Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Top Ten: Auto-Buy Authors

This week's Tuesday Top Ten list (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is our Top Ten Three Auto-Buy authors. Here's the thing about this, I don't have 10 authors I auto-buy. Not even close. But I still like the topic and I want to play along. So here is my short list of authors whose books I will buy even if I know nothing about the book. Or if I already have a copy. (Warning: this is is going to be repetitive of my favorite authors lists. So yeah, don't expect surprises here.)

1. Jasper Fforde - I'm putting him first because my friend told me he found a stack of Shades of Grey on sale and asked if I wanted him to pick up one for me. Even though I already have two copies of it. The answer was yes. I haven't read all of his books just yet, because I like to wait for books to come out in paperback. This is actually the reason I had 2 copies of Shades. I wanted to read the book immediately so I bought an e-copy. Then I found another paperback copy on sale and said "Yes, I will also need this one."
Other Fforde books I've read & reviewed/rambled about here
The Eyre Affair
One of Our Thursdays is Missing
The Big Over Easy 
Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron
2. Christopher Moore - I have already bought and read all of the Moore books out so far. Before I got to that point, I would randomly walk into a book store and pick out whatever Moore book looked interesting that I hadn't already read. It was a sad day when I realized I'd read all of his books already, so trips to the bookstore didn't mean I'd be guaranteed something new by him. I even broke down and got a hardback copy of his most recent book Sacre Bleu, but that's because he came to town for a book signing and I HAD to go. Had to. I may end up getting a copy in paperback as well because I have problems. MOAR MOORE PLZ
Moore books
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
You Suck: A Love Story
Bite Me: A Love Story
Coyote Blue
A Dirty Job
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D'Art
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror

3. Bill Bryson - I love Bryson and there's a good chance I've re-read his work the most. Moore and Fforde are close but Bryson's easy to pick up and put down randomly without worrying about losing the story. The only problem I have is it can be difficult to find him in bookstores. Fforde and Moore are easy cos they just show up in Fiction. Bryson is all over. Sometimes history, sometimes travel, sometimes I don't even know. I usually just find him on those tables placed around the store.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Who are your author auto-buys?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Homicide intrigues virtually all of us

As I've said a few times (and is listed over in my little about me blurb) I studied English lit in college. However, I had another subject I think I would have been just as happy studying: sociology. In fact, I almost got a minor in sociology, sorta by accident. My school had a program which lets you put in your ID, select the degree you're going for, and it tells you which classes you have left to take to finish the degree. One day I was plugging in my information to see what came up and it turned out, I was a couple classes away from a sociology minor. I wasn't planning on it, but given I was close to finishing it, I may as well.

That was the plan anyway. Then my friend said "Hey you know what we should do? Study abroad!" Here's the thing about doing a semester abroad. None of the classes I needed for either my English major or my soc minor were offered in Italy. Go figure, right? Which meant that my final year was going to be spent taking the classes I needed to complete my English degree. Yeah, I may have been able to take extra classes and get the soc minor but eh. So I ended up not getting it. Which is kinda sad. But the interest has always been there, specifically sociology around crime.

Our final year boyfriend+ and his bestie took a class called Sociology of Violence, which thinking back now I'm not sure why I didn't also take it cos it sounds like a good time. I didn't take the class, but I did read their class book The Will to Kill: Explaining Senseless Murder by James Alan Fox and Jack Levin. Before they finished it. Because yeah, why not read that along with the books I had to read for all of my classes.

It was because of the Harry Potter readalong that I wanted to re-read this. Well Harry Potter and the fact that I felt like reading some non-fiction and decided to scour the shelves to see what I hadn't read in awhile. But yeah, HP deals with a lot of crimes and whatnot, though in the magical sense, but still.

I'm not really sure how to review this book, because it is sort of a text book. Kinda of. There are lots of charts and stats and references to specific murder cases and sociological experiments. So if that's your jam, this is a good book for it. But it's dry. There's no narrative here. The chapters are split into different types of murder (familiar, school shootings, serial killers, etc), and the laws and penalties around murder.

The book doesn't actually explain senseless murder but really, how can it? It looks at some theories about WHY people commit murder, it can examine the trends (at least in the US) in murder rates, but it doesn't have any definitive answers. If it did offer some, that would be a problem because they would clearly be bullshit.

There are times when the book just seems to offer example after example after example of specific murders that sort of seems like over kill. Two examples would suffice where they use seven. Except, I sort of don't mind this. The examples do build to a bigger point, even if you could get away with using less, but I liked them. Probably because I have problems. There's also a chapter about people's fascination with murder, so don't worry, they cover that too.

