Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Challenges went exactly as expected

I am officially done with the 2012 challenges I signed up for last year. I don't mean "done" as in "successfully completed" but more "I have run out of time so whatever I have done is what's getting done. And it wasn't much". Woo hoo. At least I can say things went exactly as I expected. See if you assume you'll fail you either end up correct OR pleasantly surprised.
With that, let's see how I did.
Back to the Classics challenge
19th Century Classic
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
20th Century Classic
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Re-read Classic of my choice
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A Classic Play
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Classic Mystery/Horror/Sci-Fi
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Classic translated from native language to mine
The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Classic Award Winner
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Classic set in a country you will not visit in your lifetime
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Smooth Criminals challenge
Hardboiled Classic
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet
Noir Classic
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
Prison Book
The Green Mile by Stephen King
Book written by a writer that did time
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Book with a psychopath as a protagonist
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
Gothic Novel
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Classic where plot revolves around a crime
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The "why the hell am I doing this to myself" book
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

So I did slightly better with the Smooth Criminals challenge but that was actually dumb luck since I read The Woman in White for a readalong, and I didn't realize Zombie would count towards this challenge till I had already finished it. Either way, good showing, me.
I'm not going to be signing up for any challenges in 2013. This showing here was too pathetic. Besides, I'm going to be doing the Harry Potter readalong which is enough reading commitment for me, kthxbai. For those of you that sign up for (and actually complete) these challenges, HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Day After Christmas

Happy Day After Christmas, for all that celebrate that one. If you don't, happy Wednesday on a day when I bet a lot of people still aren't around. Here's what I've been up to the last few days:

So Boyfriend+ and I hosted not one but two Christmases because we're nuts. My family came over for Christmas Eve, his family  Christmas Day. What, we could have had all of the family together at once? First up, we were sort of busting at the seams with Boyfriend+'s family, so adding more people would have meant a lot of people eating on whatever plate-like-object I could find and also probably sitting on the floor. Plus my mom just met his dad this past Sunday even though he and I have been together for 8 years, cos we take our time. Apparently.

Since I spent so much time in the kitchen, here's what we made
Menu for Christmas Eve!
For lunch: veggie pizza
For apps: baked brie, bean dip, bacon wrapped cheese stuffed dates + this white cranberry cosmo thing that is fantastic and I will probably continue to drink those until we're out of cranberry vodka.
For dinner: seafood paella (with shrimp, scallops, lobster, mussels, salmon)
For dessert: cookies, so many cupcakes that we picked up that afternoon

Menu for Christmas!
For apps: guac & chips, bacon wrapped cheese stuffed dates, caprese salad skewers (fresh moz, tomato, basil on a toothpick)
For lunch/dinner: bacon mac & cheese, apple & cherry stuffed chicken breasts, grilled salmon, sauteed spinach, steamed broccoli, white rice
For dessert: more cookies, rugelach, cheesecake, coconut custard pie, blueberry pie, ice cream

I mentioned that my family and Boyfriend+'s met on Sunday, which was a last minute thing. My mom, aunt, and I went to see The Lion King on Broadway. The costumes and sets for it were insane. So good. The rest of it was eh, but the costumes/sets made up for it. Anyway, after the show we all ended up meeting for dinner, which worked out nicely.

Boyfriend+ and I went out last night to see the new Les Mis movie. So if you could all go see it so we could talk about it, that'd be neat. Some quick thoughts:

Anne Hathaway was really good as Fantine. I understand the Oscar buzz.
I didn't have too much hope for Russel Crowe as Javert. He was better than I expected. But not as good as I wanted him to be, so whomp.
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius were both surprisingly good. I don't usually like adult Cosette cos she's so flighty and annoying but I liked her here. And I heard somewhere Redmayne wasn't great as Marius but now I can't remember where I heard that so I could have made it up. ALSO Redmayne has a lot of freckles so (having them myself) he got extra points.
Overall I wasn't totally blown away with the movie but I did have pretty high expectations. I also have a good amount of the music memorized, so, yeah.

From the audience I saw the movie with
There was a lady behind me that made SO MUCH NOISE during the movie. Not really talking but loud gasps every time Javert showed up on screen. And he is a main character and all so that happened a lot. At one point I wanted to turn around and tell her the rest of the plot. The story is 150 years old so I feel I'm safe from spoilers at this point.
I guess she was also a big Sacha Baron Cohen fan cos when he showed up on the screen, before doing anything other than standing there, she was cracking up.
The two people sitting next to us got up and left about 20 minutes in. I don't think they knew there would be singing...
A person on the other side, near the end, said "Well, this movie sure is depressing, isn't it?" While I understand the title is technically in French, I'm pretty sure you can see "Miserable" right there, so you should probably assume this won't be a sunshine filled jaunt through wildflower fields. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Why yes, I am listening to Les Mis now. How'd you guess?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dane pined for change

This review is going to be disjointed. I'd try to put together a summary to really pull everything together, but I read this book over a long period of time and in between I wrote down thoughts here as I went. So yeah, fair warning (both in the structure of this AND that this book took me forever, which isn't a great sign.)

Ad Nomad by Eric Jay Sonnenschein is the story of Dane Bacchus, a college writing professor who, upon losing his job as a professor, decides to go into advertising. He goes from agency to agency writing copy for pharmaceutical companies. There are late nights and fights with co-workers and every once in awhile an ad gets made.

I went back and forth on this one. Because at first I really enjoyed it. I was a bit hesitant after The Mine but I was liking this. The writing kept me entertained and I wanted to see what would happen. And then I saw what happened. And then it happened again. And again. And again. For 600 pages.

One thing that I realized off the bat was going to be a sticking point for me was the the author and I were approaching advertising from very different places. He's coming at it from the point of view that advertising is a center of creativity, a place where someone can make something while still being able to make a decent living. I, on the other hand, am coming at it from the point of view that advertising is manipulative and just wants you the consumer to spend your money. I don't deny there is some creativity there, but I don't think it's really some noble pursuit.

I think the character of Dane is manic depressive or something because he flies into these ranges about the tiniest things. Or maybe he's just an asshole. Though I'm not sure the purpose was to make him an asshole. But that's how he comes across. A super unstable asshole who will start foaming at the mouth if you dare add a comma to his copy. Or if his "work wife" starts working with someone else in the office he gets jealous and confronts her about it and are you crazy, sir? I guess the problem is I don't think he was supposed to be a lunatic. But he is. If it was supposed to be intentional it would probably make more sense but I got the feeling we really were supposed to root for the guy.

