Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Really cool book review

I was going to post a link to my book review of J. Scott Savage's soon-to-be-in-stores book, Water Keep, but I decided to just post it on this blog in its entirety. It has a pretty good story, and an explanation of why I suspected J. Scott of reading my mind.

After you read the review, then click here to read the interview I had with J. Scott while hiking up to the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, complete with a contest on how you can win your own ARC of the book, so you can have it before anyone else--even Barnes & Noble. Autographed even. And it's really easy to enter. You just have to leave a comment. That's all! So, without any more ado...

The Review:
I’m going to do this a little different and start off this review with a story. The main character—we’ll call her Jaime—had a problem. (*Note: This is purely a work of fiction. All people or events are also make believe, and any correlation with real life is purely coincidental). Not a big, life-changing problem, but a small problem that grated in her normal life like sand in an oyster. You see, her son goes through books faster than her crappy lawn goes through water (which is pretty darn fast, as her water bill can attest).

The day of our story, her son had once again burned through the stack of books she checked out from the library two days ago, and had already read all the books in the house that even vaguely interested him at least 4 times. So, he was *bored* and getting downright twitchy. All book addicts will sympathize with the horrible-ness of it. Jaime was shaking her head in dismay (she didn’t really want to go the library again – twice a week really is plenty) on her way to check the mail. Inside the mailbox lay a manila envelope, with something inside that weighed suspiciously like—could it be?—a book

Jaime happened to write books herself and volunteered to be part of a blog tour of a children’s fantasy coming out in September. She knew that inside the envelope was an ARC of a book. A book her son hadn’t read yet. In fact, a book almost no one had read yet. Oh yes, solutions to problems can come in the most innocent ways.

Her son happened to be nearby so she called him over. She told him a book she guaranteed he hadn’t read yet was inside the envelope. He took off in a cloud of 10 year-old size dust, and by the time Jaime walked back in the door, he was camped on the couch with a box of Cheez-Its, bits of ripped manilla envelope littering the floor, and was fully engrossed in Water Keep, the first book of J. Scott Savage’s Far World Series .

*Just an aside—you may have guessed there is some truth to this story after all. If so, you guessed correctly. My son read the book in under 24 hours, and about 10 seconds after he read the last page he was asking me when I’d get the next one in the series. “Uh. Honey,” I replied, “This one isn’t even technically out yet.”

About a month later I finally sat down and read the well-worn copy (he read it two more times). And here’s my review: It was really good. Dang It!

Let me tell you why I say that. A little over a year ago I went to lunch with J. Scott and some other authors. Interestingly, we discovered that four of the five of us were working on Children’s Fantasy projects. James Dashner was already working with a publisher for his 13th Reality Series (more about him here), and the other three of us were still writing. J. Scott mentioned his world was called Far World (Dang It No. 1 – eerily close to the name of the world in my book), he was either already finished or mostly finished (Dang It No. 2 – I was still near the beginning of the process) and he was submitting it to the same publisher as I was aiming for (Dang It No. 3). Then, one of J. Scott’s blog posts talked about his magical system being based on the four elements (Dang It No. 4 – so is mine). After that I was half expecting him to be writing practically the same book. And I really wanted to be happy for J. Scott because he is a genuinely cool guy.

I am thrilled to announce that he did not steal my story (we will ignore the technicality that he wrote his first), and I was able to enjoy Water Keep without anything but the normal “Gosh, I hope I can do this, too” author-type jealousy.

From the back cover:
Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place- Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds. But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass's secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld's only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals- water, land, air and fire- and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them- Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S'Bae. Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? And it is. The thing that sets this series apart from many others is a hero with serious physical disabilities. And I loved the main characters the most. (Well, the Unmakers were pretty cool, too.) Even though you may wonder if Savage did that on purpose to distinguish his book as “different” from the rest of the children’s fantasy pack, the characters are so well done that you don’t even care.

Water Keep has everything you want in a fantasy: a prophecy, evil bad guys with creepy minions, alien creatures that don’t even think like us, reluctant heroes with no clue what to do but they do the best they can anyway, cool means of transportation, magic, and world-hopping. It is a little long for the normal children’s fantasy out there, but I don’t know what I would have cut out.

Overall, applause to J. Scott, and I look forward to the next installment. Far World is an exciting addition to the genre and a must-read for kids and adults who like their fantasy and magic in easy-to-read doses. Water Keep will be in bookstores in September.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Twilight fans, listen up!


