Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 books in review

 I wouldn't consider 2021 to have been a knockout year as far as books I read. Seemed like a lot of 6s among the 44 books I finished.

The total was down from the year before, but I had more time to read in 2020 thanks to COVID, and I did more writing in 2021 that cut into my reading time (so that's a good thing). I also hit a couple ruts this year where I didn't read anything for a week or two. Not sure why. Just wasn't feeling it.

My highest rated book (a 9) was also the first book I read in 2021. That was "The Order" by Daniel Silva, who then followed with the worst book of his Gabriel Allon series.

There were also five 8s in the bunch.

Looking back, the one that jumps out at me as my favorite of the year was "The Guest List" by Lucy Foley. It was clever and stuck with me through the year as I talked to people about novels. It was good enough that I bought a copy for my future daughter-in-law.

Another highlight of 2021 was my discovery of C.J. Box and his Joe Pickett books. I'm really enjoying those and as I glance at my TBR piles, I still see about 15 remaining. So that gives me hope for 2022.

I'm hoping to see new books by John Sandford, Dean Koontz and a bounce-back book from Daniel Silva this coming year. Maybe Lawrence Block will surprise with a new one as well.

I'll continue to try to fill in the Block library as well as Donald Westlake.

So many books, so little time. But I'll give it the ol' college try.

Happy reading in 2022!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The perfect gift

 Wifey knocked it out of the park with her gift-giving this Christmas with a gift only book nerds could truly appreciate. She bought me an IntelliScanner.

With its accompanying software, I can scan the ISBN numbers on my books. It then searches the internet, probably Amazon, and then lists the book, author, pages, etc., with a photo of the cover and then alphabetizes them. 

With the "search" tool I can look up authors, titles, notes I added. The handiest thing is it then publishes them to a custom website, which I can access from my phone or anywhere.

I'm a bit sad in that it makes my little notebooks and cheat sheets obsolete. I used to stuff them in my pocket when I went to a bookstore, if I remembered. I did that because I have a faulty memory and while trying to fill out my Dean Koontz collection, for example, I would often find myself buying doubles of a book I already have. Those days are over.

If I wanted to, it could also be used for CDs or movies too.

I looked at such software a couple years back and they all seemed to lack something or have some glitch I didn't like. This thing is perfect! It does everything I need it to and more.

My biggest problem is with the bookstores themselves. Sometimes they put a sticker over the ISBN or UPC and I have to pick at it with my fingernails to remove the sticker and get to the code. That slows things down, but I get there.

On rare occasion a book scans wrong and brings up a different book, so I do have to be careful about that. To keep on eye on it I only do about six books at a time, then review them. 

I have a couple hundred books scanned so far, mostly from the authors I follow, but have yet to hit the big ones, like Koontz, John Sandford and Lawrence Block, which are quite numerous. It'll be a job but one I'll enjoy.

Assuming the thing works for a while, I give it a five-star review. It's fabulous and I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Christmas books

 Per the Christmas tradition, I bought books for the kids and their significants. Some received two, because I love them more, and because I know they either read more or I just ran across more books I thought they'd like. 

I know these goofballs pretty well by now so I try to personalize them a bit. They are supposed to text me and say they read them and what they thought, but that tradition hasn't really caught on; except for my future daughter-in-law. She does a good job of that. 

So here's a rundown of who got what:

For Kayla, future DIL, who is marrying my son in October: "The Guest List" by Lucy Foley. It's actually an awful book to give to a future bride, but, frankly, I thought that's what made it a good gift. Ramp up the pressure leading to the big day. It was also one of my favorite books from this past year.

For Junior, her future husband: "The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told" by Mark Paul. It's advertised as "Seabiscuit" meets "Narcos." It's a short one, as the girls took glee in pointing out to him, not the most voracious reader.

For my son-in-law and soon-to-be PhD Stetson, two books: "The League" by John Eisenberg. How five rivals created the NFL and launched a sports empire; and "Bleeding Out" by Thomas Abt. The devastating consequences of urban violence - and a bold new plan for peace in the streets.

For his pregnant wife, educator, and my daughter, Rylee, a book highly recommended to me and a #1 NY Times best-seller "Educated, a Memoir" by Tara Westover. How a girl born to a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho had her eyes opened and eventually graduated from Harvard and Cambridge. It's supposed to be a pretty crazy story.

For my oldest daughter Katie, two books: "Diary of an American Exorcist" by Stephen Rossetti. Demons, possession, and the modern-day battle against ancient evil; and "The Flower Boat Girl" by Larry Feign. A novel based on a true story, her father traded away her youth. Sea bandits stole her freedom. She has one way to get them back: Became the most powerful pirate in the world.

For her gold-digger boyfriend, Kwin: "Sooley" by John Grisham. This time Grisham moves from the courtroom to a different kind of court, the basketball court. 

Also, for my granddaughter coming in April, I began the tradition for her with her first book ever: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." I can't wait to read it to her.

Frankly, I'd like to read all of these books myself. They'll probably end up back in the house one way or another, so I have that to look forward to.

