Archive for September, 2009

12th September
2009
written by Steph
I bet you don't hear that often, right?  And from a grad student no less!   Well, if you recall, I'm a grad student by day, while I do an internship with BookPage, also by day, but just one half-day per week.  Anyway, as an intern I have a variety of tasks that I perform, like writing copy that no one else wants to, proofreading and some mild editing, opening mail (which is like Christmas, because every envelope is filled with books!) and also the manual labor no one else wants to do.  Because it was recently the start of a new month, this meant that one of our bookcases was now out of date and needed to be purged.  Most people avoid this job because it involves hauling books up and down a flight of stairs, but I love it because it means I get to take home any books that I'd like, and all for the price of FREE.  (Well, I suppose I pay for it in carpal tunnel syndrome and sweat, but it's totally worth it!) Now, I really do try to limit myself when it comes to taking books home from work, since I have to be realistic about what I actually want to read (and then again, what I actually will).  Since price is no object, it's really about what I know I want to read; sometimes this means sticking to titles I already knew were coming out and will read anyway, but of course one of the greatest things about the Shelves is that you can discover so many great books that you never knew existed. Here's a picture of what I brought home yesterday:

Top Row: Howard, Dicks, Schmitt, Bernstein; Bottom: Updike, Levine, Kokoris, & Coupland

Top Row: Howard, Dicks, Schmitt, Bernstein; Bottom: Updike, Levine, Kokoris, & Coupland

After the jump, I break it all down for you... (more…)
11th September
2009
written by Steph
Three things I feel compelled to post on a Friday: 1) First, a question to all of you diners out there (by which I mean restaurant patrons, rather than greasy-spoon dining establishments.  The difference is subtle, but important, I think.).  Two nights ago, Tony and I went to a newish Mexican restaurant, since our old standby switched management and we can no longer go there because the food is no longer any good (RIP El Palenque).  So we go to this new place and it's fairly busy for a Wednesday night, but keep in mind it is your run-of -the-mill Mexican place so none of the entrees require much finesse or time (read: most of it is probably pre-cooked anyway).  We wound up waiting for OVER AN HOUR for our food, and it became clear that either our waiter had neglected to turn in our order, OR the kitchen had overlooked it.  People who had been seated after us had eaten and left before we saw anything more than chips and salsa at our table.  After many apologies (and about 75 minutes after sitting down) we finally got our food.  In such a case would you expect your meal to be comped, or at the very least, for a free dessert to be sent out?  Is this not pretty much the universal way that it is understood any sit-down restaurant deals with snafus that are clearly their fault?  I wound up asking if I could speak to the manager, but he never showed... and we wound up paying for everything.  Needless to say, we won't be going back!  Sorry, Nacho's!  Your guac may be good, but your service was muy abysmal.

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10th September
2009
written by Tony

This is going to be a hot one. I’m not sure if there is any way to talk about this movie without starting some kind of fight with someone, so I won’t pretend that I can write some sort of neutral review and be done with it, or that this will be a review only. Despite the fact that this movie is over two years old, I think now was the perfect time for us to watch it, considering how hotly contested Obama’s healthcare reform is currently. I won’t lie, this is a depressing movie, for a lot of reasons. I’ll be the first to say that there are definitely times in his other movies when Michael Moore crosses the line from telling a story to flagrantly airing a personal bias. There have certainly been times in his previous movies where I agreed with his premise but disagreed with his tactics. However, this movie is largely free from those moments, though I will discuss some of them later. (more…)
8th September
2009
written by Steph
For people who own a television but who don’t have cable (or even rabbit ears), Tony and I do pretty well when it comes to keeping current with must-see tv.  Just to be clear, we don’t eschew cable because we’re those snotty folk who turn up their noses at television; far from it!  Mostly we don’t have cable (or as we refer to it, “don’t have tv”) for two reasons: 1) the local cable provider here is SUPER expensive (in Toronto, I recall not having to pay more than $60/month for cable AND internet; here a comparable package would set us back some thing like $100… I am not willing to pay that kind of money for tv... or really any monthly service); 2) it is probably for the best we can’t just watch tv whenever we want, because we would literally watch it all the time.  Buh bye reading time.  Say hello to the glazed look that I inevitably take on after having watched 5 hours of HGTV or Animal Planet straight. (Seriously, so little is my self-restraint when it comes to watching the idiot box, I will watch hours worth of “When Animals Attack”, which pretty much no one should watch.)  Essentially, it’s in our best interest to have our tv watching limited to what we can rent through Netflix, or watch online (and with Netflix’s “Watch It Now”, Hulu, and all of the major networks streaming their stuff, we’re not doing too bad!). Anyhoodle, normally Tony and I take the summer to purge bad shows from our repertoire that we no longer enjoy, and to seek out potential replacements.  Often times this involves us cottoning on to shows that are long since done, but that’s what DVD is for, right?  This summer found us watching: (more…)
6th September
2009
written by Steph
But you know what's not rotten?  This book!

But you know what's not rotten? This book!

