Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whatever else it was, it was one hell of a summer

Back in the beginning of July when Tom and I were in Seattle, we made our way to an indie bookstore (you know OBV) and I found out that Bill Bryson's latest book, One Summer: America 1927 was out in paperback. So I had to pick up a copy. I got around to finishing it by the end of July and now it's September and I'm finally reviewing it.  Whoops.

One Summer: America 1927 is about exactly what the title says. It's about the summer of 1927 in America where a bunch of stuff happened. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. Babe Ruth was smashing homeruns and getting close to setting a record, the first talkie was released, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, lots of stuff going on. And more. And it's lots of stuff that, when listed out like that, I'm not especially interested. But, as I've said before, Bryson could write about paint drying and I'd be intrigued. This time was no exception.

I have never understood what was so great about Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic. That's not to say I don't appreciate the importance of what he did and what it meant for air travel, and it's not to say that what he did was easy in anyway. But man, the world went absolutely NUTS for the guy in a way that I can't imagine now. It's not to say that I know understand and think "Oh OF COURSE this was the world's reaction. It all makes sense now and I can't imagine them reacting any differently" but at least now I can go "Huh, would you look at that? I guess that is how people reacted. This poor guy."

I knew of Babe Ruth, of course, but didn't really know much about him outside of the fact that he played baseball. I knew the names Sacco and Vanzetti and that they were anarchists and that they were executed. I knew Calvin Coolidge was a president. I knew prohibition was a (stupid) thing. But I can't say I knew very much about any of these things or anything else that Bryson goes into before reading this.

Bryson has a way to not only bring the human element of stories to the forefront but also to put things into context so you understand what lead up to certain events. And all of this is done with his trademark humor.

One thing I noticed this book lacked more than his other books is Bryson himself. Obviously I didn't expect this book to feature him as prominently as his travelogues or semi-memoir, but even his books like Made in America about the English language in America and A Short History of Nearly Everything about science featured more of him, talking about the research he did and the people he talked to. This book still has his voice, but he's never quoted directly. I sort of missed that. I think I like Bryson so much cos I feel like I'm talking to a friend tell me about all these cool things he's learned.

It wasn't my favorite Bryson, but "not my favorite Bryson" still ranks really high up there in "excellent books I have read and will probably read again".

Gif rating


Also I tried to find the plaque for Lindbergh that's at the Roosevelt Field Mall (formally Roosevelt field where he made many famous take-offs and landings) but that mall is GIANT and I got distracted by shiny things. At some point I'll find it. Probably.

Title quote from page 428

Bryson, Bill. One Summer: America 1927. Anchor Books, 2013.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Soap Winners Announced

I was going to pair this with another post and then (as you can see) I decided not to do that. Instead this will be a quick post to announce who gets the soap I mentioned in my last wedding post. And guess what?

YOU'RE ALL WINNERS!

And not in a figurative way, like "Oh well you know me so OF COURSE you're a winner no matter what." But I figure you all rule and I have a bunch of soap so everyone who asked for it, YOU GET SOME SOAP!

Emily, Kayleigh, Alice, Nahree, and Laura email me your addresses (or wherever you want me to send the package [whatredread [at] gmail [dot] com]) and I will get you your soap! And then you can pretend that you were at the wedding as well!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bookish questionnaire or Yay procrastination

I was thinking how I really need to write a post. And then I was thinking "But I am lazy". And then Sarah posted a bookish questionnaire and HOORAY for a distraction. Thanks, Sarah.

1. What is your favorite fictional food or drink? I am drawing a blank here, so we're off to a good start. Maybe the food from Alice in Wonderland, given it is the only thing I am coming up with. Yeah, let's go with that.

2. How long did it take you to finish your last book?
Not very long but then again the last book I finished was a graphic novel and those tend to go pretty quickly because I am probably not paying enough attention to the pictures.
3. How many times do you stare at your books or bookshelves each day?
Only when I'm trying to figure out what to read. Or if I'm looking for a particular book. The shelves are in the living room & bedroom so I see them a lot so I guess that time too.