Merry Christmas. Read some books next year!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Haugen Christmas card

 "It's time!", as Bruce Buffer would say, for the annual Haugen Winter Solstice newsletter where I inform you of happenings around our household from the year 2021 in case you don't follow us daily on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or read the court news in the newspaper. (For you young'ns, newspapers are big sheets of paper that used to print local news, sports and entertainment.)

Some accuse me of being cheap for not sending out Christmas cards with a pretty picture of the fam. But that's not the case. I'm simply lazy. Besides it's usually the most visited post of the year on this blog, oddly enough, just edging out any posts where I mention Amanda Knox. Seriously, Google sends everyone here when I mention her name. I don't understand it but ... did I mention Amanda Knox?

Once again, in 2021, the State of the Haugen Union was strong. 

First, the big news. Looks like Nancy and I are going to be grandparents. My favorite child, Rylee, is set to have my favorite granddaughter, probably named Lena, on April 25. Fans of the Miss Congeniality movie will know that is the perfect date

When pageant host William Shatner asks Miss Rhode Island to describe her “idea of a perfect date,” she infamously responds: “April 25th — because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket!”

Rylee and Stetson continue to reside in Champaign, Illinois, where she teaches seventh-grade science (this year in person and not via the interweb) and coaches cross country, and Stet is putting the finishing touches on his doctoral thesis at the University of Illinois. He's explained his thesis to me several times but, near as I can tell, it's basically "Why nobody likes Aaron Rodgers." Or it might have something to do with the Dawes Act of 1887. One of the two.

They spend a few weeks each summer at the Haugen compound outside Rapid City; and we're especially looking forward to having them this summer. Hopefully they'll bring Lena too. It'll be a welcome change of pace cleaning up baby puke instead of dog puke. 

Speaking of which, Stanley and Huck are still going strong. Stanley is still the best dog ever in his golden years, and Huck continues to be the ornriest. They are 12 and 9.

Oldest daughter Katie is still hanging out with her mountain man, Kwinn, in the Hills of Black near Keystone. She hit the big 3-0 this summer but doesn't look a day over 21. She's still running the show West River for Congressman Dusty Johnson and I see her a lot as our day jobs cross paths. They got a cat named Neville, who was kidnapped this summer by a vacationing Minneapolis miscreant. They drove to the Twin Cities and, after a tense standoff, rescued Nevs from the loon (probably named Karen and probably a meth-head). Most of that is a true story.

Luke passed the one-year mark for his job with a defense company in the suburbs of D.C. doing stuff he can't tell me much about because I "don't have a high enough clearance." He likes to drop that line on me for payback for all the embarrassing ping pong losses he's suffered at my hands over the years. Luke also notches probably the second biggest Haugen news of the year as he became engaged to his college sweetheart Kayla. She will be wrapping up her Master's degree in June from Drexel University in Philadelphia. (Trivia question: What's the Drexel University nickname? Trivia answer: The Dragons. As you can see, I try to make these updates not just entertaining but educational as well.) Her degree, near as I understand, is in public health/epidemiology. (It would be nice if some of these kids did things I could understand, like be simple English majors, but noooo.) Kayla can tell you about all things COVID or the next thing to plague us, and then you can choose to believe her and do something about it or just go drink your horse dewormer. It don't matter to me. They're looking at an October wedding.

Lastly, but not leastly, Nancy continues to befuddle many by remaining married to me. Thirty-three years is my best guess. She continues as a chiropractor's assistant in Rapid City. She's always bringing home gifts from clients, including cookies, jams, fresh trout and 9 mm ammo, so apparently I'm not the only one who likes her. She also continues to befuddle me by being amazingly nice to people. Have I mentioned she's the best person in South Dakota? Seriously.

I'm wrapping up my 17th year with my best boss ever, Senator John Thune. The nation anxiously awaits his decision to run, or not, for reelection. (Hint: I think he will but you didn't hear it from me.) If he doesn't, I plan to move on to my final career goal: Renting umbrellas to co-eds on the beaches of Florida, probably near Twins spring training camp around Fort Meyers. Another mostly true story. I also published another book, the third in the Bags Morton detective series, probably the best books nobody has read. A fourth is done and will be published soon, as I just can't shake the guy. You can get the first two for free now through Jan. 1 thanks to a deal they're doing at; and then buy the third one at Amazon. You might think it crass of me to be pimping my books during a Christmas letter, but then you don't know me very well.

Otherwise, this past year, Nancy and I continued to pilfer Deadwood of money, hit as many live bands as we could, and watched lots of boxing and MMA. We spent a week in March frolicking at our favorite hide-away in Florida and the kids joined us for a few of those days. Then we all reunited for a long Labor Day weekend at Luke's place and did a bunch of touristy things in the D.C. area. 

Looks like everybody will be back in the Hills for Christmas. The place should be hopping as Luke is bringing his young German Shephard named Klaus and the Rylee bringing her cat, Aria. Stan and Huck are in for a treat.

Those are the highlights of 2021 for us, pretty memorable actually, with few low-lights. We're hoping yours was well and that 2022 is a winner for all of us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!