In case you haven't already heard, here's a Breaking Dawn spoiler. And it's from Stephenie Meyer herself.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Exciting news

**Exciting and Thrilling News!!**
This week on my other blog I will have an interview with author J. Scott Savage about his new book Water Keep. You will also have the chance to win an Advanced Reader's Copy of your very own. *Gasp* Yes, you can have a copy before it even hits stores. Just imagine, you can wave it around and say "nyeah, nyeah, nyeah" to everyone else. That happens tomorrow, and I'll make sure to post a link here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Lessons

We have about 3 weeks left until school starts, so now the summer feels like it's starting to wind down. So what are some things we learned this summer? Here are Theler Summer Lessons 1-5.

Lesson #1
Dance with your friends


Lesson #2
Fireworks are always more fun if you run circles around them

Lesson #3
Selling snow cones is a great summer business, as long as you don't eat your supplies

Lesson #4
Try out the funky hats


Lesson #5
You never outgrow the desire to build the tallest tower


*More Theler Summer Lessons will be coming in the next 3 weeks.*




Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The last two days

A friend sent me the link to a great site with a T-shirt that sums up the last couple days in my house: My mom is a Twilighter (I wanted to post the picture but the site won't let me. So you'll have to click on the link.) It's a child-size shirt with the words

My Mom is a Twilighter
(not sure what that means but we get to have cereal for dinner)



Only it's not the Twilight Series. I finally finished enough other projects that I let myself read my copy of The Host. And I finished it late last night, so I can now rejoin my family. Sorry everyone. It was very good. I cried some and smiled some. I will definitely be posting a book review on my other blog soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Thelers go for fitness

No longer blessed with the bodies of our teenage years (or even of our twenties), Jason and I are working on being fit and healthy.

I've been working out on a fairly regular basis for a year and a half now, and I guess I'm catching, because Jason has started running and swimming to get into shape. He always enjoyed playing sports, but a handful of injuries the last couple of years (a separated shoulder and really bad ankle sprain) derailed him until recently.


So, just to share, here are some fitness happenings in our lives.

*I ran the Steel Days 5K on Saturday (I missed some of you! Maybe next time). My goal was to beat my time from the last race and I am ecstatic that I demolished it by 4 minutes! Yippee!! My new playlist helped motivate me to run faster - thank you Evanescence, Muse, and Backstreet Boys. I know, quite the combo. Shockingly enough, I even placed 6th in my age group.

*Jason and I are both running a 5K for the school district this Monday. He's worried about keeping up with me, and I just know he runs faster than me. So we will probably both have a record run because we'll come short of killing ourselves trying to keep up with the other who is pushing hard to keep up with the first. You know, one of those vicious cycle things.

*In a fit of insanity, I let a friend talk me into signing up for my first triathlon next month. I alternate between excitement and smacking my face and asking myself what I was thinking. The smacking moments usually occur at about 5:30 in the morning as I am standing on the side of the pool, trying to make myself get in and swim laps. I mean, it's still dark. And the water is *cold*. Swimming is not my thing, but at least I can go the distance without totally collapsing on the cement afterwards now.

Here are the details:
Date: Saturday, August 23
What I have to do: Swim 400 meters (1/4 mile), bike 10 miles, run 5K (3.1 miles)

I can do that, right? Anyone else want to join me?

I just like this picture because it's fitness-ish & looks really cool.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pet peeves are always good for a laugh

I anticipate working hard on my current book today, so I don't know that I'll get around to a post. However, I want to give you all a chuckle to start out the week so I'm sending you to my friend, Crystal Leichty's blog for a look at her Top Five Chick Flick Pet Peeves. I love it!

Then later this week I'll blog about some of my pet peeves. Just not today. Happy Monday!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our First Harvest

I love vegetables, especially fresh from the garden. And in this house our garden really likes its spot. (Note to neighbors: in about a month we will have tomatoes coming out our ears and will be happy to share.) We are excited to announce the first harvest from 2008!

And they were yummy!

We can't wait for these babies to ripen.

Ahhh. Cute little baby cantaloupe (if you have not tasted homegrown cantaloupe then you are really missing out. It tastes like a completely different fruit than the cantaloupe-shaped cardboard you get from the store). *Funny story break* A couple years ago we had a thriving cantaloupe plant with 5 or 6 fruits. One day we went out to check on them and they were all gone. Someone had stolen our cantaloupe. I kid you not. Isn't that odd? Beware the cantaloupe thief...

The green beans are not only productive, but pretty, too.

