Tags: books

*gen - tiffany

You gotta give what you take.

Have any of you read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom? I'm on p. 152 and wondering whether to keep going. I can't seem to get into it at all. The characters and plot are fine, but I'm uninterested in both. Plus, Franzen has the same dialogue problem I saw with The Time Traveler's Wife, in that the characters don't sound like real people. Does anything actually happen later on? Returning it to the library now is a temptation, but there has to be a reason why this was shortlisted for so many awards and top tens. On the plus side, now I can't get a certain George Michael song out of my head. ;)

While I'm grumbling, here's another frustration. I'm on my twentieth book since Memorial Day. (Yay for tons of free time!) Most of them have been mysteries, and by a variety of authors. I've noticed a trend. Every single book makes a point of mocking overweight people. Whenever a character appears -- even if it's just someone walking past -- the narrator mocks their size, either with a hint of snark or going as far as pointing out how gross they are. Ugh. Fat prejudice is unfortunately common these days, but I could do without seeing it each time I open a book.

On a more positive note, a FB friend shared a great essay: "Turning Writers into Motherfucking Rock Stars". Sounds like a plan!
*gen - tiffany

I think the Celexa's working, because I've been full of joy this month!

1. The Winnebago lives! This afternoon I headed over to Cobb Parkway, where they're filming The Walking Dead all day. I drove past the intersection four or five times, trying to be all cool and non-gawkerish. Finally I decided to just get over my embarrassment and parked my car to join the dozen or so people watching from across the intersection. Perfect location for spectating! Here's a photo from my phone, complete with my amateurish labels. I could just barely see the actor playing Shane as he tried to shoot a bunch of zombies, and I also saw some glimpses of the actors playing Andrea and Carol sitting in their chairs off to the side. I think I also saw Andrew Lincoln from a distance, but it was hard to tell. I'm surprised they were filming less than 100 feet from a very busy road. It'll be fun to see that scene in the season premiere and know that I was there! And I might go back later this afternoon with a much better camera, though by then they'll probably be done. *g*

2. I've been a very busy knitter! In the past two weeks, I've finished TWO sweaters. First up was Uhura for myself. It's a great summer tank in a sea-green cotton, lightweight enough that I wore it out in today's summer heat. More details on my Ravelry project page. Next up was my sister's birthday present, the Broken Rib Tank (don't click if you want to be surprised, Sis!) It only took 2.25 skeins of The Unique Sheep's Pima Petite in teal, and thanks to the DK yarn and larger needles, it's very breezy and drapes well. Pity you can't see the ribbing around the neck and waistband in that photo. Knitting sweaters has become such an addiction -- I'm now resisting the urge to go buy more (expensive) yarn to make a dozen more this summer!

3. Another nice thing about summer vacation is that it has given me tons of time for reading. In just the past week, I've read five books. At some point I need to type up a list of everything I've read. I'm also looking for more good summer reading, particularly titles I might find at the library. Suggestions welcome!

4. One of the many reasons I love Publix, the bestest grocery store chain ever (or at least in this region)! My local store has a six foot stretch of one aisle devoted to British foods -- biscuits, candy, sauces, baked beans, etc. Last week I used the website's feedback form to tell them that I love the selection, but I was sad that they no longer had Smarties, those M&M's-like candies. I did buy an Aero bar instead, but it's just not the same. Today the store manager replied to my email and said that he's going to special-order Smarties just for meeeeee, and that if I stop by and speak with him in person, he'll try to track down the milk chocolate rich tea biscuits (not digestives) that I love so much and are nearly impossible to get Stateside. Yay!

5. Last night I did the odd trick of watching both the Tonys AND the NBA finals. For the first time since I left TX twelve years ago, I was thrilled to see a hometown team win. Yes, I have very weird ISSues with my native state. ;) I'm ambivalent about the whole "Lebron gets his comeuppance" thing, but I get a kick out of big German guys named "Dirk" (hey, my first Mavs semi-fandom was Detlef Schrempf, now of Parks & Rec!) And although I've never really been into theater, I listened to The Book of Mormon soundtrack on YT last week and loved it. Plus, a big cheer for Coco of Conchords winning Best Actress! Sutton Foster just seems like good people, and she did a hell of a job hoofing it in that Anything Goes number.
*gen - tiffany

No-Longer-Unfamiliar Fishes!