Ok, so I understand that whole “different strokes for different folks” idea – books that I love will not necessarily be universally loved by everyone else, but I have to say, when it comes to Jasper Fforde, if you love reading and you love books, then I kind of can’t compute how you wouldn’t enjoy his Thursday Next books.  And I know that you people exist out there, and have read things where people said that they just couldn’t get into The Eyre Affair, and while I of course respect that whole DSFDF principle I outlined above, I just don’t understand how you can NOT like these books.  And especially the people who say that they didn’t really find them funny, because whenever I read a Jasper Fforde novel, I am equal parts enamoured by him and hella envious because he is SO clever and witty and well-read that I can hardly stand it!  And I have seen him two or three times in person at book signings and I can tell you that he is exactly the same way in person (except add charming to the mix) and it is maddening!  I don’t know – I guess it is like how there are some people out there who don’t think Arrested Development is the funniest show ever created, when that is not even a matter of opinion but purely fact (Simona, I know this includes you, but I think it is a testament to my commitment to our friendship that I overlook this HUGE flaw on your part… At least you have finally read Harry Potter (and loved it!  Also critical!) 😉 ). (more…)
4th September
2009
written by Tony
This isn't the ogirinal, but, stupidly, I forgot to take a picture.

This isn't the ogirinal, but, stupidly, I forgot to take a picture.

Wandering down the stacks in the fiction section of our local library branch Steph and I stumbled across this little yellow book nestled on the second shelf from the top. It has obviously been rebound into a quaint yellow cover with what appears to be a blue owl debossed on the cover (I would later learn this is, in fact, a vulture, or “Charleston Eagle,” to be precise) and the large name “Porgy” down the spine. Having recently been to Charleston and through Catfish row it seemed only reasonable to pick this book up. Porgy is set in the black tenements of Charleston in the early 20th century. It centers on the exploits of the eponym Porgy over the course of one summer. Porgy is a beggar and has a deformity that denies him the use of his legs, and after the source of his mobility (Peter and his horse) is unjustly jailed, he takes to getting around in a small cart pulled by a slowly putrefying goat. It’s interesting, for the purpose of this story, to note that a porgy is a bottom feeding fish that swims in shallow waters. Bottom feeder that he is, Porgy’s meager livelihood depends on the kindness of passing strangers as well as his “regulars” and suffers for a time at the hands of goat stink and rampant dice playing. Eventually a transient woman of ill repute named Bess moves in with Porgy and they begin to have the trappings of a stable life together. It so happens that Bess “belongs” to a man named Crown, a man Porgy witnessed murdering another over a gambling dispute and who is now currently on the run. (more…)
3rd September
2009
written by Steph
My September selection for BookPage

My September selection for BookPage

My third review for BookPage can now be read online (at this page, to be precise)!  For September, I reviewed R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels.  Ellory is a Brit by birth, though he has a penchant for setting his books in the good old U.S. of A.  He's a well established crime thriller powerhouse overseas, but this marks his American publishing debut.  Y'all know I love a good mystery, but A Quiet Belief in Angels was an unexpected delight as it really strove to surpass the traditional conventions and boundaries of its dreaded "genre" fiction label.  The writing was pretty magnificent, doubly so because you keep remembering the pitch-perfect dialogue is written by someone who didn't grow up in the South.  I found this novel to be more a piece of literature than I did a mystery, and I enjoyed it very much indeed.  I ripped through it in about 3 days, my heart breaking nearly continuously the entire time... but I couldn't help but keep flipping those pages to let Ellory expertly crush my heart a little more.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries but LOVES literature.  I'll be sure to check out more stuff by Ellory in the future (even if I have to plan a trip back to Canada to do so!).  Please check out my review and let me know what you think! Rating: 4 out of 5 P.S.  Ellory's personal story is almost as interesting as the one in the novel itself: he was orphaned at a young age and then was arrested and convicted for poaching at the age of 17 and sentenced to a few years in prison.  While in jail, he began reading and writing obsessively, which is how his writing career was born.  With a story like that, how can he not write amazing novels?  Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction!
1st September
2009
written by Steph
Well, she got the hate part right, at least...

Well, she got the hate part right, at least...

[Note: I realize I should be posting my thoughts on Part 4 of 2666, but I still have some more reading to do before that part is finished.  I had considered pushing myself or rushing through it, but that’s really not the way to read, especially when reading for pleasure, is it?  I need to take a bit of a break from the behemoth before I finish up what I have left of Part 4 lest I post another cranky and disgruntled review yet again!] Out in the real-world I take part in a book club made up of some women from my department at school.  I haven’t always been the best member, having failed to finish several of the books (not from lack of time, but mostly lack of interest, I’m afraid), and when the streak of books being chosen was one in which I had little to no desire in reading the majority of the selected books, I bowed out for a while.  But a good friend of mine was picking the book this past month and it happened to be this collection of short stories that I already owned (but hadn’t read), so I decided that I would rejoin the fold.  We had our meeting last night, over Mexican appetizers (is there any food better for discussing Munro’s stories which all take place in the wilds of Canada? 😉 ), and I’m really glad I went.  I can’t say the discussion was always illuminating, but the company was good and I think we all put our best foot forward when it came to discussing HFCLM. (more…)
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