I don't know that I'd recommend this to someone as a book to randomly pick up to read about murder. Unless you were interested in looking at murder trends in the US. It's not as approachable as say Freakonomics. Though this book does reference Freakonomics, just as Freakonomics mentioned Fox because everything is connected. It's not as dry as a textbook (and there are no study questions at the end of the chapters) but it's not exactly a lively read. Unless you're into this stuff, in which case keep in mind I read this on top of all of my other school work.

Title quote from page 1

Fox, James Alan and Jack Levin. The Will to Kill: Explaining Senseless Murder. Prentice Hall, 2000.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Moody, we never use Transfiguration as punishment

Another Friday which means another Harry Potter day! Callooh Callay and what not.

As always thank you Alice for hosting this readalong shindig. And thar be spoilers, so you've been warned.
I'm giving up all hope that I can write one of these Harry Potter posts that's not made up of just random bullet points. To those of you that can manage it, I salute you because that is impressive.

Goblet of Fire. The first book that's split into four books instead of two because there's SO MUCH to go through. However this isn't really my favorite book. It's not lower than CoS but it's around there. Again, this doesn't mean it's a BAD book. This is all relative to the other books in the series. Also I don't remember books 6 or 7 all that well, so I could be wrong.

The opening chapter and we break away from Harry's point of view. I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, we can't know what's happening with Voldie unless Harry sees it and we need to know what he's up to. But I like sticking to Harry's point of view. I know Rowling sort of gets away with this by having the opening chapter also be Harry's dream, but that doesn't really work for me. It feels like a cheat.

However I LOVE the first chapter directly from Harry's point of view (aka Chapter 2), when his scar hurts and he decides to turn to Sirius for help. Because Harry needs a parent. And I'm still thinking of  Jenny's defense of Sirius because it is so good and this opening just serves to prove how much Harry needs a parent. Even he says it. "What he really wanted (and it felt almost shameful to admit it to himself) was someone like -- someone like a parent: an adult wizard whose advice he could ask without feeling stupid, someone who cared about him." Then my heart breaks again for him and I want to give him big hugs.
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We get to meet the rest of the Weasley brood when Bill and Charlie finally make an appearance. Naturally they're the cool older brothers. How the hell did Percy end up in this family? He is so different from everyone else. He's like the black sheep? Except not? Grey sheep maybe?

I love the scenes before the Quidditch World Cup (which like the student games I'm sort of meh on) when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are wandering around the grounds and seeing all of the witches and wizards from around the world. There's also evidence in this section that Hogwarts is the only wizarding school in the UK, since they make a point of saying that the teens they don't recognize go to schools in other countries, rather than them being students at other UK schools. I did like the little nod to the American witches being from Salem. Cute.

Do you think all those memory charms are going to screw with Mr. Roberts? I feel bad for the guy. I know Mr. Weasley says any ill effects don't last long, but still. Seems like the sort of thing that should be used sparingly, given we saw what happened to Gildaroy Lockhart when the spell is performed too strongly? Not to say anyone's going to do that to the Muggles, but just that there are possible bad side effects to this spell.

Poor Winky. First she has to go up to the top box even though she's terrified of heights. Then she's blamed for the dark mark that's sent out AND she's fired. Except I guess for house elves it's more than fired? It's not like she can just put out an ad and find another family, right?

Also question, Harry says that his wand fell out of his pocket, right? (Or there is at least references to wands being in pockets at some point in the series.) But wants are pretty long right? Sometimes over a foot. What pockets are they using? I now like to picture Harry with JNCO jeans that have those GIANT pockets, of course then he couldn't really run. Nevermind, they're probably magic pockets.

The prank pulled on the Roberts is really terrifying, especially when you consider the two children. I don't know why it hit me that it's really a cruel and scary thing to do this time around when other times I sort of glossed over it. This time I paid more attention to it. Maybe because I listened to that part on audiobook.

Oh yeah, I've been doing about 1/2 of the books on audiobook and the other 1/2 reading. This way I a) don't need to bring giant books on the subway with me and b) when I finish up the section we're supposed to read to, I can turn off the audiobook and switch to whatever other book I'm reading. Hence my thoughts on audiobooks earlier.

Hermione makes a very good point about house elves being slave labor. That doesn't not however make her less insufferable or make Ron any less correct when he says Hermione starts eating again because she's hungry more than she's figured other ways to show her house elf solidarity.