When he's not being a crazy person, he's really whiny. At first he's just "defending his work" and it almost seems noble (until you remember he's writing ads for stuff like premature ejaculation medicine and that nobility slips away). But then he does it again. And again. And again. Because EVERYONE is trying to change his work and HOW DARE THEY??? This usually means he ineffectually complains about this to a boss. Maybe because I never really understand his anger, he comes off as a petulant child instead of a genius creative whose vision is being destroyed.

The points above I might have been fine with if the story had been shorter. Or had a purpose. Or something. But the longer I read this the more I'm thinking "...yeah, and?" The novel is episodic I guess, but it's getting repetitive. Dane gets a job at an agency, does BRILLIANT work (his words), some evil co-worker destroys his work just to spite him, Dane whines, Dane leaves the job (or gets fired) and gets a new one, repeat at new agency. Other than the person he's arguing with and the medicine he's shilling, nothing is changing. And Dane isn't changing at all. There is no larger point where working towards. At first I was enjoying the book but the longer I read and the more the same stuff keeps happening, the less I want to pick it up.

Because I like to make sarcastic comments at my books, here's an exchange I had with a scene:

"Becky believed psychiatry was like watch repair." Oh, you mean how they should both be tackled my skilled professionals because they deal with a lot of small, interconnected pieces? "Trusting a stranger to fix something of value was the surest way to break it." Wait, what? No. OPPOSITE. I would destroy my watch if I even thought too long about trying to repair it myself. No, I think even more than psychological problems that watch repair is something people trust others with. Simile fail.

There's a good idea here and the writing kept me engaged until the plot quit being interesting. There are some funny moments that need fleshed out some more to really hit their mark. I described some of the scenes to Boyfriend+ and as I was saying them I was thinking "You know this sounds like a really funny scene. But there is no payoff." Oh and a part near the end, it just gets weird and comes out of no where. Had things gone differently there it might have been interesting but everything sorta wrapped itself up in a nice little bow and the whole thing could have been dropped.

One last thing, and this is probably not all that important but I feel the need to mention it. The cover is awful. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know the author's daughter did it (it says so in the front) but I really did not like the cover and based on the cover alone I would pass by this book in a store. A few times I considered covering the book somehow. You know, like you'd cover a text book in grade school. I never did, but I thought about it pretty much every time I pulled the book out in public.

Title quote from page 168

I accepted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sonnenschein, Eric Jay. Ad Nomad: The Case Histories of Dane Bacchus. Hudson Heights Press, 2011.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Look at these pictures instead of noticing I don't have a real post

I feel like I should post because I only had the one post last week. And it was a post about my bookshelves because I haven't actually finished another book yet. Looks like 2012 reading is going to end with a whimper. But I have a pretty good reason for, right now, not having any new reading done.

See Boyfriend+ and I just got back from Disney.*

He was getting all stressed out at work and decided he needed a mini-vacation before his crazy busy season starts. As luck would have it, JetBlue was running a deal where flights were 50% off, so that worked out. I'm bad at keeping track of things, so I have a bunch of vacation days I need to use, which also worked out nicely. And I love Disney. I can be sarcastic and cynical about everything else, but Disney makes me run around like a little kid. Because of the whimsy and the CRAZY attention to detail and so much fun and stop pointing out how expensive everything is. I can't hear you over the whimsy.

Now you'd think "Oh so you were on vacation and clearly had lots of reading time, or at least time to read on the plane so soon you'll have reviews!" To which I respond "Did you know JetBlue has TVs at each seat AND it turns out Taken was on AND Boyfriend+ only knew that one speech but otherwise had never seen the movie so clearly it was important we spend the flight watching Liam Neeson murder all of Paris in increasingly ridiculous ways." The way back was spent watching news reports about the Sandy Hook massacre, but still no reading.

Back to happier things. Like pictures from Disney

*Or rather when I started writing this we had just got back from Disney**. But it's been a few days now so...yeah...
**I'm using Disney and Orlando interchangeably. Because Disney was the important part.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bookshelves! How I (don't at all) organize them

I feel like a lot of people, especially book bloggers, have specific methods for organizing their books. By genre, by author, by era, by color (which looks the best but seems like the least practical for when you actually want to find a book), I'm always impressed. Because my books? Not so much

My books are organized in what I'd like to call an "organic" method. You might call it as "entirely random". We're both correct. I'm more correct because it's my blog and my bookshelves but that's OK. Our bookshelves are spread throughout the house, against any open wall. At one point there was some logic to how they were organized. "One point" = a few apartments ago. Any organization now is because when we packed up from that apartment books from one shelf were put in the same box, and thus twice unpacked in roughly the same order. Roughly.

So there is a little bit of order. Most of the Shakespeare is together. The Harry Potter books are together. Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde, and Bill Bryson are all together on a special shelf in my room along with some of my other favorites. Everything else? Wherever the book will fit. Even if that means making extra piles on the shelves. We're sort of out of walls though so I'm not sure where we can fit another bookshelf.

I COULD get rid of books. I mean, I'm not GOING to, but I do possess the ability to get rid of books. Like physically I can move books from my shelves to a box and then bring that box elsewhere. I'm just not planning on that anytime soon. Even if Boyfriend+ thinks that wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Oh what's that? You want to see a picture of my shelves. Oh, well, if you insist
Left Boyfriend+'s books, mine on the right
Shelf O' Shakespeare
Did you sign up for the HP readalong yet? Did you?
Xmas tree blocks this shelf. Oops
You may have noticed that some shelves still have some space on them, like Boyfriend+'s for example. There are actually 2 other shelves in the hallway that also have space on them and therefore in theory I shouldn't need to pile books on the shelves. But see, that would require me to organize the books instead of just putting the new ones on whatever shelf is closest to me.

Non-books things that are on the shelf, but not for decoration but because it was a shelf near me: a candle, Fluxx*, slinkies, 2 polar bear Pez dispensers, a Mets subway car pencil case, sunglasses, a camera charger. In case you were curious. You probably weren't, but you know anyway. Cos it's my blog.

*Have you played Fluxx? Cos it's the best.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can a man still be brave if he is afraid?

When you have something as popular as Game of Thrones, you can’t help but go into it with expectations. Here are the things I “knew” about Game of Thrones before starting the first book:

1. It’s a fantasy so there will be lots of world building and foreign lands and people with ridiculous names
2. George R.R. Martin hates you and thus every time you get attached to a character, he offs him. The lesson is EVERYTHING YOU LOVE WILL DIE
3. Thar be dragons. But these aren’t your everyday dragons because THESE were breastfed by a lady.
4. To build off point 3, Martin has some weeeird sex things in this. They’re mostly awkward and uncomfortable.
5. Even for non-fantasy fans, the series is addictive

Having now read the first book I would like to answer these expectations

1. There's sorta world building but not Tolkien levels and the characters are names that aren't as ridiculous as I thought. It's more like every name is one letter off from a common one now (Mychal, Tyrion) OR they have names that are common now (Brandon, Jamie*)
2. Eh on this one. Or I didn't connect with the characters enough. Or I'm heartless.
3. I feel like to answer this I should say "spoiler" but given it was already an expectation I had going in, I don't really know how to handle this. So sorry, if you didn't already have that expectation. Now you do. I blame TV for telling me this detail already.
4. YUP! Not as much sexy time as the show has (so I've heard) but it's there. And it's awkward. And I think someone needs to give GRRM a lesson on female anatomy cos he makes a few errors on how lady parts work.
5. Well...

