't figured it out by the title of the book...Lowenthal and Platt are professional voice actors.  Voice actors, obviously, are the people doing the voice-over work in the narration for commercials or movies, they bring life to your favorite animated characters, and the style of voice-over that many of you reading this right now may be very intimately acquainted with, narration of audiobooks.  They get paid to do these things, and eventually may end up making a living off of it.  And I think that sounds like one of the most fun jobs a person could possibly have.

The more technical behind-the-scenes parts of the world of voice-over were kind of a mystery to me, though, and I'm sure they are to a lot of other people.  Probably to most other people.  I mean, I've seen clips of musical artists and radio personalities in sound booths before, either recording or broadcasting live.  But voice actors?  I never used to think so much about who the people were, who were doing all this narration or providing the voices for the cartoons I enjoy watching, but I've been more interested in it lately, and I think these people all deserve way more recognition and general appreciation than they seem to get.  I know in some Asian countries at least, voice actors can have the same kind of celebrity status as screen actors, and that is how I feel it should be.  For real, go compare the IMDb listing of a relatively well-known screen actor to any voice actor, and don't be surprised if you find that the voice actor is more prolific - these people do A LOT.

Okay, I'm digressing a little again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Filtered Future and Other Dark Tales

"Filtered Future" and Other Dark Tales of Science Fiction and Horror is a collection of nine short stories, a poem, an article, and an interview by Brett Weiss, whose other published works are mainly non-fiction.  As the title of the book states, the stories range in genre from science fiction to horror, with some  elements of dark fantasy thrown into the mix as well.  Each piece is preceded by a brief introduction by the author, a sort of back-story which provides a little insight into things such as where his mind was when he wrote or conceived of the story, or the story's publication history prior to this anthology.  You won't miss any necessary information by skipping the introductions, but they're interesting to note.

Now, before I go any further, I just want to confess that I had never heard of Bentley Little before reading the table of contents, so I did not read the interview.  Having had no idea who the man was and having not read any of his work, I didn't feel I would really get much out of it, but if you're a fan of his work, I have no doubt that it would interest you.  The article on Stephen King, however, I did read, and it was very interesting.  I haven't read much of any of King's works either (I know, I know...shameful), but I have a couple on my shelves and have every intention of collecting more to read at some point.  I've seen film adaptations of some of his novels, and I admit I feel like they will be books I won't be able to read before bed, since I will likely only be able to sleep after if I take an ambien or a large dose of Nyquil.  But I digress.  On to the short stories.