Archive for July, 2009

30th July
2009
written by Tony

I’ve spent some time thinking about this book. Almost a month now, to be precise. As I sat getting my hair cut one afternoon (the cut I wore to my wedding) by a woman from Mankato, a tiny town about 20 miles away from my hometown, I wondered how she made it all the way down to Nashville. It occurred to me that she probably wonders the same about me. I asked, and she said she wanted a change of scenery. Who knows why anyone ends up where they do sometimes? I feel like that is really the theme of this book, like it’s a couple hundred pages that just really ask “Why am I here? Why me? Why not me?” Thinking about all this makes me think about the stories in this book, and about my father, a veteran of the Viet Nam war and the things he told me about being in the service.

There is a lot to take in through this rather short novel, and the way O’Brien blends truth and “story truth” makes it difficult or impossible to separate the real from the imagined in many cases. That seems about right to me. I’ve asked my dad about what went on overseas and while some of his memories are strikingly vivid and accurate, many things are lost to him. He has spent a lot of time trying to figure out where he served and who he served with. Sometimes, when I thought about it, this search seemed odd, like it shouldn’t be something so easily forgotten, but later, when I come back to what he has told me of his memories, they are so large, so impossible to comprehend, that it seems like he shouldn’t be able to fit anything else in his head, and as I lived more of my life I began to understand how certain things just get lost along the way.

(more…)

26th July
2009
written by Steph

As many of you know, I stressed out over which books to take on our honeymoon vacation (I know I’m not alone in this panic that sets in when there’s an impending trip and limited space for books).  In retrospect, I need not have worried so much, as Tony & I hardly got any reading done while we were away.  I did, however, manage to squeeze in Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Graveyard Book on the way back home in the car.  Being short of audiobooks, and not being one to get carsick, I actually read the entire thing aloud to keep Tony entertained as he drove us back from Savannah to Nashville (about an 8-hour trip).  This turned out to be a great selection for reading in the car as it was not too complicated but sufficiently action-packed to keep our attention and to keep me reading the entire time. The basic premise of the book is that when he was a baby, a stranger killed the rest of Nobody (Bod) Owens’s family.  Bod makes it to the local graveyard where the undead inhabitants agree to care for him until he is old enough to do so for himself.  In the graveyard Bod will have protection from his would-be killer, and also has restricted powers that are often limited to the graveyard’s ghostly inhabitants.  So Bod grows up in the graveyard, with two ghosts for parents, and the bulk of the novel focuses on his misadventures as he transitions from baby to boy to young man.  As the novel progresses, Bod becomes obsessed with life beyond the graveyard.  Specifically Bod wants to find the man who wanted to kill him all those years ago, before that man finds him.  Bod knows he’s still out there waiting, and only hopes that with the power of the graveyard on his side, Bod just might prevail. (more…)
25th July
2009
written by Steph

Worth owning for the drool-inducing cover alone?

Given my love of reading in real life, I’m often drawn to books that feature protagonists that also show some serious lit love.  One glance at the cover of The Secret of Lost Things and you know it’s gonna be a book about books.  When I found out it involved a young woman who winds up working in a used bookstore only to become embroiled in the hunt for a lost, unpublished manuscript by Herman Melville, I knew this was a book I had to read (despite not having read any Melville myself).  You all know that I love a mystery, and a literary mystery?  Even better! It turns out TSoLT both exceeded and fell short of my expectations.  Let me explain.  As soon as I bring back books from the used bookstore, the first thing I do is catalog them in my GoodReads library, because I love lists and am obsessive that way.  I always get a thrill when I pick up a book on a whim only to find it’s been generally rated quite highly by the rest of the book reading community.  When I entered in TSoLT, it had a relatively meager 3.06 rating, and the bulk of the first reviews I skimmed were generally very negative (we’re talking 1 star ratings… I almost never give books such a low score!).  So I had my hopes severely dashed that this would wind up being a good read and shunted it to the bottom of the pile.  Fast forward several months to a few days ago when I was looking for a book that would have an engaging plot but not necessarily challenge me.  I wanted something to capture my attention but not really require much effort on my part… so I figured I would give TSoLT a shot, because why not?  I picked it up and started to read and… I was completely swept away.  It was by no means a perfect book and yet parts of it really resonated with me, and I wound up finding it a really fun and effortless read; it was the kind of book where you read 30 pages without realizing it.  So in that sense, TSoLT exceeded my expectations and absolutely fit the brief for what I was looking for. (more…)
23rd July
2009
written by Steph