This was a pretty great day because I got to see Sarah Vowell, live and in person! She was in Atlanta for her book tour, and I'm so glad I happened to hear about it on NPR. My friend had to cancel last-minute, so I headed down to SCAD on my own. I arrived nearly an hour early to ensure a seat, and I was shocked to find the room completely empty when I walked in. (It eventually filled to about 200 people.) The upside was that I had my choice of seats, and I ended up with the best possible spot -- second row center.

Sarah's kind of a rockstar for me, so actually getting to hear her speak was such a great experience. The evening began with her reading much of the first section of her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, about the annexation of Hawaii. The Q&A was generally good. I was surprised to hear that her favorite part of the writing process is actually editing; she compared the first draft to "vomiting it all out of my brain", and going back through it to make corrections is far more enjoyable. Huh. I can kind of understand that, since I tend to obsess over editing my fic. She also talked about research, President Garfield's obsession with books, and deciding how much of herself to put into her books -- which I was curious about since one of her hallmarks is the anecdotal, memoir-ish style amidst the history. The most interesting and risky part was when someone asked how she feels about promoting her work. She said that it's somewhat uncomfortable because she's very much a loner who doesn't like to talk, but this is a necessary evil. (Risky but honest and cool to say that to a crowd who came to hear her promote herself. And she really did sound like she was glad to be here.) She also said that book promotion is so much different now than even 5-10 years ago because, unlike the days of newspapers and dedicated book critics, the rise of blogs and multimedia means that everything is now fragmented, and authors are expected to do so much more -- she might be asked not only to give an interview, but also write her list of "Sarah's favorite books" for a blog, or do a TV appearance sandwiched between a "kitchen cleaning expert and a Kardashian fashion show." Overall, a really great evening! Yay for getting to see authors that I semi-fangirl!
*gen - tiffany

Book Recommendation

After seeing lots of praise, I checked out The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I'm not nearly as well-versed in biology as I should be, but I really, really enjoyed this book. For those who haven't heard of it, it's the story of a young African-American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. When her tumor was biopsied as a routine procedure, the lab technicians discovered that instead of dying almost immediately, the cells thrived and multiplied by the millions. The doctor made them available to other researchers, and they soon became such a vital part of science that they've been used to help cure diseases and develop drugs, among many, many other applications. Unfortunately, medical ethics didn't require informed consent, so her family had no idea any of this was happening. They continued to live in poverty, without even medical insurance. If you've read the book and are interested in more of the story, here's a Fresh Air interview with Rebecca Skloot.

I never expected to be so hooked by all the discussion of cellular biology, but I couldn't put it down! The real stars are the Lacks family, whose story Skloot tells with honesty and sympathy. Even though we basically know where the story is going from the start, there are still some moments of genuine shock and heartbreak along the way. Very highly recommended. :)
*gen - tiffany

Nerdy Lost Monsters Wearing Sweaters.

1. After too many restarts and a horribly-written pattern, I finally finished the new sweater. Collapse )

2. Even though I'm so goddamned tired of all the Lost hype, I'm still tuning in for tonight's finale. The big dilemma is whether to watch live or build up a tivo buffer to skip commercials... and then avoid Twitter and the rest of the internet until 11:30. Ugh. I love LJ for spoiler cut-tags and how everyone's so considerate; too bad it's nearly impossible to do the same thing elsewhere. (ETA: Oh, lovely. The ABC HD channel is out, so I have to watch on low-def... and Lost is one of the few shows that looks amazing in HD. Screw you, Comcast.)

3. I downloaded a few Nerdist podcasts because I kept hearing about how great it is. Are any of you familiar with it? I've listened to three so far, and I'm pretty disappointed. Great guests, but the overall vibe is very geekboy -- emphasis on "boy" -- with too many jokes about hot babes and techy stuff. Reminds me a lot of, well, G4. Guess I shouldn't be surprised! Maybe it's just not my style.