We ate the first yellow squash last night. When I picked it and showed the kids, Ian was excited that "Squashy McKean Theler" had had a baby! We let the kids "claim" a plant and this year he claimed the squash. He was so proud!

We look forward to many more veggies. Mmmmm!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Random Kung Fu Panda quotes

"There is no charge for awesomeness. . . or attractiveness."

I'm thinking of making this my new motto. Maybe I could get it put on a T-shirt, or a window stickers. Yeah! I can see myself driving down the road in my minivan, sporting my slogan. I can't wait until my next speaking engagement so I can somehow fit in being blinded by awesomeness.

Here are some of the fun quotes:

*Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.

*It is said that his enemies would go blind from over-exposure to pure awesomeness!

*The Sword of Heroes! Said to be so sharp you can get cut just by looking at - Ow!

*The Furious Five! You look a lot bigger than your action figures! Except you, Mantis. You're about the same.

Tigress: It is said that the Dragon Warrior can go for months without eating, surviving on the dew of a single ginko leaf and the energy of the universe.
Po: Then I guess my body doesn't know I'm the Dragon Warrior yet. It's gonna take a lot more than dew, and, uh, universe juice.

*Hey, what you got? You got nothing because I got it right here. You picking on my friends? Get ready to feel the thunder. Come out with the crazy feet. What you goin' to do about the crazy feet. I'm a blur! I'm a blur! You never seen *Bear* style!

*Wow! I've only seen paintings of that painting!

Don't worry friends and family, we will never charge for awesomeness!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ahhh, Love the Yardwork

When we were thinking about building a house 5 years ago, some of the things we were looking for were: 1) a nice neighborhood that was located close-ish to stores, 2) a house plan we liked, and 3) a decent size yard (that we could afford). We love our neighborhood, we like our house (except for the funky stairs down to the basement), the stores just keep coming (an Olive Garden soon. Yippee!), and we did get a good size yard. Put down the wrong kind of grass that just won't fill in, a vegetable garden, and a corner parking strip with a rock garden, and you have enough yard work to keep us busy.

Last weekend's project was the inadequate sprinklers. Luckily, Jason had some extra help.

Senea is such a good helper!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us

Yesterday Jason and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. You may know that every anniversary year has a traditional "gift" associated with it. The first anniversary is the Paper Anniversary. If you're feeling a little cynical, then you can assume that in our society today maybe that's the divorce paper anniversary... (Bad joke, I know.) Year 6 is the Candy Anniversary, and year 10 is the Tin Anniversary (I am so bummed we didn't know that 2 years ago! Because I've always wanted a tin... something.) And last year was our Steel Anniversary. I really could have used a new sword. Anyway, year 12 is the Silk Anniversary. Hmmm. All kinds of possibilities there. If you're curious about what years are what items, then here's a link to a Traditional Anniversary Gift List.

Wow! It's hard to believe we've been married that long. I still sometimes wake in the middle of the night, roll over half-asleep, and get a scare because there's someone in my bed! Then I wake completely and calm down, because it's Jason, and he's been there for a number of years now. Whew! That happens less and less, and Jason says it never happens to him.

For a little nostalgic story-time, Jason and I met my first year at BYU. We lived in the same apartment complex (2 doors down, actually). The first time I noticed him was during an activity where we were playing some sort of game sitting on the floor in 2 lines facing each other. When I was across from Jason he was smiling and laughing. I had just come from a relationship with one of those more gloomy, dramatic types and Jason's laugh is very infectious. It was like a burst of sunshine.

Then, our ward had an activity where they picked names and paired people up for B.A.R.F. week (Be A Real Friend). I was Jason's BARF buddy. Each day of a week had a theme, and the goal was to do something secretly for your BARF buddy with that theme each day. My favorite may have been art day, when I sneaked over late at night and drew a scene from Calvin & Hobbes in soap on the huge picture window of the living room of Jason's apartment. I'm sure that's when he fell in love with me--who can resist Calvin??

The last activity was to do something together. We played racketball and just clicked. Of course, I was insanely busy (21 credit hours and working - what was I thinking?!), a bit clueless, and resistant to romance, so Jason wormed his way into my affections by feeding me dinner. I'd get home after a crazy day, look in the fridge contemplating if I had the energy to study over a tuna fish sandwich, and Jason would call and just "happen" to have extra dinner. After dinner we would just sort of stay and study together. One thing led to another, and almost 2 years later we were married (I did mention I was resistant, right?).

I'll share the story of our first kiss another post. It's pretty funny. That whole resistant thing...