4. How many Goodreads friends and books do you have?
Um some? And more than that? I'm not sure. There's something like 200 books on my I should read this list, I know that much.

5. Do you ever quote books in public?
I've slowly begun to realize how much of what I say is a quote of something (movie, tv show, maybe a book). If I traveled back in time no one would understand me. It'd be a mess.

6. Do you ever reread books?
Less in recent years than I used to because since I've been blogging I now have a billion books I NEED to read thus less "eh, I need something to read, I'll do this one again."

7. Do you judge a book by its cover?
Yeah, sure. Sometimes a really pretty cover will catch my eye. Oftentimes a crappy cover will turn me away. I get those BookBub emails with discount books each day and yeah, there's a lot of judging going on there.

8. Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr?
Twitter and Tumblr. I have Instagram but never use it.

9. Which genres take you the longest to read?
Classics. Books that are generally harder/denser? Yes, those.

10. Who are your favorite BookTubers (or Book Bloggers)?
So many. You know who you are. (If you think it's you then yes, you're probably right)

11. How often do you pre-order books?
Um, never? I don't think I've ever pre-ordered a book. 

12. Are you a shopaholic?
No?

13. How many times have you reread your favorite book?
A zillion. Or like 7. That's a good number.
14. Do you own a lot of books?
So many. I think I'm on the verge of saying too many. There may be a giveaway at some point.

15. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them?
I do not. I rarely take pictures of my books.

16. Do you read every day?
Not always a book but yes.
17. How do you choose a new book?
Sometimes I have a stack of books I'm planning on reading. Sometimes I just stare at my bookshelf hoping something will jump out. Sometimes I scan through my Goodreads TBR list until I find a book I want to read.
18. Do you always have a book with you?
Usually.
19. What are your biggest distractions from reading?
The internet. The tends to be the biggest distraction at a time when I could be reading. But also the usual stuff. TV, work, chores (ugh adulthood), working out. But really, it's usually the a mixture of laziness and the internet.

20. What is your favorite place to buy books?My favorite places are independent bookstores. I like shopping at my local store (even if I think it could be laid out better for browsing), I liked the bookstore I lived near in Boston, I like The Strand (even if it's suuuuper crowded). But I'm also fine buying from chains like B&N. Or Amazon. Or Costco. Just books, gimmie.

So hey, that was fun. Good times!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wedding Update II: The ceremony and reception

You know how last week I wrote that post with the first part of the wedding stuff? And I said there'd be a part two that went over the ceremony and reception (you know, the actual wedding)? I bet you thought it'd be another month before that post went up. You're not alone, I thought it as well. But here we are, being super productive/avoiding chores by writing this instead. HOORAY.
I left off the last post after we did our first reveal and took all of the posed pictures. Now it was time for a rehearsal. Because yeah, we hadn't done one of those yet. I mean, really, how necessary is a whole rehearsal dinner the night before? We're all pretty smart people so we figured we can figure out how to walk in a straight line, stop when you get to the end (which was a wall so not a whole lot of other options) and then stand to one side. After the ceremony is over, you just walk back the way you came. See, simple?

Given the way I set that up, I bet you're thinking that something crazy happened and I'm trying to say we should have totally had a rehearsal the night before. Nope, things went fine because it was exactly as simple as I just described. Of course, it was so simple because the venue had 2 people that worked with us to make sure everything went smoothly and on time. Seriously, those 2 were LIFE SAVERS and I'm sure we would have needed several rehearsals if they weren't there to say "OK, you walk now, and then go there." And I'm super excited that their services were included in the normal price of the venue cos if they cost extra I know we wouldn't have paid the money for it and things wouldn't have been quite so stress free. They ruled.

The biggest "drama" at the rehearsal was that the officiant wasn't there. I think some people were waiting for me to freak out at this. I mean, if there's no officiant then the ceremony can't really happen, right? I wasn't too worried.