Hagrid, I want to love you as a professor. I do. But blast-ended skrewts? No thank you.

"'Can I have a look at Uranus too, Lavender?' said Ron" Hooray for them acting like teenagers and making stupid jokes like this. (Also, while typing this I have the TV on and the people are in Beaver, PA. And once again, I laughed and laughed.)
Slow clap photo tumblr_m8gll5LG0j1qzwzeh.gif
Moody turning Malfoy into a bouncing ferret is one of the best moments. Up there with Hermione punching Malfoy in the last book. And yes, I know she slaps him in the book, but I prefer the movie version so I'm going with that.

I am excited to continue on! The Tri-Wizard Tournament! The other wizarding schools! Mad-Eye! EXCITEMENT! Until next week
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*This doesn't come up in this book,** but to build off of the number of students at Hogwarts, because apparently I'm ALL ABOUT numbers in Harry Potter, here's some more evidence for small classes:
20 broomsticks waiting for Griffs & Slyths at their first flying lesson
20 cauldrons had been set up in double potions
20 earmuffs set out in Herbology for the mandrakes lesson
How Many Students Are At Hogwarts

**Clearly, I can't let this go. Also I found this while trying to find stuff about the age of the Weasley kids.

Title quote from page 206

Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic, 2000.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are audiobooks cheating?

When my mind wanders, it tends to go to strange places. In this recent case, it went to old episodes of Home Improvement. Specifically I was thinking about one episode where Tim listens to some books on tape. It's from the episode "Her Cheatin' Mind"*. Jill has joined a book club and Tim is afraid she's falling for one of the guys in the group, so he decides he's going to join. But instead of reading the book he listens to them on tape. At the end of the episode Randy decides instead of reading A Tale of Two Cities he'll just listen to it. And we get this exchange:

Randy: After I've finished my homework.
Tim: You need any help?
Randy: No. Just got a little book to read. [Randy waves a cassette tape to Tim] Tale of Two Cities.
Tim: Don't play a tape. Read the book will you, Randy.
Randy: I got the idea from you.
Tim: Well, don't tell your Mom you got the idea from me.
Randy: Don't worry Dad. She's not going to find out. [Randy puts the tape into the player and turns it on]
Tape: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Jill's voice from the tape: It's going to be the worst of times for you if you don't turn this off and go read the book. Oh, and I don't care what your father told you.

Ahaha hilarity as Jill gets the better of her son and husband and makes them do the real work and actually read a book.

Except wait, what? Why is it such a big deal that he actually reads the book? It's not like he was trying to watch the movie instead. There's a big difference between watching the movie and reading the book. But is having someone read the book to you such a problem. How is this different than actually reading the book?

OK fine, you can argue that if someone is reading the book to you then there are certain things the reader decides for you, like the tone of certain lines or even the characters' voice. But that's not the same as having the entire look and feel of a story decided by a movie. And I certainly don't see how listening to an audiobook would count as cheating on your homework if the assignment was read the book. Actually, this is something I wish I had thought of in college. It would have been nice to be able to do my homework and get some cleaning or gym time or whathaveyou done. And I don't see how this would have been any less than actually looking at the words on a piece of paper.

So what do you think? Is there any validity to this? Is listening to an audiobook akin to cheating on homework? Is it less than actual reading? Or have I just spent way too much time remembering Home Improvement plots instead of more important facts?

*Wikipedia didn't have a good enough description to tell me this was indeed the episode I was thinking of. HOWEVER I managed to find a full script of the episode online because that's what the internet is for.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Give me twenty-four hours, and I will marry you off to a clown

During a recent trip to the bookstore Boyfriend+ came across the book Care to Make Love in That Gross Little Space Between Cars?: A Believer Book of Advice. The Believer, according to Wikipedia, is a literary magazine founded by Dave Eggers. I guess they have a Q&A section where readers can send in their questions and then comedians offer advice. Like a really messed up Dear Abby. And this book is made up of a collection of those advice columns.

So if it wasn't clear from the fact that I had to look up The Believer on Wikipedia, I'm not familiar with this publication. However, I am familiar with many of the contributors to the advice column, including Louis CK, Nick Hornby, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Schaal, Amy Sedaris, and a bunch more. So we decided "why not" and threw it on the pile to take home with us.

The book has funny moments. Louis CK is asked by someone what a MILF is cos she was recently called one and wants to know if she should be offended. Louis CK's answer: "MILF is a common acronym used by kids these days. It stands for "Ugly Bitch Who Lies About Some Kid Calling Her a MILF." (His whole section is a bit hostile, though his intro warns he's been having a bad day.)