Here's a pic from our dating days. We don't look a whole lot different, do we? Love the hat!

And one of our engagement pictures.

Happy Anniversary to Us,
Happy Anniversary to Us,
Happy Anniversary Jason and Jaimeeeeeeeeeee
Happy Anniversary to Us!

Review of my book

Author Alison Palmer has posted another good review of Enjoying the Journey on her blog. Thanks so much Alison!

From Alison's Review:
"If you’re humble and open-minded, if you truly desire to make the most out of your time here on earth, there’s great wisdom to be found in Enjoying the Journey. If your like me and can’t figure out how to get a batch of laundry folded, much less establish a house of order, then just plant that first seed of faith. Buy the book; place it on your bedside table where you can see it. One day when you’re feeling brave just take a peek. Just a little one. See if you don’t feel at home within this book’s cover. If you’ll at least try, you’ll begin to figure out where your own joy in the journey can come from."

Read the entire review.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A little way to say thanks to our soldiers

An author friend of mine, Julie Coulter Bellon, is heading up a great way to say "Thanks" to our troops. In conjunction with the release of her new book, All's Fair, she's doing a charity drive, "Skittles for Soldiers," all next week all across the Wasatch Front. Skittles for Soldiers is partnering with Operation: Care and Comfort ,who do these care packages on a regular basis and are affiliated with the Red Cross.

Julie says, "I wanted to give a little taste of home to the troops serving overseas, especially after working so closely with one Marine and his unit while I did research for my book. It just gave me a whole new perspective on the true sacrifice they make every day and how much even a little bag of Skittles means to the men and women serving in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan."

From July 14 to July 19th, you can drop off any of the items listed below at any Seagull location across the Wasatch Front, from Logan clear down to Spanish Fork. When you do, you will receive an entry to win a free autographed copy of All's Fair. Julie will be appearing on Good Things Utah on July 14th at 10:00 a.m. on Channel 4 to kick off the charity event and doing several booksignings that week as well. Let's help this July truly patriotic and do something nice for our men and women in uniform.

If you are interested, you can find more details on Julie's website, www.juliebellon.com. Please pass this along to anyone you might know who might be willing to help. Let's collect as much as possible and say a little thank you to our troops!

Suggested Care Package Items

Individually wrapped hard candy

. Twizzlers
. Tootsie Rolls/Pops
. Skittles
. lollipops
. Life Savers
. Sweet Tarts
. chewing/bubble gum
. mints, breath strips

Lunch box sized snacks

. nuts
. seeds
. pretzels
. cookies
. chips (Pringle type containers best)
. Cracker Jacks
. crackers
. Corn Nuts
. fruit snacks/fruit leather
. Gardettos
. microwave popcorn
. trail mix
. energy bars
. protein bars
. breakfast bars
. granola bars
. nut bars
. beef jerky
. fruit: cup/canned/dried

Instant meals

. instant oatmeal
. Kraft Easy Mac
. ramen
. Cup of Noodles
. non-refrigerated

microwaveable meals

. canned meats-no pork!
. stews
. chili
. ravioli
. soups

Hygiene

. hotel/travel sized: gel, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, mouthwash
. small hand sanitizer
. toothbrushes
. dental floss
. sanitary pads /tampons
. twin blade razors
. eye drops
. nose drops
. unscented baby wipes/wet wipes
. Mach III Turbo Razor Blades
. small Kleenex packets
. Q-Tips
. anti-fungal creams
. Band Aids
. medicated foot powder
. sunscreen

Beverages

. sweetened drink mixes (ex. Gatorade, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid)
. hot chocolate
. cider mix
. sugar or sweetener packets

Entertainment and miscellaneous

. DVDs
. AAA and AA batteries
. pens/pencils
. blank greeting cards and stationery
. stickers
. disposable cameras
. AT&T phone cards
. condiment packets
. sandwich, gallon, quart, and snack-sized Ziploc bags (to make care packages)


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Staycation Day 2 & 3

Oops! I forgot to include links to the websites of the Planetarium and Children's Museum. Let's fix that now.

The Staycation report continues...

We took things easier the rest of our Staycation. On Day 2 we spent 4 hours at This is the Place Heritage Park. (Note the link to their website. And I laughed hard because on their home page they talk about staycations.) It is a village from the second half of the 1800's, incorporating Utah history with employees and volunteers in period costume and authentic, actual historic buildings that have been transported to the Park (way cool!)

