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!