See, we originally wanted a family friend to officiate the wedding. She's a federal judge so we thought this wouldn't be an issue by NY state had other options and said only NY judges can perform weddings. Cos they're jerks. BUT we decided that she and the priest would co-officiate. So say the priest didn't show for whatever reason? OK, so the ceremony wouldn't be legally binding, but we'd still have someone to get up there and say something and whatever. We go to town hall or something for the legal wedding later. See, there are plan Bs.

We didn't need plan B though cos the priest was there hanging out in the lobby of the venue (we were outside in a different area rehearsing cos people were sitting in the ceremony area) so again, see? No need for stress.

Now, it's time for THE MAIN EVENT!

Everyone managed to walk down the aisle without getting lost or tripping or anything. The tripping was a real concern for me but it's cool, I had already told my maid of honor that if I fall she is to throw herself down in a super dramatic fashion so as to help take the embarrassment off me. I was talking to her about this as we were waiting in line to walk in and the best man agreed he would also make a big scene so DON'T WORRY. I love our friends.
Here's the thing about the ceremony. I already told you we didn't have a rehearsal to know where to walk and all that jazz. We also didn't really know what was going to be said. I'd emailed with the officiant/priest a few times where he sent me an outline of a normal ceremony, Tom and I picked out the things to take out, we picked a reading (Shakespeare's sonnet 116), and that was that. And we'd talked to Joy (the family friend) about how Tom and I met, our relationship, etc. The priest was going to say more of the traditional stuff, Joy told the story of how we met and how we got to this point, good times.
There was more religion in the ceremony than I thought there would be but then again, it was a Catholic priest so guess I'm not super surprised. Nor was I upset or offended or annoyed or anything. I didn't know it would be happening but the whole thing was so pretty. And we kept it to under 30 minutes. #priorities

I looooved our venue. This room was a big reason I wanted this place. It looks like you're in a garden. One wall has fake windows, the other is covered in mirrors and windows, and the ceiling looks like a greenhouse. You get the appearance of being outside with all of the benefits of air conditioning, which is just terrific. There was the option to have the ceremony outside and the venue seemed so surprised that we just wanted to do the whole thing inside. I'm sure part of that is because the ceremony and reception happened in the same place otherwise, so if we did it outside, they had more time to get the reception room ready.
After the ceremony it was back up to the bridal suite so we could sign the marriage license. And get some food. Food is important. Everyone else was at the cocktail hour which had SO MUCH FOOD. The bridal attendant brought us plates of everything down there (see how great they are) while we waited. There was some miscommunication between the priest and whoever told the priest where to go. He thought he was supposed to wait downstairs, we thought we were supposed to wait upstairs so it was about 20 minutes before things got figured out, he came upstairs to sign things, Michelle (MoH) and Mike (BM) signed as witnesses and then we could all go down to cocktail hour! Except for Tom and I.

We were juuuuuuust about to walk into the cocktail hour when the photographer came up to Tom and I and said now that the sun was down* we could take some night time shots. Our options were take them now and miss cocktail hour, take them after the reception starts (which our DJ said he FORBADE and not to be a dick or anything but you don't want to miss the reception) or not take the pictures. As much as we really wanted to go to cocktail hour, we decided on pictures.

Now RECEPTION TIME!!

Everything they say about the time FLYING by is absolutely true. Everything they say about you not eating is also absolutely true. We spent so much time visiting everyone and dancing that how can you even eat. We did manage dinner, or at least some of it, and small bites here and there but for the most part this was the time to actually see everyone who came to share the day with us and at no point was I annoyed I didn't get to eat. Besides, I was so amped up I wasn't all that hungry.

I also didn't drink that much because I kept getting a drink, putting it down, and then forgetting where it was. Repeat. BUT the maitre d was apparently a mind-reader cos any time I would think "I'm thirsty and could use some water" he'd pop up with it. AGAIN they ruled. So I stayed well-hydrated.

Time for a bunch of reception pictures? Of course!

And would you like to see some of our bookish details? 

Instead of a guest book, we had bookmarks for people to sign. Instead of table numbers, we named each table after a literary couple with a quote on the back**. Tom and I (and the entire bridal party and their dates) sat at the Calvin & Hobbes table.