[N.B. The somewhat patriotic motif in the title would have made more sense if I had been able to post this on the July 4th weekend, when I originally drafted this up.  But as you know, life and the wedding got in the way so now the title is more puzzling than it is cute.  I've not changed the text below, so any prospective references to wedding planning and the like can be ignored.  Just transport yourself back three weeks in time, and you'll be in the right mindset! 😉 ] One of the great things about keeping a blog is that I get to keep track of the frequency of our book buying binges.  On average it would appear that I am able to stay away from the bookstore for about 3 weeks before I finally cave and have to stalk its aisles once more.  As I mentioned in my last post in which I solicited recommendations for my summer/honeymoon reading (be sure to suggest a southern and/or summery classic if you haven’t already!), I’ve sort of been jonesing for particular reads that I feel our home library is lacking, so I suppose I just wanted to get out there and see what I could find.  The book I’m currently reading (hopefully I can finish it and get a review up before things really swing into wedding mode next week) makes frequent reference to Herman Melville and Moby Dick in particular, so my interest was piqued and I thought I might like to try to read that massive epic.  It was off to McKay’s to see if I could find a copy… I didn’t (not entirely true: they had several, but the minimum price was $8, and I just didn’t feel like shelling out that kind of cash for a book I wasn’t certain I would love), but we did wind up with a few other books. (more…)
22nd July
2009
written by Steph
So, Tony & I are now officially hitched and are back from our WONDERFUL honeymoon in Charleston, SC & Savannah, GA. Seriously, why don't we just vacation professionally? That's the life for me. We had a fantastic time, and although there were some stressful moments leading up to the Big Day (what bride hasn't had a meltdown 24-hours before the ceremony? 😉 ), everything went off without a hitch - er, with a hitch! Because on July 10, 2009 at approximately 5:50 pm in the Japanese Garden at Cheekwood here in Nashville, we were pronounced man and wife. And it was awesome. We're back in Nashville now, but we're easing back into things, trying to make that honeymoon glow last (in poor Tony's case, his "glow" may have something to do with a particularly itchy brand of sunburn. That one can go ahead and leave anytime now!). We're still waiting on getting our wedding pictures, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait for a picture post at a slightly later date before you can see some of our choice moments from the day (and also from our trip... it wouldn't seem right to post the honeymoon pictures before the wedding ones!). I'm sorry for the delay, but I just didn't want to keep y'all waiting any longer.  And let me tell you that even though waiting sucks, we've seen proofs of our photos and they are GORGEOUS. BUT, I do have some other content to post along the way while we all wait for the momentous nuptial post, so you can expect the regular erratic posting schedule (i.e., Steph & Tony post as often as they can!) to resume from here on out. I have one book review written, as well as another book binge buying post; I'm sure none of you are surprised. Thank you all so much for the wonderful well-wishes as well as the book recommendations for our trip. In the end, I was so scattered and spread so thin with the actual wedding planning and the hosting of family and friends (let's be honest, the family is where the stress lies!), I just dragged along the few books that were waiting for me at the library. And then of course, we spent more time napping