Monday, August 21, 2017

West Coast Bonanza! Part 2

I wrote the first piece about my trip to the west coast and then I just didn't write much of anything so here I am, back to cover off on the last leg of our trip. Back to Seattle!

Years ago we randomly decided to visit Seattle for a vacation cos hey, why not? And it turns out that we sort of love it there. So we've been back a few times. Basically any time we find ourselves in the vicinity of the west coast, and this trip was no exception.

I have the most photos from this leg of the trip, probably because it was the part we weren't with friends and I tend to forget to take pictures when people are around. Except at the zoo. I have about a million from there.

First stop:
Paseo OBVIOUSLY. There's been lots of drama around Paseo and the new restaurant (which is run by the son of the original owner of Paseo) Un Bien and I could GO ON about this. But I won't. I'll just tell you that we landed in Seattle, picked up our rental car and went straight to Paseo and it was just as I remembered. Amazing. We headed to Kerry Park to enjoy our sandwiches. I don't have any pictures before I started eating, because that would have required me to hold off on digging in, but I did get one mid-way through.
We then enjoyed the beautiful weather and view.

We were trying to decide what to do for the evening when we saw that there was a production of the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time going on. And they had tickets available. I had read the book back when it first came out but Tom didn't know anything about it so surprises for him. BTW it was very good and if you get the chance to see, I recommend.

The next day we decided to check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass near the Space Needle. Cos we've done the Space Needle and the MoPOP (formerly the EMP, Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum) a bunch of times. Well we've done EMP a bunch of times. Anyway, we wanted to see something new and glass art is pretty.

We made our way over to the Market for some lunch (Country Dough, homemade Chinese noodles) and wandered around the stalls. We did our mini-shopping: picked up some tea from MarketSpice, Rainier cherries from one of the farm stalls, Chinese pastries from a place I should prob remember the name of, and some homemade pepper pasta from another stall I should prob remember the name of but I am a bad shopper. 

The weather, which had been overcast and drizzly in the morning, improved in the afternoon so we drove up to Snoqualmie Falls and did a little hike. I mean, we hadn't totally planned the hike. It was more like "Hey, let's walk down this path and see the waterfall from a different angle" and then we realized we'd have to come back UP the path to get back to the car. But it sounds better if I just say "And then we did a little hike." There were notices to watch out for mountain lions and bears and I wouldn't have been super surprised if there was a Bigfoot out there. 
We ended the day meeting up with some friends for dinner (at which point Tom coined the term Satellite Seattelite and he's very proud of this) before heading back into the city.

Cities tend to have tall buildings with observation towers, and Seattle is no different. We'd done some of them on previous trips but Tom found one in the Smith Tower, which was originally built in the 1910s. What it lacks in height of some of the newer buildings it makes up for in having a whole bunch of history (which they tell you buy way of a mini-scavenger hunt type thing where you pretend to be a bootlegger from the '20s. Or like a cop or something, but I went bootlegger), a cool old fashioned elevator and a really pretty observation room. And so pretty views of the city.
We went to Il Corvo for lunch. It's this place that makes homemade pastas. They only have a few options each day and the line is insane.We'd been a few times before, including when they had a location at the Market and lines weren't so long, but word got out that the food is delicious so it was about an hour wait. We were prepared and the food was worth it.
After lunch we wandered around Chinatown for a bit before heading to the Underground Tour. Which we've done before BUT it's a neat tour, all about the history of the city and the fact that they had to build everything up a level and also "seamstresses" (aka hookers) were really responsible for a lot of the success of the city. Our tour guide wasn't plastered like the last one we had (who we noticed was now working for a rival underground tour group) but entertaining nonetheless.

Finally we went to a Mets/Mariners game because of course there's gotta be baseball. Tom got some great seats and the Mets won AND it was fireworks night so good times.

(I'm almost done, I swear).

Our last day, we had a red eye leaving around 10pm so we had one final day in the city. We met up with a coworker of Tom's who was in the city for Mets stuff. After breakfast, as it was another beautiful day, we decided to drive around a bit. We went through some new neighborhoods, making our way to Un Bien because we HAD to compare Un Bien to Paseo. It was amazing and delicious and trying to choose between the two is like trying to choose between children. We ended up at Woodland Park to enjoy our epic sandwiches (they were so good) and watch some LARPing (not planned but it was happening), then headed over to Gasworks and the Ballard Locks before picking up some more Un Bien sandwiches (IMPORTANT) and heading to the airport and back to the real world.
West Coast, you were pretty swell. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Invasive: When the going gets weird, the weird needs Hannah Stander

What do you think of ants? They always seemed like they were probably the best option in the bug world, even if you are not a fan of creepy crawlies. I mean, think about ant farms. And an ant was a hero in Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Sure, there are those bullet ants that will mess you up for at least a day if they bite you, but overall ants almost seem cute.