When asked what books one should read on the subway to make fellow riders look on in awe, George Saunders suggests the following titles:
Common Problems of the Very Wealthy, Well-Endowed, and Omniscient
Why Can't I Stop Loving So Selflessly, and Being Such an Incredible Cook?
Eyes Up, Moronic Commuter! There's a Whole Beautiful World Out There!
What Are You Looking at My Book for, When a Guy with Advanced-Stage TB Is About to Cough Down Your Neck?
Care to Make Love in That Gross Little Space Between Cars?

The book suffers from the problem I have with all books that have a bunch of authors. The book is uneven with some parts being great, and some being very "meh". Unfortunately, even the comedians I liked were sort of meh. I smirked a few times or thought "that's funny" but never actually laughed while reading this. Maybe it's because a lot of the questions and answers sound so forced. Obviously people writing in know what they're getting into, but it's almost like everyone is too in on the joke.

Funny concept but not so funny follow through. Whomp.

Title quote from page 127

Sacks, Mike and Eric Spitznael ed. Care to Make Love in That Gross Little Space Between Cars?:A Believer Book of Advice. Vintage Books, 2012

Friday, February 15, 2013

Your father is alive in you, Harry

Another Friday, and another Harry Potter readalong post! Thank you Reading Rambo for hosting this gif-filled readalong.

So the Northeast got hit with blizzard Nemo over the weekend, which meant I had a lot of time to sit around the house and read. It also meant that while I was reading I was sitting near my computer and could write down my thoughts as I went, instead of trying to remember them all at the end. Which is the reason I have actual quotes this time. And also why I spent so much time thinking of Hogwarts math. As with every other readalong post, thar be spoilers ahead. Be warned.

I love the Patronus charm and the idea that the spell is based on happy thoughts. However, Harry's motivation for learning the charm, so he can make sure he doesn't fall off his broom and thus lose the Quidditch Cup, is very lame. And Ron said Hermione's priorities were messed up in the first book.

I do think the best part about Harry's Patronus lessons is the fact that he sort of doesn't want to successfully produce the Patronus because then he won't be able to hear his parents, even though he's hearing their dying words. That is so heartbreaking. I just want to hug him.
Except then I remember that he and Ron are going weeks without talking to Hermione because she tried to save his life by making sure the Firebolt isn't going to kill him, and then I want to smack him upside the head. Then hug him.

Overall I'm not a fan of any of the Quidditch scenes. Then again, I'm not a huge sports fan anyway so this is nothing against Rowling. However I do enjoy Lee Jordan and McGonagall's arguments during his commentary.

"I thought you two'd value yer friend more'n broomsticks or rats." Damn straight! You tell 'em, Hagrid. Stupid Ron and Harry need to BE NICER TO HERMIONE.

"Everyone from the Minister of Magic downward has been trying to keep famous Harry Potter safe from Sirius Black. But famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself. Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Famous Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences." Snape may be an asshole, but he makes a very good point. Obviously Lupin makes the same point that actually gets through to Harry, but still, the idea is the same.

Earlier in this readalong we guessed there are about 10 kids per house per grade, based roughly on how many Griffindors there are in Harry's year. So there are 7 grades at Hogwarts so each house would have about 70 students. Except during the Quidditch match Griffindor vs. Slytherine it says there are 200 people wearing green. The scene at breakfast suggested that Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are also rooting for Griffindor (cos everyone hates Slytherin) so who is making up all 200? So I asked the internet for an answer and apparently Rowling gave an interview in 2000 and said there are 1,000 students at Hogwarts. The folks at Beyond Hogwarts argue that this makes no sense, and they guess closer to the 10 students per house per grade. So I know since Rowling wrote the books her answer should be the correct one, but since most of the other stuff she wrote doesn't support that (except maybe this scene with 200 Slytherins) I'm choosing to believe the smaller number.
Doing the math: how many kids are at Hogwarts

I don't deny that Hemione is super clever, but is she really THAT smart for figuring out Lupin is a werewolf? Given all of the clues that were handed out, a few of Lupin's students should have guessed what he was. Considering so many of them saw what the boggert turned into. Did all of them REALLY thing it was just a white glowing ball he's afraid of?