Your entrance fee comes with 3 crafts you can do, and there is a cafe and a general store where you can buy things--but you first have to go to the bank and exchange your modern currency for Deseret Dollars. We were bummed that they ran out of ice cream at the ice cream parlor. It was a hot day, I guess.

We rode the "train" around the park to get the lay of the land.

And stopped in the barber shop for a quick shave.

Senea didn't want to be left out, even though we hope regular face shaving is not in her future...

The kids also had their silhouettes drawn, with this contraption that has a pencil on one end that will draw the outline you trace with the other. I hadn't seen this before.

We learned all sorts of things, but my favorite stop was the cabin where the kids got to try their hand at chores Pioneer style. Even the youngest children had jobs to do.

We also tested out some games. Even mom & dad tried it out.
*Stilts are way harder than they look, btw.*

The kids did some lessons in the school house. Unfortunately, Brennan forgot to do his homework.

We have way more pictures than I can even share. It was very informative and lots of fun. We ran out of time to do everything. I would really have liked to put the kids to work churning butter, but I'm sure we'll go back in a few years.

You would think after seeing how life used to be, the kids wouldn't complain so much about chores, right? Nope. Oh Well.

Day 3
We went hiking to Battlecreek Falls. It was a ton of fun and I can see many more hikes in our future.
The view from inside the canyon.
At the top of the bigger waterfall.
At the bottom.
One of the smaller waterfalls.

Then we went and saw Speed Racer. It was pretty good, but a little ... odd. Interesting cinematography and a little long for Senea, but the boys LOVED IT! I wasn't as thrilled with kids (not mine) throwing popcorn at me, but at least I didn't start a food fight. Pat on the back for me.

If I had to pick one word for the movie, it would be: COLORFUL. Very.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This year it's a "Staycation"

That's right, folks. With the price of everything skyrocketing, the cost of braces looming on the near horizon, and Jaime's little side-business going belly-up, our family had to take a little cut in the vacation budget. Like many others are choosing to do, this year we decided to do a family "Staycation". We just pretend we're on vacation, only we sleep in out own beds, eat a meal or two in our own kitchen, and go do things around here. It's working out good, though, since neither Jason or I are Utah natives (yes, we're transplants).

Instead of sitting you all down to look at slides of our vacation, I get to blog about it. :) So, here are some details. Who knows, maybe it'll inspire you to do a Staycation of your own.

Staycation Day 1: The Gateway in SLC
This was our longest day. We were there waiting when they opened the doors to Clark's Planetarium. I haven't been to the Planetarium since I was a child, when it was in a different location and you lay back in the seats and looked at the ceiling for a night-time star show. I think they still have the dome show-thing, but the signs all said it was set to the music of U2. Hmmm, I know whenever I look at the stars I have U2 going through my head. Doesn't everyone? (Note: we did not do the U2 show, and I prefer to have blessed silence when stargazing, but that's just me.)

We did see the Deep Sea in 3D, which was pretty cool. Senea may always have a fear of squid now, though. The music was by Danny Elfman (of Oingo Boingo and soundtrack fame) and it was narrated by Johnny Depp. Those are two favorite artists: because Johnny Depp is such a fantastic musician and Danny Elfman is so good looking. (If you don't get that semi-lame joke, go Google Images Danny Elfman.) And I wished we could have kept the 3D glasses - it'll be the next fad, I just know it.

See? Snazzy...

The kids on the moon. Notice Ian's "I'm suffocating from lack of air" face. You should see the one on the Mars landscape where they are collapsing with dying expressions. LOL

If men are from Mars, then Jason will have to come visit me on my home planet next time. *Discovery Channel Moment* Venus is covered in a thick layer of reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, so you can't actually see the planet surface. So what exactly does that mean about women?! It also the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and moon. Educational vacations. Gotta love 'em

The next stop for Day 1 at The Gateway was the Children's Museum. We spent 4 hours there and had a great time. Senea informed me that she wishes she lived there. I'll have to break the news that the store full of food and the kitchen are all just pretend...

Brennan goes shopping at the kid's store.

Ian at the check out.
Ian's favorite thing by far was the Life Flight helicopter.
Brennan liked it, too.
Here is Senea doing the news, with Ian as a technician.
Ian as news anchor.

Jason and Brennan's favorite may be the big wall for making a ball maze out of pipes. They set up something pretty elaborate & had a blast doing it.

Next stop: the Olympic Fountain. We packed swimsuits and towels and let the kids run in the dancing fountains.


Stay tuned for the further adventures of the Theler Family Stacation... Coming soon!