YOU ARE WRONG. YOU ARE SO WRONG.
OK, so maybe not cos most ants are FINE (even if some are taking over the planet and we should probably be concerned about that). But if you're in the Invasive world, there's a very good case to be made for why these things are horrifying.

A bio-tech thriller set in the same world as Zer0es (though you don't need to have read it to enjoy this), the book opens with a strangely mutilated corpse. Because let's start the weird right out the gate. FBI consultant Hannah Stander is called in to try to figure out what could have done this, which leads to a compound in Hawaii. There are worse places to have to investigate, even if your investigation involves GMO ants.

Hannah has to figure out what is going on, how did these ants get loose, and how much damage could some ants really do? (Spoiler, OH MAN so much damage.)

I don't want to give away too much in regards to the plot, cos, you know thriller. But I will tell you that the story was suspenseful and creepy and I was engaged. If you've read anything by Chuck Wendig before, you have an idea what you're getting into. And if you haven't, what are you waiting for? His stuff is great (as long as you're cool with thrillers and some-to-a-good-amount of violence). The books are so much fun and he can write female characters who actually seem like real people.

I realize this is a short review but I also feel like I hit upon all the key points.
You may have thought ants were sort of cute but WRONG SO WRONG
Suspenseful bio-technical thriller
Female main character (who was raised by doomsday preppers. I forgot that bit but I'm addressing it here)
Hawaii!
Chuck Wendig

Gif rating:

Wendig, Chuck. Invasive. Harper Voyager, 2016. Kindle

Monday, August 7, 2017

West Coast Bonanza! Part 1

As we get older, it seems it's harder and harder to meet up with people. Life seems to get in the way and making plans requires so much work and coordination and shared calendars. But last month we somehow managed to make it work, and Tom and I spent time on the west coast with a bunch of friends. And it was amazing. So hey, let's look at some pictures I took during vacation while I procrastinate on getting actual reviews written.

First stop: Vegas
OK so, I don't actually have that many pictures of Vegas. I tend to be bad about remembering to take pictures. But Tom is better about that so here's a few.

We spent some time wandering among the various casinos (I don't gamble so I mostly enjoyed how ridiculous they all are as well as the AC). Otherwise we ate some good food, saw the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show and hung out with a couple of our friends who drove out from San Diego.

Second stop: Grand Canyon
I was very excited for the Grand Canyon. I'd never been before and it looked so beautiful and different compared to any sort of landscape I'm used to on the east coast. Since we were going to be driving from Vegas to the Canyon and then from the Canyon to San Diego, we stuck to the west rim to save us a few hours of driving.

It was as breath-taking as everyone says. Also, while I understand not wanting to put up anything that would mess with the view, OMG there is NOTHING preventing people from falling into the Canyon other than a few guys going "Hey, don't get to close please" which is STRESSFUL. But beautiful so.

Third stop: San Diego
I give Tom tons of credit for helping coordinate, well really the entire trip, but this piece especially because there were a lot of people to try to get on the same page. There were, of course, the friends that were with us in Vegas (we were staying at their place during the San Diego leg of the trip); there were our other friends who just recently moved (and in her case moved back) to San Diego this past winter; there were our friends who were coming out from Rhode Island for a week in San Diego; and finally there was our friend from NYC who was literally spending 48 hours in Cali before having to head back home.

San Diego was great, in no small part to the company. There were bonfires and zoos and brewery tasting rooms and baseball and beach and lots of Mexican food. Generally this was a very chill part of the trip with some touristy things but a lot of relaxing.

I'll post some zoo pictures (because I have SO MANY from there) and then leave the rest to another post.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July Reading Wrap-Up

July was a pretty swell month. Tom and I did a big west coast vacation we've been planning for months* which included meeting up with friends in Vegas, spending a couple days there before driving to the Grand Canyon and then San Diego (where said friends live), meeting up with other friends (some from San Diego and some coming in from the east coast) for bonfires and bar crawls and zoo visit and baseball games before Tom and I split off to spend some time in Seattle. I'll have a longer post about the trip, but this is why I've been less available the last few days. But now we're back to the grind.