I decided to give A Game of Thrones a try cos I kept hearing good things and also I was at the airport and needed a new book to download and this was one of the cheaper ones. So I started it wanting to read it, but I also couldn't help but make a lot of sarcastic comments at it. Well in my Kindle notes.** I couldn't help but make sarcastic comments throughout the whole book, but they lessened as I got more and more into the story.

The book is about a game of thrones (get it! like the title!) in a feudal world with Kings and Lords and probably serfs, although they don't get any page time. The story is told from various points of views:
Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark, Lord of Winterfell,
his bastard son Jon Snow,
his wife Catelynn, his daughters Sansa and Arya,
his non-bastard son Bran,
Tyrion Lannister the Queen's brother who is also a dwarf and the best character, and
 Daenerys (Dany) Targaryen Queen/Khaleesi of a group outside of the whole King guy.
So yeah, there are a lot of story lines and characters to keep straight. Sometimes the stories intersect, sometimes they go off on their own. A character list and plot outline would have been helpful at times, though overall it's easier to keep up with than I anticipated.

The basic story: King Robert appoints Ned as Hand of the King so he and his daughters go to the Kings castle while his wife and their other children stay behind. Except his bastard son who gets sent to be a guard on a wall and has to give up his family. Oh and the Queen is really not to be trusted and no one does trust her so you'd think this wouldn't be a problem but yeah. No one seems to trust any of her family, the Lannisters, but they're all super powerful and there's a lot of them so I guess that's why they cause so many problems. There's also a separate story about Dany being sold to the Dothraki horse people so her brother can reclaim the throne and become king.

I wouldn't call myself a fantasy fan but I did enjoy this. There's a lot of stuff about knights and fighting and swords and armor (though I found skimming through the armor & weapons descriptions made things better) and battles and honor and all that jazz that you expect to find in a novel like this. There are less fantasy elements that I was expecting but there are still dragons and these weird Others wandering the woods. But there's also (most of the time) a very human element. Sure some of the characters I didn't really connect with and I wish they had been done better, but there were those whose chapters made it worth slogging through drawn out battle scenes.

I probably will read more of the books in the series (which I just learned while writing this is called A Song of Ice and Fire and not A Game of Thrones with this book being called Ice & Fire) but I'm  not rushing to start the next one. I do want to watch the show and I've been told Season 1 = Book 1, Season 2 = Book 2, etc so I'm safe to watch season 1 without spoilers.

*He's supposed to be really fearsome but I have some trouble taking a knight named Jamie seriously. Sorry.
** EXAMPLES: "Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast" - I don't think "fast" is the opposite of "quick", sir.
"They were slaves...There was no slavery in the free city of Pentos. Nonetheless, they were slaves" - Um what? so there is no slavery but there ARE slaves? That's not...I think you're confused.
"Damn the man!" - Save the Empire!

Title quote from location 2717

Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones. Bantam, 2003. Kindle edition.

Monday, December 3, 2012

November Reading Stats

It's already December. Shit. When did that happen?*

My stats for November are better than October, but not by much. I'm still making it through a review book and I also reread about half of Let's Pretend This Never Happened because I needed laughter. Not that anything bad or depressing happened. Just you know, laughter is fun. ANYWAY, the stats!

Number of books read
Pet Semetary by Stephen King
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction
100% - ALL THE FICTION (plus a little bit of Let's Pretend...)

Percentage of female authors
33% - got one!

Percentage of white authors
100% - dammit

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
1980s - 33%
1990s - 33%
2010s - 33%

Challenge books
33% - look I'm still sorta-but-not-really doing those challenges!

Hopefully I can end the year on a high note. We shall see my friends, we shall see.

*I just answered myself with "Right after November 30th." Cos I'm a smart ass, even to myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wedding dress I FOUND YOU

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went wedding dress shopping. Now I thought we were going dress shopping super early, but the plan was to just look. See my good friend (and maid of honor) lives in Ireland, which is a bit far away for me to call her up and suggest we go look at dresses some random weekend. Instead we planned to go when she was stateside for Thanksgiving. And by "we planned" I mean "my mom planned". And it's a good thing she planned cos I'm pretty sure if she didn't, I'd be trying to do this dress shopping last minute. Cos I'm good like that.

As I said, the plan was just to look. I didn't want to get anything just yet. It was my first time going out to look. Of course I'd spent a lot of time on Pinterest and going through bridal magazines looking at dresses. I wanted to take my time. Anytime I try to plan something, things just go the opposite way. I should really just embrace it.

We went to Kleinfeld's, the place where they film the original Say Yes To The Dress. And my consultant there was actually one of the women on the show (Diane, blonde hair, super nice). I was very nervous to go here. I was afraid things were going to be awkward and the sales people would be very pushy and try to get me to spend way more than I wanted. I've read reviews that said as much about Kleinfeld's. But I'm happy to say it was great and I never felt rushed or pressured and I wasn't shown anything out of my budget.  So yay.

Bliss by Monique Lhullier
I told her what I wanted (nothing shiny, nothing satin, lots of texture) and then we pulled some dresses. I actually got to try on one dress that I LOVED and it was actually one of the pictures I'd brought with me (but hadn't shown Diane yet cos apparently she can read minds). Big textured flower skirt, no sparkles and just fun. I did really love it. But it was the first dress, so I needed to try some of the other stuff we pulled.

The next was one that was satin and ruching and fit and flare. When she first picked it out my mom saw her carrying it and mouth to me "Oh I love that one!" So I was really trying it on for her. But then I loved it. Like really loved it. Like "no, I don't really want to take this off, kthxbai". It was heavier than the first one, and of course satin (which I thought I didn't want but I just didn't want the really stiff stuff). I went back to the dressing room to try on a couple more and I got them part way on and they were just, no thank you. I got back in that first Bliss dress and again, I really liked it. I did. It was light weight and fun. But I LOVED the second dress. I thought about going to other stores and trying on other dresses and the thought of it seemed...well...pointless. Normally I want to try EVERYTHING but right then when I thought about it I knew I was just going to compare anything else to this dress.