Speaking of Lupin as a werewolf, I mentioned in my last post I had a problem with Lupin's name. I didn't think the history about Lupin becoming a werewolf came out until the 5th book, but it looks like it's here. Therefore, here is my problem:
Remus Lupin says he was bit by a werewolf as a young child. Yet his name has two wolf references in it: Remus one of the twins that founded Rome, raised by a she-wolf and Lupin or "Lupine" which is relating to a wolf. That is either a) insanely coincidental, b) Lupin changed his name at some point (perhaps to give people some warning of what he is) or c) he was actually born a werewolf and this is actually a family thing. Or most likely, Rowling named him this because it's a clever little play on words and assumed no one was going to look this closely at a children's book. Silly Rowling.

"Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?" Snape is TOTALLY fine with this. Which is why he's a pretty big asshole. But then (at least in the movie) he makes sure to push Harry, Ron, and Hermione behind him so he's between them and werewolf Lupin, and it makes up for some of his asshole behavior. Some.

This is totally a Cracked point, but I think it should be made cos, ew. So Pettigrew was Scabbers and has been hanging out with the Weasley family for 12 years. First he was Percy rat, then later he was given to Ron. On the Marauder's Map, it doesn't matter if he's hidden as a rat, he still shows up as himself. And the twins had that map for awhile before giving it to Harry. So if they were to look at that map to see what their brother is up to, they'd see him sleeping with a man named Peter Pettigrew. So yeah, wtf?

"You're the only person who has the right to decide [what to do with Pettigrew], Harry." What? Why? Why is Harry the only one who has the right to decide? Sirius has a pretty good right to decide, considering he lost his best friend AND has been in Azkaban for 12 years because of it. Gives him at least some right to decide.

I'm not going to go on about the Time Turner because there are so many problems with it there is no way to go over all of them. Time travel in general doesn't work if you think about it too hard. Including the fact that in order for Hermione to get the Time Turner McGonagall had to get permission from the Ministry to get it for her, so there's a good chance Fudge would know she had it.

Sirius is innocent and free (although still on the run), Lupin is sadly no longer their DADA professor, and Harry will be going back to the Dursley's for the summer. And if Rowling felt like writing a book detailing the Marauders time at Hogwarts, that'd be neat.

Title quote from page 427

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Scholastic, 1999.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I believe in happy endings

A few weeks ago deciding we should take advantage of the fact that he had a rare day off, Boyfriend+ and I decided to spend the day in the city. I go in regularly for work, but I never get to just hang out. After lunch we wandered over to The Strand because, I mean, it's right there. I was looking for a Butler book (specifically Fledgling) but no one seems to appreciate how awesome she is, so the only copy they had was Kindred. Boyfriend+ noticed a copy of The Silver Linings Playbook and, remembering Alice raving about it, I decided I should give it a try. We decided it was too cold to keep wandering around so we ended up going to a movie. And what movie did we decide to see? Silver Linings Playbook, obviously. Normally I like to read the book first, but it's not that big of a deal to me.

I really liked the movie. It's excellent, JLaw is excellent, and even Bradly Cooper (who I'm very meh about) is excellent. Because I enjoyed the movie so much and read the book not long after, I can't separate my review of the book and the movie. They're similar enough that it's obviously the same story, but different enough I can see how the movie was heavily adapted from the book. The characters are different in the movie, which means they react differently to things than they do in the book. And (I'm sorry Alice) but I preferred the movie.

I don't know if I preferred the movie BECAUSE I saw it first or because it's better. Unless I get a case of soap opera amnesia and decide instead of trying to get my memory back I should read The Silver Linings Playbook I'm never going to know for sure. Just keep this in mind as I go through the review.

So. The book is a man named Pat Peoples who's been in a mental health facility for some time, but has recently been released to his parents. While in "the bad place" he came up with the theory that his life is a movie and part of the movie means he has to improve himself (physically, mentally, emotionally) so he can reunite with his estranged wife. As soon as "apart time" is over and he returns to Nikki, he can get his happy ending. But when he's home no one will talk to him about Nikki. All of their wedding pictures are missing and his mother told him they were stolen because the frames were so nice. (All of the other pictures are still there because they were able to be replaced. Not the wedding photos though.) His father will hardly speak to him, not even when they're watching the Eagles play. He has his brother Jake and his best friend Ronnie talk to him, although not about Nikki or how long he was at the hospital. There's also his therapist and fellow Eagles fan Cliff. And Tiffany, Ronnie's sister-in-law. Tiffany is having her own problems after her husband's death and is scouting Pat for...something.