The wedding wrapped up at 1:30, perhaps 2 by the time everyone cleared out and we headed next door to the hotel for sleep. Except as we walked in we noticed the bar that they TOLD US would be shut down by 2 was wide opened and packed with 2 other weddings plus several people from our own. OK, admittedly it was mostly my family that was at the bar because that's how we do. Tom and I made it till 3:30-ish before the adrenaline started to wear and it was time for sleep. Others stayed up and I believe my dad and stepmom won the night, making it to their room by roughly 5:30. Yay on us.

All-in-all there is nothing I would have changed about the night. It was everything I could have wanted. And even though up to and including the morning of the wedding I was thinking "Ugh, we should have just eloped" the day itself honestly made it all worth it. Good job those that convinced us this was the way to go.

MUSIC CHOICES
I know some people had questions about the music we chose for the ceremony, first dance, etc. I won't keep you in suspense any longer:
Ceremony
Everyone-except-the-bride entrance song: Chase This Light by Vitamin String Quartet (original Jimmy Eat World)
Now-the-bride-comes-in song: In My Place by Vitamin String Quartet (original by Coldplay)
Ceremony-is-over-time-to-walk-out song: Today by Vitamin String Quartet (original by Smashing Pumpkins)
Reception
Another-entrance-song: Still Into You by Paramour 
First dance (we danced the first minute just us, then everyone joined in): When It's Time by Green Day
Father/Daughter dance: Daughters by John Mayer
Grandson/Grandmother dance: Gracias Por Ser Mi Mama
Cake cutting (did you know you need to pick a song for that?): Everything by Michael Buble

Most of the thought went into the first 5 songs and the last 3 were sort of "shit we need to come up with something for then too? Umm how 'bout this?" We were also preeeeetty proud of the first dance song choice because it's a really pretty song and also NO ONE could guess it. I guess it helps that it's a song that was only released on the soundtrack to the American Idiot broadway play (which we saw twice so, fans).


GIVEAWAY TIME!
So one of my bridesmaids is super handy/crafty/talented (she who broke and sewed in a new zipper) made the favor for the wedding. She makes soap and always gives it out on Xmas and it's THE BEST. So when Michelle suggested she make soap for the wedding favor she was all for it. Doubly lucky, my dad and stepmom own a fragrance company so Lauren made the soap, they provided the fragrance and they turned out beautifully. You want in on this? Just mention it in the comments and I'll randomly pick...probably a few names (I have a LOT of soap left) and send you your very own favor.

*We had kind of a late wedding. The ceremony started at 8. Cocktail hour from 8:30-9:30. Reception was 9:30-1:30 with dinner roughly at 10, father/daughter & groom/grandmother dances & cake cutting around 12:00.
**Want a list of all of the tables? Sure you do
Calvin & Hobbes from Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson: Happiness isn't good enough for me. I demand euphoria! and It's a magical world Hobbes ol' buddy. Let's go exploring! (Since there were 18 of us at the head table we had 2 signs. Same couple, 2 different quotes.)
Eleanor & Park from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
Thursday Next & Landen Parke-Laine from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde: The vicar shrugged. This was fast becoming the most ludicrous wedding of his career.
Lizzie Bennet & Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen: You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
Sherlock Holmes & Irene Adler from "A Scandal in Bohemia" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.
Ron & Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: "Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I've ever met," said Ron weakly, "and if I'm ever rude to you again-" "-I'll know you're back to normal," said Hermione.
Jonathan & Arabella from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke: Sometimes it seemed as if she had fallen in love with him for the sole purpose of quarreling with him.
Beatrice & Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare: For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?
Odysseus & Penelope from The Odyssey by Homer: Stranger, my beauty went forfeit to the Gods the day my Husband sailed with the Argives, for Troy. Should he return, to cherish me, my fortune and favour would improve.
Westley & Buttercup from The Princess Bride by William Goldman: As you wish.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion

At first I was sitting down looking at this blank page trying to come up with excuses to not write a review and not that I don't LIKE writing reviews but they certainly take more effort than NOT writing a review so. Yeah. But then I realized I have no idea what book I'm supposed to be reviewing next because I am so far behind with that, so I skimmed through my past posts and HEY it turns out the next one up is Andy Weir's The Martian and YES, I am ready to review this.