Now I don't have a picture of it to share. Or rather I have a picture of it, but I do sort of want it to be a surprise so I don't want to post a picture of it. I'm sorry. I know, that's mean. I promise there will be pictures after the wedding. So that's only 20 months away (roughly) so yeah. ALSO apparently I didn't go dress shopping super early cos it takes like a year for them to make the dress. So yeah. I def would have been screwed if I'd done things on my schedule.

So yeah, I'm sorry for that tease and not sharing the wedding dress picture. That was mean of me. But I wanted to share that I got the dress.

Now all we have left to plan is everything else. We're on our way!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Some people, Abraham, are just too interesting to kill

After reading Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie I needed something that wouldn't make me sad I was reading it.* I wanted something I would enjoy. A story I could get lost in and wouldn't regret getting lost in it. I was planning on finding a funny book but I decided to go towards the absurd and picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Because it's not laugh out loud funny. It's not even small smirk funny. But I was a fan of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies so it seemed like a good idea to give this one a try.

With P&P&Z, Austen's romance is really the backbone of the story. The zombies are there, sure, but the main point is Lizzie and Darcy. This time Lincoln's story is the backbone. The book could stand without vampires, but it couldn't stand without Lincoln. The story is a parody, sure, but it takes itself seriously. And because it takes itself seriously, you do too.

The book is a collection of Licoln's secret diary entries, started when he was a young boy. We follow him as he vows to kill as many vampires as he can, usually with his trusty ax. Don't worry, the vampires aren't all bad (and NONE SPARKLE) and he does make make friends with a vampire named Henry Sturges who helps teach him about vampires and find the evil ones.

So yes, the description of the story is ridiculous. But look at the title, you knew that was going to be the case. What I was surprised by was how important the non-vampire elements were. There's Lincoln's first love, his friends, his family, and what seemed like the constant loss he had to deal with. I know there's that chain lettery thing that goes around talking about all of the failures Lincoln dealt with before becoming president, but damn, to see them happen one after another and the toll it can take on a person is hard.

The writing is also surprisingly good. Well not surprising if you've already read P&P&Z but better than you'd expect this to be. I can't speak for the non-Grahame-Smith mash-up books but the SGS ones are pretty great. I mean seriously, I heart this quote
"Living men are bound by time," [Henry Sturges] said. "Thus, their lives have an urgency. This gives them ambition. Makes them choose those things that are most important; cling more tightly to that which they hold dear. Their lives have seasons, and rites of passage, and consequences. And ultimately, an end. But what of a life with no urgency? What then of ambition? What then of love?"
So yeah, it's an easy read but a good one. One I can see myself revisiting. If you've seen the movie, let me know how it is. Cos I can see this being a good one.

*Not like because the book is sad, but sad cos no, please, I don't want those images in my head anymore. (Thanks Brie for reminding me that I forgot to include the footnote.)

Title quote from page 74, location 964

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Grand Central Publishing, 2010. Kindle edition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving and all my excuses for not being around

Heeeeeey everyone. Long time not talk to. Or "write at" I guess is more accurate. So, where have I been?

First up, there was Thanksgiving! I had/have extra vacation days that I failed to use, so I took some extra time off to spend the time with my Dad down in South Carolina. I was down there last Thanksgiving as well because, again, screw cold weather and YAY for lots of pets. The numbers have reversed and now my Dad has 3 cats and 6 dogs, and since I like dogs better anyway, that was pretty sweet. Like last year though, I don't really have internet access down there, save what I can get on my phone. Which means I had no easy way to post, and instead I decided to focus on reading and eating and playing with the dogs.
UPDATED to include those puppy pics that I tried to give you earlier.

I didn't actually get THAT much reading done while I was down there. Or rather I finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter not long into my journey down south and decided I should give this Game of Thrones thing a try and that book is a zillion and 1 pages long. Oh also AMC played Gone with the Wind on Wednesday and then The Godfather and The Godfather Part II on Thursday, so that distracted me as well.

I was thinking I'd get a post out once I got back from the airport but that didn't so much happen. I didn't realize it but I was landing at the airport right at rush hour and taking the LIRR with luggage during peak times is NOT FUN. On top of that, Hurricane Sandy messed up one of the train tunnels, which means there are still cancelled trains, so the trains are even more crowded. AND THEN the train I got one was running 2 less cars than normal because the LIRR wanted to welcome me back and remind me what I had missed. By the time I got home, this was all I wanted:
I started to catch up on The Walking Dead but I failed at that because Boyfriend+ came home bearing Chinese food, so I agreed to turn off the zombies. I DID win at eating Chinese food so there you go.

So yeah, I'll get working on a review soon. I'll also get around to reading all those blog posts that backed up on my Google Reader. It will take some time but I'm working on it. And I'll have a wedding update on Sunday that's actually about stuff from two Sundays ago, but I am bad at doing anything in a timely manner.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A true ZOMBIE would be mine forever

You know those books that you wish you didn't read? Not because it was a bad book or you felt like you wasted your time, but you wish you didn't have those images in your head? Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates is one of those books. It's well-written, it's a griping story, and it made me uncomfortable.

I decided to read Zombie because it was on sale on the Kindle and it's a JCO book. I've been wanting to read something of hers and didn't know where to start. Something on sale seemed like a good choice.

I knew going into this it wasn't going to be a zombie story. I mean, I know it's titled Zombie but it's not that kind of zombie. Instead of the walking dead coming back and feeding on the living as they try to survive and make sense of this new world, it's about a guy that is trying to make sex zombies a la Jeffrey Dahmer. So, you know, way worse.

It's not the "create a sex zombie via transorbital lobotomy done with rusty tools" that made me not like this book. OK, well not the only thing. Quentin is the protagonist and it's a first person story. Which means you spend the whole book hanging out in the mind of this deranged serial killer. I do not like hanging out in Quentin's mind. I don't want to know what he's thinking, I don't want to follow him around as he plans and justifies his murders. There was never a moment I felt sympathy for Quentin. I mostly kept hoping he'd set on fire. Not that it would have made sense for the plot but still.

It takes a little while to get used to the writing style. Quentin switches back and forth between referring to himself in the first person, or referring to himself as Q__ P__. He refers to his victims by nicknames like RAISINEYES and SQUIRREL. He has no empathy whatsoever. He manipulates his family that is truly too good for him. It wouldn't have been surprising if the story focused on why Quentin did the things he does, maybe how his family messed him up. But no, you don't get that. There's no explanation for why he does the things he does. Which is both what elevates the story and makes it so hard to read. Awful things happen to innocent people and it's not fair.

One of the ways I decide that I really like a book is if I want to read it again. I do not want to read this one again. I don't (entirely) regret reading this, but it is not one I can see myself revisiting. I spent some time in this lunatic's head and I'm good now. All set. Zombie can join American Psycho in books that are well-written and I'm happy to never pick up again. Amazon also groups these two together in the Frequently Bought Together section.