The book is funny and sweet and charming and bittersweet. Pat is back home and trying to make sense of his world and of course, get his happy ending. But he was in "the bad place" for a reason, even if he can't remember why. This isn't to say he doesn't deserve a happy endings, he is a good guy, but it means the journey is going to be difficult. And Tiffany complicates things.

Pat has no desire to be set up with anyone. He's still married and his happy ending involves him getting back with Nikki. Not that Tiffany seems to want him. She follows him on his jogs (even when he yells at her to leave) but she hardly speaks to him.

The biggest reason I preferred the movie to the book is Pat. In the book, he's simple. As I mentioned above, he refers to the mental health facility as "the bad place" and the fact that he isn't allowed to contact Nikki as "apart time". He orders a bowl of cereal at a diner, pays for it with 2 $20s, and tells the waitress to keep the change, because Nikki liked big tippers. He (at least initially) believes his mother's story about his wedding photos being stolen. I prefer the movie version of Pat, who is just as optimistic as book Pat not as simple. He's just as certain he and Nikki will end up together, but he doesn't refer to their current separation as "apart time". He says whatever comes into his head, appropriate or not, but he knows he shouldn't. Movie Pat has mental health problems he deserved to spend time in the mental health facility, but that doesn't mean he's slow.

I liked the book. But I preferred the movie. And because I saw/read them so close to one another, I couldn't help comparing the book to the movie the whole time I was reading it. Perhaps I'll give the book a try in a few years, when the memory of the movie has faded and see what I think. Of course I may end up buying a copy of the movie, so perhaps that will always be my definitive version.

Title quote from page 15

Quick, Matthew. The Silver Linings Playbook. Sarah Crichton Books, 2008.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nemo and a convo about wedding desserts

It's been awhile since I've done a wedding update so I figured I should probably get one done. But before I do that, I'll share with you some pictures from the snowpocolypse Nemo. We got about 30" where I am, but luckily we didn't lose power.
Unfortunately I didn't stock up properly before the storm, or else yesterday would have been spent making cookies. Really, probably for the better because today would have been spent eating cookies. Speaking of desserts (SEGUES!) here's that wedding post.

Conversation about wedding dessert:

Me: I saw a thing for a lemon blueberry cake. What do you think?
Boyfriend+: Eh, I'm not big on cake.
Me: Should we go with pie then? Pie tiers?
Boyfriend+: Yeah pie...I'm gonna throw it in your face!
Me: What? No. Don't throw pie in my face.
Me: Don't throw pie at me. You don't even like bananas.
Me: I like fruit tarts.
Boyfriend+: You're a fruit tart!
Me: ...Cool. OK, so no cake, no pie, no fruit tart?
Boyfriend+: Let's be honest, I can throw any dessert in your face.

So if you're wondering how wedding planning is going, it's pretty much like that. That's mean cos it makes it seem like I'm TRYING to do stuff and Boyfriend+ is just not doing anything. Which isn't true cos I'm not trying that hard to come up with stuff either. I should probably work on that. Plus he may have found a photographer, so he may have actually gotten more done with the whole wedding thing than I have.

Oh and desserts are in no way figured out. Except for the fact that now that I have the dress picked out NO DESSERTS WILL BE FLUNG ON IT.

Also I kinda want a fruit tart right now...

Hopefully we'll have the budget figured out soon. Once that's settled on we can actually start booking stuff. Venues and food cost ALL THE MONEY. Until then my wedding posts will be random conversations like this or rants about various wedding things. (After the budget is figured out and stuff can be booked, there will probably still be rant posts. Be prepared.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black

Happy Friday/Harry Potter Readalong Day! AND we're starting one of my favorite Harry Potter's (behind Order of the Phoenix anyway), Prisoner of Azkaban. Stuff starts getting darker, we get introduced to new characters THAT I LOVE, and there's that hippogriff.
Thank you Alice for holding this thing and a reminder to everyone that there will be spoilers. Be prepared. Also I heart this books so WEEEEEE
It was nice to see Harry (somewhat) stand up to the Dursleys, or at least his Aunt Marge. Plus it worked out nicely that he didn't get in trouble for it. See, there are POSITIVE side effects to an Azkaban escapee searching for you.

Finally the wizarding community decided to forgive Hagrid and make him a teacher. I mean, it would have been nice of them if they had forgiven Hagrid after it became clear Tom Riddle = Voldemort and thus Hagrid didn't set the basilisk loose. But I think it's clear the wizarding world has a terrible legal system.