than we did reading while we were away. But the two books that did feature on our trip were The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I'm still finishing up the latter, but were excellent reads given our travel destinations. I'll hopefully get my review of The Graveyard Book posted in the next few days. Oh, and let's not forget the new Harry Potter movie, which needs reviewing... We've already seen it twice now, and it's only been out for a week, so that probably gives you a taste of what's to come! But anyway, please don't feel that your recs were in vain; I'm always looking for good reads, and even if they didn't make it on the honeymoon, so many of your picks sounded so good and I'll be sure to seek them out in the future! What can I say? Getting married and our honeymoon sojourn were amazing and literally a once in a lifetime experience, but it's also good to be back. Thanks for waiting for us! [P.S. My Google Reader was, as you can imagine, packed to the gills when we returned from our trip. In a bid to retain my sanity, I've decided I'm not going to be able to comment on all of your thoughtful and delightful posts that went up while I was away. I'm going to start fresh and just pick up from here. But I want you all to know that I did read what you wrote, was titillated and amused by your wonderful words, and I'm now decamping from "lurker" status.]
4th July
2009
written by Steph
Some of you may recall that a while back I mentioned in passing that I was working on a secret reading project.  Well, the time has finally come when I can reveal to all of you that I've started to write professional book reviews for BookPage, a national publication that reviews new literary releases and covers other "hot off the press" info and tidbits regarding the book publishing industry.  A publication that just so happens to be located in Nashville (lucky for me!).  BookPage is available in libraries and bookstores located across the United States, and is free of charge!  So you should totally go and pick up a copy of the July issue, which contains a copy of my first review (it's on page 11 of the print edition).  I certainly will be! This being the electronic age, however, you can also read a copy of my review of Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women here without leaving the comfort of your own home (probably a good thing for those of you located outside the USofA...).  I'd never heard of Walbert prior to being assigned her book, but I have to say, this was the first ARC I've received where I was legitimately blown away by the writing and really enjoyed the book.  And of course, after months of keeping this under wraps, I'm so excited to finally see my name in print and to be able to share this with all of you!  I'll have to refrain from ganking all the copies I find so that people other than my close family and friends can benefit from my review as well! 😉  I've been considering possibly transitioning into the publishing industry in the future when I'm done with this degree of mine, and I can only see this as a fantastic step in the right direction.  And despite the recent firestorm regarding authors publicly flaming critics who have written reviews that are less than effusive in their praise, I have nothing to fear here since my review of A Short History of Women was nothing but positive.  Phew! Anyway, please do go and give my review a looksee and let me know what you think! [For those interested, I should have another review coming out in the August issue, and I've just finished a book (though not my review... yet) that we'll hopefully cover in September...]
3rd July
2009
written by Tony
Well, here we go again. It's a Friday evening tradition!
Think about it. Or don't, if that creeps you out.