The plus side, this counts towards the Smooth Criminals challenge! Now I'm in no way going to finish the this challenge, but I'll keep trying till the end of the year. And by trying I mean unintentionally reading a book that fits the criteria for one of the categories. In this case "Book with a psychopath protagonist".
Title quote from page 49, location 493

Oates, Joyce Carol. Zombie. Harper Collins, 2009. Originally published 1995

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Deserted Island books

So after the Book Riot top 50 books list, I mentioned something about how that list was completely different for whatever list I would put together. And then Brenna suggested I list out my top books. It just so happen to work out that today's Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday is about your top 10 Deserted Island books. Now while these won't be EXACTLY the same list, there will probably be some overlap. But at least this is pushing me towards creating that other list.
1. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore because THE BEST

2. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde because I will need some sort of fantasy to forget I'm stranded. Also this means I get a bunch of books and can keep it as one item

3. World War Z by Max Brooks because then I can think "At least this island doesn't have zombies on it." If the island does, I would like to change this book...

4. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson because I will need something that makes me laugh until I'm crying while I slowly starve to death.

5. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare because those stories are timeless and maybe while I have nothing else to do I'll make it through the plays I've yet to tackle. Also when someone eventually finds my body they'll see this and think I was smart.

6.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard because we may as well keep the Shakespeare together. And besides, I think I'd enjoy watching someone else's existential demise while dealing with my own.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because come on, it's a great story.

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark because you should have a chunkster with you while you have all this uninterrupted reading time.

9. Kindred by Octavia Butler because ending up in a terrible predicament means you should read about someone that was way worse. It's like literary schadenfreude.

10. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen because it is seeming like this is the ONLY way I will actually get around to reading this one.

So what are your deserted island books?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Couldn't plant nothing here but corpses anyway

It was almost the end of October and I realized I hadn't read a single Halloween worthy book. The Grapes of Wrath readalong (which was super fun) took up a lot of time, as well as the book Ad Nomad, which I'm still working my way through. Anyway, I decided I needed to fix that so I picked up Stephen King's Pet Sematary. And then a couple days later we got slammed by Hurricane Sandy and we lost power. I mentioned before, I COULD have stopped reading Pet Sematary and gone with something else. Something better to read when you have no power and are trying to balance a flashlight. But I'm stubborn so I kept going. I'm very happy our power came back before I finished this.

There are some King books I'll recommend to people who aren't horror fans. Pet Sematary is not one of them. Go into this one knowing you will be getting a horror story. King even says that this is the book that scares him. But it's so much more than just a simple scary story.

I first read this book in college for my Horror Fiction class. I'm glad I did because there's something about the basic plot synopsis that doesn't interest me. The Creed family (husband Louis, wife Rachel, daughter Ellie, son Gage) move to an idyllic home in Maine (of course), but there's an evil lurking in the woods behind their house. Sure, there's the Pet Sematary, a place where the neighborhood kids bury their passed pets, and that's sorta creepy. But there's something beyond the cemetery, down the dead fall where something ominous resides. And the family will learn that sometimes dead is better.

See that's creepy but nothing to really grab my attention. However, that's not really what the story is about. I mean, that's what happens but it's really about death. It's about dealing with the very real experience of death, something everyone will face. It's about coming to terms with the inevitability, not only for yourself but for your loved ones. And it's what happens when you refused to come to terms with it.

What really got me interested in the story was King's introduction. Or rather the story about his own daughter that inspired the story and even featured in the book. King lived in a home similar to the Creeds that  was also on a very busy street. And like Ellie, King's young daughter had a cat. And like Ellie's cat Church, King's daughter's cat got run over by a truck. King and his wife tell his daughter what happened and they bury her cat in the pet sematary down the street from them, and all seemed fine. Until that night when he heard his daughter jumping up and down on bubble wrap screaming "I want my cat back! God can get his OWN cat!" I don't know what it is exactly but I love that scene, in both King's retelling of his daughter and Ellie's reaction at the thought of Church getting hurt.

This is a deeply upsetting book. It's scary, absolutely. It's scary and unsettling. But more than that, it's upsetting. It's a book that made me cry, where Grapes never did. It's a book that makes you WANT to jump up and down on  bubble wrap and curse God because sometimes unfair things happen. And I always love a book where I spend the whole time hoping things will turn out differently this time, even though I know exactly how things are going to go.

I know I haven't really said much about the story, but I don't want to give away too much. Just know that this is one of King's best, at least out of the ones I've read. If you like horror, or at least if you are willing to try horror, read this one. Oh and avoid the movie. Just ignore that one.

Title quote from page 46

King, Stephen. Pet Sematary. Pocket Books, 2001. Originally published 1983.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Rioters Fav Books and also I love lists

 So Book Riot compiled a list of Rioters favorite books and then listed them out and asked you to tell them how many of these favorites you've read. Because I LOVE LISTS, I'm going to not only record that number over at Book Riot (which I already did) but also share the list here and tell you which of the books I've read.

Now, none of my favorite books is on here (Lamb, The Eyre Affair/Thursday Next series, WHERE ARE YOU?) but there are some pretty good ones.

I've read 21 1/2 (19 if you required to have finished the entire series to count and also if you don't want to count an abridged version). Bolded are the ones I've read. What's your number?

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6 . The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien I read the first 2 and part of the 3rd before quitting. I put in my time. This counts.
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
17. The Stand by Stephen King
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
31. 1984 by George Orwell
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams Again, read the first one, still counts.
38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
40. Ulysses by James Joyce
41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
46. Dune by Frank Herbert
47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I've decided to 1/2 count this one. I read an abridged version
49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)

Monday, November 5, 2012

October Reading Wrap Up

We got our power back! Huzzah. Having heat and electricity again is so nice. Now we just need to make a grocery trip to restock our fridge. Of course there's a nor'eastern supposed to hit us later this week so maybe we should hold off on getting a lot of perishable foods. I hope they're able to restore power to those who still don't have it before this other storm hits. Or even better, Mother Nature, if you could just send that nor'eastern somewhere else, that'd be nifty.

This was a bad reading month for me. I mean, it was good because we I took part in the super fun Grapes of Wrath readalong. But whenever I do a readalong I seem to get no other reading done. Which happened this month where I finished all of 2 books. Granted, I spent a good chunk of the month reading another book that I never finished because I needed to put it down for awhile. Le sigh.

Here are those stats.