Speaking of the wizard legal system, they are not focused on rehabilitation at all with their prison system. And considering they sent a small child to Azkaban because they thought he opened the Chamber of Secrets (on the word of another child instead of any sort of investigation) so I guess this really shouldn't be a surprise.  Rowling did create a supremely creepy creature in the Dementors. And I like that chocolate helps with the after effects. Because mmmmmm chocolate.
I know it was a bad thing for Buckbeak to attack Malfoy, but man, don't you kinda wish he took off his whole arm or something? Maybe just a finger. Also Malfoy's threat about his dad going to the school governors seems empty. You know, given Lucius was kicked off the board for blackmail and intimidation.

Lupin is great (even if I have problems with his name, which will be dealt with at a later time). It's nice to see an actually competent teacher. I know there are a few at the school, but they seem in equal number to the useless ones. Even if I like the useless ones. Like Trelawney. I mostly like Trelawney because of Emma Thompson and for her banter with McGonagall.

The Marauder's Map is super creepy. Awesome if you're the one that has it and creepy if you're anyone. Because it knows where you are at all times.
Then there's the whole danger factor considering people want to get into the schools and maybe this isn't a good thing to have around.

Concerning the Firebolt, Harry and Ron are dumbasses. They know Black was in the castle and they acknowledge he's coming for Harry. Yet he gets a VERY expensive broomstick and has no concerns over it. Teenagers are stupid and they need to stop yelling at Hermione.

Also the idea that Dumbledore couldn't be the one that gave him the broomstick because that would be showing favoritism. Except that time he bent the rules to let him play on the house team. And gave him his first broomstick, which was top of the line at the time. But no, no favoritism.

As with the other books, the second half is the best part so I can't wait until part II!

Title quote from page 161

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Scholastic, 1999.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief

Right after Christmas everyone was posting all of the fun books they got for the holidays. I left a comment on Alice's blog mentioning how I got no books. I did not mean this as a "Please take pity on me and SEND ME BOOKS" but because she's awesome and had extra copies of The Wordy Shipmates she sent me a copy. She has extra copies because she bought a bunch when they were on sale. Sort of like a one-woman World Book Night which is a great idea and if I ever see a cheap stack of books I LOVE I will do the same.

I'm not too familiar with Sarah Vowell. I've heard of her. Mostly her latest book Unfamiliar Fishes and her work on The Daily Show and Wikipedia tells me she also did the voice of Violet Parr in The Incredibles. But I've wanted to read something of hers and now I have. Huzzah.

The Wordy Shipmates is about the Puritans that helped get this whole America dealy started. Not the Mayflower Pilgrims but the 1630 Arbella guys that founded Boston and Providence. She argues that John Cotton's farewell sermon, "God's Promise To His Plantation," which pretty much says these Puritans are the next God's chosen people leads to this feeling of American exceptionalism that's still felt today. Though the modern examples are just a sentence here and there, so the focus is on the Puritans themselves.

Vowell reminds me of an academic Bill Bryson. She has lines like "The irony of informing nearly naked people in a wilderness setting about the story of naked Adam and Eve eating the fruit of knowledge and inventing the fashion industry is not lost on [Roger] Williams." And how can you not love that? The reading is slower than the Bryson stuff, but I think that's because she's more focused on the micro, this small time period, versus Bryson looking at the big picture. Thing of his A Short History of Nearly Everything which covers centuries of scientific history. Vowell's tone is funny but not as irreverent as Bryson's. Of course, reading could have also been slow because early American History isn't exactly my favorite subject. It's already an uphill battle.

Despite that uphill battle I really liked the book. I liked the book and I want to read more of her. My favorite sections are when she talks about the Puritans massacre of the Pequot. This is obviously not a happy section of the book, but these were also the parts where Vowell made a more personal connection with the story. She is part Cherokee and these sections feel less like a class lecture than other parts. A very interesting class lecture, but class lecture nonetheless. These were also the parts where the argument about these Puritans being the next God's chosen people come across the strongest. God wanted these guys to settle the land and  so burning men, women, and children alive was pretty much what God wanted.

So yeah, I want to read more Vowell. And she apparently retraced the Trail of Tears with her sister. If she wanted to write a book about that, though it would be super depressing, I'd still read it. In the meantime, I'll need to check out the stuff she's already written.

Side note, I especially like the title quote, probably because it's the same as one from Dogma that Rufus the 13th Apostle/Chris Rock says. And if we can tie things back to Dogma, all the better.

Update to include the Dogma quote
Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name - wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier...

Title quote from page 1

Vowell, Sarah. The Wordy Shipmates. Riverhead Books, 2008.