Think about it. Or don't, if that creeps you out.

3rd July
2009
written by Steph
As many of you dear readers know, a few months back, Tony & I got engaged.  What some of you may not know is that we're getting married ONE WEEK from today.  Crazy, but true!  If you've been wondering at the relatively sporadic stream of updates over the past month or two, I think we can probably blame frantic wedding planning... But this post is not about weddings.  Not really.  It's a call to arms, where I ask fellow readers to help me plan my reading pile that I'll drag along with us for our week-long honeymoon.  We'll be driving Pip down to Charleston, SC, where we'll spend five days, and then we'll be spending 3 days in Savannah, GA.  And yes, pictures will follow!  On my last pseudo-vacation back in May, I tried bringing one loooooong book with me, figuring that would cut back on my needing to haul many tomes with me.  Only that didn't pan out so well, because about 350 pages into the looooong book, I started to get bored, and consequently didn't do much reading.  So for our honeymoon, I don't want to be caught emptyhanded and plan to bring several books with me just to keep all my bases covered. I have two categories of books I'm specifically looking for, so hopefully everyone will get to play!  If you know of any books that fall into either category (or both!), please let me know so that my honeymoon (and the rest of this summer) can be a reading success! 1.  Southern Fiction I know that Maggie over at Maggie Reads has been hosting a Southern Reading Challenge, so hopefully some of y'all can help me out with my specific request.  I'm particularly looking for any literature set in Charleston or Savannah to accompany me on my trip.  I'm already planning to bring John Berendt's Midnight In The Garden of Good And Evil with me (is there a more "Savannah" novel than that?) and Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind (perhaps not strictly a Savannah read, but we're going to see plantations, so close enough).  So maybe I have Savannah covered (but don't let that stop you if you know of some other great reads that are set there or even just pass on through), but so far Charleston's been a complete bust.  Everything set there (or in the vicinity) looks to be trashy romance novels or just general pulpy stuff I've no interest in reading.  Anyone know of anything good set or written there?  I may wind up bringing our little collection of Edgar Allen Poe, since he was a fan of the region (particularly Sullivan's Island, I believe), even if he does seem a bit macabre for a honeymoon.  As an extension, I'm happy to accept suggestions set in the Carolinas or Georgia, even if you can't get them square in those particular cities. 2.  "Summer-y" Classics I want to read more classics, but so many of them just don't "feel" like summer reading.  As much as I want to tackle Great Expectations, it just doesn't seem like the kind of book to read on the beach or by the pool (more like the kind of book to read curled up on your couch with a mug of tea in hand and puppies warming your feet).  So can any of you suggest some great summer reads that would also be construed as classics?  I've already done Forster's Room With A View last summer, and I do have a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo I need to get back to at some point (but recall me not wanting to haul a huge 1000+ book with me on vacation), so no need to suggest those.  Also, Jane Austen's a given and goes without saying (so, you know, don't say her!).  But what else should I try?  I realize I'm not giving much direction here, but surely some of you know what I mean when I say certain classics feel summer-y and others don't, right?  Like: Vanity Fair by Thackeray, yes;  Wuthering Heights, no;  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, yes;  Dracula, no; All The King's Men by Warren, yes; Bleak House, hell no!  It's totally arbitrary, I know, and yet I unerringly feel like most classics fall into Autumn & Winter reading...  So help me, please!  What classics have you successfully read and enjoyed in the summer months? Hopefully I'll wind up with more requests than I can reasonably handle over our honeymoon, but that's not a bad problem to have!  I'll look forward to reading things even once I return back to Nashville.
2nd July
2009
written by Tony
It's like they are both robots! Ooooh!

It's like they are both robots! Ooooh!

This is a stupid movie. I mean, there is a lot of exploding, shooting, robots and shooting robots, which is awesome, but from a strictly science fiction perspective (or real-person perspective) this is a stupid movie. I mean stupid lazy, not just moronic. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect anything more, but the more I thought about this movie afterwards, the more lazy and simplistic it seemed. I saw TS while I was in San Diego with the VP of my company. We were drinking a beer at the Yard House, which had good beer (but makes the claim that they have the word’s largest selection of on-tap beer, erroneously, as I’m quite sure the Flying Saucer in Nashville has a good deal more), when we decided to go see the movie. Naturally, this is a movie that our significant others did not want to see, and we both agreed that this was also a movie that required at least a modest buzz to be enjoyable. (more…)
1st July
2009
written by Tony
D! It's D!

D! It's D! Final answer!

My biggest takeaway from this movie: never, ever, go to India. Nearly everyone we talked to about this film was filled with effusive praise about how brilliant it is, and how moving it all was and how the story was so clever and tied everything together so nicely. Maybe I’m jaded but (and Steph agrees with me) I think this movie was thoroughly contrived. Every story that explained how the main character knew an answer (a plot synopsis is available after the jump if you're not clear what this movie is about) involved him seeing someone die, stealing, being stolen from, swimming in human excrement, or being otherwise horrifically abused. Now, I get that things in India are not good for everyone. Societal oppression, religious oppression, poverty, over-population, and a recent past as a colony that was used and abused all add up to a place that is not a little messed up. But does this a movie make? And is it kind (or fair) to the denizens of India that this movie turns their life into poverty voyeurism? I recently read that many slum dwellers protested the "dog" part of the title. Fair enough. Soon, and already in many countries, slum dwelling will be the rule, not the exception. But back to my takeaway. My boss was telling me a story about a woman he knew in college who went to India to visit and ended up having to marry someone there just so she could get out alive. True story. (more…)
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