4. Last night I finished reading Monsters of Men, the final book in Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking Trilogy. I thought I'd type up my reactions to it, though I've kept this spoiler-safe for those who haven't yet read it. Collapse )
*gen - tiffany

Ding-dong, the bells are gonna chime.

1. A few thoughts on Doctor Who 5.05. Collapse )

2. Every year I see the results of the Kentucky Derby and think, "I should've watched that!" Well, this year I remembered. The race itself wasn't as exciting as I'd expected, perhaps because I know nothing about anyone involved. Still, the tradition is fun, along with this photo of Johnny Weir in a hat.

3. Monsters of Men, the third book in Patrick Ness's trilogy, is coming out in the UK on Monday, though it won't be available stateside until September. I just ordered it from Book Depository, which has free worldwide shipping. Good deal! While I didn't *love* the first two books, I found them fascinating enough to want to read the third. Damn, they are SO dark and fucked-up. I got the second book from my school's library after a former student returned it, and although she's such a smart, thoughtful girl, I wanted to tell her, "No! Don't read this! Preserve your innocence for a little while longer!"

4. I hate going to the post office, so I was pleased to find that I can now go to the USPS website and type in my packaging info to purchase the mailing label without having to step foot in a queue. I selected priority shipping and put my Mother's Day present in the mail on Tuesday morning. Mom didn't receive it until today, which was two days later than it should've arrived, but at least she got it. I was a bit worried when the tracking number kept showing as "Awaiting pickup by postal carrier".

5. "Lather, rinse, repeat" on shampoo bottles always struck me as a scam to get us to buy shampoo more often. When I got my hair cut last week, my stylist told me that it's actually a good move. The first time you shampoo, it just breaks up the oils in your hair. Rinse it out and shampoo again, and shampoo lathers like crazy. Turns out she was right. My hair feels so much cleaner now!
*gen - tiffany

Hunger Games

Okay, okay. Thanks to incessant hype enthusiastic promotion by certain individuals, this morning I checked out Hunger Games from the school library (thus denying a copy to an interested teen, but oh well!) I look forward to reading it and will avoid prejudices like "This had damn well better live up to the hype."

(All of the above is stated with much love, Certain Individuals. *mwah*)
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*gen - tiffany

Muppets, Mojo, and Zombies

1. Yes, I'm reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Got it on a lark at Costco, even though I'm not really an Austen fan. Thirty pages in, I have to admit that it's kind of awesome in a total-crackfic way. The Bennet sisters are kickboxing zombie killers, while also being proper Regency ladies. I have no idea how much of Austen's plot remains because I haven't read P&P since college (and had no desire to see the movies, despite Colin Firth.) Basically, it seems to be P&P itself with random zombies popping up, though I do admire Grahame-Smith's ability to mimic Austen's voice. "Jane had not beeng one long before it rained hard, and the soft ground gave way to scores of the disagreeable creatures, still clad in their tattered finery, but possessing none of the good breeding that had served them so well in life."

2. I have cooking mojo! My problem has always been that I know the basics of cooking and enjoy the process, but I never like the taste of the results. Yesterday I got it in my head that I wanted to try some simple recipes in a chef's memoir that I've been reading, so I headed to Publix and spent way too much on ingredients. Hours later, I had two huge pots of minestrone and chicken noodle soup that tasted GREAT. Love 'em! Today I made a loaf of bread that turned out perfectly. I have no illusions that my cooking abilities will last beyond this week, but right now it's fun.

3. queenofthorns linked to a neat story about a pregnant fighter pilot. The first photo made me want to write babyfic. ;)

4. Mental Floss has another hilarious quiz: Harry Potter Character or Hideous Skin Disease? I only got a 67%.

5. And I got a kick out of 101 Muppets of Sesame Street.
*gen - tiffany

Library dilemmas.

Have any of you read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld? (It's the fictionalized biography of Laura Bush.) I checked it out from the library, and it's due back this weekend. I'm about a hundred pages in, and while I'm enjoying it, I'm wondering if it's worth keeping overdue to finish, because the long wait-list means I can't do a renewal. If any of you have read it, I'd love to hear if you think it's worth sticking around. Thanks!