Monday, February 4, 2013

January Reading Wrap-Up

Another month down and my reading has ramped up. The Harry Potter readalong helps. And the mini-readathon. And the holidays get in the way of reading time, so comparing January to December really isn't fair. I was trying to think of anything else interesting that's happened this month but, yeah, I already covered the readalong so that's about it. So onto those stats

Number of books read
Under the Dome by Stephen King
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by The Reduced Shakespeare Company (review from original post)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  by J.K. Rowling
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction

Percentage of female authors
60% !! OK, so that's mostly due to HP. Or really JK.

Percentage of white authors
100% umm...hey look how many female authors I read!

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of eBooks
20% but I was very happy to not be lugging King's tome around with me

Books written by decade
1990s - 60%
2000s - 40%

Quite the variety, I know.
I at least know my female reading stats will be decent while this readalong is going on. I should probably make more of an effort in the other categories but I'm enjoying the "whateva whateva, I do wut I want" reading so we'll see.

Friday, February 1, 2013

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities

Happy Friday/Harry Potter Day! Your favorite day, right? I mean, also because it means it's almost the weekend but mostly the HP thing. But before we get to that, I have a picture I must share

Kayleigh (aka Nylon Admiral) made some kick ass Harry Potter wands AND offered them up to those who wanted them. So of course I jumped on that cos LOOK AT THAT THING? And the glitter? And the notes. Yeah, I ran around the house giggling and pointing that at things while yelling nonsense. I pointed it at Boyfriend+ who looked at me, paused and then yelled "I point at thee*" before turning back to whatever he was doing before I interrupted him. Be prepared for more wand photos.

Onto the readalong, hosted by Alice (aka Reading Rambo aka Muggle Wrangler?).
And now we can discuss the second half of the Chamber of Secrets and then move on to the more interesting books in the series. You know, any that aren't this one.

Fine, that's mean. This is my least favorite of the series, but it's still pretty good. Something has to be the worst and this is it. Besides the first time I read it I felt no need to continue on with the rest of the books. Luckily I got over that.

And I did like parts of this book. I like Gilderoy Lockhart, even though he tries to erase Harry's and Ron's memories. That was a dick move. But really, I liked everything from the moment they find out Ginny had been taken to the end. Then we had some action and mythical creatures and things were fun. Well fun in a dark-and-perilous kind of way.

Is the basilisk Harry fights supposed to be the same one that Voldie let loose when he was a student? Cos they say the creature can live hundreds of years, but they don't say anything about if it needs to eat or anything during that time. Was someone feeding it all these years?

"Ron read the message [to follow the spiders], swallowed hard, and looked sideways at the empty seat usually filled by Hermione. The sight seemed to stiffen his resolve, and he nodded." AWWWWWWWW Ron.
What was Hagrid hoping Harry and Ron would learn by following the spiders and meeting Aragog? I know if they hadn't, they wouldn't have found out that Hagrid didn't open the Chamber and that the girl died in the bathroom. Except did anyone really believe Hagrid opened the Chamber? No, so they learned the girl died in the bathroom. But was that what Hagrid was hoping would happen? Aragog would make an off handed remark about not going there? Actually I hope Hagrid's plan was for Harry and Ron to ride spiders into the school to take down the monster. That would have made no sense, but I think I would have enjoyed it.

I'm torn about the ending. Did Lucius know what the diary was? Because Dumbledore seems to suggest that he did and this was all a plan to get Arthur Weasley fired, by having his daughter murder a bunch of students with a mythical beast. Which, if THAT'S what Lucius was planning to do with a piece of Voldemort's soul, that is overkill. But if Lucius didn't know what the diary actually was, what was he hoping would happen by sneaking it into Ginny's book? Maybe just have her be caught with a dark object? WHAT IS YOUR END GAME?
Can house elves not do laundry? Would that count as presenting them with clothes? And really, does the way Dobby was "presented" with clothes count, because he actually caught something Lucius was throwing away? This is a case where I think the movie did it better by having Lucius present Dobby with the sock hidden inside the book. So he didn't realize that he was presenting him with his freedom.

OK, so I apparently have lots of questions after this one. But really, I'm just excited that we're up to Prisoner of Azkaban now.

*I really tried to find a clip of this from Conan since he says it pretty much any time he's referencing a nerd, but my cursory Googling failed to turn anything up. Instead, you can watch this clip of him teasing a person dressed up as HP at his show.

Title quote from page 422

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic, 1999.