Holy shit, I loved this book.

I feel like I heard a few people talking about this book, but naturally now I can't remember most of them. Except for Sarah's review which was the point where I said "Hmm yes, perhaps I'll put this on my TBR list." And then I was flying to the West Coast and needed to make sure I had enough to read for all of the plane rides and this one was probably slightly on sale, so I snagged a Kindle copy and was ready. No, actually, I was not ready. I expected to enjoy the book (I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise) but I didn't expect to looooooove the book. I didn't expect to smack Tom in the shoulder every few minutes to say "OH MAN, THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD JUST READ THIS PART". I didn't expect to laugh out loud so many times.

Why don't I back up and actually tell you about the book? Sound like a plan?

Mark Watney is the only man on Mars. By accident. He certainly wasn't supposed to be the only person on Mars. It was never the plan to just leave him there. But then a big dust storm hits the area Mark and his fellow astronauts are working, causing mass chaos (as dust storms are wont to do, especially on other planets) including making everyone think Mark is dead. Probably because it looked like he'd been impaled and none of his vitals were showing up. The others face a tough decision to leave him behind in order to get away. GOOD NEWS! Mark isn't dead! Bad news! Everyone thinks he is so now he's the only person on Mars and no one knows he's alive and out there and he doesn't have infinity food and there are NO good bodegas on Mars so...

Mark is pretty smart. I mean, he is an astronaut and all so those guys tend to know some things. Most of the book is entries from Mark's journal, which is great cos a lot of them start with "Almost killed myself again yesterday. Whoops." And then he proceeds to tell you what happened and how he figured out a solution. I realize now writing this that sounds like it could be very boring or very tech-heavy and it's NOT. Not to say I understood every science-y thing said but I never got bogged down or overwhelmed or lost. Mark is pretty clear as to "This is the problem. These are some solutions. These are considerations for each of those. And go."

Mark is funny. Having seen some of the quotes from the book, I knew there would be humor but I didn't realize so much of the book would be funny or that it would work so well. And really, you need the humor because the other thing the book has in spades is SUSPENSE. I mean, you spend a lot of time going "Holy shit, is he going to die up there? Will anyone realize he's there? And even if they do, how the hell are they going to get him back? Man, Mars really seems to want to murder anyone that walks on its face."

The book is funny and touching and suspenseful just sooooooo so so good. I don't know exactly who the best audience for this book is. Everyone? Possibly everyone.

Gif rating:


Title quote from page 29, location 491

Weir, Andy. The Martian. Broadway Books, 2014. Kindle.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August Reading Wrap-up

Summer is over. I love fall and all, but I'm still pretty bummed come the end of summer. I blame years of school and summer meaning time off, even if I didn't have time off. But still August is over and thus summer is done and we're into fall and PUMPKIN ALL THE THINGS.

I'm super behind on reviews still, apologies for that. I will get caught up. Eventually. Before the end of the year? Hey, anything could happen!

Anyway, that stats!

Number of books read
5
SuperFreakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt (review from first time around)
How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (review from last year)
Zombie, Inc. by Chris Dougherty
Maus: A Survivor's Tale I My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Number of pages read
1,828

Percentage of fiction read
66%

Percentage of female authors
50%

Percentage of white authors
100% - whitey white white white ::hangs head::

Percentage of US authors
66%

Percentage of ebooks
33%

Percentage of rereads
33%

Percentage of review books
0%

Books written by decade
1990s - 33%
2000s - 16%
2010s - 50%

Books by genre
Economics
Coming of age
Fantasy
Humor
Horror
Graphic novel

Let's see what September and autumn brings. Hopefully more non-white people. I like how I say that like I don't have control over what I read. Like it's up to the fates. OK so hopefully I will quit being a pain and will read something by non-white people.