Number of books
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
1930s - 50%
2010s - 50%

Look at that. Not even any Halloween books. I did start reading Pet Semetary and was hoping to finish it by the end of the month, but I'm going to go ahead and blame Sandy for that. Also me for not doing the reading but still. Sandy, you suck.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reading by flashlight

Do you have a lot of fond memories of sneaking a book and flashlight under your covers and reading?
What about taking a book and flashlight camping with you and reading in the wilderness (or your backyard)?

How do you people have fond memories of this? Or the better question is, how do you hold a stupid flashlight AND comfortably hold a book without having to reposition yourself 4,000 times before you give up and just stare at nothing because at least that doesn't require coordination.

As I mentioned before, Hurricane Sandy knocked out our power. Which is, at the time of writing, still out. When the power first went out on Monday I figured I'd at least have lots of uninterrupted reading time. How great will that be? And then there was the realization of "I need light to read" and "boy it sure gets dark during a hurricane". I tried to use this lantern thing, which says it provides "room filling light". It is a liar. If I had been able to build a contraption to suspend it right above where I was reading, maybe it would have worked. I tried to use a flashlight but couldn't figure out how to position it. For a while I held the book in one hand and the flashlight in another. But eventually both my flashlight arm and my book thumb were getting sore. Then I tried holding it under my chin but trying to get it to stay where you need so it's neither blindingly bright nor too shadowy to read proved a challenge.

There has to be a trick to this. Cos I was starting to think that those miner helmets with the lights on them aren't such a bad idea.

I did get some reading done. But it was mostly uncomfortable and distracted.

I wish I hadn't started my book right before the storm. I was all set to reread Pet Semetary, which I have as a dead-tree book. Had I not started it, I would have been fine reading a book on my Kindle. Before the storm I saw a few tweets from people who were very clear that they were stocking up on non-e-books. Which makes sense because ebooks must be read on a reader that must be charged by electricity, and the threats were there would be none. However, I can't help but think the people who made these proclamations (as opposed to those who just said they were stocking up books) don't actually own an ereader.

I can't speak for all of the options out there, but I have a Kindle. My Kindle has like a month's worth of battery on a single charge. So I made sure it was charged before the storm, which means I'm not really in danger here of running out of reading material. I also have a case with a built in light, which means I don't have to juggle the flashlight or sit dangerously close to candles in order to see.

Now, I only read a little of the book on my, but that's because I'm stubborn and had just started Pet Semetary and didn't want to change. I'm not saying an ereader is better in this situation or normal books. I'm just saying, could you quit being tools about ereader vs normal books. They both have advantages and disadvantages so can't we just enjoy all of them?
Didn't really mean for this to turn into a rant. This is what happens when you take away someone's heat for long periods of time and make them throw out all of the food in their fridge, even though some of those condiments were BARELY USED and it's going to cost a fortune to restock.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Final Grapes post & Hurricane update.

Sorry I don't have a better title this week. I'm blaming Hurricane Sandy. I plan on blaming a lot on her.

First up, Sandy update! Boyfriend+ and I are fine. No flooding and the only real casualty we faced in the storm was our grill cover. It didn't blow away, but it held on so fiercely that it ripped in half. RIP friend. We did however lose power Monday afternoon and according to reports we shouldn't expect to get it back for 7-10 days. Apparently something like 90% of Long Island is without power, so there's a lot of commiserating on the island, as well as plans to burst into the locations that do have electricity. At least I've been making those plans. Watch out, bagel place down the street.

Boyfriend+'s work has power AND they got their internet up today, hence how I can post this. I believe my office does actually have power today. However my office is also in Manhattan, which I cannot get to as the trains aren't running. FUN TIMES.

Really though, we're very lucky that other than inconveniences from not having power, we're fine. We even have hot water (knock on wood, fingers crossed that's still the case). The biggest annoyance is realizing we're going to have to empty our entire fridge.

It's the final Grapes of Wrath readalong post! And I gotta say, I'm not sad this is done. Don't get me wrong, Grapes is an excellent work of literature with some truly beautiful moments. It's also insanely depressing and also Steinbeck needs to get off of his soapbox sometimes and realize things were shitty all over, so maybe quit painting the non-farms as evil soulless douchecanoes.

As with the other readalong posts, there will be spoilers. Be warned.

So you know how for some of my other Grapes posts I just did some random thoughts? That's happening again because I'm too drained to do anything coherent. Also I luckily wrote this on Sunday, or else you'd just have a post that says "I finished this. Yup".

- After pretty much everything Ma says to Pa in the beginning of chapter 26 I want to yell "Ooo buuurn". I should be in a '90s talk show audience
- So, I know there's no work and everyone's starving, but I still think leaving the Government camp is a bad idea...
- Whoa Casy's back! Aww Steinbeck thanks! This is aweso-OH MY GOD, WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM? WHY DID YOU CAVE HIS HEAD IN?
- And Tom killed another guy. Sorry, I used up all of my shock on Casy coming back and leaving again.
- Rosasharn, I know you're young and pregnant and scared and starving and your husband left you. But still, STFU
- Now the family has to flee cos of Tom killing that cop. Dammit Tom. Except it's hard to stay mad at you after what he did to Casy, but still.
- Ma is the best. Just in general. I'm going to need to repeat that a few more times.
- I was on the edge of my seat the whole time the family was leaving the camp with Tom hidden in the back. Thank you Steinbeck for not having Tom dragged off, as I assumed.
- The Joads found more work! I figured Steinbeck would have them wander the roads until they all starved, got run over by trucks. They even have a boxcar to live in instead of a tent, but they lost the hot water. And naturally the people at the farm are all "how dare you ask for hot water? Why would you think you're entitled to that?" because they're assholes.
 - Good for Tom, deciding that he should work to help the migrant workers. However, given his temper he's displayed throughout the whole book, his plan is probably going to work for roughly five minutes before he bludgeons someone to death again.
- Pa, I know you're sad that Ma is making all the decisions and you're supposed to be the Man of the house and blah blah blah. Maybe if you took charge at all, you could still be the one to lead. But when times are tough you just get quiet so Ma takes over. Because she is the best.
- Oh good, torrential rain. Nice contrast to the endless droughts that started the book. Now the family will get to drown instead of starve.
- Al, the family already lost Granma, Granpa, Tom, Casy, Noah, and Connie. Could you quit trying to abandon them, only-person-who-knows-how-to-drive/fix-the-damn-truck. You're not finding this garage to work in. If you found it, you'd be working in it. It's not like your family is keeping you from this job because they WANT you to work in the field.
- After telling the other kids about Tom (kinda) I was going to get mad at Ruthie. But then I realized she and Winfield (who haven't starved to death as of the end of the book! Small victories!) are sort of the only hope left. At least they still act like kids the whole time. If they had been broken, sort of like the kids at the Hooverville, then I don't know if I could have taken anymore.
- Of course the baby was born dead. Of course. Because Steinbeck hates us all.
- I'm having mixed feelings about the ending. Because on the one hand, Rosasharn completely makes up for anything annoying she did by feeding this dying old man. On the other hand wtf Steinbeck? I totally blocked that ending from memory in high school.
- So I guess Alfred the American spirit turtle isn't making a reappearance. Because the American spirit is dead. Thanks for that uplifting ending.