So hey, let's see how I did reading-wise

Number of books read
4
Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett
World War Z by Max Brooks
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales

Number of pages read
1,830

Fiction
75%

Female authors
25%

POC authors
50%
US authors
50%

Book formats
audiobook: 25%
ebook: 25%
paperback: 50%

Where'd I get the book
Gift: 25%
Indie bookstore: 50%
Kindle/Audible: 25%

Readalong/Bookclub
50%

Blogger reco
25%

Translation
25%

Reread
25%

Books by decade
2000s: 50%
2010s: 50%

Books by genre
Biography: 25%
Horror: 25%
Sci Fi: 25%
Thriller: 25%

Resolution books
75%
Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation is by a non-US author (Lycett is British)
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino is by a non-US, POC author (Kirino is from Japan) and is a translation
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales is by a POC author

*Haha "we". Tom did 99% of the planning and I just showed up.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Stepford Wives: Stepford is out of step

I finally read The Stepford Wives after finding a copy for sale during one of my I'll-just-stop-in-to-browse-but-I-don't-actually-need-anything trips to the Strand.

You know what's frightening? How relevant the book is today. I don't know why, but I wasn't really expecting that to be the case (despite knowing the story and existing in the present day).

For the few of you who don't know the story (from the book, or the '75 movie , or even the 2004 movie) here's a quick synopsis: Joanna and Walter Eberhart (both very interested in the Women's Liberation movement), and their two children, move from NYC to the Connecticut suburbs, landing in the town of Stepford where the homes are beautiful, and everyone seems so welcoming and...well, perfect.

All of the wives in the town seem happy to clean their homes and cook and tend to their husbands. The husbands have their own men's only club, which Walter assures Joanna is just a throw back being held up by a few of the older members, but many of the younger husbands talk about allowing women to join. But really, nothing interesting is happening up there.

But something is off. It's hard for Joanna to put her finger on exactly what it is. Maybe these women just prefer keeping house to the (long disbanded) women's club. Maybe priorities shift when you're in the suburbs and all of this is just normal.

Levin is a master at building tension and making you question what's really going on (even if you already KNOW what's going on). Joanna second-guesses her self, questions what's in front of her eyes. And the children in town seem to like their new moms, who prefer to dote on them instead of following their own pursuits. The men, too, go from perhaps a little odd and old fashioned, preferring their wives stay at home, to quietly menacing and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when the change happens.

Who knew one of my favorite reads of the year would be a story I thought I knew already?

Gif rating:
and also some of this
Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. Corsair, 2011. Originally published 1972

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today Will Be Different: If everyone were so gung-ho on reality, there'd be no art

Have I made my love of Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? clear? Have I? If not, let me shout from the rooftops that I love this book and even just thinking about it makes me think I should probably re-read it again, despite a growing TBR list of all NEW things I could be experiencing.

So when I heard Semple had a new book out, Today Will Be Different, I said "YES PLEASE." Like, immediately, out loud to myself. Then I sort of forgot about it for a while because I am easily distracted. But I found an ecopy for sale and so decided to not only read it myself, but foist it on a bunch of other people by suggesting it for book club. And my book was chosen (at random from a bunch of pieces of paper in a hat) so the pressure is on.

...This was no Where'd You Go, Bernadette?.

Today Will Be Different follows around Eleanor Flood through her day, where she repeats the titular mantra. Listen, you don't have to repeat stuff like that if everything is awesome. But hey maybe today will be different. She'll do stuff like shower and get dressed. She'll only wear yoga clothes at yoga, which she will attend. She'll initiate sex with her husband. Today will be different.

But, her young son, who is having some trouble at school, decides to fake sick. This on the same day she discovers her husband, a well-known surgeon who treats famous athletes, has told his office that he's on vacation while telling his family he's at the office. And there's also the matter of her graphic novel, The Flood Girls, a memoir about her and her sister that is years overdue.

The present day bits all take place on this one day where Eleanor is trying to hold it together and figure out just what is going on. There are the flashbacks, some to her and her sister Ivy growing up, others involving her sister and an incident involving New Orleans high society.

The flashback bits were the most successful for me. They were the parts that reminded me of Bernadette that focused on the ridiculous. They were also the parts where the narrative made the most sense. Or maybe it was just he parts I could follow.

Because the thing is, the whole book has Semple's humor which can be biting a cruel at times, but is still pretty great. This quote is long but whatever, it's a good one and a good example of her writing
My point is: for ten years I haven't been able to shake her. She's the friend I don't like, the friend I don't know what she does for a living because I was too stultified to ask the first time and it would be rude to ask now (because I am not rude), the friend I can't be mean enough to so she gets the message (because I'm not mean), the friend to whom I keep saying no, no, no, yet she still chases me. She's like Parkinson's, you can't cure her, you can just manage the symptoms. For today, the lunch bell tolls. Please know that I'm aware lunch with a boring person is a boutique problem.
There were pieces and scenes and conversations I enjoyed but overall it didn't come together as a cohesive story. Part of me wonders what my thoughts would have been like had Bernadette not been a thing because it set up some high expectations.

But seriously, read Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 46

Semple, Maria. Today Will Be Different. Little Brown and Company, 2016.