I'm happy I read this again (Thanks Laura!) because if nothing else, I'm now less intimidated to give East of Eden a try.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"It is hard to find a friend," I said. "It is the hardest thing in this world," he agreed.

Where to I even begin? I know! By procrastinating on this review a little longer by writing about book expectations.

This isn't the first time that I've picked up a book because other bloggers convinced me I have to. Of course I can't think of any specific examples right now, but it's happened, trust me. This time though it wasn't just a recommendation. I sort of had to read The Sisters Brothers. Not only read it but LOVE IT. Megs, Alice, and Laura all raved about it. That's so much pressure. What if I don't like it? I think I'd be shunned.

Of course there's a problem when expectations are really built up. Can anything ever stand up to such high hopes? Would the book have been better received if you weren't expecting it to be earth shattering? Of course, any recommendation is going to give you some sort of expectation for the book. And if you ignore all recommendations to avoid setting any sort of expectation before you begin, you're going to miss out.

If they (the three above and book bloggers as a whole) hadn't recommended this book, I'm sure I would have passed it by. Western, what now? No, that's cool. You keep your dusty guys and their horses and I'll just be over here. But guys, The Sisters Brothers isn't like that! Well it is, cos there are dusty guys and horses, but I loooove them. Sure, they're hired guns and there's lots of horse riding and shooting and bourbon drinking and the Gold Rush and stuff that I would expect to find in a Western. But there is so much more. The brothers, Eli and Charlie, make the story. Especially Eli, which works out nicely given he's the narrator.

Eli and Charlie are hired guns with quite the reputation. Charlie seems to really enjoy the work, but Eli's not so sure anymore. As they make the journey from Oregon City to San Francisco to kill the prospector Hermann Warm Eli decides maybe this job will be his last.

One thing about reading a book that other people have already reviewed, it means that I already have their thoughts in my head while I'm reading. At least some of their thoughts. Like Megs comment about how Eli squishes women with his love. Yeah, I kept thinking that. It may have stuck in my head because of that lion gif or because the statement is SO ACCURATE. (Both) Oh Eli, I know you mean well, but maybe back down a little bit. For a hit man he can be very sentimental, even when it comes to his sort-of-useless-but-not-at-all-I-love-him horse Tub.

I love the relationship between the brothers. It seems like it's a simple case of Charlie being the leader and Eli following, but there's more than that. There's genuine affection between the two, not only Eli for Charlie (what with all that sentimentality) but also Charlie for Eli, in his own way. His own kind of messed up way. But behind all of the affection, all of the humor is a constant feeling of sadness and loneliness. Which makes sense for a man who makes his living killing but doesn't want to anymore.

So I started this talking about expectations going into a book. There may have been some worry that I didn't like The Sisters Brothers. But I did. I did enjoy it and I can see myself reading it again. However I do think had the expectations not been built up so high I would have liked it even more. It would have surprised me with how good it really was. I hope on a second reading I can focus more on the story and the characters and the language itself.

I can't think of anything else to say so let me just throw some quotes out there, since I highlighted so much and this needs to be shared

"The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know."

"I reentered the cave to stoke the fire, curling up beside it for warmth, but I could not sleep without proper covering and instead spent the rest of the night rewriting lost arguments from my past, altering history so that I emerged victorious."

"Nodding politely, I said, 'Yes, well, it is fairly obvious that you are in love with me!"
'No,' she said, coloring. 'Not that.'
'I can see it. Hopelessly in love, powerless to guard against it. You shouldn't feel too badly about it, it has happened before.'"

"It must not have been that I loved the bookkeeper, but that I loved the idea of her loving me, and the idea of not being alone."

Hmm, a Western. Who woulda thought?

deWitt, Patrick. The Sisters Brothers. Ecco, 2011. Kindle edition.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Now farming became industry

It's Tuesday so here we have another Grapes of Wrath readalong post, hosted by Laura at Devouring Texts. If you've been playing along, welcome! If not, I bet this has been boring for you. Sorry. Hope you're at least enjoying the gifs. As with each of these readalong posts, there will be spoilers.

First, things are awful in California. Of course EVERYONE has been telling the Joads that pretty much since they left, so, yeah.
Except to the Joads who really held onto the idea that because there were fliers there were unlimited jobs and the streets were paved with gold. I know, I'm being mean to the Joads because once they started their trek towards California it's not like they had much of a choice but to press on, even if they knew it was going to be no use. They didn't have the money to get the gas to go anywhere else. But a little acknowledgement on the Joads part would be nice.

We also lose a couple more people because the family is falling apart. But this time no one dies which is an improvement? Maybe. Casy goes to jail after a skirmish at the campsite, presumably never to be heard from again. A man tries to ensure fair wages which equals COMMUNIST so the police are called in, and they proceed to shoot a lady in the hand. Tom trips the cop and Casy knocks him unconscious. And since Tom is on parole* Casy takes the blame and is happy to be hauled away having helped the family. We the readers, on the other hand, have lost another one of the better characters. Dammit Steinbeck.

Connie also wanders off, I guess as he attempts to walk back to Oklahoma? I don't think he really got the details worked out apart from "Screw California. I'm going home." I'm sure he'll be a real success back at home after taking some classes.
There is a tiny ray of hope for the Joads. They end up at a government camp where the cops aren't allowed and there are toilets. Things start looking up when the Joads get running water and then I realized how low my standards have fallen for "happy times". But the family can finally hang out for awhile without being harassed and having to move every day. The men can look for work, although things aren't really that much better there. However the other families in the camp help take care of each other. Steinbeck is not subtle with his with his "we must all stick together in order to survive" thing.

Last time the family chapters were super depressing and the in between/vignette chapters had the hope (Mae & her penny candy). This time the Joad chapters have the little ray of hope and the vignettes offer up the taste of everything that's awful. There's a chapter where they talk about how farming has become an industry and a business, how the land and the crops don't matter except to the bottom line, how the people who are hired to gather the food are imported in, treated like slaves, and deported when no longer needed. How food is left rot while people are starving because it's too expensive to actually pick it. It's unfortunate how much of this is still true today. Sorry Steinbeck, your dreams of sharing and caring have not come true.

So how much more depressing can this get?
Only one section left to find out.

*How would they check that he's on parole in Oklahoma out in California? It's not like now where there are computers and the CA cops can check the guy out in a database. How would they find this out?

Title quote from page 316

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. Penguin, 1992. Originally published 1939.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Destination Weddings: Yay or Nay?

In terms of actual wedding planning, we're no further along than we were last update. Well that's not true, in that I do have an appointment for wedding dress shopping in a few weeks. Right now it look like the whole wedding is going to be planned around the dress. Assuming that's the first thing that gets figured out. That's the way people normally do this planning, right?

In the meantime I wanted to get opinions from people about destination weddings. What do you think of them? At what point does a wedding count as a destination wedding?

What makes  a wedding a destination wedding? Do you have to go out of the country for it? Do the bride and groom have to be the ones to travel?  Is it only a destination wedding if EVERYONE has to travel? This doesn't really have anything to do with actually planning the wedding, just something I was curious about. I've traveled to Arizona for a wedding, but the bride and groom lived there, so not really destination. I've also traveled to New Hampshire for a wedding, which I wouldn't really consider a destination wedding, although I, the bride & groom, and most people had to travel for it.

Regardless of what might technically count as a destination wedding, what do you think of them? Would you skip it if you were invited to a destination wedding?

Obviously there are additional costs. You have to get to the location. And pay for a hotel. Which are things you may need to do for non-destination weddings (I had to do for both the AZ & NH weddings). But I guess the assumption is it would cost more?

There may be additional time off work, depending on how far away the place is and when the wedding is.

On my end it is more difficult to plan things if the location isn't nearby. OR it's way easier, cos I just tell someone at the location "you do it". So that can be good or bad, depending on how much control you want over the little details. I would like someone to just do it all for me, so this goes in the "plus" column.

Other than this I guess I don't really know the pros and cons for a destination wedding versus a local one. Clearly I'm doing a bang up job with this whole wedding planning thing. So yeah, if you have any insights, please share.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm not negative, you jerk

Hey, remember how I used to do these random word clouds of my blog? No? Cos I haven't done them in about a year? Right, makes sense.

The other day I remembered I hadn't done one of those in awhile and decided I wanted to again. But whenever I do build one it's just made up of my 6 most recent posts. But I want my word cloud to represent MOAR DATA. So I decided to play around with a social listening tool to pull in more posts. Here's what that looks like

Yeah I know, not that interesting. Oh I say "book" and "read" a lot? Who would have guessed.

BUT while I was in this tool I decided to take a look at the sentiment section and see what it says. And it told me I am mostly negative. Wait, what?

It said, for the past year, 22% of my content as been positive, 37% neutral and 41% negative. Granted, my first reaction to those stats was to IM a friend and go "Apparently my blog is 41% negative. Well fuck you then!". So yeah, maybe they have a point.

Then I really looked at why the system was being so judgy. Essentially anytime I used a negative word like "bad" or "don't like" it said the section was negative. Of course, as with any automated system, it can't take into account context. The system can't tell I said "Now normally I don't like this, but this book nailed it perfectly. Kudos" It also marks my entire rant about wanting to set a character on fire because I hate them so much as "positive" because I said the character was "SO PERFECT".

Moral of this post:
Word clouds are pretty boring but have shapes and colors so people like them (me included)
Context is important
Computers do not get sarcasm
Automated sentiment is pointless

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Up ahead they's a thousan' lives we might live, but when it comes, it'll on'y be one

It's Tuesday which means it's time for another Grapes of Wrath readalong post! This time we're dealing with chapters 12-18. Heads up, there will be spoilers. And the sadness is mounting.

The family stops to get some gas and they are accused of being bums, the family's dog gets run over, and then grandpa dies. Damn Steinbeck. I need a minute
Turns out drugging Grandpa was probably not the best idea. Who will Grandma shoot in the ass? Who will button their shirt into their underwear? Who will give us even a second of comic relief?

There are moments that aren't quite so depressing. Everyone is in a shitty situation. We haven't met anyone really living it up during this exodus from the dustbowl. What we do get to see is people being kind to one another. And I mean perfect strangers. People sharing a limited and ever dwindling supply of food, caring for the sick, helping keep the cars running. Thank you Steinbeck, because if it was just wave after wave of awful things happening to the Joads and then people being terrible to each other, I wouldn't be able to take it.

Even the scene with waitress Mae and cook Al gives me happy feelings. Mae and Al may be staying put, their lives aren't being completely uprooted but they're affected by the depression. So when the family asks to buy a loaf of bread you may not like it, but you at least understand her reluctance. They can't do this for everyone that comes by or they'll have to go on the move as well. While you can understand it, you still want Mae to relent. So it's that much more touching when she sells the boys two pieces of nickle candy for a penny. Then you see this pay-it-forward as the truckers leave her a large tip. It's like those commercials for...something.* (I guess I could look it up. Could being the important word there.)

 BUT Steinbeck isn't done with the awfulness in this section. So after a couple chapters of things happy (happy in the relative Grapes of Wrath way) things naturally have to turn around. All those times of people being not-assholes to each other are over, and all the happy feelings are done.
Grandma's been raving ever since Grandpa passed. Which is sweet in a messed up, Grapes of Wrath version of sweet (similar to that version of happy before). Ma tells everyone she's just tired, including the very pushy people that insist on busting into the tent to loudly pray for her. And know...

Noah wanders off and decides he's not going to head off to California with the family and instead he'll hang out by the river and eat fish. And Tom really doesn't do too much to convince him otherwise, which seems mean when you consider how important Ma said keeping the family together is. Jerk.

To make up for all of those people being nice to each other in trying times, we have the cops in California being general assholes to people. Assholes with some purpose, as they are trying to make sure shanty towns don't show up along the highway as the displaced farmers give up their trek and stop wherever their cars give out. Which, while not a fun thing, isn't being awful for the sake of being awful. Though they do seem to take joy in being assholes.

Ma, however, is continuing to kick ass. And a few times that gets literal and she threatens to first beat down anyone suggesting that the family split up. Then she stands up to the cop who busts in on the family when they're camping to tell them to move along. Then she convinces the border guards to let her and her family go through while she stays in the back of the truck with Grandma's body. Ma is the best. She is stronger than all of the other characters put together.

To counter all of the sadness that has come and is yet to come, here's a waving bear.
Waving Bear
I am afraid of what the Joads have to deal with next. Maybe we all stop now and assume that California is 10x as awesome as the Joads think (ignoring all of the families coming back from Cali telling them how terrible it is) and everyone is happy the end.

PS cos I forgot to mention that Rosasharn & Connie totally do it right next to the dying/dead body of Grandma. Apparently that is the comic relief we get and Grandpa isn't around to button his shirt into his underwear.

*Or, you know, it's like the Pay It Forward movie. But that's clearly too obvious.

Title quote from page 168

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. Penguin, 1992. Originally published 1939